Aihole (aihoLe)(ಐಹೊಳೆ) along with Badami and Pattadakallu is one of the most important architectural and sculptural sites of Karnataka. This village is located in Hunagund talluk of Bagalakote district in North Karnataka. It is about twenty five kilometers away from Hungund and rests on the right banks of Malaprabha River . This place was known variously in different historical periods as ayyAvoLe, aivaLLi, aihoLLi and Aryapura. The last one is obviously a sanskritised version. There are many mythological anecdotes related to these places.

Even though Aihole is now associated with the dynastic rule of Badami Chalukyas, archaeological findings point to human inhabitation as early as sixth and seventh century B.C. during the Iron Age. The box like cysts found on the ‘Meguti Hill’ near Aihole and the foundations of brick buildings as well as some pottery found during recent excavations near the temples prove this fact beyond doubt.

However Aihole grew in to a big town during the regime of the Chalukyas of Badami starting from the sixth century A.D. Many inscriptions found here belong to that period. Many well known temples of Aihole were built during this period. The glory which lasted for almost 250 years dwindled after the last days of Badami Chalukyas. Even though some temples were built and inscriptions were erected during the reign of Kalyani Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas they were of an inferior quality and far less in number. Gradually Aihole lost all importance and became a nondescript place till its Architectural and sculptural glories were rediscovered in the twentieth century.

Aihole was known for scholarship and trade during it’s hey days. This was perhaps the head quarters of a group of traders. (AiyyAvoLe AinUrvaru)

Aihole contains approximately 125 temples small and big and the Archaeological Survey of India has divided them in to 22 groups. Some of them are now housed inside a fort and the remaining are scattered in its surrounding regions. It is not possible to give even a cursory introduction to all of them in this short note. This fort is the oldest surviving stone fort in Karnataka as evident by the seventh century inscription etched on its walls.

Durga temple inside the fort is perhaps the most celebrated among all the temples of Aihole. This is not a temple for Goddess Durga. It is named like that because it is inside a durga. (Fort) It contains the idols of many Hindu gods and goddesses carved on the walls and placed in mantaps. (Koshta) “The photogenic Durga or the fortress temple is planned along the lines of a Buddhist chaitya, a high molded adisthana and a tower - curvilinear shikhara. A pillared corridor runs around the temple, enveloping the shrine, the mukhamandapa and the sabhamandapa.” “Dedicated to Vishnu, the temple appears to be a Hindu adaptation of the Buddhist chaitya (hall) with its apsidal end. Standing on a high platform with a 'rekhanagara' type of Shikhara, it is the most elaborately decorated monument in Aihole. The columns at the entrance and within the porch are carved with figures and ornamental reliefs.” Couple of inscriptions found here does not provide any information about the temple. It contains another small temple and a pond belonging to the same period in its vicinity.

The Ladkhan temple derives its name because a person by the name is supposed to have lived there for some time. This is the oldest temple in Aihole and it is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The sculptural details are intricate and well preserved. The carvings of Garuda, Basava, Linga, Surya and some carvings of erotic couples (Mithuna) are noteworthy in this temple. Some inscriptions installed at a later period are interesting.

The following list gives an introduction to other important groups of temples in Aihole.

1. Gowdara Gudi 2. Suryanarayana Gudi 3. Chakra Gudi 4. Badigera Gudi 5. Rachi Gudi 6. Huchchappayyana Matha 7. Halabasappana Gudi 8. Kunti Gudis (Group) 9. Jaina temples (Group) 10. Ambigeara Gudi group 11. Chikki Gudi group 12. Huchchimalli group 13. Ravalaphadi group 14. Mallikarjuna Gudi group 15. Jyotirlinga Gudi group 16. Jaina cave 17. Galaganatha Gudi group and 18. Ramalinga Gudi group.

A special mention must be made of many temples found on the way to and atop the small hillock in the South East direction of the town. These temples by and large have Jaina and Buddhist overtones. Padmasanastha Buddha and Jaina Yakshini statues help us in arriving at this conclusion.

Aihole is often referred to as the laboratory for the sculptors of the Badami Chalukya style. Many experiments which were started here have borne fruits else where in Karnataka and India . Hence Aihole has played a crucial role in the evolution of Chalukya architecture and sculpture. Of course it cannot be denied that this cluster of temples which are deemed to be National monuments has carved a niche for itself in India .


References: 1. Monuments of India, Part II, Early Chalukya, Aihole

2. Pictures, Photos of Aihole, India

3. Archaeological Museum, Aihole - Archaeological Survey of India

4. In Praise of Aihole, Badami, Mahakuta, Pattadakal, 1980, Marg Publications, Bombay .

5. The Durga Temple at Aihole: a historiographical study / / Gary Michael Tartakov, 1997, Delhi ; New York : Oxford University Press, xvii, 153 p., [92] p. of plates: ill., map, plans; 25 cm. Includes

bibliographical references (p. [143]-150) and index.

6. Deccan sculpture as the unification of north and south

7. The Trading World of the Tamil Merchant: Evolution of Merchant Capitalism in the Coromandel By Kanakalatha Mukund Published by Orient Blackswan, 1999 ISBN 8125016619, 9788125016618, 206


8. The Chalukyan Architecture of the Kanarese Districts Cousens, Henry.



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