Cave Temples of Badami: Cave – 2

Matsya Chakra - A wheel with fish spokes on the ceiling of Cave - 2 located on a soft sandstone hill near Badami in Karnataka, India.

Cave temple dedicated to Vishnu

Located on the red sandstone hills of Badami in Karnataka, India, the cluster of four rock-cut cave temples is an impressive work of religious art and a showcase of Chalukya temple architecture.

This page describes Cave -2, the second cave from the entrance. Check the following pages for a detailed explanation of the other three caves:

CaveDedicationReliefs
Cave – 1ShivaNataraja, Dwarapala, Ardhanarishvara, Harihara
Cave – 3Maha VishnuMaha Vishnu, Ashtabhuja Vishnu, Varahavatara
Vamanavatara, Narasimhavatara
Cave – 4Mahavira
(Jain Temple)
Mahavira, Adinatha, Parshvanatha
Bahubali, Mahavira with Jakkave

Cave -2: Vishnu Temple

Cave – 2 is at a higher elevation than Cave – 1, and the approach to Cave – 2 is through a flight of steps situated on the left side of the Cave – 1 entrance. As you can see from the image, the access to the temple is through a staircase from the courtyard.

Facade and Entrance of Cave - 2 located at Badami in Karnataka, India
Facade and Entrance
Ground plan of Cave - 2 located at Badami in Karnataka, India
Ground plan

No inscriptions exist regarding the date of excavation or completion of this cave. The cave temple was likely completed in the late 6th century or early 7th century.

Cave-2 is comparable in size and similar in design to Cave – 1, but unlike Cave – 1, it is dedicated to Vishnu. Just like Cave – 1, it has a garbhagriha in the rear, sabhamantapa in the middle, and an open mukhamantapa in front.

Varahavatara

Sculptural relief depicting Varahavatara, Vishnu's third avatara, carved on the left side wall of Cave - 2 in Badami, Karnataka, India
Sculptural relief depicting Varahavatara

The image shows a sculptural relief depicting the story of Varahavatara, the third of the ten avatars of Vishnu, carved on the left sidewall of the mukhamantapa (verandah). Varaha in Sanskrit means wild boar. In this avatar, he assumes the form of a wild boar and rescues Bhudevi (Mother Earth) from an evil demon named Hiranyaksha, who was tormenting her.

As you can see from the image, Vishnu as Varaha is lifting Bhudevi while Hiranyaksha lay dying on the ground killed by Vishnu.

The story of Varahavatara is a popular theme in both the Chalukya and Hoysala temples. Cave – 3 of this cave complex also has the Varahavatara relief carved on its wall.

A beautiful sculpture depicting Varahavatara is installed in one of the devakoshtas of the Durga Temple located in Aihole about 22 miles from Badami. Also built by the Badami Chalukyas, it is a free-standing temple carved with many sculptures and reliefs similar to those in the Badami cave temples.

Vamanavatara

Vamanavatara relief depicting Mahabali, Vamana, and Trivikrama in Cave - 2 in Badami, Karantaka, India
Vamanavatara relief depicting Mahabali, Vamana, and Trivikrama

The image shows the sculptural relief depicting the story of Vamanavatara, the fourth of the ten avatars of Vishnu, carved into the right side wall of the mukhamantapa.

Vishnu takes two forms in this avatar:

  1. Dwarf brahmin holding a wooden umbrella
  2. Gigantic Trivikrama taking a giant stride. In this avatar, Vishnu curbs the powers of the asura king Mahabali and relegates him to Patala (Netherworld).

Mahabali is seen clinging to Trivikrama’s leg as he takes a giant stride. Vamana, who is holding a wooden umbrella, is seen standing under Trivikrama’s extended leg at the site where Mahabali is performing yagna to please Vishnu. Attending him are the other brahmins who are holding materials to offer them as sacrifices at the yagna pyre.

Note: Yagna is a Hindu religious ceremony performed by the priests (brahmins) in front of a ritual fire. It includes the ritual in which sacrificial materials are poured into the fire as priests chant hymns from the sacred texts.

Cave – 3 of this cave complex also has a large-size Vamanavatara relief carved into its walls.

Matsya Chakra (Fish Wheel)

Matsya Chakra - A wheel with fish spokes carved on the ceiling of Cave - 2 located on a soft sandstone hill near Badami in Karnataka, India.
Matsya Chakra – A wheel with fish spokes

This eye-catching relief, known as Matsya Chakra (Fish Wheel), is carved into the ceiling of the mukhamantapa. The Matsya Chakra is a wheel consisting of a hub at the center and 16 spokes of fish enclosed by a rim carved with patterns of flowers and leaves. The hub is a medallion carved with the lotus flower pattern. Surrounding the Matsya Chakra are the two concentric square frames carved with intricate patterns.

Flanking the Matsya Chakra relief on the left and right sides are the reliefs consisting of swastika patterns.

A similar relief is found on the ceiling of the mukhamantapa of the Durga Temple at Aihole.

Maze of Swastika Patterns

Swastika patterns and the Samudra Manthana frieze carved on the celing of Cave - 2 located at Badami in Karnataka, India
Swastika patterns and the Samudra Manthana frieze

The image shows a pattern consisting of swastikas carved on the ceiling of the mukhamantapa. As you can see from the image, it is situated above a beam carved with the Samudra Manthana story and next to the Matsya Chakra relief (not visible). There is a similar relief with the swastika patterns on the other side of the Matsya Chakra relief.

A similar pattern is also found in one of jālandharas (perforated stone windows) built into the wall surrounding the sabhamantapa of the Durga Temple at Aihole.

Proceed to Cave – 3

Related Pages
Badami, Cave – 1, Cave – 3, Cave – 4
Durga Temple at Aihole
Somanathapura Keshava Temple – A Masterpiece of Hoysala Temple Art
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Bracket Figures
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Navaranga
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Garbhagriha Outer Wall
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Kappe Chennigaraya Shrine
Hampi Virupaksha Temple Murals

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