I previously shared pictures of two cave temples of Badami. These represented the zenith of the Chalukyan cave temple architecture from the 6th century. Cave one was dedicated to Shiva as the impressive Nataraja; and Devi as Mahisasuramardini. Cave two honors Vishnu and his avataars Varaha and Trivikrama (Vamana).
Cave Three is also dedicated to Vishnu and his avataars, and holds some of the most impressive works of art.
As we approach the caves, they appear as narrow slits in the sandstone mountain side. As you walk up and step onto the verandah that the true beauty of the sculptures becomes evident. Note that these caves are ‘open’ and have no doors or other forms of protection from the weather. Yet their grandeur has survived nearly 1,500 years.
As you walk up the stairs, you step in between a row of beautifully carved pillars and on the right is the larger than life-size carving of Vishnu, as avataar Narasimha (man-lion). And what a majestic Narasimha it is. On the lower left is Prahalad, whose entreaties caused Vishnu to take this form to alleviate suffering of his devotee; and on the right is the cruel king Hiranyakashipu, who Narasimha disembowels on the threshold.
Turn around from admiring Narasimha and you face the most stunning image of Vishnu, perfectly bracketed by the pillars in perspective.
And like if in the grip of a giant magnetic I was drawn towards this figure; agape and too stunned to form coherent words. The image of Vishnu in a meditative pose atop the coiled Adisesha!
Indeed, Vishnu’s eyes are closed here. Vishnu is depicted in yoga nidra – deep in cosmic meditative slumber. It was only many centuries later (12th century, I was told) that Vishnu was depicted with eyes open in devotional art.
Writeup and pics from the other Cave Temples of Badami:
- Cave Temples of Badami – 1
- Durga as Mahisasuramardhini, also from Cave 1
- Cave Temples of Badami – 2
- Cave Temples of Badami – 4