It was a strange feeling of venturing into an enemy's place while landing in Badami, which was called as "Vadapi" earlier. For those who couldn't get the link - Vadapi was the capital of Chalukya Kingdom ruled by King Pulikesi, who is the arch rival of King Mahendra Varma Pallava. Infact whatever ruins we see in Mahabalipuram was the remains of the Pulikesi - Pallava war. As I was taking the sides of Mahendra Varma Pallava, I thought that Pulikesi is not so artistically inclined because he destroyed the sculptures in Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram. But after visiting Badami I realised that he too is equally artistically inclined as Pallava. You can get a feel of this rivalry in the classic - Sivakamiyin Sapatham written by Kalki krishnamurthy.
Badami is located in Bagalkot District of North Karnataka. Badami can be reached by trains especially from Bangalore for an overnight travel. The Solapur Express is the perfect one as it starts at 18:50 hrs from Bangalore Junction and reached Badami at 07:30 hrs the next day. The return journey is also equally comfortable - start from Badami at 19:30 hrs and reach Bangalore by next morning 8:30 hrs. There are moderate priced stay places in Badami which won't hurt your purse much. I used online services extensively to book my tickets and hotel. (IRCTC - Train tickets, station codes - SBC to BDM and Stayzilla - hotels)
Our travel started on a sunny evening from Bangalore Junction, where my parents, Akila and Aadhi came from Salem and waited for me to come from the office. The train left Bangalore junction by around 19:30 hrs after the delays and moved towards Badami. By the next day 07:30 hrs we landed at the Badami station, welcomed by hoardes of monkeys. A word of caution - Badami is a haven for monkeys where you have to learn to co-habitat with them. Don't try to intimidate them. Once you come out if the station (littered with monkey faeces), you'll be facing a deluge of Autorickshaw drivers. Don't get scared - they charge nominal. The railway station lies at 5kms from the Badami town, so you need the auto rickshaws. You can share the auto with other passengers too for a cheap price of Rs 5 per passenger.
Since I had already booked my room in the Hotel Ananda Deluxe via Stayzilla, which is very close to the Bus Station, the auto driver told me that he will be stopping the auto very near to the hotel. After a truly bumpy ride for 10-15 minutes, we were dropped at the hotel entrance. We checked in and refreshed ourselves.
Badami is a small town which is too modest for its housing of world heritage sites. Kannada is the predominant language but a little knowledge of Hindi and English will help you in surviving that town for a couple of days.
We got ready, came out of the hotel and walked in the direction of that had the BSNL Office, a movie theatre ('Jai Ho' was released that day) and we were clueless of how long we had to walk. My mother and Akila started asking me why can't I engage and auto rickshaw if we don't know how far we have to walk. That is the first time I really felt that I must have come alone for the first time, did my ground work and then take the family once you are familiar with the terrain. I asked the Traffic Police standing there and he said that the Badami caves are in the close vicinity of less than half a kilometer from the left turn of the impending roundtana.
There are 4 caves in the Badami Cave complex. They charge Rs. 10 for an Indian Adult as entry fees and Rs. 25 for video camera. The still camera is not charged for. The massive red structure in front of you just blows you up. A few steps take you to the first cave that was dedicated for Lord Shiva. The statue of Lord Shiva with 18 hands, whose permutation and combination gives you the 81 dance postures / mudras welcomes you to the complex. There are dwarapalas in this cave temple. There were a group of foreigners that day there and by sheer excitement they went to the shrine and started chanting 'Om' in unision. It was a nice sight. But the ignorant security staff silenced them by saying "No Sound... only silence". This cave is for Lord Shiva predominantly and it has a lot of sculptures that shows Lord Shiva and Parvati in various positions of Love. One of the sculptures was like the man and woman figures placing their hands on each other's private parts and the foreigners were gushing. I too believed that the sculpture was about mutual masturbation, but a very closer observation in the photo shows that the hands are placed at the thighs.
There are some sculptures in the ceiling panel which must not to be missed. One is the serpant king whose human head raises from the coiled snake body and the another one is the Yaksha pair in love. Another life size sculpture that demands your attention is the Ardhanareeshwara statue which has the Sage Birugu in the Shiva's side as skeleton. The story goes like this - Sage Birugu is an ardant fan of Lord Shiva that he didn't even mind Parvathi at any instance. So Parvathy was angry at him and asked him to worship her along with Lord Shiva, which Birugu turned down. So she made herself as a part of Lord Shiva's body as Ardhanareeshwara and told Birugu that he has no option than praying her along with Lord Shiva. Birugu took the form of a bee and went in between the legs of Ardhanareeshwara and rounded the Shiva part only. Unable to bear this insult, Parvathy cursed Birugu to lose his human figure and become a skeleton. Lord Shiva who was playing the part of an mute audience till then intervened, calmed down Parvathy and gave Sage Birugu his 'moksham'.
A few more steps upward takes us to the second cave of this complex. The second cave is for Lord Trivikrama (Lord Vishnu measuring the earth and sky in two steps) and we have a life like statue for Lord Varaha who is holding Goddess Bhooma Devi (earth). The conventional statue will be with Lord Varaha holding the globe in between the horns but this statue not only de-objectifies Bhooma Devi but also gives an additional human touch by making her holding the horns for balance to stand in the lotus held by Lord Varaha. Another noteworthy entity in this cave is the Swastik pattern on the ceiling panel, which can be drawn in a single stroke without lifting your hand. The corners of this pattern is filled with "loving Yakshas".
Once you come out of the cave and take few more steps, you are being guided to the third cave which is the largest of the lot, dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Here also the bigger & more detailed Trivikrama statue welcomes you. But more than that, the Lord Narasimha in the next panel gets more of your attention. Normally Lord Narasimha is shown either killing the demon Hiranyakashipu or with Lakshmi. But in this panel he is more of himself standing casually. In the opposite panel of Lord trivikama is the Lord Virupaksha, the another form of Lord Vishnu sitting in a regale position. Here also there are lot of Yakshi's making love and in the ceiling panel the Lord Vishnu with two wives and all other Gods is notice worthy. In this cave, you could see a couple of pillars that have the sculptures on which the work had started but not progressed further.
The next cave is few steps below the third cave and is the last cave of this complex. This is dedicated to the Jainism Thirthankaras. Since I am illiterate of Jain history and culture I am not writing anything about them. One thing I noticed is that even though all the thirthankaras look similar, there are minute details that differentiate them from each other. From this cave you can have a wonderful view of Lord Bhoothanath temple located in the bank of Agasthya Thirtham, which is a massive lake in the foot of the hill.
A view from the top gives you an idea of what is the route you can take down to visit other places. Once we got down from the caves, we walked in the steps of the Agasthya lake and visited the Yellamma temple. It is in dilipiated state with nice round pillars. It is almost like a small protocol model of a typical Chalukyan temple. The water in the Agasthya tank is quite cool and it is nice to watch the ladies washing their clothes almost in a rhythmic pattern.
A walk along the steps of the Agasthya Lake and a small detour towards the end of the lake takes us to the other monument - Badami Fort. There is a museum in the foot of the Badami fort and the huge steps takes us to the top of the Badami fort. There is a huge Boulder across the hill. Walk through the steps you can find a detour that will lead you to twin mandapas. Get back to the steps and the steep steps take you to the Maleghitti Shivalaya or poularly known as Lower Shivalaya. This point gives you a beautiful view of the Badami town and you realise that this town is much more than what it looks.
What you find in the tortous journey further is the Tippu fort - a watch tower built by Tippu Sultan. We had to skip it for our next journey. We walked further till the top of the hill with our heart thumping fast and loud because of the absence of human population around and the hoardes of monkeys that passed us. After a while, we are subjected to the visuals of huge barrels like structure which I presume that it must be a granary. Further travel takes us to the upper Shivalaya, which is the highest point of Badami. There is a Dargah next to it. Later I learnt that there is a Lord Shiva idol inside the dargah. After staying a while there we came down and continued towards the picturesque Bhoothnath temple.
Just before you reach the Bhoothanath temple, there is a collection of temples collectively called as Mallikarjuna Complex. All the temples have a structure similar to that of what you see in Mahabalipuram which leads to the doubt about the origin of Pallavas. Unfortunately the temple care taker was not intrested in showing the temple to us, so we just went around and watched the temples for ourselves.
Bhoothanath temple is a familiar place if you had watched many song sequences from the movies (Kanchanamala - Vandhaan Vendraan, Ey Hairathe Aashiqui - Guru, recent movies - Rummy, Ninaithathu Yaaro). It is my most favourite place of Badami and it looked so lovely at the sunset. Thankfully that was our last destination of the day and we visited the Bhoothanath temple, Vishnu Shrine next to it and all other small temples adjascent to it. Behind the Bhoothanath temple is a huge rock that has some nice sculptures and the steps lead to the lake water. There are two hidden gems there - a low level cave which might put you off because of its height, but if you get inside you are treated with a wonderful sight of Lord Mahavira. The another shrine at the bottom of a huge rock has the pristine Ananthasayanam inside it.
We were sitting in the steps of Bhoothanath temple and enjoying the sunset. All the monuments are closed by 6:00 p.m in the evening, so we walked towards the gate of this temple complex and sat in the steps of the Agathya Lake. The sun was setting and the Bhoothanath temple was glowing in the orange sunlight. Atlast we bid a good bye to that temple and walked towards our Hotel.
The sad fact is that despite enjoying the attention from visitors across the world, the town is littered heavily with faeces and a huge number of pigs eating them. So when we walk on the road, there are heavy chances of pigs brushing you if you are little careless. We walked through the Vegetable Bazaar of Badami and reached the main road.
This is the end of day one in Badami.