It ranks amongst one of the world’s most ancient civilizations, and is known as the “Cradle of Indian architecture”… A city that attracts one and all from historian to art lover even devotees who come to visit its ancient heritage temples… Aihole is nothing short of an architectural wonder that dates back the 6th century CE.
Located 510 km from Bangalore, this erstwhile capital of the Chalukyas, is home to many scintillating temples that will undoubtedly take your breath away! Also known as Ayyavole and Aryapura in the past (as per inscriptions found) Aihole according to the epic Ramayana (Indian mythology) is the place Parashurama washed his axe after killing the Kshatriyas.
The maiden capital of the Chalukyas, today many inscriptions dating back to 634 CE and other periods have been found in its temples, many mentioning the achievements of the various kings. Of the 125 temples here, one can come across different architectural styles, some influenced by Jainism others relating to Buddhism, today these temples are divided on 22 groups by historians some of the earliest even dating as early as the 5th century CE.
Of the many temples here, some of the most prominent ones include the Durga Temple that is known to resemble a Buddhist chaitya. Dating back to the early 7th -8th century, here one can find a high molded adisthana (dwelling place) and rounded shikhara (rising tower in Hindu temple architecture). Here one can find a beautiful corridor with intricately carved pillars of Shiva, Vishnu Vaarahar etc, which envelops the shrine other attractions being the mukhamantap (pillared outdoor hall) and the sabhamantapa (Congregation hall).
Another marvel here is the Ladh Khan Temple known for its two mantapas in front of it. The mukhamantas in front of the sanctum consisting of 12 carved pillars, while in front of the mukha mantapa, the sabhamantapa is known for its pillars arranged in the form of two concentric squares. Here one can also find stone grinds carved with floral designs on the wall, while the temple on the whole bears a look of a Panchayat hall again indicating experimenting different architectural styles.
While the Gowda Temple is similar to the Ladh Khan Temple in many ways, here inscriptions found that date back to the 8th century also refer to this temple as the Bhagavati temple, the Gowda Temple is dedicated to the Goddess Bhagavathi and unlike other temples sports sixteen plain pillars.
While also built in the 7th century, the Huchimalligudi Temple shows a change from the others, as here one can find an ardhamantapam (an ante-chamber) added to the main shrine, and a shukanasa (a vestibule) added for the first time. In the Surtanarayana one can find a 2 ft high state of Surya along with his consorts Usha and Sandya.
With the temple being located atop a hillock, what makes the Meguti Jain Temple stand out from the others is the fact that one can get an excellent view of the other temples in the plain from its roof of its mukhamantapa. Other interesting facts about this temple include that it’s the only monument to be built in 634 AD. While some of the inscriptions here contain references to the poet Kalidasa, other inscriptions record its construction.
Situates on the banks of the Malaprabha River, the Galaganatha group of temples, comprises of nearly 30 temples that date back to the 8th century, the main temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple is known for a curved tower or shikhara.
Suryanarayana Temple has a 2 ft. high statue of Surya along with his consorts Usha and Sandhya being drawn by horses. The temple dates from the 7th or 8th century, has a four pillared inner sanctum and a nagara style tower over it.
South-east of Hucchimalli temple, the RavanaPhadi Temple is one of the oldest of the temples here, dated back to the 6th century. Apart from the two mantapas and shrine found here, this temple stands out for its Shivalinga in the inner sanctum, large figures carved on the walls including a dancing Shiva. Also a part of this shrine is the figure of Nataraja dancing, surrounded by Saptamatrikas that are found here carved in bold yet graceful styles.
To the south west of the RavanaPhadi Temple, one can find a group of temples called the Jothirlinga group. Here one can find two small flat roofed temples with a nandimantapas in front of them, while the rest besides a front hall, also sport a shukanasa and sanctum. Kadambanagar towers can be found on two of the, while another two have inscriptions that date back to the 8th to 10th centuries and the Kalyana Chalukya period.
Other important temples here include the Triyambakeshwara group of temples, of the lot two are trikutachalas (three celled temple) dating to the 12th century. At Maddinagudi one can find a magnificent idol of nataraja dating back to the 11th century A.D. The Triyambakeshwara group of temples also houses a Parshvanatha idol in its central shrine.
A trikutachala (three celled temple) Shiva temple constructed in the 11th century at Rachi Gudi is also of importance here. While the cells face three diff. directions, on the walls of the temple are niches containing images of Ganapathi, Nataraja and Vishnu. The temple also houses a hall and sanctum,where one can find trimurti figures on its ceilings and inscriptions dating back to 1067 AD.
Last but not the least is the Kontigudi group of temples, where again one can find fine carvings of Trimurthy idols on the ceiling of the Mantapa. While the temples belong to the 7th century some have been added later in the 10th century. The Charantimatha group of temples that is very close the Kontigudi group is also unique for its twin basadi with one porch serving both, with each housing 12 Tirthankars.
Amazing art forms that takes tourists back in time, Aihole and its enchanting pieces of work make it one of Karnataka’s most prominent tourist’s attractions. A perfect example of rock architecture at its very best!