Located on a hilly slope atop a flight of about 200 steps, the Badami cave temple complex comprises four ancient rock-cut caves. Of the four temples, three are Brahmanical temples while the fourth one is a Jain cave.
The earliest of the Badami caves, the first cave was probably carved way back in 578 AD. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this cave houses a magnificent sculpture of the 18-armed Lord Nataraja (Dancing Shiva), resplendent in 81 different Mudras or hand movements. One also comes across sculptures of the deities of Harihara (half-Vishnu, half-Siva), their consorts Lakshmi and Parvati and, and Ardhanarishwar. The square shaped sanctum hollowed in the control back wall enshrines the Shiva-linga.
The presiding deity of the second cave temple of Badami is Lord Vishnu. The Lord is depicted in his various incarnations, prominent among which are the incarnations of Varaha (boar) and Vamana (dwarf). The ceiling is endowed with carvings of Vishnu in eternal sleep, Shiva, Brahma and the 8 Dikpals, the presiding deities of the 8 directions.
The grandest among the Badami caves, the third cave is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This 70 feet wide cave boasts of a profusion of sculptures of Vishnu in different avatars, Narasimha (Vishnu as Man-Lion), Varaha, Harihara (Shiva Vishnu) and as Trivikrama. The elegantly decorated cave embodies the sculptural dexterity of ancient craftsmen.
The solitary Jain cave among the lot, the construction of this cave achieved completion 100 years after that of the other three caves. The cave enshrines a number of statues of the Jain Tirthankaras in different postures. While Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara, is depicted in a sitting posture, Tirthankara Parshwanatha is carved with a serpent at his feet.