Aihole is a small village in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka.It is a place of great heritage and religious interest containing several temples within its boundary walls that enclose an area of over 400 meters in length. And these temples are not only inside that boundary, but the whole Aihole village is covered by temples, where many more structures scattered in the open fields.In all there are about 125 temples at this place, big and small, most of them in old and ruined condition.In the words of Percy Brown it is ‘One of the cradles of Temple Architecture’.
During the Chalukyan Ruler, it was a huge commercial center and rich merchants here built a large number and variety of temples. It was the earliest capital of Chalukyan Dynasty, before Pulkeshin II shifted the capital to Vatapi ( Now Badami).
One of the most notable places in the history of art in the State, Ayyavole and Aryapura are the names mentioned in the inscriptions. Now the place is called as Aihole, Aivalli and Ayyhole.Mythologically, It is believed that Saint Parusharama after fulfilling his vow of avenging his father’s murder is said to have come down to the Malaprabha River and washed his blood stained hands and the Axe.The river water turned red due to the blood on the axe. A local lady saw the red water and shouted Ayyo, Hole! (Oh No, Blood!) and hence the name Aihole.
Agasthya is believed to have killed Vatapi’s brother, the giant Ilvala, here and thus the name ‘Ilavalapura’ according to another version.Another version said that The name “Aihole” came from the words Ayya hole, or city of scholars (in Sanskrit, Arya Pura).
It lies to the north-east of Pattadakal, along the Malaprabha River, while Badami is to the west of both. Aihole is around 12 kms from Pattadakal and 34 kms from Badami.The state highway running between Badami, Pattadakal and Aihole doesn’t offer good and frequent transport options. I went to Pattadakal from Badami by a State Transport Bus and first visited Pattadakal Temple Complex. From there, there was no option for me, but to wait for 45 minutes to get a shared auto to Aihole. State bus frequency is very less. I waited for one long hour for the last bus to Badami in evening around 4.30 PM, while returning back from Aihole. So it is advisable to use a hired taxi from Badami to cover Badami, Pattadakal and Aihole in a single day.
Badami is the mojor town among these three and a railway station is there, where some trains stop. Nearest major railhead is Hubli, which is about 130 km away. Hubli is well connected to all major cities. Badami is around 150 km from Hospet which has a decent motorable road. A car journey would take around 4 hours from Hospet to Badami.Badami railway station is about 5 km from the heart of the city. It takes about Rs 25 by three wheeled rickshaw and Rs 100 for taxi.
Where to Stay:
There is basically no hotels at Aihole or Pattadakal. So, If you wish to stay there, choose a hotel in Badami, where you can get some decent accommodation. While visiting Aihole try to leave the place as early as possible in the afternoon, otherwise you may stuck there due to the non-availability of frequent transport.
Temples at Aihole:
Of the many temples here in Aihole, the best known is Durga Temple, which is just along the entrance to the temple complex. Also known as Fortress Temple, it is apsidal in plan, along the lines of a Buddhist chaitya, a high moulded adisthana and a tower – curvilinear shikhara. A pillared corridor runs around the temple, enveloping the shrine, the mukhamantapa and the sabhamantapa. All through the temple, there are beautiful carvings. The temple appears to be of the late 7th or early 8th century.
Lad Khan Temple:
This temple consists of a shrine with two mantapas in front of it. The shrine bears a Shiva lingam. The mukha mantapa in front of the sanctum has a set of 12 carved pillars. The sabhamantapa in front of the mukha mantapa has pillars arranged in such a manner as to form two concentric squares. There are also stone grids on the wall carrying floral designs. The temple is built in a Panchayat hall style, indicating a very early experiment in temple construction. The windows are filled with lattice style which is a north Indian style. The temple was built in late 7th or early 8th century.
Assigned to the 9th century , this is originally a Surya Temple, as is indicated by the Surya image on the projection of the Rekhanagara (curvillinear) tower on the garbhagriha and the temple has in addition to the Garbhagriha, a Rangamantapa and a Mukhamantapa, and there is an image of Dakshabrahma in the temple. This is a Badami Chalukyan Monument.
Ambigera Gudi Complex:
It contains three temples. The largest of the three temple stands on an elevated plateform and appears to be a 10th century creation. The second and third temple is an ordinary structure.As the Ambiger(boatsmen) community stayed near it, the complex has secured its name.
The other prominent temples of Aihole include Suryanarayana temple, Triyambakeshvara Group, Gowda temple, Gowda temple, Jyothirlinga Group, Huchimalli (gudi) temple, Meguti Jain temple on a hillock, Kontigudi group of temples, Rachi gudi, Gaudara gudi, Huchappayya (gudi) temple etc.
There is also a museum at Aihole inside the Durga temple complex opposite to the Durga Temple.The museum mainly comprises of stone sculptures of Brahmanical, Jaina and Buddhist faith, fragmentary carved architectural members, inscriptions, hero stones, sati stones, etc. Period wise they range in date from 6th century AD to 15th century AD.The museum opens between 10.00AM to 5.00 PM daily and remains closed on Friday .
Aihole is full of surprises. While you walk through the street,amidst the village houses suddenly rises the spire of an ancient temple. The beautifully carved walls are hidden behind new concrete structures, and the shrine itself, no longer used for the deity whom it was built for, is where the villagers meet and gossip, where the bulls as well men take some much needed respite from their chores.The government wants to relocate all this habitation to protect and preserve the monuments, but the rehabilitation should be completed in an orderly and phased manner to safeguard the ineterest of common people.Sooner or later, the local children may no longer be allowed at this heritage structure in Aihole as the Government has initiated the process of rehabilitating those living in its vicinity.
Anyway, The variety in construction indeed indicates that Aihole was a centre for early experiments in South Indian architectural styles.Amazing art forms that takes tourists back in time, Aihole and its enchanting pieces of work make it one of Karnataka’s most prominent tourist’s attractions. Aihole has a great potential to be included as a UNESCO World heritage site.A perfect example of rock architecture at its very best, Aihole is nothing short of an architectural wonder that dates back the 6th century CE.
Other Places to Visit Around Aihole: