Badami is a small town surrounded by beautiful and historical places like Badami caves, temples of Bhotnaatha, Badami museum, Aihole, Pattadakal, Bankeshwari, Mahakuteshwara temple. We did a road trip from Pune to Badami via Bijapur. You can read a detailed blog on Bijapur. After check-in, we made our way straight to the cave temples. Badami is easily reachable by taking regular Buses or by hiring taxis from throughout the state of Karnataka. The nearest airport to Badami is located in Belgaum. Belgaum lies at a distance of 150 km from Badami. Badami was previously known as Vataapi, which is said to be the name of a demon who ruled there thousands of years ago and was killed by a sage named Agastya. Badami was the capital of the early Chalukya dynasty, which ruled most of Karnataka from the 6th to the 8th century.
Badami Temple Caves:
These caves represent the perfect example of a rock-cut architecture of ancient times. It can be your perfect destinations if you are exploring, studying the culture and architecture of India. Badami was established by Pulakesin 1. Badami caves are actually examples of the Chalukyan style of architecture made out of a sandstone hill. In totality, there are four cave temples in Badami. All these temples enclose brilliant carvings with the sculptures of Gods from the Hindu and Jain. The structure of these temples is a perfect fusion of North Indian Nagara style and South Indian Dravidian style of architecture. Each cave embraces a sanctum, a hall, a verandah, and pillars. Beautiful carvings and exquisite sculptures.
The first cave is of Lord Shiva with 5 feet tall sculptures with highlights of Shiva’s tandava dancing pose.
The second cave belongs to Bhuvarha and Trivikarma with different images of Hindu God and Goddesses.
The third cave is Vaishnava cave which is known as the most beautiful cave of Badami caves. It’s dedicated to Lord Vishnu carvings and colours with styling are brilliant and look amazing.
The fourth cave is Mahavira temple you can find different structures and carve on pillars apart from the strong image of Jain’s God Mahavira.
Bhootnatha Temple and Agasthya Lake:
From the caves, you can see an amazing view of temples of Bhootnatha and Agasthya Lake which is opposite to Badami caves. We had spent good 2-3 hours here and post noon we move towards temples of Bhootnatha. After all this walking around, we had a south Udupi Thali in lunch. It was very simple and tasty and cost just 50 bucks. per person. Badami is also very basic town and everything is very cheap here but you can’t walk on the city roads it is very dusty due to ongoing work on the roads. You can commute with your vehicle, hire an auto or a taxi, although roads are not that broad but still manageable.
After that, we went to the opposite side of the cave temples. The opposite consists of Bhoothnatha group of temples, Badami fort, a museum, some other temples, inscriptions and the mighty lake Agastya. It was late noon and started with museum first. It had a lot of information about the place and the artefacts. You can’t click pictures though. Then we started climbing up the fort. There are just a few boundary walls actually, but the view is amazing and you can see the whole city. There is just two temple remains at the top – lower and upper Shivalaya. Watch out for monkeys though, mostly they are not harmless but can be naughty enough to snatch your eatables. After a little relaxation and unwinding, we went to the Bhoothnatha group of temples and skipped the inscriptions due to less time. All of these areas close at 6. Bhoothnatha group of temples are mostly Shiva temples overlooking the lake. The lake is surrounded by lots of stairs where you can sit, look at the waters and can watch the sun go down. It was a beautiful day all in all and we slept to our glory in the night to gear up for other nearby places of Badami.
Next day, we did the complete circuit of Aihole, Patadakal (a UNESCO site), and Mahakuteshwara. Aihole is 35 km from Badami which was the first capital of Chalukyas. It is interesting to know that Chalukya kept of changing their capital between Aihole, Patadakal, and Badami. Considering Aihole for the farthest, we drove straight to that place. The roads were a mixed bag, good in between and sometimes very bad with horrible speed breakers. We reached in around 90 mins to Aihole. Aihole is a small village which has nearly 125 small and big temples in its vicinity. Most of them are protected but there are many others which were just standing in nowhere or surrounded by small houses of the inhabitants. We went to the main complex which has many temples and a museum inside it. All of these sites which are under ASI (Archeologic Survey of India) are wi-fi enabled and also accept card payment for entrance fees as low as 5 bucks!
The first temple we saw was the Durga temple, which you might have seen in your history books while reading about ancient India. It was amusing to see those pictures to come live in front of you. It is indeed a deep connection of childhood classrooms with adulthood exploration. This temple is actually either dedicated to Shiva or Vishnu built in 7th – 8th century. The name ‘Durga’ actually comes from fortress or durg in Hindi. The architecture is quite unique which is said to resemble the back of an elephant. Another prominent temple is Ladkhan temple which was built during the times of Pulkeshin 1, where he sacrificed a horse too. Apparently, it was a Surya temple but later got converted into a Shivalya. It is one of the oldest Hindu temples built in the 5th century. There are many other temples dedicated to Shiva, few Jain groups of temples, and Buddhist caves built in the 6th century.
Then we drove to Patadakala which is 14 km from Aihole. This is a UNESCO heritage site. The compound is bigger than Aihole and has lots of parking space and some food joints outside. You can try rice bhakri, sprouts, and buttermilk which locals sell just outside the compound. As we entered, the view was quite scenic. Lots of small and big temples surrounded by beautiful gardens which of course doesn’t date back to the same time. 😉
The main attraction of this place is the Virupaksha temple which is the only functional temple dedicated to Shiva. The temple was quite crowded with devotees considering it was the last Monday of Shravan month. The Virupaksha temple is an architectural marvel, the biggest of all the temples in Patadakal. It was made by the wife of Vikramaditya 2 on his victory over Pallavas of Kanchi in the 7th century.
Other notable temples are Mallikarjuna temple, Kashi Vishwanath temples, Jain Narayan temple, Sangameshwara temple. By the time we were done with Patadakala, we were really tired and hungry. It was quite hot as well. We moved to the next place – the Mahakuteshwar temple which is 12 km. Mahakuteshwara temple is an important Shiva temple built in the 6th century and it was even more crowded than the Virupaksha temple. There were a lot of people and lots of cars parked. Looks like there was some festival going on there, where a lot of people were taking a dip in the water tank. We did the darshan quickly, had some Prasad and came out from the temple complex. Had some onion bhajis from a small vendor as couldn’t find much to eat.
Now, Badami was just 12 km. Drove back to catch some rest in the hotel. All of us were really tired with so much walking. The good was to do this circuit is indeed by driving your own vehicle or by hiring a cab. If you are also interested in going to Hampi, it can be clubbed with this trip since it is just 120 km from Badami. We have done that trip separately and you can read a detailed blog on backpacking around Hampi.
Another problem that we faced there was a bad signal and poor internet connectivity where hotel wi-fi came to the rescue. After resting for some time, we headed outside of the hotel for some chai and local snacks. There was this very sweet guy just outside who was selling chai, bajjis, bhel and other snacks. We gobbled quite a lot and then wandered a little bit around to soon realize it as a bad idea because of dust due to under construction road.
As the sun was going down, our trip came to an end. Had some awesome food and slept a little early for a good night sleep for a 550 km drive tomorrow. Next day was our 70th Independence day it was amazing to see lots of vehicles carrying the flags on the road. As if the whole city was painted with tricolours. We left early after a hearty breakfast and now took the Badami – Kolhapur – Pune route. It took us an entire day to reach home with lots of memories and stories to tell our family and friends.