Enthralling Tale of a Woman Guide

Read about Khairunissa Begum, a woman from small town Badami (Karnataka), who has broken stereotypes that has changed not just her life but has set an example for other women, by entering into a profession that is traditionally dominated by men.

When we reached Badami Cave Temple around 4:00pm on a Sunday (5th Aug 2018), we wanted to hire a knowledgeable Guide to explain the history and relevance etc of the Caves. There were 2 Guides at the entrance – one male and other female. We were keen to engage the male guide but since his proficiency was restricted to just Kannada language, we asked him to refer a Hindi or English speaking Guide. He promptly pointed out to the woman.

Though we were reluctant, initially, we had no choice now but to hire her services. She was very happy to be our Guide and as we came to know later, she had got just one assignment before us and was fairly idle the whole day. We fixed up the fee and asked her name. The lady named Khairunissa Begum was a M.A. in History and had completed her “Tourist Guide” based course at Mysuru University. She was one of the Guides chosen by Ms Sudha Murty, when she had visited Badami Cave Temple to decipher the ancient Kannada script inscribed on one of the Pillars. The lady could speak Kannada and Hindi very fluently, while her knowledge of English was basic.

There are 4 Cave Temples at Badami, of which 3 are related to Hinduism and the last one is related to Jainism. As we proceeded inside Cave no. 1, after climbing the steps, we were amazed by her knowledge of Hindu Gods, Hindu mythology and the way she passionately narrated the story, depicted inside the Caves, left us truly impressed. At each step she would ask us if we had any question and she would answer each of them with lot of patience. She started with a Quiz and asked us why the place was known as Badami ……it was because of the colour of the rocks that resembled almonds or badam.

We had engaged Guides at Gol Gumbaz (Bijapur) and Aihole just before we visited Badami Caves but this was the only place, which had a female Guide. Khairunissa Begum had chosen a profession, which is traditionally male dominated in India and for someone belonging to Muslim community, it must have been real tough to take up this job, that required her to have deep knowledge of Hindu Gods and mythology. After completing the visit to all 4 Caves, I complimented her for her profound knowledge. The happiness on her face perhaps erased her sadness of not getting enough Tourists that day.

How wrong we were in assessing someone’s skills just because of the gender factor. A big lesson was learnt that day. Hats off to the lady 👏👏

Note: She was very shy to face the camera and hence there is no photograph of Khairunissa.

Badami Cave Temple in Karnataka


To read the full blog on Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal click on the image >>



Response from TripAdvisor members after I wrote about Khairunissa Begum….