Places to visit in Badami, Karnataka
Hampi - The Land of Boulders and Ruins in Karnataka, attracts a huge tourist crowd every year. Just 140 kilometres from Hampi, lies an absolutely beautiful but underrated town named Badami. Badami is often under-looked or clubbed together on a day trip from Hampi with Pattadakal and Aihole. However, we feel that Badami has the potential to be a standalone tourist destination and at least 1-night should be spent at this place to get the most out of this unexplored gem. This article will act as a complete guide for you to plan your trip to Badami in Karnataka.
Location of Badami, Karnataka:
Badami is located in the Bagalkot district of the Indian state of Karnataka. It used to be the capital of Chalukyas (Indian royal dynasty that ruled central and southern India) between the 5th and the 8th century. Badami lies 450 kilometres away from Bengaluru and 420 kilometres away from Hyderabad. It is often visited as a weekend destination from both Bengaluru and Hyderabad. As stated above, trip to Badami is mostly clubbed with the nearby popular destination Hampi, which is just 140 kilometres away.
How to reach Badami, Karnataka:
Air: Belgaum, which is 150 kilometres away, is the nearest airport to Badami, Karnataka. From Belgaum airport, you can either hire a prepaid taxi or take a bus to Badami. Flights from major airports in India including Hyderabad and Bengaluru, operate to Belgaum.
Rail: Badami railway station line is well connected with daily trains operating from Bengaluru and Hyderabad railway stations. The train journey is almost 12 hours long from both Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
Road: Badami town is well connected by road to nearby metros like Bengaluru and Hyderabad. From Hampi, Hospet or Hubli, you can either hire a taxi or hop into a government bus to reach Badami, Karnataka.
We rented a motorbike from Hampi and rode to Badami, Karnataka through the NH50 highway. The route from Hampi – Hospet – Badami is extremely scenic with several sunflowers’ fields on the way (if you travel in the month of August/ September). We stopped by at least 3-4 fields in between that were blooming with bright yellow sunflowers. It was fun speaking with the farmers and photographing the colorful surroundings.
History behind the name 'Badami':
The small town of Badami was formerly known by the name Vatapi. Vatapi was a demon killed by a sage named Agastya. Hence, the man-made lake in Badami is named after the sage. It was named Badami as the sandstone rocks in the area are "Badami - Almond brown in Hindi language" in color.
Places to visit in Badami, Karnataka:
There are in total 4 sets of rock-cut caves in Badami, Karnataka which are together known as Badami Caves. One can drive/ ride directly to the Badami caves. It has a huge parking lot from where you have to walk and climb on foot to explore the caves.
Each of the set of caves in Badami, Karnataka is considered as examples of Indian rock-cut architecture. All caves are carved into a cliff’s monolithic stone face which is considered to be soft sandstone. Each cave includes an entrance with a verandah that further leads to sandstone pillar and the main hall.
Each set of caves is a little higher than the other. Ascending a few steps from the parking lot you enter ‘Badami cave 1’. And further up the stairs comes Badami cave 2, then Badami cave 3 and finally Badami cave 4. All caves are linked with a stepped path with intermediate terraces that overlook a man-made earthen lake named as Agastya Lake. The view of Agastya Lake from the level of Badami cave 3 and 4 is incredible and should not be missed.
Badami cave 1 was excavated in the 5th century and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. A large rock carved in the shape of Shivalinga forms the centre of the cave. The ceilings, the walls and the pillars are all adorned with deeply cut sculptures of deities and swans and all things considered holy. The highlight of Badami cave 1 is the unique sculpture of 18-armed Nataraja, also known as the ‘King of Dancers’. Climbing about 60 steps from the façade of Badami cave 1 is ‘Badami cave 2’.
Badami cave 2 was excavated in the 6th century and is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Meditating deities on the opposite side of the entrance guard the approach. The highlight of Badami cave 2 is the ceiling that is adorned with Fish-Wheel with 16-spokes finely carved in the rock that is surrounded by Swastika patterns. The pedestals of several deities in Badami cave 2 are adorned with sculptures of dwarfs. Another 60 steps from Badami cave 2, takes you to ‘Badami cave 3’.
Badami cave 3 is the largest of all the 4 caves of Badami. The cave is adorned with exquisitely carved sculptures of 8-armed Vishnu, Shiva, Indra, Varuna, Garuda and Narasimha. The walls are sculpted with friezes of various episodes of Mahabharata. The pillars are adorned with sculptures of divine couple deities like Shiva-Parvati and Naga-Nagini. Indeed Badami cave 3 is the most ornate of all the caves of Badami. Descending a few stairs from Badami cave 3 will take you ‘Badami cave 4’.
Badami cave 4 is the smallest of all the caves of Badami, Karnataka. It is considered to be unfinished and left incomplete by the sculptors. These set of caves are also referred to as Jain cave temple as it is dedicated to the most revered figures of Jainism like Parshvanath and Bahubali. The walls of Badami cave 4 are carved with sculptors of Mahavira and other Tirthankaras.
Apart from these set of 4 caves, other cave monuments and medieval age temples have also been found around the Agastya Lake but those remain away from the tourists’ eye due to lack of maintenance. In a few of them, water gushes every monsoon, submerging the caves under the water. Though being the most touristy place to visit in Badami, Badami caves are a must-visit.
Caves Timings: 9 AM to 6 PM. Open on all days
Entrance fee: INR 5/ person
Photography: Still camera – Free, Video Camera – INR 25
Badami Archaeological Museum
The Archaeological museum in Badami is right beside the Badami caves' parking lot. The museum was set up by the Archaeological Survey of India in the year 1979. We suggest you explore the museum before visiting the caves as it will give you a clear insight into the Chalukyan dynasty. The museum houses antiquities that include sculptures and inscriptions that were excavated from places in and around Badami. All the relics date back to the time between the 6th century and the 16th century.
Like the Badami caves, the Archaeological museum at Badami also has 4 galleries. However, that’s where the similarity ends. The galleries exhibit sculptures of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Ganesha along with other deities. Exquisitely carved Makara Torana panel (that depicts scenes from Bhagwad Gita) is the highlight of the museum at Badami, Karnataka.
Museum timings: 9 AM to 5 PM. The museum is closed on Fridays.
Entrance fee: INR 5/ person (Free for children up to 15 years)
Photography is not allowed inside the museum.
Badami Fort and Upper & Lower Shivalaya Temple
A reasonably easy uphill climb from a small entrance just outside the ASI museum in Badami will take you towards the Badami Fort. The series of steps to Badami fort (about 365 in number) is through a narrow gorge. In some places, it is so narrow that you will have to slide sidewise and slip into the other end. The Badami Fort is believed to be from the 6th century. The fort is however weathered and is in ruins. The only evidence of the fort that has been left is the bastion. The view of the opposite hills and the Agastya Lake from the Badami fort is incredible.
Climbing a bit further from the Badami fort, you reach the Lower Shivalaya temple and then the Upper Shivalaya temple. The Lower Shivalaya temple’s outer walls have been dismantled and only the empty pedestal remains. The Upper Shivalaya temple has beautiful carvings of Ramayana characters like Kumbhakarna and Lord Krishna. As such there’s not much to see in the temples, however, the panoramic view of the rocky landscape and that of the Agastya lake that you get from the top is stunning.
Agastya Lake is a man-made step lake surrounded by almond-brown sandstone hills. The Badami caves, Badami fort, upper and lower Shivalaya temples and Bhutanatha temple all surround the Agastya Lake. The lake is fed by waterfalls from the southern hills each monsoon. If you visit Badami during monsoon, you will find a series of waterfalls from the southern hills pouring water into the Agastya Lake. During summer, however, the lake is reduced to a big pond and almost about all the ghat steps leading to the lake are visible.
Agastya Lake looks extremely picturesque during the early morning. The view of the lake from atop the Badami caves and the Upper and Lower Shivalaya temples is incredibly stunning as well. Agastya lake is an awesome place to spend some time in peace. You could choose to sit on the ghat steps and soak in the beauty of the nature surrounding the lake. If you are interested in getting some cool heritage pictures, with Bhutanatha temple in the backdrop, the place is photogenic too. Out of all the places to visit in Badami, we found Agastya Lake to be the best.
Bhutanatha temple is surrounded by Agastya Lake on three sides in peak monsoon season. However, in summer, you will find less/ no water around the temple. Bhutanatha temple was build in the 8th century during the rule of Chalukyas in Badami. The temple houses Lord Shiva as a deity in its sanctum sanctorum. Bhutanatha temple is set against a backdrop of beautiful reddish cliffs.
The Bhutanatha temple mostly remains deserted and hence you can peacefully enjoy the tranquillity and serenity of the place. The temple has splendid architecture and beautiful stone carvings. A few other temples and small caves are located in the vicinity of the temple which are worth exploring if you have time in hand.
Apart from the ones mentioned above, there are a few other temples like Mahakuteshwara temple and Mallikarjuna temple located in Badami that you can visit if you can squeeze them in the time you have.
Duration of visit to Badami, Karnataka:
Badami is often explored in a day-trip from Hampi. Very few tourists opt to spend a night in Badami. However, we highly recommend spending at least 2 nights in Badami, Karnataka. On day one, you can reach Badami by afternoon after exploring the sunflower fields on the way. In the evening you can visit the Badami caves, Badami fort and upper and lower Shivalaya temples. On the next morning, you can plan to visit the Agastya lake and Bhutanatha temple in the morning, followed by a visit to the ASI Museum. Rest of the time can be spent in exploring the other sight-seeing spots in Badami itself, or you can move on to explore the heritage sites at Pattadakal and Aihole.
Best time to visit Badami, Karnataka:
Monsoon is hands down the best time to visit Badami. If you are lucky and on-time, you will be able to witness the Agastya lake being filled by the waterfalls from the southern hills. If you wish to do that, visit Badami right after the monsoon ends. Winter is also one of the good times to visit Badami, Karnataka. Summer in Badami is hot and sunny. The sandstone of the caves as well as the ghat steps tend to become hot in the summer heat. Even the Agastya lake tends to dry up in the summertime. Hence, any time between August and February will be ideal to explore this heritage town.
Where to stay in Badami, Karnataka:
As we stated earlier, not many tourists opt to stay in Badami; hence the stay options are also less in number. However, there are some decent accommodation options in Badami like Hotel Mayura Chalukya, Clarks Inn Badami and Krishna Heritage hotel. All of these stay options provide basic facilities along with dining options for a comfortable stay.
The most distinctive feature about tourism in Badami is that all the places of interest (Badami caves, ASI museum, Badami fort, upper and lower Shivalaya temples, Agastya Lake, Bhutanatha temple) are located in one complex. Hence, you do not have to move around a lot to see all these sight-seeing spots. You can also hire a tourist guide if you are interested to deep-dive into the history and culture of the place. You can find a guide outside the museum or in the parking lot near the Badami caves.
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Badami is a must-visit destination if you are nearby in Hampi, Karnataka. Go explore this place now and let us know how you find it! Happy travelling.