Everytime, I read about Badami or saw pictures of the place, my gaze stopped at that one picture of a temple next to a lake within deep sandstone ravines. I had also seen it in a movie “Guru” where the hero and heroine got married in the temple portico in magical twilight and I knew someday I had to be there. I already had the first glance from the Badami Caves and no sooner had I descended from the steep steps, I took long strides along the lake to reach Bhoothnath Temple. Agastya Lake is a part of community living with local residents using it for fishing, washing, bathing and other daily chores.
Bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun, the temple reflected in the lake, calm and still and it appeared just like it was in all the pictures I had seen so far; eternally beautiful. The temple seems to be constructed over different periods or may have been extended later.
It has a combination of South Indian and North Indian Style as seen in the Shikharas or Spires. There are traces of Kadamba Style and plain walls which is associated with the later Chalukyas. Ganga with makar (crocodile) and Yamuna with tortoise are guarding the doorway and Nandi dutifully guarded the Shivalinga inside. I sat on the steps trying to contemplate on its stillness but with young impressionable college going tourists around, inane banter and incessant laughter pierced through the silence.
I walked towards the lawn at the back and a little ahead along the monolithic rock. There were lot of wall carvings related to Shiva, Vishnu and his avatars and Vatapi Ganapati. Nothing, just nothing could distract me from that moment of just staring at Agastya Lake and Bhutanatha Temple. I clicked pictures from every angle possible as if I was possessed ; yes I was drunk in its beauty.
A short distance before Bhoothnath Temple is a group of temples to the left better known as Mallikarjuna Temple. The style of construction with plain walls and stepped Kadamba style super structure with Kalasha on top is that of the Kalyani Chalukyas who ruled between 10th-12th century. Actually, the original Chalukyas were eclipsed by the Rashtrakutas for sometime and the Kalyani Chalukyas is the story of revival of the Chalukya dynasty.
Badami is best visited in the months of October-March when the weather is pleasant. After my trip, I have a feeling, the rocks will be charming in the months of July-August when the rain water drenches the caves to different hues of brown and red and it is not too hot in the afternoon.
Base yourself in Badami where there are hotels to suit every budget located in and around the Badami Bus Stand and visit Aihole-Pattadakal-Mahakuta-Banashankari within a day or two.
Badami is connected by rail and there are trains from Bangalore, Hubli, Bijapur, Pune every day. It is about a 12-13 hour journey from Bangalore/ Hyderabad/ Pune. You can plan a day trip to Badami if you are planning to visit Hampi and station yourself there for a few days.