Badami, former capital of the Chalukyas, Karnataka • India

Experience the historical grandeur of Badami, the birthplace of Chalukyan architecture. In under nine minutes, we invite you on a visual journey across the region’s unique temples dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Mahavira, carefully hewn into the cliffside, each resonating with ancient spiritual significance. Behold the marvel of the artificial lake extending at the base of the cliffs, dating back to the 7th century. Uncover the legacy of the Chalukya dynasty, pivotal to the evolution of South India. Witness the beauty of a small Indian town that once stood as the heart of a great empire. Join us, as we unfold the secrets of Badami.

This film was made on the basis of photos and videos taken during the trip Unknown India • Ladakh, Karnataka, Telangana in 2022

vimeo chapterA click on this icon above displays the list of chapters of this film about Karnataka • state in southern India in India. A click on a dot goes directly to a chapter.

Reading the text below will help you better understand the cultural context of the images in this video.

00:53 • Cave 1, a temple dedicated to Shiva 

02:17 • Cave 2, a temple dedicated to Vishnu

03:24 • Cave 3, another temple dedicated to Vishnu

05:47 • Cave 4, a Jain temple dedicated to Mahavira

06:59 • Lake Agastya

07:28 • The other temples of Badami



Badami which was formerly known as Vatapi is a small town in the state of Karnataka in southern India. It is nowadays a city with about 30,000 inhabitants, which would make it almost a village in India.

The place has been inhabited since prehistoric times and dolmens have been found there, but took on real importance around the middle of the 6th century AD. The city of Badami was founded by one of the first rulers of the Chalukya dynasty, Pulakeshin I. The place offered some security thanks to the cliffs that surrounded it.

The temples excavated in the cliff are the work of the son and the brother of the founder of the city.

The artificial lake that extends at the foot of the cliffs is a water reservoir whose infrastructure dates back to the 7th century.


Part of southern and central India, territory covering Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana and part of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, were ruled by 3 successive but related Chalukya dynasties. The first of these dymasties, known as the Badami Chalukya lasted 200 years from the middle of the 6th century before being eclipsed by another dynasty, that of the Rahtrakutas. The Chalukyas would, however, regain prominence along with the other dynasties, including that known as the Western Chalukyas towards the end of the 10th century.

This period was extremely important for the evolution of South India. Indeed, under the reign of the Chalukyas, we witnessed the disappearance of a host of small kingdoms in favor of a large empire, reinforcing the efficiency of the administration, developing trade and giving birth to a new architecture. called "chalukyan architecture" of which there are examples in Badami and Pattadakal among others.

Badami caves

The set consists of 4 sanctuaries excavated in these marbled red cliffs which protect the city. They were dug from the end of the 6th century. These excavated temples are magnificent and are reminiscent of the Ellora or Ajanta caves in Maharashtra, those of Anjanta being however much older.

Each cave is located at a different height in the cliff and stairs lead from one to the other.

Cave nº1 is dedicated to Shiva and there are bas-reliefs representing the dancing Shiva (the movement being represented by a multiplication of arms).

Two of the caves, nº2 and nº3 are dedicated to Vishnu. The two temples dedicated to Shiva are however very different from each other. The nº3 being much larger and more richly decorated than the nº2.

A Jaïn temple

The last cave is a Jain temple. There are statues and bas-reliefs of tîrthankaras, 24 Jain masters who succeeded one another, founding the Jain religion. One could compare the tîrthankaras to the Sikh gurus or to the prophets of the monotheistic religions.

The other temples

The cliffs overlook an artificial lake named Agastya on the banks of which are built several temples of Chalukyan architecture.


about the place, Badami:

While Badami in Karnataka in India is a small town nowadays , it was once been  the capital of an empire spanning much of South and Central India during the Chalukya period, from 540 to 757 CE.



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bas-reliefs from one of the Bhutanatha temples, Badami, Karnataka • India

What's the weather like in Badami?

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Dug into these red cliffs towards the end of the 6th century, these astonishing temples overlooking an artificial lake dating from the same period remind us that Badami was once the capital of one of the greatest empires of South India, that of the Chalukyas, even if nowadays it is a small town of nearly 30,000 inhabitants.


The caves carved into the cliff are four in number, each located at a different height connected to each other by a staircase, and named after their place in relation to the entrance to the sanctuary. Thus, the first cave encountered is called cave number 1. It is dedicated to Shiva. There are several bas-reliefs representing Shiva, including a dancing shiva.


Temple nr2 is dedicated to Vishnu. In addition to several bas-reliefs representing avatars of Vishnu, this temple offers us interesting sculptures on the ceiling. One of them represents a fish wheel (Chakra Matsya) and the other a maze of swatikas patterns.


Temple No. 3 is also dedicated to Vishnu. It is the only one bearing a clear indication of the date of the end of the work, namely in 578. It is also the largest of the 3 Hindu temples of Badami and the one whose sculptures are the most refined. Here again several avatars of Vishnu are represented. The ceilings of this third temple are also splendid.


Evidence of religious tolerance in those ancient times, probably the beginning of the 7th century, the fourth temple carved into the cliff of Badami is not a Hindu temple. It is a Jain temple, which is dedicated to Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara. The bas-reliefs in this cave represent different Tirthankara. A brief explanation of what the Jain Tirthankaras are is given in the commentary of this video on the site


But the creative Chalukyas architects didn't just dig temples into the cliff. They also built other important temples, although more classic, whether in Badami or in the surrounding area. Their reign is hailed to this day to be a significant turning point in the history and architecture of South India.

temple by the lake, Badami • India • Karnataka

temple by the lake

overview of the caves in the cliff, Badami • India • Karnataka

overview of the caves in the cliff

cave number 2, Badami • India • Karnataka

cave number 2

cave number 1, Badami • India • Karnataka

cave number 1

Badami, Karnataka • India

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