Pen-and-ink and wash drawing of Cave III at Badami, by an Indian draftsman, dated 1853.
Badami, formerly known as Vatapi, was the capital of the Early Chalukya rulers in the sixth - eighth centuries. The town is situated between two rocky hills of red sandstone that surround an artificial lake. There are two later forts that overlook the town. Around the south fort there are four rock-cut cave temples. Cave III was excavated during the reign of the Early Chalukya ruler Pulakeshin I in 578. It is the finest of the caves at Badami and the most elaborately ornate. It consists of a long outer porch, a pillared hall (mandapa), and a small shrine excavated into the rear wall. The external wall of the cave of red sandstone is decorated with a frieze of dwarves called ganas. The massive pillars of the facade have square shafts decorated with sculpted medallions containing figures and with jewel and garland motifs. The brackets consist of figures of amorous couples (mithunas) and sensuous maidens beneath trees. Large sculpture panels showing various forms of Vishnu are carved inside the porch. To the left are Vishnu seated on the serpent Shesa, Varaha (the Boar) and standing Vishnu; to the right, Narasimha, (the Lion-Man) Harihara (half Shiva, half Vishnu) and Trivikrama (Vishnu striding the three strides). On the walls there are firiezes illustrating epic stories. The ceiling is carved with medallions containing figures of divinities.