Aihole: The Cradle of the Ancient Hindu Temple Architecture

Aihoḷe is a small village in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka and located 400 kms from Hyderabad. It is known for Chalukyan architecture, with about 125 stone temples dating from 5th century CE. It was the cradle of ancient Hindu temple architecture. Experimentation with styles was undertaken by the artisans of Chalukyan Empire. The artisans worked on the rocks to create the earliest rock-cut shrines. The artisans graduated to the full-fledged Chalukya style of architecture. The early Chalukyas inherited architectural styles largely from their neighbors to the north and south of their kingdom.Iphone aihole (23)

After visiting all the must see places in Bijapur. We started to Aihole which was 110kms from Bijapur(via Nh 133/SH66) road till Ameengal was good and the last 10kms stretch was not drive friendly. Within an hour and so we’ve reached our first destination. We got surprised by seeing flocks of tourists. Then we realised that it was Sankranti/pongal (An Indian festival) Holiday season.Iphone aihole (16)

The prominent temple groups at Aihole are the Kontigudi group and the Galaganatha group of temples, although historians have divided all the temples into 22 groups. Three temples are referred to as the ‘Kontigudi group of temples’. One of these is the Lad Khan temple (the oldest at Aihole is the Lad khan temple dating back to the fifth century, named after a mendicant that lived in this temple in the 19th century, another the Huchiappayyagudi temple and the Huchiappayya math.

Durga temple: With a Curvilinear Shikhara

It is the best known of the Aihole temples and is just along the entrance to the temple complex. 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 consists of a shrine with two mantapas in front of it. The shrine bears a Shivalingam. 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 was built by the Chalukya kings in the 5th century. Ladkhan Temple is to the south of the Durga temple are the temples of this group. The Ladkhan temple, so named, as a general of the name had lived here, consists of a square mantapa, a mukha mantapa and the sanctum, built against the backwall. The central square has a flat roof. In the centre Nandi is installed, and just above Nandi, there is a damaged nagara shikhara, appearing to be a later addition. The period of this structure is about 450 A.D.

We had a quick tour of all the other prominent temples of Aihole which includes Suryanarayana temple, Triyambakeshvara Group, Gowda temple, Huchimalli (gudi) temple,  Kontigudi group of temples, Rachi gudi, Gaudara gudi, Badigere, Huchappayya (gudi) temple & Museum. Because of a huge number of tourist we skipped some of the other prominent temples like Ravanaphudi temple and meguti jain temple. I made my mind at that moment that I am not done with Aihole yet. 😛

All the temple complexes have different style of construction that indeed indicates that Aihole was the place for early experiments in Chalukyan style of Architecture. This place simply took us back into the time. Aihole is not in the list of UNESCO World heritage places. It has a great potential to be included as a UNESCO World heritage site. Then we left to Pattadakal(Yet to post) which was 11kms from Aihole.

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4 thoughts on “Aihole: The Cradle of the Ancient Hindu Temple Architecture

  1. This is wonderful. After I went to Coonoor, Mysore and Chennai in 2013 I wanted to start a postgraduate study in Indian Antiquities so badly! I may still! Where is the best school in India to study Indian history, do you think?

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