Around 450 km from Bengaluru lays the ancient capital of the Chalukyas, which, unknown to many, is a nerve centre for a classic historical journey of India. Starting from the 4th century CE, you can travel in time right up to the 16th century CE- spanning a fusion of religions and cultures left behind by our ancestors. For a history buff, there could not be any better time travel than taking the Badami trails.
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The centre of Chalukya rule in the 6th century AD, Badami was referred to as Vatapi. The key historical sites here are centred around an ancient man-made lake called Agastya Lake, which is said to have healing powers besides, of course, providing a scenic backdrop to the famous Badami caves and the Bhutanatha Temple.
Badami Caves- Carved on the almond coloured hills that surround Lake Agastya are four unique caves; each following a distinct theme of sculptures. A dancing Nataraja will dazzle you as you enter the Shiva Caves, followed by elaborate scenes of Vishnu in cave two. Cave three depicts the various incarnations of Vishnu while cave four is based on Jainism. Remember to look beyond the walls at the ceilings for equally lovely scenes. The best time to visit these caves would be post noon, when the sunlight falls on the artistic sculptures, lighting up every feature they have.
Right across the Agastya Lake from Badami caves, are the 7th century Bhuthanatha temples. While they may feel quite unfinished as compared to the elaborately carved Badami Caves, there are some interesting discoveries that you can make. Venture out behind the temple to discover hidden carvings on the rocks. Be ready to crawl under a rock to uncover a sculpted Mahavir, tucked away in peace.
Even before the magnificent temples and caves of Badami were built, the artists were at work at Aihole. 35 km from Badami, this tiny village was considered to be the sculptor’s school. The place exists since the 4th century and has over 120 temples of that era to showcase. The temples here served as a model for the ones built later in India.
Durga Temple- Durga Temple complex is the most recognised among all sites in Aihole as it has several structures with stunning architectural work. The Ladkhan temple too enthrals visitors with mono-coloured carvings on its pillars and the story of how its actual name came about. There is also an archaeological museum where ancient artistic collection has been preserved.
Wind up your trip to Aihole with a quick look at one of the oldest caves in India- Ravanaphadi Caves.
Dating back to the 7th century, this place used to be the Coronation capital of the Chalukyas. The temples within the main complex are a beautiful example of both North and South Indian style of architecture.
On one hand you will see the exquisite North Indian styled domes of the Kashi Vishwanatha temple and the Galaganatha temple, while the typical Dravidian style of architecture can be enjoyed at the Virupaksha temple and the Sangameshwara temple. The 2nd most popular temple here – Papanatha temple will enthral you with the best of both types of architecture.
Around 2 hours away from Badami, Bijapur was the centre of power of the Muslim rulers of South India. The town treats you to the largest dome of India – the Gol Gumbaz with its Whispering Gallery. Ibrahim Rauza, Malik-e-Maidan and Barakaman should not be missed as well.