Located about 200 meters above Badami, the trek to the north fort is not very hard and can easily be done in 40 – 45 minutes. The start point for this trek is the Arch on the left of the museum entrance gate and the climb is interspersed with relatively flat sections, which helps ensure that you are not gasping for air with each step. Early morning or early evening is perhaps the best time to do this trek as the play of light & shadows really adds to the charm of the place. Watching the sunset from the top of the fort was high on our to- do list but as we weren’t sure of the climb difficulty,we decided to do an early morning trek.
Rumored to have housed the famous Vatapi Ganapathi Idol, which now resides in the Uthrapathiswaraswamy Temple in Tiruchenkattankudi in Tiruvarur district. This idol was supposedly taken from Badami by Paranjothi, the Commander in Chief of Narasimhavarman I, when the Pallavas conquered Badami in 642 CE after defeating Pulakeshin II.
Trivia: Paranjothi renounced his violent ways later and became Siruthondar, who is a well known Nayanar saint.
Not much remains of the lower Shivalaya apart from its central columnar structure and a an oval pedestal inside the structure. Behind the temple is a canon with 1550 engraved on it and is believed to have been placed there by the Marathas. You get a great view of the city as well as the south fort and caves from here.
Built in the Dravida style with panels depicting events of mythological importance – Krishna carrying govardhana, Narasimha disemboweling Hiranyakshypu, waking of kumbakarna are some examples. The view from the top is worth the climb and sunrise or sunset would probably be the best time to get here.
Caution: The fort is patrolled by a large band of aggressive monkeys which are not easily scared. A monkey managed to grab the digicam bag that my son was carrying and I literally had to stomp on its tail before it let go. Hence do make sure you have a stick/umbrella with you or travel in groups to ensure that you negate this risk. Do not at any cost take any kind of eatables in open covers.
We did however notice that splashing water on the monkeys scares them and they retreat.
Before you get to the first flat platform with the view of Lower Shivalaya, there is a small path to the left behind you, which leads you to the two towers. Not much is know about these towers but it reminded me of the tower on top of Matunga hill in Hampi. This would again be a great spot to watch the sunset over Badami.
Caution: The pathway leading to the two towers is extremely narrow and you have to twist your body and angle your feet to climb up to the tower. Not an easy feat for unfit obese desk jockeys. If you do manage to climb up, be assured that your climb down is even more precarious and you need to exercise extreme caution. This is not meant to dissuade anyone but I had to call this out as it might not look very hard but it is quite a challenge.
As you climb from the Lower Shivalaya to the upper reaches of the fort, you will again get to a relatively flat area with a fork in the path. The fork leads to this circular bastion, which is supposed to have built during the rule of Tippu Sultan. You also get a beautiful birds eye view of Malegitti Shivalaya from here.
This beautiful temple cannot be covered as part of the climb to the Upper shivalaya. You need to use a separate path, which is accessible once you cross the Badami police station located in the lane opposite to the bus stand.We did not climb up to this temple but did get a good look at it from the circular bastion. The temple supposedly contains very well preserved carvings of Lord Shiva & Vishnu.
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