The first cave temple is dedicated to Shiva. Although Chalukyans were Vaishnavites they encouraged the building of temples of Shaivites, Jains etc., This was the first cave temple to be excavated and said to be built at around 550 A.D.
The Cave has a L-shaped courtyard, an open verandah, a pillared hall and a sancum that has been excavated into the center of the rear wall. As we enter the thing that commands our attention the most is the intricately carved sculpture of Lord Shiva in the form of Nataraja with 18 arms depicting nine different bharatanatyam postures. An awesome sight to welcome any art enthusiast. Though as we move on we find that this was only the beginning of a beautiful discovery. A glimpse into the past, an insight into the lives of the people that lived a long time ago.
While entering the first cave temple we find the enormous depictions of 'Arthanarishwara' to the right and of the pillared hall and the sculpture of 'Harihara' to the left.
The sculpture of Ardhanarishwara is flanked by a richly decorated Bringi, Nandi, Celestial beings on the top and a serving girl. A frienze of dwarf Ganas in different postures are depicted at the pedestal of the sculpture. This sculpture represents the union of Man(eshwara) and Woman(Nari) in perfect union. The form of Shiva and Parvati as Arthanarishwara symbolizes the equality of the sexs.
The Sculpture to the left depicting Harihara, Hari meaning Vishnu and Hara meaning Shiva. This sculpture symbolizes the equality of both Vishnu and Shiva. They are flanked by their consorts Lakshmi and Parvati.
The other noted sculptures in the cave are that of Mahishasura mardini, a form of all powerful Shakti.
The fascade of the celing is decorated beautifully carved celestial couples.
The celing of the verandah is adored with a five hooded Naga flanked by more charming celestial couples.
The pillars that separate the verandah from the hall are fluted upperparts with cushion capitals. Apart from bead-garlands and other finely carved decorations, the pillar faces have smaller depictions of iha- mrigas (dream animals) and some deities like Ganesha and Narasimha.