Exploring Chalukya architecture

Our trip to Badami was a last minute plan, and we only booked our hotel and taxi a day in advance. There are many buses (SRS, VRL, KSRTC) running regular services to Badami. If you prefer train, then even those are available - they were scheduled at odd times, and it didn't suit our plan.

I'm hesitant in believing everything that a registered guide says about a monument, as they find it hard to separate out folklores and personal opinions from actual facts. Plus, I have no idea about the source and credibility of their information. Hence I googled for a good guidebook, and found a suitable match in George Michell's guidebook titled 'Badami.Aihole.Pattadakal'. This book defined our trip experience, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested.

The uniqueness of the monuments in Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal is a mix of Chalukya, Rashtrakuta and Pallava styles of temples co-existing within metres of each other. They're lesser known as compared to the monuments at Hampi, but just as grand. These places can be covered in one day, but then that would be as good as fast food - so you can pick what you want. We wanted to spend time and not hurry, and hence split our trip over two days.


Badami is a small town with just one main road, and the red sandstone cliffs looming large over the city. To explore Badami, one honestly does not need a taxi and this can be easily done on foot. If you choose to walk, you will see that there are sufficient road signs in the by-lanes and the locals are always glad to guide you.

Exploring Badami can be bifurcated by the Agastya lake - what's to the North and South of it. To the North side are the 4 caves, which form the main attraction of Badami. It takes roughly about 60-90 minutes to explore these caves in detail.

The stairs at the start of Cave 1

The caves as seen from the parking lot

Reasons to avoid Badami on a holiday - was swarming with kids on school trip on Republic day

The cave temples have statues dedicated to Vishnu, Shiva, Jainism and many other details which can be appreciated in leisure. 
Vishnu in an acrobatic posture

Varaha is a recurring theme of the Chalukyas

Garuda at the entrance of one of the caves

The 4th cave has many statues of Thirthankaras

After exploring the caves in the North side of the lake, you can explore the Archeological museum to the South bank of the river. One can walk along the steps of the lake, or choose to walk inside the lanes. There are clear directions in the lanes, and its a 5 minute walk away from the caves. 

Walking on the banks of Agastya lake

Boards guide you to the museum

The museum is cool, and one needs about 15-20 minutes to go through the exhibits. After exploring the museum, please hike up the cliffs and you will find a breathtaking view of the caves from the top of the cliff. Also to be seen are the Lower and Upper shivalayas, granaries used by Tipu and the facade of the fort. The view of Badami from the top of this cliff is almost similar to the view of Jodhpur from the top of Mehrangarh fort. 

While climbing the stairs to the Lower shivalaya

The granaries

The caves as seen from the Upper shivalaya

South fort as seen from Malegitti shivalaya 

Malegitti shivalaya

After exploring the monuments to the South of the Agastya lake, one can relax on the banks before heading towards the Bhutanatha temple. We almost missed out on this on Day 1, but spent 2-3 hours of our last evening here while waiting for our bus back to Bangalore. 

Bhutanatha temple

Rock carvings behind the Bhutanatha temple

Vishnu carving behind the Bhutanatha temple

Panoramic view from the shores of Bhutanatha temple

The other important sightseeing spot we missed is Sidalaphadi cave. It is a natural cave with a rock shelter and pre-historic cave paintings. Its a 1-hour hike from the main road, but we skipped this. 


We explored Aihole and Pattadakal next day, and this is recommended if you want to spend time at each site and not rush through. Aihole is about an hour's drive away from Badami. All the temples and sites of importance are scattered across Aihole, and its best you hire a taxi for the day. We used the itinerary listed by George Michell's book, and explored Aihole. Besides the famous Durga temple and Ladkhan temple, we also explored Megutti hill temples, Ravanaphadi cave temple, Hucchhimalli temple and Hucchappayya matha. 

Durga temple, Aihole

Ladkhan temple

Nandi inside temple

Hucchimalli temple

Ravanaphadi cave

Inscription in the Jain temple on top of Megutti hill

Two storied Buddhist temple on the way up Megutti hill

Hucchappayya matha


The good thing about Pattadakal temples, is that they're all housed in the sample compound on the banks of the Malaprabha river. They are a cluster of 7 temples, and are each wondrous examples of ancient architecture. You would need around 2 hours to explore the details of these temples. 

The Virupaksha temple is the grandest of them, and is the biggest. Galaganatha temple has a beautiful gopuram. The Virupaksha temple has very well carved statues of Shiva, Vishnu, Varaha and scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharatha on the pillars inside the sanctum. 

The 7 temples at Pattadakal

Shiva depicted in Galaganatha temple

Galagantha temple to the right

The well preserved interiors of Virupaksha temple

Samudra manthana as depicted on the pillars of the Virupaksha temple

I cannot stress enough of the usefulness of George Michell's book through our journey, and I recommend this to one and all. His book is detailed, and provides sufficient directions to the novices. 
I would however warn you that since you will be visiting around 20-30 temples in 2 days, you will get temple-tired at the end of it. So give yourself sufficient breaks, else you will easily get saturated. 

Local cuisine - Jolada rotti

Curd in earthen pots

This region tends to be dry and hot for most part of the year, so carry lot of water along with you. Don't hesitate to try out curd sold in earthen pots, or the local cuisine which consists of Jolada rottis (made of Jowar). Be warned that the food of the region is on the spicier side, but there's always curd to one's rescue. There aren't any noteworthy souvenirs to shop for in the area, so please do not expect much. 

Post demonetization, one important thing to keep note of while visiting Badami and its surroundings is that there are hardly any places that accept card. Digital wallets are unheard of, and cash is the only thing that works here. Badami town centre does have a handful of ATM's, but they could easily run out of cash during holiday season. Advise you to carry sufficient cash in advance. 

Badami is very dusty, and best visited during Oct to Feb. You will find people spitting everywhere. There are plenty of pigs running amok in the streets as well. But the people are very kind and warm-hearted. Their hospitality is unparalleled, and they are helpful. 


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