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.
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.
A well lit pillared corridor runs around the temple, allowing for parikarma. The walls are covered with amazing sculptures of different gods and goddesses.
2) Chappar Gudi
“Chappara” in Kannada means thatched roof. The slanting roof of this temple which resembles a thatched roof house , hence the name.
3) Nadyar Gudi
This is a temple with 3 shrines. Only one Dravida style Shikhara (dome) is seen, the other 2 are completely damaged.
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.
5) Nameless Twin Gudis
No information available on these
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The complex has nice greenery to it and we found winged visitors, much to my daughter’s delight.
The larger of the three temple has a Nagara style shikhara.
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.
Second is an ordinary structure but with a broken image of Surya or Vishnu with two 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