India, a land which could never be ruled by any-one dynasty for eternity. There were attempts by many powerful dynasties and empires to do so, but none could succeed. As we would have read in the history books at school about South India, the important dynasties were the Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Pandyas, Pallavas and Cholas. This post is themed on Exploring the architectural brilliance of Aihole. It is a reference guide to must-see places in Aihole.
These dynasties were all-powerful in their own time, and the rulers were valorous. In the glory of their valour, they constructed some extraordinary monuments and temples, the likes of which still awe the world even today. The temples of Hampi, Cave Temples of Badami, Tamil Nadu’s architecture, or the Great Living Chola Temples are proud testimony to this fact.
However, the start of these monuments is attributed to the Chalukyas. They ruled the region encompassing Badami with boundaries ranging from Mt Vindhya to the river Krisha which included even Maharastra to the west.
The Badami Chalukya era ( 6th century onwards ) is an important phase of South Indian Architecture. This style is known as Chalukyan Architecture. There are even today more than a hundred monuments built by them found in the region of the Malaprabha river basin. The temples represent a mix of Northern and Dravida style of temple architecture. The largest of the Chalukyan era temple is the Virupksha Temple whose complex enshrines 30 sub-shrines and a large Nandi mandapa.
- Galagatha Temple complex
- reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
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Introduction to Aihole
The earliest Chalukya temples were built at Aihole around 450 AD. It is said by the historians that the Chalukya empire contribution to temple building matched their valour in the battlefield.
From Aihole where they experimented and evolved, they perfected their art at Badami and showcased it to the world at Pattadakal. The unknown architects and artists experimented with different styles and blended various themes to produce rock-cut halls /cave temples and structural temples. I would strongly recommend a visit to Aihole, Badami, Pattadakal and Hampi to get a flow in understanding these marvels of South India.
- Huchimalli Complex
Till a decade ago, most of India did not know the name of Aihole. A small village on the banks of the Malaprabha river. Aihole is the cradle of ancient Hindu temple architecture. There are over 70 temples scattered around the village. As one wanders through the various temples, it is clear that the artisans experimented with different temple construction styles. It is in Aihole that Buddhist influence is seen in the rock-cut shrines. In my visit to Aihole, I came across temples of various geometrical shapes, with some very unorthodox construction style.
- Jain Temple Complex
Start of my journey to Aihole
On a winter morning, I found myself driving on NH 14 towards Aihole. While the world travellers make it a point to visit Hampi, only a few make an effort to come to Aihole. Nestled amidst fertile fields, Aihole has been in existence since time immemorial.
Folklore says that Lord Parshurama (6th incarnation of Vishnu ) after killing Kshatriyas( legend says he killed 21 generations of Kshatriyas, but then that is another tale in itself ) washed his axe in the river Malaprabhu, turning its waters red. Hence the term was coined Ayyo Hole ( Oh Blood ). Thus present era “I-Ho-Lay” came into existence.
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Aihole – What to see
I-Ho-lay lies on the highway, which also has Pattadakal, which displays the Chalukyas architects’ mastery. I spent a day at Aihole going through the various monuments thereby doing justice to compiling reference guide to must-see places in Aihole. These monuments have undergone a nomenclature change as many were occupied by the villagers over the years. Hence they have some unique names as well.
I have made a list of the temples which I wanted to visit. I would be listing the same down here. Will not elaborate on each of them as it would become tedious, and the reader would lose interest. It would be sufficient to say that plan a visit keeping the following list in mind.
|Durga Temple Complex||Lad Khan Temple|
|Garuda Gudi||Step Wells of Aihole|
|Chappara Gudi||Ambirgudi Complex|
|Trimbakeshwara Group||Huchimalli Temple|
|Jyotirlinga Group||Ravana Phadi|
|Jain Cave Temple||Meguti Jain Temple|
|Rachi Gudi||Ramalingam Temple|
|Galaganatha Temple||Kunti Group|
|Chakra Gudi||Buddhist Temple|
- Kunti Group Temples
- Jyotirlinga Group
Reference guide to must-see places in Aihole.
Significant sites to visit in Aihole
However, as a short note, I would definitely recommend a visit to the Durga temple complex, which dates to 7th century A.D.The temple has perforated windows and a statue of Mahishasuramardini-Goddess Durga vanquishing the demon Mahishasura.
- Durga Temple Complex
Similarly, one should not miss the Lad Khan temple. This resembled the Parliament house and is believed that the structure was not meant to be a temple. In the later years, Lad Khan one of the military commanders in the Adil Shahi dynasty made it his residence.
Ravana Phadi, which is one of the oldest rock-cut temples, is also to be explored. There is a Shivalinga in the inner sanctum. The walls of the temple are covered with life-size sculptures.
- Ravana Phadi Cave
My thoughts and tips on reference guide to must-see places in Aihole.
I used a guide’s services, it is almost mandatory to employ one to get a better picture of the temple and its tale. You can get the same at the Durga temple complex. The temples distributed all over the village and are to be seen by clubbing them in order of proximity. I divided the list by consulting my guide, and we accordingly spent the morning and afternoon session in a methodical manner of exploring. Thus we ensured that I got to experience and have a look at a maximum number of temples.
- Meguti Jain Temple
Having a vehicle helps otherwise, one can use the local autorickshaw to go all over the place. There is no proper place to eat at Aihole, and one will have to eat the local snacks available. For stay options, again I saw only one hotel in Aihole but did not like the vibes of it. So plan to stay at Badami and commute to Aihole. Avoid the summer months as this region gets super hot in the summers.
It is heartening to see that these temples and monuments are protected under ASI and by the local village people. They have come to realise the potential of tourists flocking to Aihole and are doing their bit also towards it.
From a photography perspective , use an ultra wide angle lens and a medium wide lens to get some unique Point of View frames. Use lens in the range 12 mm to 24 mm . I think i have covered all the relevant points under reference guide to must-see places in Aihole.
- Trimbakeswar Temple group
Conclusion to reference guide to must-see places in Aihole.
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I sincerely hope that this short post giving an introduction to Aihole and reference guide to must-see places in Aihole is useful for those planning a visit. Exploring the architectural brilliance of Aihole is something which each one of us should try to undertake if we visit this part of the country.
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29 Replies to “Exploring the architectural brilliance of Aihole”
Gorgeous! I never knew there were such tropic areas in india!
there are some amazing ones
I haven’t been to India yet – and this post makes me wonder why. These structures are exactly what I want to see – so beautiful! Reminds me very much of Sri Lanka 🙂
glad that the post appealed to you
Wow, love the moody picture and it only helps to set the mood, making want to visit even more. Thanks for your post and can’t wait to see it myself one day! – Knycx Journeying
i am sure you would love the visit
Wow, there is so much ancient history there. I can’t imagine seeing places that date so far back in time!
there is indeed so much to explore in India
India is a destination I long to visit big time and now adding Aihole to the list.
glad that you made that choice
I love historical places and Aihole looks wonderful. Lot to explore. I would love to visit there!
i am sure you will visit soon
Wife and I have friends in India but didn’t mention this place whenever we zoom or message in Facebook. Worth sharing and if we travel there, its a must see aside from all the wonderful places around. Maybe a month is not enough vacation time huh?
there are some amazing architecture gems in India
Oh wow this is all so cool! I would love to be able to travel and see this someday. I love seeing historic monuments like these.
i am sure you would be fascinated
Oh my! These are beautiful infrastructures. I can’t believe people actually built such beauties back in the days. I really want to visit this place and see these buildings for myself. It’s so cool. Thank you for sharing this!
it is an amazing place indeed
Never heard of Aihole. The tone of your pictures sets the right mood for this ancient architecture. awesome. thanks for sharing about Aihole👍🏻
glad that the post appealed to you
the place looks very impressive! the architecture of old gives me good chills. it is awesome!
it is a must visit if you coming to this part of the country
i love historical sites too during my travel, these sites shared in your list, so so beautifully captured, absolutely agreeing this really a must see 😀
glad that the post appealed to you
Amazing place, I love going to historical places and learn about them. Definitely will put this one on the list. Thank you for sharing!
happy to share 🙂
This is such an ancient place, the history and culture is so fascinating. The pictures too, this has been there for centuries
glad that the post appealed to you
I would love to go here to explore all the historic buildings. I love all of your pictures.