Cave Temples of Badami – Cave 3

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.

Cave 3 of the Cave Temples of Badami

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.

Vishnu as Narasimha Cave 3 of the Cave Temples of Badami

Turn around from admiring Narasimha and you face the most stunning image of Vishnu, perfectly bracketed by the pillars in perspective.
Vishnu in meditation in Cave 3 of the Cave Temples of Badami

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.
Vishnu in meditation in Cave 3 of the Cave Temples of Badami

Writeup and pics from the other Cave Temples of Badami:

21 thoughts on “Cave Temples of Badami – Cave 3

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  1. Actually Devi always remained fierce!
    As Shaivism developed (later than Devi’s Shakta tradition), there was a sense that Devi’s aura could overpower Shiva; thus his spouse Parvati is portrayed as a benign form of the Devi.

    My militant view is that the male dominated priestly class developed the benign Parvati model as a way to suppress (there must be a better word) the fierce women. They could then push the Parvati model on assertive women! 😛

  2. True the Devi became largely benign later on though I can assure you in Tamil Nadu where pagan worship is still predominant, the Devi is not at all benign – more a fierce powerful creative energy.

    Perhaps with the association of being feminine with being benign, the image of the Devi too transformed to fit with this larger social stereotype!!!

  3. Lakshmi
    We went on a stifling hot day, so the caves provided a welcome respite. Ha hA! you remember the puzzles! I think this was the beginning of the ‘temples’ and as such the artists created various motifs to attracts folks of all ages. It was to be a place of ‘fun.’
    Nataraja is definitely the most photographed. I saw several girls having their pics taken doing dance poses in front of Nataraja. I liked that cave for the fabulous Mahisasuramardini (Devi) art. An early work depicting association of the fierce Devi with Shiva. Later Shaivism favored the benign Parvati!

  4. I visited Badami when I was around five years old – I still remember the cold musty feeling inside the caves 🙂 and the random puzzles in the art work that my appa made me solve!!!

    The Nataraja cave is my personal favourite. I know its been long but I keep following Badami, and the impression on me even as a kindergartner was so strong that I still think of this as the best architecture I have ever seen!!

  5. We visited there once long time ago with my parents. I remember they sold thick sweet yogurt in earthern pots outside! It was so yum. Loved the pics!
    Have a great week.

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