‘Vatapi Ganapati Bhajeham’ composed in Raga Hamsdhwani has been one of those timeless Carnatic classical compositions sung by many eminent singers. song by the South Indian poet-composer Muthuswami Dikshitar (1775–1835), one of the “Trinity of Carnatic music.
This composition is also rendered before beginning most of the south Indian traditional concerts. Here is a link to this melodious Raaga by Dr M. Balamuralikrishna.
But do you know the story of the Vatapi Ganpati or the city of Vatapi?
Badami, a town in Karnataka was the capital city of the Chalukya Dynasty was formerly known as Vatapi. The name Vatapi has a mythological association to the story of Rishi Agastya. The two demon brothers by the name Vatapi and Illvala would play a trick on the travellers. Illvala would turn Vatapi into ram and offer its meat to the guests. Once they had eaten it, he would call out Vatapi, who would be in the stomachs of the guests. Hearing his brother’s call Vatapi would come out of the stomachs by tearing them. This ended up killing the poor travellers. Knowing this, Rishi Agastya digested Vatapi even before Illaval called him. The bouldery hills of Badami were anciently known by the name of these brothers. The current name could possibly have derived from the Badam or almonds-like colour of the red sandstone.
The oral traditions believe the idol of Vatapi Ganesh was brought from the capital city of Chalukyas to Tamilnadu by the Pallava King Narasimha Varman-I. The idol was enshrined at Uthrapathiswaraswamy Temple, Tiruchenkattankudi in Tamilnadu.
Badami Caves- The Pride of Chalukya
Pulakeshin -I established Badami as the capital city in the 6th century AD. An inscription notes that he fortified a hill just above ‘Vatapi’. The boulders which surrounded it on three sides and a constant source of water did make this a very strategic location to establish their capital. The Chalukyas began the constructions of the rock-cut caves and some structural temples in Badami. This tradition was later continued at Aihole and Pattadakkal, these temple towns have preserved some of the finest examples of temple construction in India. Pattadakkal is also famously known as the cradle of the Indian temples for the thought process and experimentation in architecture that can be noted at this site.
let us take a virtual tour of ancient Vatapi – today’s Badami.
How to reach?
Badami is located in Bagalkot district in Karnataka. Badami is usually visited along with Pattadakkal and Aihole. If you wish you may also add Hampi to your itinerary which lies approx. 139 km to its north.
What to see?
The tour will begin at the foothills of South Fort -just near the Mosque. The group consists of four caves +1 unfinished cave in a line. The first three caves are dedicated to the Hindu deities and the last one to the Jain Tirthankara. Variations can be studied in each to conclude their chronology! Each cave has characteristics of its own. The plan, brackets, cushions on the pillars and overall sculptures are different. Give your observations skills a challenge here and, we bet, you’ll love it!
Cave 1 is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The cosmic dance of the 18 armed Nataraja shall captivate you with its grace at the entrance of this cave! Cave 2 and Cave 3 are dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Various representations of his incarnations and moods are must be seen- experienced and appreciated in cave 3. Especially the Rajas Vishnu- seated in royal posture, Varaha – Vishnu in the form of a boarThe episode of Vamana Avatar- Vishnu’s incarnation as the dwarf, here he is not shown in the dwarf form but the climax is depicted where he conquered the universe in 3 steps. Narasimha – The composite form of lion-man. Ceilings too are exquisitely carved with the depictions of the Trinity and the celestial gods. The sculptures are robust yet graceful.The sculptures are robust yet graceful. And the layers of sandstone compliments the beauty of these masterpieces. Jain Cave- the last one of the series has depictions of the Tirthankara like Parshvanatha and Mahavira. These caves also present a picturesque view of the Agastya Lake, Mosque on the backdrop of the village settlement.
Take a small trail in the village, pass through a gateway constructed during the medieval times. You may visit the Archaeological Museum here that houses the beautiful collection of sculptures. (Ticket Required). If you walk by the tank, you’ll reach to a group of the temple known as the Bhootnatha Complex. These temples were dedicated to the Lord of the Bhootas- Shiva or the Bhairava, ferocious form of Shiva. Interestingly these temples face the south.
The village has a large spread of various small temple complexes, of which, most famously visited are the Malegatti Shivalaya, Lower Shivalaya and the Upper Shivalaya, each situated on the top of a hill. Visiting this requires a good climb, but as they say, harder the climb – better the view. The lower Shivalaya was probably the temple that enshrined the Vatapi Ganesha. These temples are quite early in the chronology of the Chalukyan Temples, hence, they are quite small and simple. But if you have time and energy to climb the hills, do not miss these.
Another famous pilgrimage destination in the Badami area is the temple dedicated to the Goddess Banashankari. The temple structure is quite late, probably 18th century. Many devotees gather here to pay their respect to the goddess. The temple surrounding full of small kiosks selling religious items, sweets and toys and knick-knacks for the devotees is a beautiful sight to see.
Badami has a lot to offer for those who wish to explore. Pack your bags, tighten your shoe laces and get set go!
Travel tips: Post monsoon or the winter is the best time to explore Badami as it gets very hot and humid in the summer. If you happen to visit in the summers, make sure you stay hydrated.
Need more tips and help to plan your tour? feeel free to reach out to us.