Skip to main content

5th-8th Century Badami Cave Temples, Karnataka

Something to warm everyone currently shivering in wintery conditions in the northern hemisphere!
This is a photographic tour of the Badami Cave Temple complex in Karnataka, South India which I visited in November 2012. They are a series of rock-temples rising up the side of a sandstone escarpment, which looks out onto a valley and tank with another temple complex around the water's edge.
Probably my favourite of the historic sites we visited for the incredible aesthetics not only the of architecture, but also the landscape setting: this is my perfect idea of romantic India: ancient temples, setting sun, sandy cliffs with macaques perched on them...


First, the view from inside what appeared to be mostly a natural cave, except for a couple of very small carvings including a little Ganesha. This shows the expansive views across the main town of Badami and more temples on the cliffs opposite.


A view of a macaque just outside the natural cave, with some interesting holes just beneath, possibly from a wooden structure.

A close-up view of a temple on the cliffs opposite, which we didn't have the time to visit (sadly, as apparently in order to access the cliff tops you need to walk through a spectacular gorge).


A sandstone bluff opposite the cave temples, showing a lot of anthropogenic markings, although there was no information about them, so they could be recent, the same age as the temples or perhaps much more ancient.


The interior of the first temple you arrive at, with very worn floor and delicate carvings on the columns.


View out of the first temple, showing very fine carving of a dancing Shiva. There is also a small Nandi bull in the foreground.


Detail of columns in first temple.


My travelling companion (my mum!) on steps leading up to the second cave temple.


View out over the town from the second temple, including carved gaming board, a common feature in many of the sites we visited in India. The grooves in the stone next to it are apparently from when people lived in the temple and used the floor to grind grain.


Beautiful carved columns inside the second temple, and a large sculpture of Vishnu at the end. You start to see here the stunning sedimentary structure of the sandstone, with dune bedding.


Another sculpture of Vishnu holding a conch. Strangely large feet, and again the sandstone bedding is very beautiful.


I was very surprised to see some remnants of paint inside the caves; but like the ancient Greek temples and sculpture, they would have originally been highly decorated.
 

Our guide, Chandru, took my camera for a minute saying he had something to show us; he came back having photographed these incredibly fine paintings on the ceiling of the temple, in shadows, which we would never have noticed otherwise. Although damaged, there are four faces, some wearing earrings, and above, more bodies.


More columns, beautifully lit inside the temple.


 Some very spectacular carved brackets at the top of columns, including individual females and some couples.




 More lovely sandstone columns. I couldn't get enough of them!



One of the walls next to steps up to the final cave temple. Showing the fine workmanship in the walling, and also the sandstone bedding structures.


The truly impressive cliff walls adjacent to the final cave temple. Geological art in itself!


Sculpture inside the final temple, which is Jain. The vines growing up his legs are meant to show the depths of his meditation. As with many sculptures at sites we visited, the genitals are polished dark from many pilgrims' hands.


The interior of the Jain temple: quote obviously different in the type of sculpture to the other Hindu caves at Badami, although again there are a small set of steps leading to an inner 'sanctum sanctorium'.


Around the tank from the main cave temples, there is another group of temples facing out onto the water. The sun was setting as we went across to them, making the buildings and cliffs glow.


The tank is used by the people who live in Badami town both for their daily laundry, and to do their washing up. The saris have been laid out on the ghat steps to dry.


View of the Bhutanatha temples as we walked up to them, with more buildings on the large sandstone boulder behind them. These are even older than the cave temples, being 5th century. In Britain, we were just recovering from our abandonment by the Romans.


View out over the tank from inside the temples. The column and general architecture here was quite different to that inside the caves.


Close-up of the smaller temples on top of large boulders, with more cliffs behind. You can just make out a grey heron on the far righthand side of the boulder.


Our fabulous guide, Chandru, who also took us to the sites of Aihole and Pattadakal (which I'll be blogging about), and me looking very happy in the setting sun.


 View back onto the ghats.


The Badami tank and the setting sun.A truly wonderful end to the day.


Comments

Nice snaps

E mail me when possible

Regards,

Chandru Katageri
Badami
India

Popular posts from this blog

Wherefore Art Thou, Neanderthal?

Adventures in Silcrete: "It's flint Jim, but not as you know it!"

Something that everyone who works in the archaeology of deep prehistory has to get to grips with is the technology of stone tools, or lithics. This includes thinking about the ways in which people made their tools, which techniques they chose to use, etc. It also means that Palaeolithic archaeologists, alongside needing to know stuff about climatology, palaeontology, and ecology, need to delve into the science of geology. People in prehistory might not have understood the origins of different kinds of rocks, but they certainly appreciated the diversity in stone qualities, not only between very different rock types but also within geological/mineral categories.


These two Neandertal tools that I studied for my PhD, called handaxes, are both very finely worked, but made from completely different rocks. The one on the left (Castle Lane, Bournemouth) is made from Cretaceous flint found in the south and east of Britain, and the one on the right (Coygan Cave) from rhyolite, a volcanic stone…

Geological Road Trip: Volcanic landscapes of the Massif Central

Geology and geography are fundamental to archaeologists in understanding the landscape contexts that people of the past lived within. While climate and environments have drastically altered over the time span of the Palaeolithic, the topography often, on a broad scale, remains relatively similar. Erosion can be extensive, river systems can change course (the Thames used to flow much further north than it now does for example), and the great depth of sediment accumulation in some areas changed local situations. But the big stuff made of rock like plateaux, mountains and watersheds have remained relatively static over the time hominins have been around. There are exceptions to this however, primarily in the form of volcanism and tectonic action, and the region I'm working in is a textbook example. Here in the Massif Central, there is a long history of volcanic action of many types, the most recent of which occurred less than 5000 years ago- well within the history of human settleme…