Finishing the Unfinished: Conjectural Restoration of the Open Mantapas at Badami

Publication Type:

Journal Articles


Heritage: Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies in Archaeology , Volume 6, p.344‐396 (2018)



Badami, Early Chalukyas, Malaprabha Idiom, Open Mantapas, Quarry, Structural Temples, Temple Architecture


Badami, along with Aihole, Pattadakal and some other sites in and around the Malaprabha Valley in northern Karnataka, contain some of the earliest stone monuments of southern India, beginning with the constructions of the Early Chalukyan dynasty, which ruled from their capital at Badami (ancient Vatapi) during the 6th to 8th centuries CE. The purpose of two open mantapas which stand prominently on a large sandstone boulder in the North Fort at Badami and accessed via a stepped path through a very narrow gap, is hitherto unknown. We hypothesize that the mantapas, which stand on partly rock‐cut bases, had their structural components fashioned entirely from rock quarried from the very boulder they stand on. We further hypothesize that they are unfinished, and not partly demolished during the Pallava occupation of Vatapi, as assumed earlier. Finally, based on the documentation of the rock cut plinth and analysis of similar monuments built under the patronage of the Early Chalukyas, we attempt a conjectural restoration of the structure as possibly imagined by its builders and put forward possible reasons why the structure remained unfinished.