The evening sun sets in. The last rays of sun hits the almond colored cliffs in front of me. And the sandstone turns golden. The view leaves me spellbound. And I forget the tiredness, the last eight hour journey has brought me. I have traveled 500 odd kilometers from Bangalore through traffics, highways and bumpy lanes to reach this lovely history rich city of Badami.
Badami was the capital of the early Chalukyan dynasty. This dynasty ruled most parts of Deccan Plateau and the areas around it between the sixth and eighth centuries. Thus the city was an important historic center in South India then. Ancient cave temples, placid lakes, and ruins- the city is dotted with myriad attractions. Here is a brief overview of some of them.
Cave temples of Badami
Dated between the sixth and seventh centuries the four free standing rock cut temples are a revelation. The exquisite carvings, the designs, icons, reliefs and the artwork on the stone columns, ceilings, halls and inner sanctum deep inside the caves transports you in to a different world. The first cave temple is the oldest built around 543 AD and is dedicated to Hindu God Shiva. The second and third cave temple is dedicated to Hindu God Vishnu. The last cave is of Jainism faith and it has the figures of prominent Tirthankara (saviours) of Jains.
Note: One of the key attractions in Cave-1 is the dancing figure of Shiva with 18 hands. The figure displays around 81 dance forms with the help of these 18 hands. While there take a look at the pillars too. There are around 83 types of jewellery designs carved on them. Various incarnations of God Vishnu, amorous couples, different costumes and hairstyles like Korean and Mongolian- the scenes in cave-2 and cave-3 depict the daily lives of the people then.
Celestial gods, hero stones, narrative stone panels depicting mythological stories, pre historic exhibits-the archaeological museum is a gold mine of information about the history of Indian architecture and Badami.
Note: One of the key attraction here is the figure of goddess of fertility called Lajja Gauri (Nude Goddess) .Carved out of grey sandstone she is shown in the birth giving posture. Traditionally the fertility goddess was worshipped by women aspiring to become mothers.
Badami is a haven for rock climbers. The fissured rocks, the soaring vertical cliffs, the horizontal cracks provide a challenging bouldering experience. There are various routes graded 4a-8b+ suitable for both amateurs and professionals alike. There are more than 100 bolted routes in this area.
Note: Beware of the heat. Badami is hot throughout the year. December-February months are slightly cooler though and can be a good time to rock climb early mornings.
Trekking to Badami fort:
The hill opposite to the Badami cave temples holds a number of ruins, shrines and fort. The climb is steep through stone carved steps and is full of delights. As you trapeze over the narrow winding path you see copper coated volcanic rocks towering around you. The stone fort, the observation posts, the dome like structures to store arms, the temple ruins –the one hour climb can be a novel experience.
Note: The view from the top is simply amazing and a popular haunt of photographers. The artificial green lake below, the vertical rock cliffs across with its rock cut cave temples, the lone stone watch towers atop, waterfalls from the cliffs during the rainy months-all make for inspiring photographic shoots.
Taste the protein bar of Badami -the Karadant:
Karadant translates to fried edible gum in local dialect- Kannada. Similar to protein bars the Karadant sweet is high in amino acids, omega fatty acids and antioxidants. Prepared with either sugar or jaggery, the chewy textured sweet is full of cashew nuts, dry grapes, dates, peanut etc. Jaggery comes from either of these two villages -Amingad and Gokak. So the sweet is labelled either Amingad Karadant or Gokak Karadant depending on from where the jaggery came and the sweet was manufactured.
Note: Most of the sweet shops and small outlets near temple complexes store these sweets. They are a bit pricey, a 200 gram of this sweet costs more than 100 Rupees, but are worth every bit. If you are nut allergic keep away from these sweets.
- An enriching experience at Badami farms:
Sunflower, sugarcane, millet, cotton-these are some of the crops that the farmers of Badami grow. Harvest season sees a flurry of activities here. Reaping crop, threshing, winnowing, tilling of the land to grow seeds and sowing are some activities you can witness. The black soil, the harvest in front of you, the grins of the farm ladies as they welcome visitors can turn out to be an enriching experience.
Note: October is the harvesting season for Corn. So a drive towards Badami can be colourful with not only the harvesting activity in full swing but also for its dashes of colours. The yellows of Sunflower, the orange hues of Marigold and the clear white cotton blooms amidst the golden corn can be a beautiful spectacle.
Visit the heritage sites Pattadakal and Aihole:
While Pattadakal is 22 kilometers from Badami and Aihole is around 36 kilometers both are worthwhile destinations for sightseeing. Pattadakal, a world heritage center was the place for coronation ceremonies of Chalukyan kings. Aihole was an architectural and educational center with more than 125 temples within 3-5 kilometer radius of the village. Aihole has some interesting prehistoric sites too at the Meguti hillock.
Note: Don’t forget to savour the corn bread with a dash of rich legumes or eggplant curry accompanied with cold yogurt in pots. The simple fare served by villagers here is actually very delicious and healthy. The corn after all comes from the nearby farms.