In this photo feature we take a tour of the temples of Aihole one of India’s most ancient towns known as a cradle of temple architecture .This Chalukyan city was once known for its commercial significance as well as for its monuments. The are more than 125 temples in Aihole and in our previous posts on temples of Aihole, we had visited the Durga Temple and the Jain Temple. Here we see some more temples – some of them more than 1500 years old.
It is well past dawn and I drive all the way from Vatapi or Badami, the Chalukyan capital across the Malaprabha river to Aihole or Aivalli, where monuments fill your eyes everywhere. The temples are located right in the heart of the town . You do not see houses or markets ; just temple complexes in various states of ruins and restoration.
A visit to Aihole starts with the Durga temple. The temple built between the 7th-8th centuries by the Chalukyas . Ironically it is not dedicated to Goddess Durga, but takes the name after “Durg” or fortress which may have referred to the proximity of the fort that was around . Built in a fusion of Dravidian and Nagara styles of architecture, the temple’s apsidal design is also referred to as “Gajaprasta” referring to the shape of an elephant’s back.
There is hardly a soul around as we make our way to one of the oldest temple in Aihole, which has an unusual name. Lad Khan Temple, built by the Chalukyan kings may probably take its name after a pious Muslim who stayed here, but it is one of the earliest Chalukyan temple and is dedicated to Shiva. Initially it was a hall and it later became a temple dedicated to Surya and then a Shivalaya.
There are several temples in this complex but before I move on, I see GaudaraGudi and Chakra gudi. Gaudaragudi is more striking , standing on an elevated platform with sixteen pillars . It was probably a Mahalakshmi or a Bhagavati temple worshipped by the traders of the Chalukyan era.
Just as we decide to leave the temple complex , we see this stunning step well that seemed to be waiting for the tourists to come over and admire the architecture. Excavations seem to be going on around the area.
Coming up – Part two on Temples of Aihole.