Aihole - Let's Build Temples


Anyone who has any sort of interest in ancient and medieval temple architecture in India should definitely visit Aihole. The small village by the banks of the Malprabha contains, to my present knowledge, the most profuse distribution of ancient temples and shrines. The monuments - as with the famous ones in Badami and Pattadakal - are all attributed to the Chalukya dynasty. These monuments have a lesser artistic value compared to Badami and Pattadakal, however, the importance is undiminished since this is the place where the Chalukyan architects started, experimented, practiced and mastered their art. Aihole proudly bears the title of the 'Cradle Of Chalukyan Architecture'

The beautiful Durga Basadi (Temple) of Aihole

The monuments of Aihole are segregated as complexes based on geographic clusters. We start with the main complex that houses the Durga Temple and the Ladkhan Temple


The Durga Temple

This temple, located in the main complex, is the most important and one the most visually appealing monuments at Aihole. The temple - contrary to what the name sounds like - has nothing to do with the Goddess Durga. The name is derived from its proximity to the erstwhile Aihole Fort (Fort = Durg in Kannada and Marathi).

 The rear side of the Durga Basadi

The temple has a unique elliptical plan (apsidal) and is immensely beautiful with carvings along the external pillars and the intervening walls. The ceiling is supported by beautiful arches - a technique redeployed at the Badami caves. The ceiling features impressive artistry too.

 The arches support the intricate ceiling

 Door-frame of the sanctum

Sheshnag adorns the ceiling

The main sanctum is enveloped by a closed ambulatory path which is connected to the inner hall. The inner hall is surrounded by an outer ambulatory path along the pillars.
 Varaha with the Earth

The Devi - Mahishasurmardini

The front view of the Durga Temple

The arrangement of the external pillars reminded me of pictures of the Indian Parliament building in New Delhi.


The Lad Khan Temple

This is known to be one of the oldest temples at Aihole. The temple has a simple square plan with a small cuboid room-like spire on the upper storey. The temple - originally worshiping Shiva - was taken up by a certain Genera Lad Khan as residence, thus giving it the present name. This temple is also located in the main complex.

 The Lad Khan Temple as seen from the Durga Temple

 The Lad Khan Temple - side view

 The Lad Khan Temple - front view

 The Nandi inside the Lad Khan Temple

Garuda on the door-frame holding tails of serpents

The ornamental windows of Lad Khan Temple


The Main Complex - Other Monuments

Other monuments inside the main complex include the ASI museum (and washroom), a step-well of minor artistry and other temples - Garudagudi and Suryanarayangudi. The ASI has done a very peculiar job of erecting information plates here. The ones which bear the actual temple information are located near the far wall of the complex, though in line with the concerned monument. The plates close to the monument, however, bear the standard mark that the monument is protected. ASI and common sense rarely mingle.

A minor gateway/shrine neat Durga Temple

Garudagudi temple

Step-well in the complex

Suryanarayanagudi Temple


Ambigerigudi Complex

This bunch of monuments is located opposite the main complex. The name literally means 'fisherman's temple'. The name is derived from the earlier settlement of fishermen in this area. The monuments here are very simple.

Ambigerigudi complex


Huchchimalli Complex

This complex has one intricately done shivalaya, one small shrine and one step-well. The step-well is mostly inornate, but features some scenes from the daily lives of the people.

The Huchchimalli Temple

Elephant hunt scenes on the step-well


Ravanaphadi Cave

This one again is one of the signature pieces of Aihole and a direct precursor of the ones at Badami. The central cave has a large shivling with the surrounding walls decorated by shaiva sculptures.

 The Ravanaphadi Cave Complex

The main cave and shivling

The Mahishmardini

The Nataraja


Mallikarjuna Complex

The complex is a set of five shrines and a stepped tank. The main Mallikarjuna Temple is a simple yet elegant structure. The entrance is between two columns - probably of an erstwhile gate. The other main monuments here are the white pagoda and the black pagoda.

 The entry to the complex

The Mallikarjuna Temple

The tank in the complex ...
... Jain temple visible on the hilltop (background)

The white and black pagodas


Huchchappayana Math Complex

This complex has two monuments - a temple and an inornate math.

The outside of the temple

A carving of (probably) Kartikeya

The complex


Some Randomness

Aihole has so many small complexes in the middle of residential zones that many are often missed out. We saw one such complex and set out to explore with the help of a local kid as a guide. The temples were a part of the Ganga complex (if I recall correctly) and some of them were in active worship.

Random unmarked temples in Aihole

Temples in disrepair

Temples with active worship

A sculpture - non identified


Getting In

Aihole is located about 33km east of Badami and 11km east of Pattadakal. Local bus service runs from Badami at intervals of one hour or more. The monuments are scattered throughout the village and a rickshaw might be a good option to cover the place.

We, like most tourists, hired a rickshaw from Badami to cover both Pattadakal and Aihole.


Signing Out

We did not cover Aihole in its entirety. Some monuments - like the Jain temples - are located up the hill, while a lot others are located in the middle of a cluster of houses. The lack of food and accommodation options also makes it difficult to spend a lot of time here.

The road passes next to the Aihole Fort

 All streets have temple views here.

This small village is as yet undeveloped and might be leaking quite a bit of its tourism potential. Surprisingly, the development here should have been a guaranteed aspect considering the proximity of important sites like Badami and Pattadakal. Lets hope for the best.


Other Places on the Karnataka Chalukyan Trail

Lakkundi || Gadag || Hooli || Badami (Monuments and Caves) || Pattadakal


© KP On The Go!