Exploring the architectural brilliance of Aihole

reference guide to must-see places in Aihole

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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.

reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
Sunset at Aihole

Historical Prespective

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.

Chalukyan Architecture

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.

  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
    Galagatha Temple complex
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole

In case reading blogs is tedious at your end , would you like to check out the story posts out here.

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.

reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
reference guide to must-see places in Aihole

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.

  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
    Huchimalli Complex
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole

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.

  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
    Jain Temple Complex
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole

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.

reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
Fields of Aihole

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 ) Β 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.

reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
Towards Aihole

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 ComplexLad Khan Temple
Garuda GudiStep Wells of Aihole
Chappara GudiAmbirgudi Complex
Trimbakeshwara GroupHuchimalli Temple
Jyotirlinga GroupRavana Phadi
Jain Cave TempleMeguti Jain Temple
Rachi GudiRamalingam Temple
Galaganatha TempleKunti Group
Chakra GudiBuddhist Temple
MuseumBadigera Gudi
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
    Kunti Group Temples
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
    Jyotirlinga Group
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole

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.

  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
    Durga Temple Complex
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole

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.

  •  reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
    Ravana Phadi Cave
  •  reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
  •  reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
  •  reference guide to must-see places in Aihole

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.

Ramalingam Temple

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
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole
  • reference guide to must-see places in Aihole

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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