Cave Temples of Badami: Cave – 1

Cave Temples of Badami- Masterpieces of Chalukya Temple Art

Carved out of the red sandstone hills overlooking the beautiful Agastya Lake, the four cave temples of Badami standout among the cave temples in India – including Ajantha-Ellora caves, Karla caves, Elephanta caves, and Barabar caves – because of the stunning scenic beauty around them, colorfulness of red sand stones in which they are carved, and the beauty of the carvings.

The cave temples were constructed by meticulously carving out the stone material from rock to create beautiful structures, sculptures, and sculptural reliefs. They are an impressive work of art, and visiting them is a fascinating experience. It is mind-boggling how the ancient Indians were able to create such magnificent structures without the aid of sophisticated machinery or tools.

The cluster of four caves are next to each other and connected via flights of steps and labeled accordingly as Cave – 1 to Cave – 4 based on the sequence of approach to the caves. In other words, you would visit Cave – 1 first and Cave – 4 last.

The chronological order of their construction is not known because of the lack of inscriptions. Only Cave – 3 has inscription detailing its dating. However, it is generally believed that they were constructed in the same sequence as their approach.

This page is about Cave – 1. Check the following pages for a detailed explanation of the other three caves:

  1. Cave – 2: Vishnu Temple
  2. Cave – 3: Maha Vishnu Temple
  3. Cave – 4: Jaina Temple

Cave – 1: Shiva Temple

Dated approximately 550 CE, Cave – 1 is the first of the four rock-cut caves in the Badami hills. It is a mantapa style temple dedicated to Shiva. Visitors first enter the courtyard of the temple through a flight of steps from outside and then take another flight of steps to enter the temple.

Entrance to Cave - 1 located at Badami in Karnataka, India
Cave -1 Facade and Entrance
Ground plan of Cave - 1, the first of the four rock-cut caves located near Badami in Karnataka, India
Ground plan of Cave – 1

Excavated from the massive red sandstone boulder at 60ft from the ground level, Cave – 1 has an impressive rectangular-shaped facade with the dimension 70 ft x 20ft. As you can see from the image, the facade has four pillars and a flight of steps and flanking the facade on either side are the two life-size sculptural reliefs carved on the walls extended from the facade.

The ground plan of Cave -1 shows garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum), which is a small chamber carved out of the back wall along with the Shivalinga. Like any traditional mantapa style temple, there is a sabhamantapa (main hall) in front of the garbhagriha and a mukhamantapa (verandah) in front of the sabhamantapa. The entrance to the temple is through a flight steps leading to the mukhamantapa. The facade shows the pillars of the mukhamantapa. Inside the mukhamantapa and sabhamantapa, there are more pillars embellished with beautiful carvings.

Nataraja performing Tandava Nritya

This sculptural relief shown in the image is carved on the right side of the entrance and depicts Nataraja (Dancing King), a form of Shiva, performing the Tandava Nritya, a vigorous cosmic dance of creation, preservation, and destruction.

Shiva portrayed as Nataraja carved on the right side of Cave - 1, the first of the four of rock-cut caves of Badami, Karnataka, India
Nataraja carved on the right side of the Cave – 1 facade

As you can see, Nataraja is standing with a dancing pose on a lotus flower pedestal, and his 18 hands carry a variety of objects, including a trishula (trident) and an ax. His vehicle Nandi is standing behind him, and his son Ganesha is standing to his left. An unidentified figure is sitting behind Ganesha.

Dwarapala with Shiva-Parvati and Vrishabha-Kunjara

Dwarapala with Shiva-Parvati and Vrishabha-Kunjara - Left side view of Cave - 1, the first of the four of rock-cut caves of Badami, Karnataka, India
Dwarapala with Shiva-Parvati and Vrishaba-Kunjara

The image shows a left-side view of Cave – 1. Click to expand it. The carving in the middle is a dwarapala (door-keeper) of Shiva holding a trishula (trident) with his right hand. Carved below dwarapala is Vrishabha-Kunjara (Bull-Elephant), which is an illusionary sculpture with the torsos of a bull and an elephant joined with one head. It looks like an elephant from one side and looks like a bull from the other side. Carved above dwarapala is Shiva and Parvati seated on Nandi, Shiva’s vehicle.

To the right of dwarapala are the pillars of the mukhamantapa (verandah) and to the left are the flights of steps to Cave – 2.

Ardhanarishvara and Sage Bhringi

The image shows a narrative sculptural relief depicting the story of Ardhanarishvara carved on the right-side wall of the mukhamantapa.

Sculptural relief depicting the story of Ardhanarishvara and sage Bhringi carved on the right side wall of the mukha mantapa in Cave - 1 located at Badami, Karnataka, India
Ardhanarishvara and sage Bhringi carved on the right side wall of the mukha mantapa in Cave – 1

Standing with the Tribhanga stance (i.e., body bent in three places, neck, waist, and knee) is Ardhanarishvara with man-like features on the right half and woman-like features on the left half. Ardhanarishvara appears to be playing a musical instrument.

Standing behind with the folded hands (i.e., namaste gesture) is Bhringi, a sage who appears like a skeleton with three legs, and Nandi, Shiva’s vehicle. To his right is an unidentified female figure carrying a bowl with her left hand. Flying above Ardhanarishvara are two Vidyadhara couples.

Harihara – Fusion of Shiva and Vishnu

Sculptural relief depicting fusion of Shiva and Vishnu as Harihara carved on the left side wall of the mukha mantapa in Cave - 1 located at Badami, Karnataka, India
Fusion of Shiva and Vishnu as Harihara

This beautifully carved sculptural relief depicting Harihara is on the left wall of the mukhamantapa. Harihara is a symbolical fusion of Vishnu and Shiva and is a single entity made from half of Shiva’s and half of Vishnu’s features. Because of this fusion, the followers of both the Shaiva and Vaishnava traditions worship Harihara.

As you can see from the image, Harihara is carved with Shiva’s features on the left side and Vishnu’s features on the right side. Shiva’s wife Parvati and his vehicle Nandi are standing on the right side of Harihara. Likewise, Vishnu’s wife Lakshmi and his vehicle Garuda are standing on the other side.

Coiled Nagaraja

Coiled Nagaraja carved on the ceiling of Cave -1 located at Badami in Karnataka, India
Coiled Nagaraja carved on the ceiling of Cave – 1

The image shows a beautifully carved relief on the ceiling of the mukhamantapa depicting Nagaraja (King of Serpents) with multiple heads, including a human head and torso at the center, and the coiled body spiraling outwards from the center.

Garbhagriha

An interior view showing the garbhagriha entrance and pillars
An interior view showing the garbhagriha entrance and pillars
Shivalinga inside the Garbhagriha of Cave - 1 located at Badami in Karnataka, India
Shivalinga inside the garbhagriha of Cave – 1

The image shows an interior view of Cave – 1. At the far end, it shows the entrance to the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) and a flight of steps leading to it. The Shivalinga is not installed as a separate unit but carved out of the rock as the garbhagriha was built. Notice that the linga is on a square-shaped yoni, which is unusual because most Shivalingas in the Indian temples have oval-shaped yonis.

Proceed to Cave -2

Related Pages
Badami
Badami Cave – 2, Badami Cave – 3, Badami Cave – 4

Copyright © 2019 by Lawrence Rodrigues. All rights reserved.

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