Badami Fort is a renowned archaeological site in Badami. It is located on top of a hill that stands at a distance of about 2 km from the main town of Badami in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka. The origin of the fort dates back to 543 AD. The ancient fort was built by the Chalukyan King Pulakeshi. Badami was previously called Vathapi as the capital of the Chalukyan dynasty
The Badami Fort is one such monument that stands as a mute witness to a culturally rich era. Badami was the capital of the Chalukyas from 540 AD to 757 AD. The Badami Fort was the residence of the Chalukyan rulers. The fort was plundered and destroyed by the Pallavas in 642 AD. Much later, when Badami came under the rule of Tipu Sultan, the walls of the fort were rebuilt and several structures were added to the ancient fort The Badami Fort was built in the Chalukyan style of architecture. The fort is surrounded by double fortification walls. The structures within the fort offer a glimpse of the architectural grandeur prevalent during the Chalukyan reign. The entrance of the fort is guarded by a statue of Nandi, Lord Shiva’s bull.
The first and the foremost cave is known to be built in 578 A.D. One can reach the cave by taking a flight of 40 steps. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the cave adorns not less than 81 sculptures of Lord Shiva in the form of ‘Nataraj’ having 18 arms. Made out in Red sandstone, the cave has an open verandah, a hall with numerous columns and a sanctum
The largest relief in Cave 2 depicts the legend of Vishnu in his Trivikrama form, taking one of the three steps .Below the raised step is a frieze showing the legend of Vamana dwarf avatar of Vishnu, before he morphs into the Trivikrama form. Another major relief shows the legend of Vishnu in his Varaha (a boar) avatar rescuing goddess earth (Bhudevi) from the depths of cosmic ocean, with a penitent multi-headed snake naga below. Like other major murthi (statue) in this and other Badami caves, the Varaha artwork is set in a circle and symmetrically laid out; according to Alice Boner, the panel is an upright rectangle whose “height is equal to the octopartite directing circle and sides are aligned to essential geometric ratios, in this case to the second vertical chord of the circle”.The walls and ceiling have traces of colored paint, suggesting the cave used to have fresco paintings
The 3rd cave is another Vaishnava cave. It was built by the Chalukya king Mangaleshwara in honor of his brother Kirtivarman. It is the largest of all the caves here. There are also gardens, booths and facades. The huge sculpture of the 8 hands Vishnu, here. The detailed sculpture of various weapons held in those hands, and the great sculpture of Vamanaatara in front of it. Also, the sculptures of Sheshashayana Vishnu, gigantic earthworm sculptures, Narasimha, Harihar and Vishnu Purana can be seen here.
The 4th cave is the Jain clan. There is an idol of Mahavir in the sanctum sanctorum here. There are huge sculptures of Parshwanatha-Bahubali in the face of the mantapa. The statue of Bahubali is considered as one of the oldest statues in South India.