Badami • Karnataka: Cave No.1 - Witness to the Chalukya Heritage

Cave No. 1 at Badami, India, is a rock-cut cave dating back to the Chalukya dynasty, which ruled South India between the 6th and 8th centuries. Located in the state of Karnataka, this cave, dedicated to the god Shiva, showcases the art and architecture of that period. Accessed by a 40-step rock-cut staircase, the cave features sculpted columns, pillars, and floral and geometric motifs. The sculptures depict deities and episodes from Hindu mythology, including Shiva as Nataraja and various avatars of Vishnu. Cave No. 1 of Badami provides a fascinating insight into the history and culture of ancient India.

Badami • Cave No. 1: outside the cave ( India, Karnataka )

Badami • Cave No. 1: outside the cave

Badami • Cave No. 1: columns in the cave ( India, Karnataka )

Badami • Cave No. 1: columns in the cave

Badami • Cave No. 1: bas-relief of dancing Shiva ( India, Karnataka )

Badami • Cave No. 1: bas-relief of dancing Shiva

Cave No. 1 of Badami: A Legacy Carved in Stone


Perched on the rocky landscape of present-day Karnataka, India, lies Badami, the erstwhile capital of the Chalukya kingdom, renowned for its awe-inspiring rock-cut caves. Among them, Cave No. 1 stands as a silent testament to the artistic genius and spiritual depth of this civilization. As we delve into its history and striking features, we can discern the pulse of a culture that shaped the destiny of a region.




Carved out in the 6th century, at the height of the Chalukya era, Cave No. 1 of Badami marked a period of exceptional artistic and architectural flourish, leading to the creation of temples and sanctuaries dedicated to various Hindu deities.


The Structure


Cave No. 1 of Badami is devoted to the god Shiva, in his Nataraja form – the cosmic dancer. On entering the cave, one is immediately greeted by a monumental sculpture of Shiva, with eighteen arms, dancing the Tandava - the dance of creation and destruction.


The cave is divided into a main hall, an inner sanctuary (the garbhagriha), and a porch. The ceiling of the main hall is adorned with intricate carvings depicting mythological scenes, while the walls bear reliefs of Hindu deities.


The Sculptures


The sculptures of Cave No. 1 are of remarkable finesse, testifying to the extraordinary mastery of the artisans of the time. The fluid forms of Shiva, the facial expressions of the deities, and the meticulous details of the mythological scenes reveal a profound understanding of human and divine nature.


A Heritage to Preserve


Today, Cave No. 1 of Badami is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It continues to inspire with its beauty and spirituality, reminding everyone of the importance of preserving this heritage for future generations.


The story of Cave No. 1 of Badami reminds us that art and architecture are much more than mere aesthetic expressions. They are reflections of a culture, an era, and a spirituality that continue to live through time. As such, they have the power to inspire us, uplift us, and remind us of our role as custodians of the world's cultural heritage.

Architectural features

Location and History 


Badami Cave Number 1, located in the state of Karnataka, India, is a remarkable construction that dates back to the period of the Chalukya dynasty, around the 6th century CE. The Chalukya were known for their outstanding contribution to the rock art of India. 


Exterior Architecture 


Dug in a reddish sandstone, the cave is distinguished by its monolithic architecture, that is to say that it is directly carved into the rock. The facade is delimited by carved pillars that support a wide canopy, under which is the entrance to the cave. 


Decoration and Iconography 


The interior of the cave is renowned for its exquisite decoration. The walls, columns and ceiling of the cave are decorated with finely carved reliefs. These sculptures depict Hindu deities, mythological scenes, as well as floral and geometric motifs. 


The most imposing figure is that of Shiva Nataraja, a representation of Shiva dancing, with 18 arms which depict the various dance postures of the god. Next to Shiva is an image of Ardhanarishvara, a mixed form of Shiva and Parvati, which symbolizes the union of masculine and feminine. 


Interior design 


The layout of the cave is simple and effective. There is a main room (mandapa) with a high ceiling, supported by carved columns. A cella, or shrine, is found at the bottom of the cave, where the deity is usually housed. 


Badami Cave Nr 1 is a precious testimony to Indian rock art, illustrating the finesse of the details and the complexity of the themes tackled by the artists of the Chalukya period.

Monument profile
Cave No.1
Monument category: Rock Sanctuary
Monument family: Rock Sanctuary and Monumental Bas-reliefs
Monument genre: Religious
Cultural heritage: Hindu
Geographic location: Badami • Karnataka • India
Construction period: 6th century AD

• Links to •

• Dynasties that contributed to the construction of the monument •

• List of videos about Badami on this site •

Badami, former capital of the Chalukyas, Karnataka • India

• References •

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