Thursday, March 2, 2017

Badami – through the words of Badami Rashmi

Badami: Sounds like a dry fruit name? isn’t it? (Badam)

But reference here is to a little archaeological town in northern part of Karnataka in Bagalkot district. I proudly say, that my family tree begins from here. It is famous for its rock cut structural temples. It is located in a ravine at the foot of a rugged red sandstone on the banks of Agastya lake. Archaeological survey of India has declared Badami as protected site. It’s also is in the process of acclaiming “World Heritage site” status by UNESCO. Pattadkal near Badami is already on the list. It is also believed that name Badami has come from colour of its stone (Badam -Almond).

The town was formerly known as Vatapi. The name Vatapi has origin in the Vatapi legend of Ramayana relating to Sage Agastya. There were two demon siblings Vatapi and Ilvala. They used to kill all mendicants by tricking them in a peculiar way. The elder Ilvala would turn Vatapi into a ram and would offer its meat to the guest. As soon as the person ate the meat, Ilvala would call out the name of Vatapi. As he had a boon that whomsoever Ilvala calls would return. Vatapi would emerge ripping through the body of the person, thus killing him. Their trick worked until Sage Agastya countered them by digesting Vatapi before Ilvala could call for him, thus ending the life of Vatapi at the hands of Ilvala. Two of the hills in Badami represent the demons Vatapi and Ilvala. As per scholar Dr. D. P. Dikshit, Jayasimha the first Chalukya king, established the kingdom in 500 AD. His grandson Pulakeshin I built a fort at Vatapi. Aihole was named after a merchant guild known as Ayyavole Ainuravaru who lived in the area. An inscription record of this king engraved on a boulder in Badami records the fortification of the hill above "Vatapi" in 544. Pulakeshin's choice of this location for his capital was no doubt dedicated by strategic considerations since Badami is protected on three sides by rugged sandstone cliffs.

Badami has eighteen inscriptions, among them some inscriptions are important. The first Sanskrit inscription is in the halegannada (old Kannada) script on a hillock which dates back to 543 CE, from the period of Pulakeshin I (Vallabheswara), the second is the 578 CE cave inscription of Mangalesha in Kannada language script and the third one is the Kappe Arabhatta records the earliest available Kannada poetry in tripadi (three line) metre. One inscription near the Bhuthanatha temple also has inscriptions dating back to the 12th century rock-cut temple dedicated to the Tirtankara Adinatha.

Badami is famous for its sandstone cave temples. The rock-cut cave temples were sculpted mostly between the 6th and 8th centuries. The four cave temples represent the secular nature of the rulers then, with tolerance and a religious following that inclines towards Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Cave 1 is devoted to Shiva, and Caves 2 and 3 are dedicated to Vishnu, whereas cave 4 displays reliefs of Jain Tirthankaras. From an architectural and archaeological perspective, they provide critical evidence of the early styles and stages of the southern Indian architecture.

The first cave is the oldest of all the caves. It is made of red sandstone and has a hall with numerous pillars and a square shaped sanctum hollowed in the control back wall. There are paintings of amorous couples on the ceiling. Other sculptures include Shiva and his wife Parvathi with a coiled serpent and the 18 armed Lord Nataraja in 81 dancing poses. Beside him are Nandi, dancing Ganapati, etc. There is a neatly carved perfect figure of Mahishasuramardini and several other rock –cut dwarf images of kubja ganas, Nagaraja or snake king, Vidhyadhara couple, etc., are on the ceiling. Deep caverns with carved images of the various incarnations of Hindu gods are strewn across the area, under boulders and in the red sandstone.

Second Cave temple is dedicated to Vishnu (also known Trivikrama) portrayed as Krishna and Varaha  - with one foot mastering the Earth and the other to the sky. On its front are the guards or dwarapalakas holding lotus in their hands. East and West walls of the cave have large images of Bhuvaraha and Trivikrama. On the ceiling are engraved Ananthashayana, Bramha, Vishnu, Shiva and Asthadikpalakas.

Third cave temple dates back to 578 AD. The façade of the cave is nearly 70 feet wide, with carvings of ganas on the plinth. It contains examples of Deccan art, illustrating the culture and clothing of the 6th century. It is dedicated to Vishnu, and is the best and the biggest of all. It has splendid giant figures of Paravasudeva, Bhuvaraha, Harihara and Narasimha. All these statues are engraved in a vigorous style. An inscription found here records the creation of the shrine by Mangalesha in 578 AD. There are some paintings on the ceiling and the style indicates maturity but has lost its original dazzling colour. The bracket figures on the piers here are some of the finest.

Fourth cave relates to 6th century Jainism. There is a carving of the Tirthankara Parshvanatha (with a serpent at his feet). Mahavira is depicted in a sitting posture. The pedestal contains an old Kannada inscription of the 8th century A.D. which registers the death of one Jakkave. Scores of Jain Thirthankaras have been engraved in the inner pillars and walls. In addition to it, there are some idols of Bahubali, Yakshas and Yakshis. Some scholars assign the cave to the 8th century.

Bhuthnath Temple facing the Agastya lake

Other places of interest:

On the north hill, there are three temples, of which Malegitti-Shivalaya is perhaps the oldest temple and also the finest in Badami, and has a Dravidian tower. Out of the two inscriptions found here states that Aryaminchi Upadhyaya, as the sculptor who got this temple constructed and the other dated 1543 speaks of the erection of a bastion during the Vijayanagara rule. The lower Shivalaya has a Dravidian tower, and only the sanctum remains now. The town also has Agasthya Tirtha, temples of Goddess Yellamma, Goddess Banashankari, Mallikarjuna, Datttreya and Virupaksha. Bhuthanatha group of temples are most important in Badami. Badami fort lies west of the Bhuthanatha temple, atop a cliff right opposite the Badami cave temples. The entrance to this temple is right through the Badami museum. It is a steep climb with many view points and dotted with little shrines. The path is laid with neatly cut stone, the same that adores all the architecture around. Banashankari temple - popularly called Banashankari or Vanashankari, since it’s located in Cholachagudda in the Tilakaaranya forest on the outskirts of Badami. The temple was built initially in the Dravidian architectural style. The rebuilt structure is in the Vijayanagara architectural style. The temple is enclosed by a high wall on all sides. The temple also has a beautiful kalyani which is locally called as Haridra Tirtha, a corrupted version of the name Harishchandra Tirtha. The pond is enclosed with
stone mantapas (halls) on three sides. Banashankari jatre ('jatre' means a “fair”) is held as a religious cum cultural festival, at the temple precincts every year on the occasion of the Rath yatra, for a period of about three weeks starting from the day of Rath yatra. Its starts on 8th day of Pushya masa - Bandhashtami day, a Palleda Habba or the Vegetable Utsava or festival is also held on this day. 108 varieties of food items (called ‘bazi’ in local language) made of vegetables are offered to the deity. The festival also marks another unique event namely, the Teppotsava (the boat festival) held in the temple tank. During this event, parents use boats made of banana stems to ferry newly born children blessed by the grace of the goddess around the pond seeking good luck to their children. 

Malegitti-Shivalaya temple

Badami is surrounded by many offbeat pre-historic places like Hiregudda, Sidlaphadi and Kutkankeri (Junjunpadi, Shigipadi and Anipadi), there we can see the rock shelters megalithic burial sites and paintings.

We all have heard the famous hymn “Vatapi Ganapatim bhaje” in Hamsadhwani raga by the composer Muthuswami Dikshitar. The idol of Vatapi Ganapati was brought from Badami by Pallavas, which is now in the Uthrapathiswaraswamy Temple, near Thanjavur of Tamil Nadu.

Another interesting fact: the climate has made it a safe haven for the monkeys of south India. Tourists often flock to Badami for the opportunity to see monkeys interact in a natural environment.

Looks like a staircase to heaven.. it's the climb to the caves

Mallikarjun Temple

The temperature ranges from minimum 23 degrees to 45 degrees during summer and from 15 to 29 degrees in winter. The rainfall of the area is 50 centimetres. Best time to visit is between low humid season from November and March.

How to reach Badami:

Nearest airport
150 kilometres
Nearest railway station
Nearest major railway junction
130 kilometres
Shortest distance from Bangalore
450 kilometres

Badami is reachable from Bengaluru by a 12-hour bus ride, or by a direct train "Gol Gumbaz Express (train# 16535)" or with a combination of an overnight train journey from Bangalore to Hospet followed by a short bus ride from Hospet to Badami. Another option could be from Bangalore to Hubli (8–9 hours) and then a bus ride from Hubli to Badami (3 hours). Local transport in Badami is by Rickshaws, tongas and city buses.

View of  Badami from the caves
References: Encyclopedia and online websites.

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