Excursions from Hampi include Kishkhinda Hill, Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami. Tungabhadra Dam (near Hospet, around 25 kilometers from Hampi) is built across the mighty Tungabhadra river, which is a tributary of River Krishna. With beautiful landscaped gardens and dancing fountains that are lit up with spectacular colored lights, this a popular tourist spot. The dam is also home to various species of fish and other aquatic animals. It's a birdwatchers haven with a large number of pelicans, flamingos and storks flocking to the site. Huligi (on the banks of the Tungabhadra river) is a village noted for several old temples. Goddess Huligemma (Shakti), the presiding deity of one of the temples is the most revered.
Chitradurga (on the highway linking Bengaluru and Hospet, 150 kilometers from Hampi) is famous for its gigantic Kallina Kote fort, a marvel of military architecture. It has 19 gateways, 38 posterior entrances, a palace, a mosque, granaries, oil pits, secret entrances, and water tanks. Amidst rocky surroundings inside the fort complex on the hill are several temples. The Hidimbeshwara temple is the oldest temple on the site.
Koppal (40 kilometers west of Hampi) is a small town that is home to a number of ancient temples built in sandstone. Also known as Jaina Kashi, Koppal is considered to be a sacred place for Jains and has two Ashokan inscriptions located at Gavimatha and Palkigundu. Some of the town's best temples include Mahadeva Temple, Amrutheshwara Temple, Kasivisvesvara Temple and the Dodda Bapassa Temple. The most striking of them all is the Mahadeva Temple, which is known for its fine chiseling work. Built by the general of the western Chalukya king, Tribhuvanamalla Vikramaditya VI, named Mahadeva, the temple has a 68-pillared hall and four large columns adorned with exquisite carvings. In addition to its imposing temples, the town is also known for Koppal Fort, one of the strongest in the country. It is believed that the fort was acquired by Tipu Sultan in 1786 who rebuilt it with the help of French engineers. Often known as Kopana Nagara, Koppal is around 190 kilometers from Vijayapura and makes for a great one-day visit.
Archaeological Museum houses six galleries that exhibit a great collection of art objects from Adil Shah's period (15th to 17th centuries) and movable cultural property of the region, the Archaeological Museum is a must-visit. Inscriptions in Kannada, Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian are also displayed in the museum, along with ancient coins, wooden carvings, chinaware, miniature paintings and gorgeous carpets. Don't miss the exquisite Brahminical and Jain sculptures that are displayed in the museum. One of the museum's galleries has an interesting collection of arms, weapons and metal ware used by the people of Bijapur during the 15th and 16th centuries. The museum was earlier the Naqquar Khana of the Gol Gumbaz. It was inaugurated in the year 1892.
Lakkundi (40 kilometers west Koppal, 80 kilometers west of Hampi) is famous for its temples and ancient step wells. The rule of later Chalukyas, Kalaharis and Hoysalas witnessed the construction of a number of temples at Lakkundi. Around 50 temples, 29 inscriptions and 101 step wells were constructed here during the period. The most striking of all is the magnificent Kasivishveshwara Temple, which has two sanctums, one housing a lingam (phallic symbol honoring Shiva) and the other a Surya statue. Another notable monument is Brahma Jinalaya, which is noted for a remarkable four-faced sculpture of Lord Brahma. Head to Manikesvara Temple to witness one of the best stepwells of Lakkundi. The Jaina Temple Complex houses over 250 epigraphs, statues and carved architectural figures and makes for a fascinating visit. Located at a distance of 12 kilometers from Gadag on the Hubli-Hospet Highway, Lakkundi is a must-visit site in Vijayapura.
Daroji Sloth Bear Sanctuary (15 kilometers from Hampi) is locally known as Karadi, and is home to its namesake, the sloth bear. The sanctuary’s outcrop of rocks, tumbled boulders and caves make this place a secure shelter for the bear population to flourish. Being omnivorous, bears feed on fruits, tubers, honey, insects and termites present in the forest. The sanctuary is the only one in North Karnataka. Established in 1994, in the eastern plains of the state, the sanctuary proved to be a dependable habitat for the unique sloth bear in a few years. About 120 bears are estimated to live here and one can also sight leopards, hyena, jackals, wild boars, porcupine, pangolins, star tortoise, monitor lizard, mongoose, pea fowls, partridges, painted spur hen, quails. About 90 species of birds and 27 species of butterflies have also been identified in this sanctuary.
Group of Monuments at Pattadakal (130 kilometers northwest of Hampi, 600 kilometers from Bangalore and 125 kilometers from Bijapur) were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. According to UNESCO: “Pattadakal, in Karnataka, represents the high point of an eclectic art which, in the 7th and 8th centuries under the Chalukya dynasty, achieved a harmonious blend of architectural forms from northern and southern India. An impressive series of nine Hindu temples, as well as a Jain sanctuary, can be seen there. One masterpiece from the group stands out – the Temple of Virupaksha, built c. 740 by Queen Lokamahadevi to commemorate her husband's victory over the kings from the South. [Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website]
“Three very closely located sites in Karnataka provide a remarkable concentration of religious monuments dating from the great dynasty of the Chalukya (c. 543-757). There are the two successive capital cities - Aihole (ancient Aryapura), Badami, and Pattadakal, the 'City of the Crown Rubies' (Pattada Kisuvolal). The latter was, moreover, for a brief time the third capital city of the Chalukya kingdom; at the time the Pallava occupied Badami (642-55). While Aihole is traditionally considered the 'laboratory' of Chalukya architecture, with such monuments as the Temple of Ladkhan (c. 450) which antedate the dynasty's political successes during the reign of King Pulakeshin I, the city of Pattadakal illustrates the apogee of an eclectic art which, in the 7th and 8th centuries, achieved a harmonious blend of architectural forms from the north and south of India.
“Situated between the Malaprabha River to the north, and a minuscule village to the south, Pattadakal possesses a sort of holy city comprised of an impressive series of eight Hindu temples dedicated to Siva. Somewhat off to the side, towards the village, is the ninth Sivaite sanctuary, the Temple of Papanatha, as well as a Jain temple. In the monumental complex of the central zone are structures whose design was strongly influenced by the architecture of northern India: the temples of Galaganatha and of Kashi Vishveshvara, which are noteworthy for their square-shaped shikharas with curved edges. They stand along with other temples of a pure Dravidian style - Sangameshvara, built between 696 and 733, and Mallikarjuna, built consecutively from 733-44. Cornices decorate the walls of these temples and the roofs are the complex, storeyed type found in southern architecture.
“The unexpected and yet harmonious mixture of these styles provided the inspiration for the masterpiece of Chalukya art, the temple of Virupaksha. This Sivaite sanctuary was erected around 740 by Queen Lokamahadevi to commemorate the victory in 731 of her husband, King Vikramaditya II, over the Pallava and other sovereigns of southern India. The king's admiration for the art of his conquered enemies is borne out by two inscriptions that offer proof that he brought in from the south an architect and a team of sculptors.
“Prominently jutting out from the cruciform temple are three porches, a typical Chalukyan feature. They blend perfectly with the majestic three-storey tower and the walls with their overhanging cornices punctuated by narrow pilasters that separate niches filled with marvellous statuary. An overall concept dictated the choice of statues which illustrate the great themes of Shiva theology and mythology.
“The evocative ruins of the numerous abandoned sanctuaries within the enclosure may be reached, on the west and east sides, through two monumental gates. In the axis of the courtyard, in front of the temple, is a beautiful pavilion containing a colossal black stone statue of Siva's sacred bull, Nandi. The puja, the ritual washing of the bull, takes place there every morning. Enhanced by its relative isolation south of the principal zone, the temple of Papanatha illustrates once again the aesthetic achievement resulting from the incorporation of two different styles. Papanatha has two rooms where the faithful can worship.
“On the west is the principal sanctuary, which is covered with a powerful tower in the northern style; to the east is a more modest room, whose roof is crowned with miniature reproductions of buildings in the purest Dravidian style. Experts have found in the detail of the niches, the pediments and the arcature, many contradictory architectural references. The plastic unity of this great monument, however, comes from the remarkable sculptured decoration illustrating the popular epic of the Ramayana, dedicated to Prince Rama, incarnation of Vishnu.
Aihole and Badami
Aihole (including Nagral) and Badami (near Pattadakal) were nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015 under the name “Evolution of Temple Architecture – Aihole-Badami- Pattadakal.” According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The property constituting of groups of monuments in Aihole (including Nagral) and Badami as an extension to Pattadakal which is the culmination, together represent the experimentation in Hindu cave and temple architecture under the Early Chalukya developing fundamental prototypes for later temples in the peninsula. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]
“The groups of monuments located in the town of Badami and villages of Aihole, Nagaral and Pattadakal, of Bagalkot district, along Malprabha river is the contribution of the eastern Chalukya Dynasty (6th-8th century). Ruling a vast culturally diverse expanse bound by Rivers Narmada and Kaveri on the North and South, this Dynasty patronised development of diverse cultural forms. The focus on temple and cave art and architecture by the Badami-Chalukyas led to unprecedented progression of both typologies. The temples at Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal are the largest, earliest group of monuments which comprehensively demonstrates the evolution in Hindu rock-cut and temple architecture in India.
“The prototypes of 16 types of free-standing temples and 4 types of rock-cut shrines were developed in Badami and Aihole, which reached its most matured form in Pattadakal. This transformed the Malaprabha river valley into a ‘cradle of Temple Architecture’, where experimentation defined the components of a typical Hindu Temple.
“In Temple architecture, two fundamental types of layout, sandhara and nirandhara (with and without circumambulatory path respectively) were developed in the structural temples of Aihole and Badami which was finalised in Pattadakal. The two types can be further categorized based on the type of Shikhara (tapering superstructure) - mundamala (temple without super-structure), rekha-prasada (prevalent in northern and central India), dravidian vimana (prevalent in southern India) and kadamba-Chalukya shikhara (indigenous form prevalent in Deccan region). In addition to the two types of plan-form is an is the apsidal one, an adoption of what is followed in a Buddhist chaitya combined with a rekha-prasada shikhara. The groups of monuments of Pattadakal show a shift in focus of development from the form to elaboration of scale, as evident in the principle shrine (than those in Aihole and Badami), addition of associated structures (subsidiary shrines, nandimantapa) enclosed in a prakara (wall), entered by a pratoli (gateway).
History and Culture of the Chalukyan Dynasty
According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The Early Chalukyan ruled in the area comprising the present Indian states of southern Maharashtra and northern Karnataka and over two centuries had unified a vast culturally diverse area between the rivers Narmada and Krishna in Peninsular India. The political victories paved the way for the amalgamation of distinct cultural practices and its manifestation in the evolution of art and architecture remain unparallel in the history temple construction in the Indian subcontinent. Pattadakal, inscribed as World Heritage site demonstrates the finale in the evolution of cave and temple art and architecture, whereas the monuments of Badami and Aihole show its crucial formative stages. Together the groups of temples comprehensively show experimentation and thereon culmination of cave and temple art and architecture witnessed only in the Malaprabha River valley. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]
“The concentration of artistic activities in their power (Aihole and Badami) and spiritual Pattadakal (Pattadakal) centers transformed the Malaprabha river valley into ‘cradle of Temple Architecture’. Its hilly outcrops witnessed the simultaneous excavation of rock-cut temples and constructions of free standing temples in sandstone by applying the skills developed for free standing wooden constructions. These temples are the largest, earliest group of monuments which comprehensively demonstrates the evolution in Hindu rock-cut and temple architecture in India. The experimentation in temple art and architecture in Pattadakal, already inscribed demonstrates the culmination in temple construction system fostered by the Early Chalukyas which had a profound influence on Hindu temples construction to follow.
“The era between the 6th and the 8th century of the Early Chalukyas of Badami is a critical phase in the history for Hindu revivalism and development in Hindu temple architecture. The architectural ensembles of Aihole-Badami-Pattadakal are a testimony to the evolution in religious architecture at a point in time when the belief system and its built-form, both rock-cut caves and free-standing stone temples, were undergoing simultaneous transformation. These two hundred years of the Early Chalukyas of Badami in the western Deccan, specifically in their power and spiritual centers at Aihole-Badami-Pattadakal, exhibits two significant movements in the cultural life that defined early medieval India, first, the acceptance of stone as a medium of construction and second, the concretisation of temple forms which are characteristic of early medieval India. Patronage from all quarters of society and religious fervour synergised the combination of skills and regional architectural practices which lead to innovations in religious architecture.
“The strategic location of the Early Chalukya power in Deccan centers enabled the infusion of features and skills from contemporary artistic centers and simultaneous development in rock-cut and free-standing architecture. The existing skill of Buddhist cave-architectures applied to excavation of Hindu cave-temples of Badami demonstrates development in spatial-layout and features essential to accommodate Hindu rituals. The five different prototypes of caves in Badami and Aihole testify the growth of rock-cut architecture into an elaborate social space.
“Considered the cradle of Indian temple architecture, the power and spiritual capitals of Early Early Chalukyas of Badami witnessed the two centuries of experiments which manifested in the evolution of the architectonics and aesthetics of free-standing Hindu temple architecture. The six rock-cut caves and twenty-five temples individually and collectively represent the continuous development of Hindu Temple architecture which became a fulcrum for later large-scale temple construction in peninsular India. Also, Hindu Temple architecture being unique to South Asia, the era of evolution in Temple architecture is integral to the history of this large geo-political expanse.”
Chalukyan Dynasty Architecture and Art
According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The ensembles of Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal bear testimony to the Early Chalukya dynasty (6th – 8th century) whose rule is characterised by prosperity, political stability and religious tolerance facilitated assimilation of diverse cultural forms, best reflected in the field of art and architecture Unifying a large geo-culturally diverse area, the kingdom of Early Chalukyas saw the convergence of myriad knowledge and techniques in the field of temple construction best reflected in the field of art and architecture transforming the Malaprabha River Valley into the cradle of Indian Temple architecture. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]
“The skills and forms of rock architecture developed at existing art centers like Ajanta was applied and elaborated in the excavation of rock-cut cave temples at Aihole and Badami. While the earlier Hindu caves are rudimentary in design, those under the Early Chalukyas show adaptation of temple plan on a much larger scale, implying development of cave-architecture. Instead of an ante-chamber attached to a cella (garbagriha), the spatial layout of the rock-cut caves at Badami had sanctum attached to mantapas with or without lateral shrines and, while that at Aihole showed a trikutachala (three sanctums) temple layout.
“Experimentation in arriving at functionally viable prototypes at Aihole and Badami enabled conceptualization of complex temple structures at Pattadakal. The elaboration of scale and ornamentation as well as addition of ancillary structures to accommodate growing need of religion at Pattadakal led to the development of aesthetically appealing temple models. A number of indigenous elements were harmoniously blended with the architectural and sculptural practices of contemporary northern and southern styles.
“The greatest contribution of the Early Chalukya civilization is illustrated in evolution of two principle temple shikhara types - the southern Dravida-vimana and the northern Rekha-nagara-prasada temples along with the type of Kadamba-Chalukya shikhara, through a series of consistent experimentations that commenced at Aihole, continued at Badami and culminated at Pattadakal. The rock-cut caves and temple architecture at Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal individually and collectively testifies the process through which the architectonics of a Hindu temple was developed, standardised and became fundamental to the knowledge-system of master-craftsmen that enabled construction of large-scale Hindu temples in the peninsular region during medieval times. Furthermore, the crystallisation of canonical texts which governed all facets of temple construction and religious practices was enriched from this experience of the Early Chalukyas of Badami.”
Aihole (15 kilometers northeast of Pattadakal, 140 kilometers northwest of Hampi) is part of the Group of temples in Aihole (and Nagral) Evolution of Temple Architecture – Aihole-Badami- Pattadakal that was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015 According to a report submitted to UNESCO: There are several groups of temples and two cave shrines dotting landscape of the village, Aihole, the first capital of Early Chalukyas. The selected properties in Aihole consist of 2 caves, 1 partly structural-partly excavated and 12 structural temples. The extensive experimentation in the temples of Aihole carved way to more definite form in the temples of Badami, Nagral and Pattadakal. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]
“Amongst these caves, Ravanphadi cave which is dedicated to Shiva, consists of a mantapa, garbhagriha and two side galleries flanking mantapa. The planning of Meena Basadi cave, with inclusion of sukhanasi and better defined space of vestibule, shows a major step in achieving plan form for built temples in future. Partly excavated / partly built structure standing on the slopes of Meguti hill has two garbhagrihas placed on two storey. The garbhagrihas are excavated in the rock while front verandah is built supported by square columns.
“Two small temples near Ravanphadi cave have only garbhagriha and ardhamantapa with no superstructure. Konti gudi temples, located within the village consist of garbhagriha attached to the rear wall of the pillared mantapa. The temples are roofed by mundamala shikhara. Ladkhan temple follows similar plan and type of shikhara on a larger scale. The garbhagriha of Guadar gudi is centrally located in the pillared mantapa forming a sandhara structure. Guadar gudi also has mundamala shikhara. Located on the just outside the village, Hucchapayya Matha has a garbhagriha which is attached to an enclosed Mantapa as a separate structure. Temples like Huchhimalli gudi and Huchhapayya gudi signify development in Rekha-prasada type of shikhara. Similar to Guadar gudi, Garbhagriha of Huchhimalli gudi is embedded in the gudhamantapa while garbhagriha of Meguti temple is surrounded by the pradakshina patha. Gudhamantapa is attached to the front wall of sandhara plan of the temple.
“Temples of Mallikarjuna and Galagnatha represent examples of development of Kadamba-Early Chalukya shikhara. Galagnath temple has an added vestibular space between the already separated garbhagriha and mantapa. Huchhimalli gudi and Meguti temple represent examples of sandhara temples. Durga temple is a rare example of apsidal plan in Early Chalukyan temples. It has sandhara plan and added mukhamantapa as an entrance. Nagnath temple at Nagral has a nirandhara plan which comprised of garbhagriha, pillared mantapa and mukhamantapa. The garbhagriha is capped with Dravidian shikhara. A unique example of trikutachala type of temples which became prevalent form in later in Rashtrakuta period can be seen in a temple no 33 in Veniyar group.”
Badami (20 kilometers west of Pattadakal, 100 kilometers northwest of Hampi) is a town nestled in a gorge between two rugged sandstone hills amidst a stunning expanse of rocky terrain, dotted with rock-cut cave temples and red sandstone cliffs. Established around holy Agastya Lake, which hosts a scattering of temples on its shores, Badami is home to a number of archaeological structures of the Dravidian era, which are remnants of the Chalukyan empire, who made Badami their capital between the 4th and the 8th centuries. The town was then a major business center and gold and precious stones were traded in the markets here.
Badami also contains majestic architecture and intricate sculptures from powerful dynasties like Rashtrakutas, Pallavas and Marathas. Some of the temples of Badami have a mixed influence of South Indian architecture and North Indian Nagara style. Among the cliffs and rocks are rock climbing opportunities.
Agastya Lake (outskirts of Badami) is a large lake that lies below the cave temples of Badami. It is said to have been formed in the 5th century and many believe that its water has curative properties. The lake is considered holy and devotees take a dip in its waters to wash away their sins. The cave temples lie on the southwest side of the lake, with the popular Bhutanatha Temple stationed on its eastern bank. The last cave of the temples faces the serene vistas of the lake. One can sit on the rocks of the temple and enjoy a beautiful view of the sun setting beyond the lake. According to legend when the Chalukyas ruled the region around Badami, the capital of their kingdom, Vatapi, was carved out of stone and spread around the ravine of the Agastya Lake. It is said that the lake has been named after sage Agastya of the epic Ramayana.
Bhutanatha Temple is one of the two major shrines of the Bhutanatha (Bhoothanatha) Group of Temples that extends up to the Agastya Lake. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is worshipped here in the Bhutanatha avatar (god of souls), the temple is built in sandstone and has an open mandapa (hall) that reflects the South Indian Dravidian and North Indian Nagara styles of architecture. The inner shrine is believed to have been built by the Chalukyas in the 7th century. At the back of the temple, the avatars of Lord Vishnu and Jain figures are carved. Another attraction near the temple is the Badami cave temples that are a group of four cave temples. These are a fine specimen of architecture and are dedicated to Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Mahavira.
Getting There: By Air: Hubli (106 kilometers) and Belgaum, around 150 kilometers away, are the nearest airports to Badami. By Road: The town is connected by good roads to Bijapur and Hubli. It takes around 12 hours between Bengaluru and Badami by road. By Train: Badami falls on Hubli-Solapur rail route. The station is 5 kilometers from Badami.
Badam Cave Temples
The famed cave temples of Badami draw visitors from all across the country. Dating back to the 6th and the 7th centuries, they represent a fine architectural style of their time. Four cave temples make up the large complex and all of them have brilliant carvings with various sculptures of gods from the Hindu pantheon. Their architecture is a blend of North Indian and South Indian Dravidian style and each cave boasts a sanctum, a hall, pillars and a verandah.
1) The first temple is believed to have been made in 578 and one can reach it by climbing 40 steps. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and has more than 81 sculptures of the God, with some in the form of Natraj with 18 arms. The cave is built with red sandstone. 2) The second cave is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, who is presented in the form of a Trivikrama (giant form). It can be seen at the summit of a sandstone hill. The third cave is perched on a hill and is believed to be dating back to 578. It has an elevation on the front that is about 70-ft-wide. The structure of this temple is reminiscent of the Deccan style of architecture. The temple houses sculptures of Lord Vishnu, who is represented in various incarnations: Varaha (form of a boar), Narsimha (part lion and part man), Trivikarma (giant form), Harihara (Hari and Shiva). 4) The fourth cave temple is dedicated to Lord Mahavira, the 24th tirthankara (saint) of the Jains, and is the largest of all. It is believed to belong to the 7th century and one can see the idol of Lord Mahavira in a sitting posture in the sanctum.
The Temples and Caves in Badami are part of the Evolution of Temple Architecture – Aihole-Badami- Pattadakal that was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015 According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The town of Badami which served as a second capital for Early Chalukyas is located at the base where two branches of the western edge of the rocky-crop of the Kaladgi range bifurcate. The town is dotted with numerous temples built during Early Chalukya and Rashtrakuta period. 5 sites (1 group of 4 Caves and 4 free-standing temples) in Badami have been identified owing to their significance in the process of evolution of Early Chalukyan temple architecture. These sites are located at various elevations along the rocky-outcrop. The 4 Caves (Cave no.01, 02, 03 and 04) located on the northern face of the southern branch of the hillock. The caves follow typical plan including entrance porch, pillared mantapa and garbhagriha. [Source: Permanent Delegation of India to UNESCO]
“Upper-Shivalaya and Malegitti Shivalaya temples are located on the northern branch of the hillock, where the former is on a higher elevated plane than the latter. Shikhara of these temples are Dravidian type. The garbhagriha of Upper Shivalaya is embedded in the mantapa forming a sandhara plan. The plan of Upper Shivalaya is followed in Galagnatha temple in Pattadakal which dates later. The main part of the mantapa of this temple is now fallen. Circular windows on the rear wall of pradakshina path as well as additional storey above the garbhagriha provide uncommon features to the temple. Malegitti Shivalaya has garbhagriha, pillared gudhamantapa which is accessed through mukhamantapa. The temple is roofed with Dravidian shikhara. The Bhutnatha temple (main) is located on the banks of Agastya Tank at the base of the hillock. Bhutanatha temple has a garbhagriha attached to pillared gudhamantapa. Mukhamantapa of this temple is a later addition. The temple has Dravidian shikhara. All the Early Chalukyan caves and temples in Badami except Upper Shivalaya are nirandhara structures where pradakshina path or circumambulatory path is absent.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: India tourism website ( incredibleindia.org), India’s Ministry of Tourism and other government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.
Updated in August 2020