A visit to Aihole – the cradle of Indian temple architecture

Aihole is a small village in Karnataka, 175 kms from Hampi. Don’t let the size and simplicity of this village deceive you. The treasures here are older than Hampi and that itself is something ! Aihole was the capital of the Chalukya kings and is home to more than 125 temples and is considered the experimenting grounds for the early Chalukyan kings. You will find temples are all over this small village – in complexes or scattered in the open fields. This village is where Indian temple architecture evolved. Now isn’t it worth you spending time here ?

Though most of these structures are today in old and ruined state, they still make for a very interesting visit. It is being considered for World Heritage Site status by UNESCO. For these exact reasons, we decided to do a day trip from Hampi. We covered Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami in this day trip. We arrived in Aihole after a 3.5 hrs drive from Hampi.

Mythology around this temple village name

As with any historical place, Aihole has its fair share of legends. My personal favorite includes the dynamic and feared Sage Parusharam. It is said that after fulfilling his vow of avenging his father’s murder, the sage came down to Malaprabha River (at Aihole) and washed his blood stained hands and trademark axe. On seeing the river water turning red owing to the blood , a local lady screamed Ayyo, Hole! (translated in the local language as “Oh my God, Blood!)” and hence the name Aihole 🙂

While there are many other temples to visit, I am listing the ones we were able to cover in a day trip from Hampi.

Durga Temple Complex

Here we found Gudis with strange names. “Gudi” means temple in Kannada. It was a surreal feeling walking in a place that was defined the India temple architecture.

1) Durga Gudi

The Durga Gudi (also known as the Fortress Temple) is the most impressive among the temples we visited in Aihole’s Durga temple complex. No wonder it is the postcard image for Aihole.

The Durga Gudi at Aihole

Contrary to name, it is not dedicated to Goddess Durga. It is , in fact, dedicated to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. It derives it name due to its proximity to a fort wall at the time.

The temple dates back to 8th century AD. An interesting fact is that the contour of the temple depicts the back of an elephant ! Would you agree ?

Another being Durga Gudi’s unique architecture is said to have inspired Sansad Bhavan’s (Parliament House at New Delhi) design.

The temple has a semicircular structure and is build on an elevated platform and has a curvilinear tower. It has an open veranda and the columns at the entrance and the porch are intricately carved with figures and ornamental reliefs.

Entrance to the Durga Gudi

Exquisite carvings of the coiled serpent God on the ceiling atop the entrance door to the heart of the shrine

Garuda on entrance door to the sanctum and in his grasp are the serpent tail of Nagas

A well lit pillared corridor runs around the temple, allowing for parikarma. The walls are covered with amazing sculptures of different gods and goddesses.

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2) Chappar Gudi

“Chappara” in Kannada means thatched roof. The slanting roof of this temple which resembles a thatched roof house , hence the name.

Chappar Gudi

The decorated sanctum of Chappar Gudi. Talk about deceptive looks !

3) Nadyar Gudi

This is a temple with 3 shrines. Only one Dravida style Shikhara (dome) is seen, the other 2 are completely damaged.

Nadyar Gudi – the 3 shrined temple

4) Suryanarayana Gudi

This is a 7th or 8th century temple. The shikhara (dome) is completely destroyed here. There is an image of Garuda, Lord Vishnu’s mode of transport, holding serpents on the entrance door.

The 7th or 8th century Suryanarayana Gudi next to the twin temples

5) Nameless Twin Gudis

No information available on these

Nameless twin temples – don’t they look like chariots to be drawn ?

 6) Lad Khan Gudi

This is one of the oldest temple to be found in Aihole ! The temple is named after an army general, Lad khan, who turned this temple into his residence for a short period. Luxury I would say 😉 .

Notice the  six short pillars at the temple entrance ? They have Kannada inscriptions on them.

The oldest temple in Aihole – Lad Khan temple

Built in the 5th century by the Chalukya kings, the design of this temple is as per wooden constructions and includes a steep roof – an adaptation of wood in stone.

Lad Khan temple

One interesting features of Lad Khan Temple is that it doesn’t have a Shikhara (dome) and is built in a cave-temple style of architecture. Instead there’s a flat-roofed shrine which is accessible from the veranda by a 10 feet tall step-ladder made of stone.

Stone ladder to access the roof top shrine from inside Lad Khan Gudi

Another interesting feature of this temple is that it starts with a rectangular structure in the front and ends with a square structure at the rear.

The sabha mandapa (public verandah) in front of the sanctum consists of 12 carved pillars. The outer walls and interior walls have carvings depicting Hindu mythologies. The pillars and carvings also have interesting motifs on them.

One of the 12 decorative pillar in the public verandah of Lad Khan temple

The pillars of the maha (main) mandapa on the inside are arranged to form two concentric squares. The windows have lattice work as per the northern style.

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You can see a ShivaLinga in the inner sanctum and a Nandi statue facing it. It is said that earlier it was dedicated to Lord Vishnu but now it is a Shiva temple.

Posing with the statue of Nandi

Statue of Nandi (Lord Shiva’s mode of transport) facing the inner sanctum which houses a Shivalinga

Ambigera Temple Complex

This complex has a group of three temples and is situated bang opposite the Durga Gudi complex. The temple gets its name from Ambiger (boatsmen) community who lived near the temple.

Visitors to Ambigera temple complex

The complex has nice greenery to it and we found winged visitors, much to my daughter’s delight.

Posing with her winged friends

The larger of the three temple has a Nagara style shikhara.

The largest temple in Ambigera Gudi complex

The mantapa has 2 entrances. The door frame of the sanctum is highly decorated with carvings. It stands on a platform and is believed to be a 10th century monument.

Adding cute to the highly decorated door frame of the sanctum

Second is an ordinary structure but with a broken image of Surya or Vishnu with two female figures.

The second temple of the 3 temples in Ambigera Gudi complex

Damaged image of Lord Surya with 2 female figures

Third one is an ordinary shrine. We could not locate any carvings or entry to it.

Did this post pique your interest in Aihole? Would you consider visiting? Have you been there already? Comment below and share your thoughts.

Things you may want to know before the travel (Travel tips)

  • Ambigera and Durga Gudi complex is open from 6 AM – 6 PM
  • Entry fees for Durga temple complex is INR 5 for children, INR 10 for adults (Indians) and INR 100 for foreign nationals
  • Separate tickets for cameras need to be purchased
  • Separate entry fee for museum is charged- INR 5 for children and INR 10 for adults respectively. Museum is open from 9 AM to 5 PM. Note: museum is closed on Fridays.
  • There is basically no hotels at Aihole or Pattadakal. If you wish to stay there, choose a hotel in Badami, where you can get some decent accommodation.
  • Aihole is around 12 kms from Pattadakal and 34 kms from Badami, for planning purpose
  • It is advisable to use a hired taxi from Badami / Hampi to cover Badami, Pattadakal and Aihole in a day trip due to low frequency and reliability of local transport
  • Other recommended places on interest in Aihole – Ravana Pahadi caves
  • Guides are available, it’s advisable to take their services
  • It will take around 3 hours to visit the monuments in the 2 Gudi complex
  • There are small shops between the 2 Gudi complex where you can get water bottles. Carry sunscreen and a sun hat during your visit as the sun can get hot in the day
A daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, IT professional and now – a travel blogger. I just love traveling, exploring new places and this inspired me to share travel experiences and memories with others.

admin

A daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, IT professional and now - a travel blogger. I just love traveling, exploring new places and this inspired me to share travel experiences and memories with others.

53 Responses

  1. Thank you for this highly informative piece. Its definitely on my list of places now when I get to Hampi. Thank you for sharing travel tips too – something to come back to as a point of reference.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Abhijeet. I am glad you are planning on visiting Aihole from Hampi. You will love the Aihole-Pattadakal-Badami day trip. Wait for my other 2 blogs on this 🙂

  2. Helpful tips and beautiful photographs.. Thank you for the post

  3. Alok Singhal says:

    Wow, look ok at the architecture of Durga Gudi…no wonder Sansad Bhawan’s design is inspired from it!

    Btw, almost all temples have atleast some aspect of symmetry to them. That’s what has been observed by me earlier too.

  4. Maniparna says:

    What an architectural grandeur! Thanks for the information about the temple. I liked the pictures… 🙂

  5. Aarti Kamath says:

    Well written!… Aihole, Pattadkal are my favourite places.. They have give us great photo opportunities too :)…

    • admin says:

      Absolutely Aarti. I loved Badami as well. All these places are so pretty, you just can’t go wrong with the captures 🙂

  6. Kelly says:

    This place looks truly amazing. I also love the legend behind the temple itself. They always fascinate me.

  7. fee says:

    wow such amazing history tucked away in Aihole. If I visit India, i’ll have to try my hardest to explore further.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Fee. I am glad you liked it. You must visit India and when you do – get in touch with me. Can help with the itinerary , if you like.

  8. neha says:

    I have been to many temples in India including those of north, south and even some very old ones. So, I can definitely say this one has a great architecture..in fact, one of a kind. I will love to pay a visit to this temple. By the way, have you been to Lepakshi? The temple there also has a great architecture

    • admin says:

      Thanks Neha. You must plan to visit the Durga temple in Aihole. It has one of the most amazing architecture that I have seen. I have been to Lepakshi too and it is also quite pretty in its own way

  9. Dave says:

    These photos of the temples are amazing. India is such a bastion of religious artifacts, so Aihole being cradle of them of all really must be something. I think I’d like to visit Durga the most. I love the history of Aihole, especially about the river of blood. Those mythological stories can be the most interesting part sometimes.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Dave. You will love the visit and Durga temple is really amazing. You will not regret the visit. Combine it with Hampi and it will be a great history-oriented trip from Bangalore. Of course, the legend adds to the charm of a place for me too 🙂

  10. Wow. I so envy you. We were just studying this in history of architecture and for me, Indian Architecture is super beautiful especially with their keen eye for detail.

    • admin says:

      Aww Justin. You must visit India sometime soon. It is a beautiful country with a lot of diversity. Architecture is also unique in different parts. If you like architecture, it should be on your must visit places.

  11. Niroshini says:

    It’s so beautiful to see the decorative pillars!! Historic architecture really has its own beauty to show off no matter how long it has been! Thanks for sharing some history – love buildings that tell a story!

  12. Ambuj says:

    Hey loved reading the blog post. It was like going back to my civil services days when we would study about Dravida style temple architecture. It was interesting to read about the Durga Gudi temple and how it derived its name.

  13. Karie says:

    I have heard of Hampi but have never heard of these temples before. We really do have so many beautiful temples in India and I love the architecture so much. This has been a really informative post. Thanks for sharing!

    • admin says:

      Thanks Karie. Glad you liked it. If you visit Hampi, do plan to include a day trip to Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami. These are ancient temples and you will love them

  14. Marge says:

    I like the story about how it got its name, good thing you mentioned it because I was already thinking about googling it. Hindu temples never fail to amaze me. Ever since I went to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, I’ve grown an interest in them. I hope someday I’d visit the temples of Aihole too.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Marge. Yes, I was unaware of the name’s origin myself until I visited. If you loved Angkor Wat(which I am yet to visit), you will love these structures too. Combine this and Hampi, you will be in historic heaven !

  15. Emily says:

    It definitely looks deserving of a world heritage site status to me! Looks like a gorgeous place to spend a day soaking up some culture

  16. Emily says:

    It definitely looks deserving of a world heritage site status to me! A great place to spend a day soaking up some culture

  17. Emily says:

    It definitely looks deserving of a world heritage site status to me! A great place to spend a day exploring

  18. Emily says:

    It looks deserving of a world heritage site status to me! A great place to spend a day exploring

  19. Ami Bhat says:

    Waiting to get there and explore it fully. The carvings are really beautiful – each structure better than the other. Knowing me, I will need a full day just for this. 🙂 Shall ping you for more information when I plan a trip there..

  20. neha says:

    It’s a shame that being in Karnataka and having visited Hampi, I was unaware of the existance of Aihole. I was planning to visit Badami sometimes soon. And when I do, I will love to cover this place as well. As per your tips looks like its possible to cover it and Badami both in a day.

    • admin says:

      Neha, that is why we are here – to learn from each other. You can do Badami, Pattadakal and Aihole together. I am yet to write my post on Pattadakal and Badami. Take a cab and cover these 3 places in a day. Start with Aihole and try and reach Badami by 4 – 4:30. Sunset on those red stones recommended to be experienced.

  21. I never heard of this part of India. India is really vast and interesting. The sculpture In this temple is really beautiful.. Durga Cudi is really fascinating.

  22. Do you know what I liked the most about this post Swati?

    Guess.

    Guess…

    Ok I will tell you..Its the children. I have seen so many blogposts detailing the destinations, resorts, beaches, palaces, hotels etc but so few of them have happy children !. Travel is incomplete without kids. Don’t you agree? When these kids grow up, they will mature into happy and healthy individuals and will appreaciate our heritage. And most importantly, they will thank you.

    • admin says:

      Swayam, I so totally agree with you. I feel incomplete when I am traveling without my family, especially my kids. I have seen them growing up to be people who appreciate nature, culture and are responsible in their travel (read no littering ever, respecting local culture etc). Thank you for re-iterating my belief in traveling with them.

  23. Sandy N Vyjay says:

    Aihole and the myths and legends associated with it have always been a source of great fascination for me. For some reason or the other, even though being in Bangalore for quite some years have not been able to visit. Hope to get there someday. Loved seeing the kids having a great time.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Sandy and Vyjay. Glad my post has encouraged you to visit Aihole :). You will love it. The kids had a great time there !

  24. Johna says:

    Wow. Another awesome place to add to my bucket list. Can’t wait to see this with my own eyes!!!

  25. neha says:

    Karnataka has some marvellous ancient architectures. Recently went to Avani and Kolar and these temples suddenly reminded me of those. Although we went to Hampi few years back but couldn’t explore around it. I anyways want to return to Hampi. Will include Aihole as well in the plan. Love the architectures here.

  26. Truly, Indian temple architecture is really beautiful. I love the intricate design and all the details on the temple. The color is also contrasting the year since it was existed. I wish we had temple like this one in the Philippines. I haven’t been to India yet and I’ll surely include this on my bucket list of places to visit. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  27. Erica says:

    These temples look very interesting. I wonder what’s in the inscriptions and whether they are readable? I’d love to visit here with my son. I think it is kid-friendly too!

  28. Sandy says:

    Ive been reading up so much about this state. Except for work visits to Bangalore and a short 3 day trip to Hampi, I haven’t done justice to this land. Need to visit this place too. 🙂

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