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The Snakes of Badami Cavesย 

Published May 20, 2022
Updated Oct 26, 2022

📍 🇮🇳 The Snakes of Badami Caves

Concerned with the theme of eternity as understood by Hindu spirituality, this beautiful relief representing is carved on the ceiling of Badami cave.

Popularized by the Badami Chalukyas dynasty (6th century CE) figures of Nagas (snakes) became an integral part of Indian mythology and folklore. Nagas are described as living in Patala, the subterranean realms of the universe, in Indian religions. They are ruled by Ananta (infinite), the thousand hooded hydra upon which sleeps Vishnu, one of the principal Hindu deities. The earth occupies one of Ananta’s hoods.

Nagas also appear in other artistic forms of expression, such as this excerpt from  'Nagamanadala' (the enclosure of snake), a contemporary play by Indian actor and director Girish Karnad:

“Frogs croaking in pelting rain, tortoises singing soundlessly in the dark, foxes, crabs, ants, rattlers, sharks, swallows - even the geese! The female begins to smell like wet earth. And stung by her smell, the King Cobra starts searching for his queen. The tiger bellows for his mate. When the flame of forest blossoms into a fountain of red and the earth cracks open at the touch of the aerial roots of the banyan, it moves in the hollow of the cotton-wood, in the flow of the estuary, the dark netherworlds, within everything that sprouts, grows, stretches, creaks and blooms-everywhere, those who come together, cling, fall apart lazily! It is there and there and there, everywhere.”

Forming part of the visual and narrative culture of India, snakes appear in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism as part of the divine pantheon. Through artworks and stories, these slithering creatures become part of everyone’s culture and are thus owned and protected by all, in spite of prejudices.

Not different from wildlife conservation movements today, don’t you think?


>> Girish Karnad, Collected Plays Volume 1, Oxford India Paperbacks, 2021

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6th CE