Aihole (Bagalkot district, Karnataka)


In a nutshell:

An experimenting ground of Chalukyan Kings (450 – 750 AD) to ‘build’ temples from stone pieces , visiting Aihole is a mind blowing experience if u happen to b interested in history / historical places ………. Even if u do not have formal education in History

Lord Shiva leaning on his vahana Nandi & little Ganesha pulling Nandi's tail. Nandi is angry but unable to move coz if he does, his master will fall
Lord Shiva leaning on his vahana Nandi & little Ganesha pulling Nandi’s tail. Nandi is angry but unable to move coz if he does, his master will fall

Address & other details:  Aihole Google Map

Cost of tickets for 2: Rs. 10 for Indians & Rs 500 for foreigners

To watch out for : North Indian temple architecture, South Indian Temple architecture, Durga Temple.

Description:

We planned for this trip as soon as we spotted a 4 day long weekend. The downside of going to these places was that it wud b hot but then who gets such holidays so often.

ASI's description of Aihole
ASI’s description of Aihole

So armed with sun protection creams we set out in a car from bengaluru. Alternately one can travel here by car from Hyderabad / Goa as well.  All three are kind of similar distances. There is a train option also but that did not suit our timing.

someone cut rock to make that design on the ceiling!!!!! depicting coiled serpent God
someone cut rock to make that design on the ceiling!!!!! depicting coiled serpent God

Road Quality from Bangalore to Badami (the farthest point among the four) is good but there r stretches that are double roads.

intricate designs on the walls & ceiling
intricate designs on the walls & ceiling

Since we had a flight to catch on the evening of day 4, we decided to do the farthest point (from Bangalore), Badami on day 1 & then the nearest point in day 4. Aihole & Pattadakal r 25 – 27 km from here – so u can stay in Badami for covering those places.

Intricate designs carved  on rock pillar
Intricate designs carved on rock pillar

In all these locations there r many hotel options but none of them r above 3 star. For people used to staying in 5 stars, it is a good idea to book a suite room in some of the 3 stars – that ensures ‘best among what is available’.

look at the details made 1500 yrs bk
look at the details made 1500 yrs bk

In Hampi there r some hotels & guest houses but none of repute / consistently good quality. Most people travelling to Hampi stay in nearby town of Hospet which is 15 km away.

A view from inside the temple
A view from inside the temple

Local transportation is auto rickshaws & white taxis.

Narasimha - Half lion, Half Human, an avatar of Vishnu
Narasimha – Half lion, Half Human, an avatar of Vishnu

Aihole – For those interested in History, Aihole holds a unique place in the history of Temple architecture in India. It was the experimenting ground of Chalukyan Kings (450 – 750 AD) to ‘build’ temples from stone pieces. It is here that North Indian style of Temples (like in Varanasi) & South Indian styles of temples came up. Architects from all over India used to visit this place & take part in experiments.

Mahisasurmardini - Godess Durga killing the buffalo faced Demon, Mahisasur.
Mahisasurmardini – Godess Durga killing the buffalo faced Demon, Mahisasur.

There were the equivalent of architecture schools, colleges & universities. There r small structures that were built b4 building a large temple of the same shape. There were buildings that were very basic, and then there were buildings that were masterpieces. There were basic figures & then there were mind blowing ones. In the same temple there were 4 pillars with different levels of sophistication in terms of skill.

A ladder made from stone!!!
A ladder made from stone!!!

Now u must b thinking –what is it that they were trying to learn? They were trying to learn & then master techniques of how heavy rock pieces cud b laid one on top of the other & be made to stand. They were also tring to figure out how to make permanent roofs from heavy stones. On top of tat they were obviously working on stone types, which stone is stronger, which can last long, which ones are easy to cut, which ones enable better design intricacies etc.

Happy couple
Happy couple

Both North Indian Style of temple & North Indian style of temple can b seen to co-exist in the same campus.

South Indian style temple
South Indian style temple

A typical North Indian Temple usually has 3 parts –  The inner most part is Garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) where the idol was kept. A single unit Shikhara (kind of squarish conical dome) was constructed above the Garbhagriha. a Sabha mandapa , A sabha mandapa (Assembly hall) & an Mukha mandapa (verandah near the entrance). Some temples also have a Maha Dwara (Entrance). Shiva temples have an additional Nandi Mandapa (A place for Shiva’s vahana – Nandi the bull).

Nandi the bull
Nandi the bull

A typical South Indian temple has multiple floors above the Garbhagriha , that r hollow & accessible. Those floors usually have intricate carvings.

Surya Dev - Sun God
Surya Dev – Sun God, with Usha (morning) on one side & Pratyusha (evening) on other

Initially many of the temples were Vaishnavite temples. During later rulers many of them were converted into Shiva temples. During the Vaishnavite period many of these temples had an idol of Vishnu’s carrier Garuda but later when these got converted, Nandi the bull’s idol was added. (Nandi was Shiva’s carrier).

Beautiful carvings on pillars of Durga temple
Beautiful carvings on pillars of Durga temple

There is a big baoli (step well) in the campus as well.

baoli (stepwell) in the Aihole temple campus
baoli (stepwell) in the Aihole temple campus

The temple complex is beautifully maintained now & ASI is still carrying out restoration work. However a century & half back it was in total despair. Local tribes & poor people from the adjoining villages used to stay here. So when the British archaeologists/ their clerks came to inspect the area, they found families staying in these temples. They were cooking inside as well, thus harming the 1500 year old structure.

North Indian style temple
North Indian style temple

The British clerks asked the then inhabitants the name of each temple & that got recorded in the official records. Really funny examples – A temple named Lad Khan Temple. How is it posible? Coz some Mr. Lad Khan and his family was staying there & the British clerk thought that was the name of the temple!!!

Parikrama (walking around the Garbha Griha) in Durga temple
Parikrama (walking around the Garbha Griha) in Durga temple

The temple area was fortified. So it was called Durg (means fort). During the recording process, it got recorded as Durga temple. Durga is a Godess & the temple is a Vishnu temple!!!!

Aihole temples
Durga Temple in background, a small experimental South Indian temple in the middle & a small North Indian temple in foreground.

The most striking temple I found in the campus was the Durga temple. It had a distinct look. It had an external round shaped ‘parikrama’ walkway & it was full of beautiful stone carvings of gods & goddesses.

Construction of Parikrama - stone blocks placed one on top of other, interlocked
Construction of Parikrama – stone blocks placed one on top of other, interlocked. Idol of Vishnu & his vahana – Garuda the bird.

I cud not but stand for a long time admiring the skills of the craftsmen who created such images out of stone.

Happy family with child
Happy family with child

It is a good idea to go with a ASI approved Guide. Without a guide u will not get the stories & detailing  at all.

A nearby monument - not under direct protection of the Government it seems -  Tribals were living there still
A nearby monument – not under direct protection of the Government it seems – Tribals were living there still

Badami, Pattadakal & Hampi coming up soon………………. Watch out

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4 comments

  1. I visited Aihole on 24.10.2015,but only got opportunity to visit the main temple complex of Durga Temple.Can you mention the names of other temples in this complex besides Durga Temple and Ladkhan Temple?
    Your kind cooperation is earnestly solicited.

    1. Dear Dr. Pal, there were many small & large temples made in north Indian style as well as south indian style. Some were half made. Some were experiments. I do not remember any more names.

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