Written By Ojas Koneripura (Grade 10)
The capital of the Early Chalukyas, the Badami Chalukyas, is located in present day Karnataka, an embodiment of pure architectural skill and precision. Widely known for its rock-cut cave temples, the carvings and sculptures present, narrate stories of legends. The Badami Cave Temples are a collection of 4 caves which throws light on Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Jainism.
Cave 1 is dedicated to Lord Shiva and his believers, the Shaivites. This cave is an architectural gem as it has breath-taking carvings at the entrance and on the Pillars and roof of the cave. The first sculpture that comes to sight is the Nataraja sculpture, an 18 armed form of Shiva, present in a dancing position with 18 hands in 18 different postures, like the Mayura posture – a hand in a posture of a peacock. This 18 armed Nataraja sculpture, carved on the wall of the cave, is a testament of solid patience and skill as this sculpture is the only one in the whole world. Nataraja statues are found in many places round the world, but an 18 armed one is only found in the caves of Badami. The Nataraja carved out of the plain wall of the cave also presents the presence of Ganesha at the feet of Nataraja. This carvings does not give the sculptor a tiny bit of room for mistakes as a single mistake would cost the entire figure. Opposite to it is a statue of Shiva, holding his Trishula or the Trident.
Cave 2 and Cave 3 are dedicated to Vishnu and his believers – the Vaishnavites. These caves narrate stories of the Vishnu Purana as the sculptures of Varaha and Narasimha (some of the avataras of Vishnu) are also present. The Varaha avatar i.e. the boar avatar or the third avatar of Vishnu is intricately carved on the wall of the cave’s entrance. The boar faced sculpture is in a standing position, surrounded by other carvings and acute designs making it elegant. The fourth avatar of Vishnu, the Narasimha avatar, half lion and half human, is also carved with much skill and precision on the wall of the cave. The lion faced sculpture is also in a standing posture with other different sculptures surrounding it. Labyrinthine designs decorate the sculpture, making it a beautiful piece of art.
Cave 4 is dedicated to all the Thirthankaras of Jainism. This cave too has carvings of the Jain thirthankaras in a seated position, upon a platform designed with lions. The main sanctum-sanctorum accommodates the idol of Vardhamana Mahavira, the 24th thirthankara of the Jains. The idol is also seated upon a stone platform, designed with lions in different postures. This sculpture is bigger in size as compared to the other thirthankaras carved off of the walls of the cave. Mahavira’s idol, present in a meditative posture is surrounded by many carvings, which are difficult to identify because of the destructive invasions of the Islamic rulers. Even the face of Mahavira has been decapitated and spoilt.
Apart from these mighty rock-cut caves of the Chalukyas of Badami, the caves look upon a temple built on water, the Bhoothanatha Temple, built on a platform approximately 4 feet above the water, this temple is a piece of marvelous architecture. These monuments and many more, would have been a testament and an embodiment of pure architectural marvels, if it wasn’t for the destructive invasions and demolishing temple run of the Islamic invaders.
Featured Image Courtesy – Wikipedia