Last Updated on January 3, 2022 by asoulwindow
Table of Contents
Information about Aihole Temples
Aihole hold a special place when we talk about the famous ancient history of Hindu temple architecture of India. Aihole was the earliest capital of the Chalukya dynasty.
Aihole is one of the major stops at the ‘Golden Triangle’ of North Karnataka which includes Pattadakal, Badami and Aihole.
Most of the temples built in Aihole were Vaishnavite (devoted to Vishnu ji). However, over a period of time they were converted into Shaivite (devoted to Shiv ji) temples.
Aihole is where the artisans practised the skill of temple making. This is also why it is often referred to as the temple university of India.
Perfection of Hindu temple art and delicate carvings can be best seen in Ravanphadi Cave temple, Durga Temple, Hucchappaya and Ramalinga temple. Excavations and new discoveries are still being made in Aihole, enhancing our collective understanding of the glorious Hindu history.
Why are Aihole temples Famous?
Aihole is famous for its world class robust structures, all of which are early Hindu and Jain temples. Aihole is also known for the rare medieval inscription which is popularly called as Aihole inscription of Pulakesin II. The most iconic and famous temples of Aihole are Durga temple, Meguti Jain temple and Lad Khan temple.
Despite being a world class destination, many tourists are not aware of this temple village thanks to the poor maintenance by Government, general apathy and lack of promotion. Very few places in the world can match up with the heritage and splendour of Aihole. No words or video can do justice to this sacred temple town. Aihole Badami and Pattadakal are famous for so many more reasons.
Who are Chalukyas?
It is worth noticing that the university town of Aihole is home to temples that are linked to both early as well as the later Chalukyas, who ruled the nearby Badami.
The Chalukyas patronised education, gender equality, art, architecture and culture when much of the world was struggling to live.
The Chalukyas can be classified into 3 different categories.
Badami Chalukya: Their empire flourished since the middle of 6th century C.E. The temples at Badami, Aihole and Pattadakal were constructed by the Chalukyas of Badami.
Western Chalukyas: The Western Chalukya dynasty established by Pulakeshin I left us with many architectural wonders in the form of Hindu temples. They were Kalyani based in what is now regions in Karnataka and Telangana.
Eastern Chalukyas: They were based in Vengi. Their rule extended to what is now Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
How many temples are there in Aihole?
More than an astounding 125 big and small structures or Hindu temples are scattered across the village of Aihole. All the Aihole temples have been classified into 22 groups.
There are close to an astounding 50 Hindu temple within the ancient fortification itself. What’s more? Around 50 more temples can be seen outside the fortification.
These medieval structural temples are scattered around the village and surrounding hillside of Aihole.
Who built Hindu temples in Aihole?
Aihole was where the early Chalukyan Kings (450 – 750 C.E.) experimented and improved the art of temple making.
When were temples in Aihole built?
Most of the structural temples of Aihole were constructed from the mid-5th century C.E. onwards. The temple construction in Aihole happened between 5th and 8th century C.E. Evidences show that some temples were built in Aihole even before the Chalukya era.
Where is Aihole located?
Aihole is located in a tranquil village on the banks of Malaprabha river. Located in the Hungund taluka of Bagalkot district of North Karnataka or Uttar Karnataka, it is a part of the Pattadakal-Aihole-Badami circuit where you can see the best of Chalukya era temples. Meguti Hill had stood silent witness to the spectacular treasures of Aihole since thousands of years!
History of Aihole
14 centuries ago or 1400 years ago, the artisans of Chalukya Empire started a dream that continues to this day! Did you know that Aihole was the very first capital of the Chalukyas in the 5th century C.E.? The region of Aihole flourished and prospered between 5th and 8th century C.E. This is when major experimentation in temple making were done. However, Vatapi or Badami was later made the capital of the Chalukyans. What else do we know about Aihole?
Not many know that during recent excavations in Aihole, remains of a pre Chalukyan stone temple have been found! I am sure you had no idea about this! There is still so much to be discovered in Aihole. What’s more. Even prehistoric human settlements have been discovered at Morera Angadigalu near Meguti temple.
Very few people are aware that remains of ancient pottery and foundation of ancient structures which existed in pre-Chalukyan times have also been unearthed during excavations in Aihole. What is left to be seen today are just some bricks and ruins.
There used to be an imposing 6th century fort in Aihole once upon a time. However, not much is left of the fort except some remains of it. It reminded me of my visit to see the cyclopean walls of Rajgir in the state of Bihar in North of India. These historic ruins of the walls belong to the glorious Maurya Empire.
Soul Window Thoughts
India is a newly independent country. We have just woken up to our heritage after years of plunder by Muslim barbarians of Middle East and white invaders from Europe. Even now, new findings are shaking our age-old beliefs. Further excavations in Aihole are resulting in restructuring of history and a better understanding of the temple architecture collective past of Hindus.
Why is Aihole known as the cradle of Indian temple architecture?
Aihole is known as the cradle of Hindu temple architecture for a reason! You have to visit Aihole to understand why it is world famous! Aihole is famous with archaeologists, historians and tourists alike because it is home to the earliest development of structural Hindu temple architecture in India.
During the Chalukyan rule, Aihole was the civil engineering lab for Chalukyan architects and sculptors. Many of the temples in Aihole are more than 1300 years old.
Soul Window Fun Facts
Did you know that Aihole remained the centre of temple building workshops for more than 2 centuries?
Yes, the temples we are able to visit in maximum 2 days today took more than a whooping 200 years to build.
That said, Aihole was not the birthplace of Hindu temple buildings. Aihole was rather a village where the structural temple making skills were developed and experimented with. I saw the improved version of the temples in Pattadakal where the temple art reached its mature stage.
The Chalukyas who ruled from Aihole were indeed the frontrunners of new architecture styles which were later adapted by several South Indian empires such as the Rashtrakutas, Vijayanagara, Hoysalas and Kaktiyas in next 1,000 years. This was the time when building study Hindu temple structures was at its peak.
I also observed that there were some temples which seemed unfinished. If you have a keen eye, you will notice that while one wall of some temples has intricate carvings, other have just markings. This indicates that the medieval students or sculptors stopped their work midway due to reasons best known to them.
Nomenclature of Aihole
From ancient inscriptions, we know that Aihole was once known as Aryapura or Aryapur. Through some other accounts, we know that Aihole was also known as Ayyavole.
It is interesting to note that many temples in Aihole are not named after the presiding Gods and Goddesses from the Hindu pantheon. Instead, many temples of Aihole have been named after their location or the person associated with them.
This blog also elucidates on the intriguing reasons on why Durga Temple and Lad Khan Temple were named so. Keep reading and enhance your knowledge of Hindu culture!
We have already discussed in this blog on how Lord Parashuram exclaimed ‘Ai, ai, holey!’ which means ‘Ah, the river!’ after seeing the water of Malaprabha River turn red when he washed his blood-soaked sword.
Aihole is sometimes also spelt as Iholey. Aihole is pronounced as ‘Eye-hoḷé’ or ‘I-hole-ay’.
Soul Window Reflections
The most satisfying thing about working hard to become a travel blogger after being fired from my job for travelling too much is that, what I work on now (informative travel blogs) impacts crores of people over time and the work stays relevant and topical throughout the lifespan of generations of readers.
Yes, I do miss my office colleagues, the work culture but I do not miss the work. I am blessed that God chose me for a higher purpose and not just a 9 to 5 (or it is 8 to 11) desk job.
Lord Parashuram connection
Both Aihole and its sacred Malaprabha River are ancient. It is said that they date back to the times of Hindu deity Parashuram ji from the Threta Yug. There is an interesting backstory if we dig deeper into the glorious Hindu past. As per the Hindu history, the much-revered Bhagwan Parashuram visited the holy Malaprabha river to wash his axe, which was dripping with blood.
He had just annihilated the entire Kshatriya clan in order to avenge the death of his father Jamadagni. When Parashuram ji, the 6th Avatar of Vishnu Bhagwan saw the colour of the river turn red due to water, he exclaimed, ‘Ai, ai, holey!’ which means ‘Ah, the river!’ I was born in a Kshatriya family so I found this historical record interesting!
It is said that this is also the reason why the soil of Aihole is still red today.
Towards the north direction of Aihole village, there is a naturally formed rock which is in the shape of an axe. There is another rock near the Malaprabha River, which the locals say carries the footprints of ShriParashuram.
Yes, Aihole has connection with the Hindu epic Mahabharat as well. The famous Aihole inscription or prashasti written by Chalukyan poet Ravikriti clearly indicates the exact date when the war of Mahabharat took place in Kurukshetra. This medieval abhilekh or inscription is found in the hilltop Meguti Jain temple of Aihole.
Written in old Kannada script in Sanskrit language, the Aihole inscription uses the Mahabharat date to establish the date of construction of the Meguti Jain temple. I have written shlokas, their translation and the curse of Gandhari in great detail on my comprehensive blog on Aihole inscription. Do read and share the blog so that more people know about this little know secret.
Architecture of Aihole
A clear departure from the traditional rock cave temple building style can be seen in Aihole. The temples of Aihole were rather built by placing colossal stone blocks on top of one another. This improved architectural style must have been a major achievement in those times.
As I have seen in the earlier rock cut cave temples across India, they had a simple veranda with a simple cella. However, the later structural temples, especially that of Aihole had a more sophisticated and well-planned architecture.
You can see a variety of roof building style in Aihole temples. The temples of Aihole instead have flat or sloping roofs. Pagoda shaped roof and South Indian style tower shaped roof aka Gopurams can also be commonly seen in Aihole. North Indian Nagara architechtural style is also quite popular. Even the shikharas are built in different style.
I noticed that many temples in Aihole did not even have Shikhara or temple towers (the most impressive of which I had seen in Brihadeeswarar temple in Thanjavur aka Tanjore in Tamilnadu).
To my uneducated eyes, these look very similar to the thatched cottages, which are still very common in Indian states such as Goa, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamilnadu.
That said, some temple in Aihole do feature a Shikhara like small upper storey built atop the sloping roofs. To me, they seemed like later additions.
Below are the main components of the improved structural temples of Aihole:
- Mandapa: Sanctum
- Sabha Mandapa: An enclosed Assembly Hall.
- Garbha Griha: The main prayer hall or the sanctum sanctorum
- Pradakshina Pratha: circumambulation path or ambulatory path.
It is observed by the historians and archaeologists that the early temples of Aihole such as Lad Khan temple, Hucchappayya Math, Gaudar and Kunti temple have pavilion like structure and a slightly sloping roof.
As I walked around the scattered temples of Aihole, I noticed that the sculptural art practised in the early Chalukya era was perfected in temples such as Durga Temple, Lad Khan Temple, Huchimalli temple, Ravan-Phadi temple, Hucchappayya temple and Kunti temple etc. These temples are one of the most vibrant and full of vigour. I had not seen something as astounding as the Durga temple and Ravan Phadi Cave temple, for example.
The completion of Meguti Temple (634 C.E.) marked the end of the 1st phase of the early Chalukyan architecture.
The apsidal plan of Durga temple in Aihole is an architectural wonder too. It is incredible how ancient Hindus used the principles of geometry and 7th century tools to create such masterpieces. Today, with all our technological advances, we have failed to recreate this magic!
With the passage of time, temple construction under the Chalukyas witnessed many improvements and underwent architectural changes. With time, in a bid to give cognate shape to the roof of the temples, towers or Shikharas were added to it.
This practise evolved and gave birth to 3 unique architectural styles which were known as Dravida style (South Indian), Nagara style (North Indian) and Kadamba-Nagara style.
Dravida style temples however had an octagonal domical finial. Some of the examples of Dravida style temples in Aihole are Mallikarjuna group of temples and Galaganatha temple.
Since I visited Pattadakal, Aihole and Badami, in that order, I can vouch for the much evolved and perfected forms of Dravida style temples in the nearby Pattadakal and Badami.
Nagara is the North Indian style of temple architecture. Some of the finest examples of Nagara style temples in Aihole are Chakra Gudi temple and the Huchimalli Temple. These have a curvilinear Shikhara or temple tower.
If you observe with a keen eye, you will notice the temples with a stepped pyramidal roof. This architectural style was called as Kadamba-Nagara style.
Who destroyed Aihole?
Who else but Islamic invaders plundered, desecrated and destroyed Hindu temples of Aihole. It was common in ancient and medieval India to see illiterate, uncivilised and uneducated iconoclasts from the Arab world mindlessly destroy Hindu temples. Aihole was no exception!
Important Aihole temples such as Durga temple, Lad Khan temple etc faced major damage when the Islamic fundamentalists of those times attacked it.
Soul Window Thoughts
What is worrisome is that many famous Hindu and Muslim Indian writers who sometimes also masquerade as historians explain the Khan connection with a mere “Lad Khan who lived on its premises for some time”. Not cute, sister! I am trying my best to debunk these myths and lies by fake self-appointed historians.
Is Aihole a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
The answer is an embarrassing NO. It is a shame that the Durga Temple has still not been given a UNESCO World Heritage Site tag by the biased authorities! All this, while they keep giving the UNESCO tags to useless buildings.
It amuses me to know that Durga Temple of Aihole is still just one of the ‘nominees’ for the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s high time the authorities wake up to it!
Places to see in Aihole
There are many interesting places to see in Aihole. Most of the major attractions of Aihole are concentrated in one area. The bus dropped me right at the gate of the famous Durga temples. From here I walked to explore all the main attractions of Aihole village of Karnataka in South India.
Archaeological Museum of Aihole
The Archaeological Museum is the best place to see in Aihole if you want to study the Chalukyan era sculptures in detail. It is a relatively small museum. Established as a museum in the year 1987, it was a mere sculpture shed since 1970.
Archaeological Museum of Aihole is home to 381 antiques from Sanatan Dharm or Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism faiths. There is an al fresco open gallery apart from the 6 galleries inside the museum.
Displays from 6th century C.E. to 15th century C.E. have been exhibited in Archaeological Museum of Aihole. Some of the displays here include old inscriptions,carved stone idols of Gods and Goddesses,sculpture of Saptamatrika,sati stones, Shiv ji as Ardhnarishwara and Vishnu ji in standing posture.
Images of Buddha Bhagwan, Ganesh ji, Matrikas, Lakulisha, Naag and Nagin can also be seen in the exhibition galleries here. It is a well-maintained museum. A colossal image of Kalabhairav is not to be missed.
A valley model of Aihole village has also been displayed here. It is located right in front of the Durga temple.
Timings: The Archaeological Museum of Aihole is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Fridays.
It has been established that a place which is located in close proximity with the Meguti Jain Temple dates back to the prehistoric era. Solid evidence of human activity and settlement has been observed there. This unique place is supposed to be an Agraharam. Even the best of historians and travel writers do not know about this secret offbeat place in Aihole.
For your understanding and convenience, I have classified the major temples to see in Aihole as per their date of construction. The dates of temple building activity in Aihole range from 5th to 12th century C.E.
5th century temples
Lad Khan Temple
Lad Khan Temple, which is located close to the Durga temple attracted me with its unusual architecture. It sure is the oldest and therefore one of the most unique and famous temples of Aihole.
This temple was constructed in the typical panchayat style architecture. It was the simplest form of architecture, probably because the early Chalukyan architects and sculptors were still figuring out how to build a temple. Lad Khan Temple is therefore one of the best places to visit in Aihole if you want to understand the evolution of Hindu temple architecture across India.
It has an unusual double storeyed sanctum. There are 2 sanctums here. The Lad Khan temple stands testimony to the experimental phase of the Chalukyan era temple architects.
Being one of the earliest free standing stone temples of Aihole, it lacked a Shikhara aka Gopura or the temple tower. Since temple making was at its infancy when Lad Khan Temple was built, I noticed that how simple and yet beautiful its architecture was. The basic masonry of this temple is worth appreciating for its simplicity.
Isn’t it amazing that colossal dressed stone blocks were placed upon other blocks without the use of any binding material? It’s the grooves and offsets which keeps things in place. Walls and sturdy pillars bear the load of the roof. It sure was my Incredible India moment!
Lad Khan Temple which is devoted to Shiv Bhagwan was built in 5th or 6th century C.E. This cave like temple was built in the Panchayatana architectural style. A Shivlinga sits in the Garbhagriha and the sacred Nandi bull faces it. Some historians say that it was originally a Vaishnavite shrine devoted to Vishnu ji but was later converted to a Shiva temple.
The temple has 2 mandapas. The Lad Khan Temple also has a pillared Mukhamandapa which leads to the Sabha Mantapa or the hall. The Mukhamandapa has 12 beautifully carved pillars.
The Maha mandapa or the great hall has many open windows. The lattice style of window reflects the North Indian architectural style. The Panchayat Hall style architecture suggests that the artisans started experimenting in temple building in Aihole quite early.
Sculptures of Maa Ganga and Yamuna ji flank the main entrance. Their images can be commonly seen from the vestiges of the Gupta dynasty from the 4th century C.E.
Figures from the Hindu history, various motifs, floral designsand intricate carvings can be seen on the outer and interior walls of Lad Khan Mandir. The carving of an amorous couple embracing each other can be seen on the outer columns of the porch.
There are many temples near lad Khan temple. Two of them, namely Chikki Gudi and Gaudhar Gudi which are located in the same complex were built around the same time. Both the temples are devoted to Shiv Bhagwan. A sacred Shivling can be seen here.
Why Lad Khan temple is named after a Muslim?
Lad Khan Temple has a misleading name. It made no sense to me why a Hindu temple, devoted to the one of the most revered Hindu deity, Shiv ji, could be named after a Muslim invader.
I was wondering why Lad Khan temple has an Islamic name. After all, there was much invasive Islamic interference in Hindu affairs even in those days.
I learned that Lad Khan temple was actually named after a Muslim who invaded the temple and defiled it. Lad Khan, a general from Bijapur had attacked the Hindu temples of Aihole. Needless to say, the iconoclast Islamic invader that Lad Khan was, he desecrated the temple and destroyed the Murtis or idols.
I was horrified to know that the evil Lad Khan made the temple his home in the 19th century and used the sacred garbhagriha as toilet.
Soul Window Observations
It must have taken an uninfomed ASI official to name the temple after Lad Khan who destroyed this temple in Aihole. It is painful to know that even in official records of Archaeological Survey of India and other government offices the temple is known as Lad Khan Temple. The Archaeological Survey of India must rectify the mistakes it did.
The uneducated and illiterate class of India call it secularism when in reality it is more of an act of forceful plunder. I am not even sure how it is acceptable in a civilised society!
With my popular travel blog A Soul Window, I want to empower the readers with the knowledge denied by the outdated history text books of Indian schools and complacent branded guide books which no one reads anymore to be honest! A Soul Window has been ranked as No. 1 travel blog of India so many times apart from being listed as Top Indian Travel Blog.
Much like Bakhtiyarpur, a town close to ruins of Nalanda in the intellectually superior state Bihar in North India was named after the marauder who destroyed Nalanda, the very benign (lol) Bakhtiar Khilji, the Lad Khan temple is also named after its tormentor.It is high time, Hindu’s voice and exercise for their right and call out when they see a lie.
Temples from 6th century C.E.
Ravanaphadi Cave Temple
This famous Shivalaya which is also known as Ravalaphadi is the oldest rock cut temple of Aihole. It is one of the finest examples of rock cut temple I have seen in India or elsewhere! That said, it was still smaller than the one in Badami. However, the sanctum or garbhagriha of Ravanaphadi cave temple is larger than that of Badami rock cut cave temple. I found it to be grand and yet simple.
What makes Ravalaphadi cave temple special is thatit is the only excavated cave temple of Aihole unlike the other structural temples. Ravalaphadi temple dates back to 6th century C.E.
The spartan exterior of this Shaivite cave temple is supported by 4 simple pillars and temple guards or dwarpalas called Shankhanidhi and Padmanidhi.
A partially destroyed sculpture of Nandi ji faces the Garbhagriha or the sanctum sanctorum which houses the sacred Shivlinga. Sitting atop a platform, the sacred bull also faces a monolithic stone pillar.
This temple is rather a celebration of various forms of Shiv Bhagwan. As I entered the Ravanaphadi Cave Temple, my jaws dropped at the larger-than-life image of Shiv Bhagwan with ten hands.
This tall dancing Shiva statue is one of the finest ones I have seen in India apart from the ones in Badami, Ellora, Elephanta caves in Maharashtra etc. The sculpture of Saptamatrikas (fertility Gods) which is as tall as the statue of Shiv ji, watches him dance from another wall of the cave.
Being a solo, budget traveller, I was the only tourist inside Ravanaphadi Cave Temples. Neither was there any security guard nor was there any entrance fee. I had the entire temple to myself. I proceed to appreciate the other beautiful sculptures such as those of the Ardhanariswara (fusion of Shiv ji and Parvati ji), Harihara (fusion of Shiv ji and Vishnu ji), ganas, Mahishamardini and Varaha, the boar like third of the ten avatars of Bhagwan Vishnu.
There are many more artistic slender figures around the temple. You just need to keep your eyes peeled and not hurry in ticking off the places. Also, do not miss the sculpture of Bhudevi sitting atop the shoulder of Varaha! It was one of the rarest sculptures I had seen.
This sculpture is located on a wall near the Garbhagriha. A sculpture of Mahishamardini is also located here. Also noticeable are the decorative motifs carved on the ceilings.
The front of the Ravanaphadi Cave Temple is rectangular is shape while it has a square inner wall. Needless to say, the sacred Shivlinga with its peetha is located inside the Garbhagriha. This is where the ancient Hindus must have worshipped.
Unfortunately, Ravanphadi cave temple is not a functional temple, unlike the grand Virupaksha Temple of Pattadakal and Hampi. Three entrances, a vestibule and beautifully carved pillars surround the sanctum. Ravanaphadi Cave Temple is located east of Hucchimalli temple near the verdant bajra or pearl millet fields.
Temples from 7th century C.E.
Meguti Temple is the earliest dated structural temple of India. Built in 634 C.E., an old inscription found here talks about the famous poet and dramatist Kalidasa (4-5th century C.E.). It is famously known as the Aihole inscription, Aihole prashasti or Aihole abhilekh. Meguti temple is also famous because it is the only dated temple of Aihole.
Meguti Temple is perched atop a hill towards the edge of a hill. A young child who whizzed past me on a cycle, pointed towards the Hill top temples. He told me that the views of Aihole from the hilltop are breath-taking. One need to climb up on well paved steps to arrive at Meguti temples.
The Buddhist temple here houses an idol of serene faced smiling Buddha. He is seen meditating under the sacred Bodhi tree. I realised it sure gives spectacular bird’s eye views of the Malaprabha valley and much of Aihole village.
The Jain and Buddhist temples located here are much simpler and spartan when compared to the grand and sophisticated Hindu temples of Aihole. Meguti temple is also known as Meganagudi Group of temples.
Meguti temple is a Jain temple which houses idol of Bhagwan Mahavira in the lower sanctum. Interestingly, some of the later Jain temples in Aihole were built during the Rashtrakuta era. Meguti temple is a Dravidian style temple.
Meguti temple has two sanctums, a court hall as well as a portico. Constructed on a raised platform, it is a must visit if you are reasonably fit to take those easy stairs.
The highly decorated Meguti temple is famous because of the ancient Aihole inscriptions or prashasti that were found here. The medieval inscriptions of Aihole belong to the renowned poet Ravikirthi who had constructed the temple in the year 634 C.E.
Medieval Inscriptions of Aihole
A number of medieval inscriptions from the Chalukya era have been discovered in places like Aihole, Mahakuta temples complex of Badami and Pattadakal. Out of these, the Aihole inscription written by the poet cum minister of Pulakesin II is the most famous one.
Soul Window Fun Facts
It was constructed by court poet Ravikeerti who also served as a minister and commander of the great Chalukyan king Pulakesin II. Ravikriti is also credited as the author of the famous Aihole inscriptions, also known as Aihole Prashasti or Aihole abhilekh.
Do read my detailed guide on the mystery of Aihole inscription. Do you know that the Aihole inscription also helps us ascertain the exact date when the war of Kurukshetra from the Hindu epic Mahabharat happened? Read more on my comprehensive guide on Aihole inscription.
What is the historical importance of the Aihole inscription? Aihole inscriptions are very important as they provide us a rare insight into the life and times of Chalukyan empire. The prized Aihole prashasti educates us about the Chalukyan family, their conquests, poets and even the details on historical events of Mahabharat.
What is written in Aihole inscription? I have written translations of some of the verses of Aihole inscription on a blog dedicated to the same. You must read the blog to understand that how valuable Aihole inscriptions are. Aihole inscriptions are basically an eulogy where poet Ravikeerti praises his patron king Pulakesin II.
Kontigudi Group of Temples
There are 4 temples located in the premises of Kontigudi Group of Temples. Intricately carved panels of Trimurti Shiv ji, Brahma ji and reclining Vishnu ji can be seen on the ceiling of the temples here. The Kontigudi Group of Temples were constructed in the 7th century C.E. There have been some additions to the complex over the years.
I found the image of Vishnu ji on Sheshnag in Kontegudi temple remarkable. One of the Kontigudi Group of Temples which belongs to 10th century C.E. is in a dilapidated state. Kontigudi Group of Temples are located in the midst of a busting bazaar.
What I found quirky about Kontegudi temple was a permanently fixed stone ladder within the temple. The ladder must have been used in medieval times to clean the roof of the temple or hoist a flag. Many other temples in Aihole have the stone ladder or stair.
A row of images of the auspicious Hindu symbol of Kalash can also be seen on one of the walls of the Kontegudi temple. Another sculpture here shows fusion of bull and elephant. It looks like a complete elephant when you hide the bull and it looks like acomplete bull when you hide the elephant.
Hucchimalli Group of Temples
Also known as Huchimalli Temple, it is famed for its sculpture of Vishnu Bhagwan with a huge Naga or Cobra. Constructed in 7th century C.E., the Hucchimalli temple has a North Indian style Rekhanagara tower. Many experiments were done by medieval architects while building Hucchimalli temple. For example, the shukanasa or the vestibule was built for the first time in Hucchimalli temple.
The existence of an ardhamandapa or an ante chamber in the main temple also reflects an evolution in the plan of the temple. There is also a pradakshinapath or ambulatory path around the garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum. Lattices can be observed on the outer walls of the temple.
Some other temples are located near the Hucchimalli temple. However, they are in a poor condition due to lack of care by ASI and government. One of the small temples near Hucchimalli temple dates back to 11th century.
Chikkigudi group of temples
Located near Ambi gera gudi temples, the group of temples here are another major attraction of Aihole. Chikkigudi temple is the biggest one here. It has a front hall, a mandapa and garbhagriha. It was built in 7th century C.E. It is located towards the north of Ambigera Gudi Temple Group.
Mallikarjuna temple complex
From a distance I could see the stepped tapering Shikhara of the Mallikarjuna temple. It was one of the few temples I saw while walking towards Durga temple.
There are a total of 5 Hindu temples located in the Mallikarjuna temple complex. Built in 7th century C.E., these temples are located towards the eastern side of the famous Durga temple at the base of Meguti hill. Jyotirlinga Temple Complex is also located nearby. The temples here are devoted to Shiv Bhagwan. A large stepwell nearby can also be visited.
Stepped temple tank and many small and medium sized temples are located here. You can also see many large pillars across the Mallikarjuna temple complex. The well-designed gateway in the centre of the complex is impressive. And so are the other unique structures that vie for attention.
One of the temples here has Phamsana Shikhara. On another temple, you can see remains of an unfinished Phamsana Shikhara. It looked quite similar to the Mallikarjuna temple I saw in Pattadakal on same morning.
Lattice design windows separate the Rangamandapa and Mukhamandapa of the temple. There is another temple, the Shikhara or tower of which has collapsed. It has a small Mukhamandapa which is closed on one side. It is open till 6 p.m.
Some of the interesting features of the pillars of mandapa include erotic couple Padmanidhi, Lord Narsimha is a sitting position and a female dancer accompanied by two female musical instrument players.
The mandapa of the 10th century Karegudi temple has 16 pillars. Of these pillars, 10 are built in typical Kalyan Chalukya style. A lovely relief of holy Lotus flower can be seen on the ceiling of the Bilegudi shrine or the white pagoda. There is no image in this temple.
Suryanarayana Temple, Aihole.
The 2 feet or 0.6 metres tall idol of Surya Bhagwan, the main deity is what pulls devotees here. Idols of Sandhya and Usha and horses accompany him. A Nagara style Shikhara and inner sanctum with 4 pillars are some of the main features of the Suryanarayana Temple of Aihole or Iholey. Suryanarayana Temple of Aihole was built in 7th or 8th century C.E.
Temples from 8th century C.E.
Durga Temple, Aihole
Durga Temple at Aihole was built between 7th and 8th century C.E. Durga temple is undoubtedly the top place to see in Aihole. In fact, it would not be an overstatement to say that Durga temple is considered an iconic temple in not just Aihole, Karnataka or South India, but all of India.
I was spellbound when I saw the laborious carvings on the pillars, walls, niches and even the ceilings of the Durga temple of Aihole. Much of the fame of Durga temple is credited to its apsidal plan which resembles that of a Buddhist Chaitya which I saw in Ellora caves and Karla Bhaja caves near Lonavala and Khandala in Maharashtra. This elliptical form of temple is also called as Gajaprastha because it looks like the posterior of an elephant.
Standing on a high platform, there is an ambulatory path around the garbhagriha where Hindu devotees perform parikrama or circumambulation. I walked around this path, admiring the world class carvings on the walls. I thought to myself that when the medieval architects were creating these masterpieces with simple tools, much of the world was struggling to live a decent life.
Needless to say, Durga temple is the most important temple of Aihole. This is why I noticed that it was the best maintained of all the temples in Aihole. Boasting of a rekhanagara style shikhara, it is one of the most unusual looking temples in not just Aihole but all of Bharat.
Soul Window Fun Facts
Contrary to popular belief, Durga temple is not named after Hindu goddess Maa Durga. It is actually known as Durga temple of Aihole because in order to protect the temple from Islamic plunderers, a durg or fort was built around the temple. In reality, the Durga temple is supposed to be a Surya temple, devoted to the Sun God.
You can read more about this in my comprehensive guide on mystery of Durga Temple. In my guide on Durga temple, I have also mentioned in detail about the carvings, garbhagriha, entrance gate and plan of Durga temple.
Huchappayyagudi Math temple
Do not forget to appreciate the beautiful beams inside the Hucchappayya Matha which was constructed in 8th century C.E. Ceilings panels are used for roofing the main hall. The trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh as seen in the Kunti temples are present on the ceiling panels of Hucchappayya Matha as well. And so are sculptures and carvings of the amorous couples.
There are 3 niches on the exterior walls of the garbhagriha. You can notice the sculpted Narasimha image here. He was an avatar of prominent Hindu deity Vishnu ji.
This Shiva temple which comprises of a Mukhamantapa, main hall and Rekhanagara style shikhara above the garbhagriha is one of the best places to visit in Aihole.
Unlike the Lad Khan Mandir, the Huchappayya Guditemple has a curvilinear Shikhara or tower located above the garbhagriha. The beautiful Brahma ceiling slab in the Huchchappaiyya Gudi temple is worth observing.
Its huge mandapa has many round pillars. Huchappayana temple is located towards the south of Aihole fort while one is on his way to the Malaprabha River. Sculpture of Vishnu ji on Sheshnag in Huchappayana temple is also notable.
Galaganatha Temples Complex
There are more than 30 temples located on the banks of the sacred Malaprabha River. Galaganatha Temples Complex is one of them. Much like most temples of Aihole, Galaganatha Temple is also a Shiva temple.
Galaganatha Temple is in a very good state of preservation but there are many temples around it which are in a dilapidated state now. This 8th century temple has a curvilinear Rekhanagara style of shikhara or tower.
As one enters the main entrance of Galaganatha Temples Complex, he is welcomed by images of Ganga maa and Yamuna ji. There is a hall, passage and garbhagriha in this medieval temple. A trikutachala temple which dates back to 10th century C.E. is located in the Galaganatha Temples Complex.
Galaganatha group of Temples is located towards the south direction of Huchappaiah temple.
Temples from 9th century C.E.
The offbeat Badigera Gudi was devoted to Surya Bhagwan. It is a 9th century temple. This Sun temple boasts of a Rekhanagara style shikhara and watch tower. This square shaped temple is a simple one and therefore less popular. The tiled roof of this temple has interesting patterns and layers. Also, many bas reliefs here have withered away with the passage of time, making it a badly preserved temple.
The temple has a Mukhamandapa, hall, a cell temple, 12 pilasters, 4 main pillars and a porch. Many structural changes happened to Badigera Gudi temple in 11th and 12th century A.D. The pidha type shikhara and smaller temples were a later addition.
Idol of Dakshbrahma and Surya Bhagwan can be seen here. The temple can be identified with its pyramidal tower. Badigera Gudi is located close to the stepwell and Lad Khan temple near Durga temple.
Chakra Gudi Temple
This is a 9th century temple devoted to Shiv Bhagwan. The Rekhanagara style of Shikhara or tower makes it unique. The Shikhara or temple tower is meticulously carved, making it unique.
Also do not miss out on the sculptures Garuda holding2 snakes on the doorway. It is one of the best places to see in Aihole. The carving of 20 couples at the door frame of garbhagriha is also worth writing home about.
There is a main sanctum and a hall in Chakra Gudi Temple. There is also a man-made temple lake or pushkarni located right behind the Chakra Gudi Temple. It is one of the several temples in the Durga Mandir complex.
Chakra Gudi Temple is located near Lad Khan temple and just 300 metres away from Aihole bus stand. It is merely 200 metres away from Durga temple at the southern end. Chakra Gudi Temple is a must visit place in Aihole.
Timing: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There is a small entrance fee to see Chakra Gudi Temple.
Temples from 10th Century C.E.
Ambigera Gudi Temple Group
3 temples for the Ambigera Gudi Temple Group. The largest temple in this complex has shikhara made in Rekhanagara architectural style. This temple was probably built-in 10th century C.E. The Ambigera Gudi Temple Group is located near the Durga temple in western direction.
Temples from 11th Century C.E.
Triyambakeshwara Group of temples
Also known as Tryambakesvara or Trimbakeshwar Group of temples of Aihole, it is one of the most important places to visit in Aihole. There are several temples in the Triyambakeshwara temple cluster but Trikutachala and Maddinagudi stand out.
Maddinagudi temple precedes the 2 Trikutachala temples as the construction of the former was completed in 11th century C.E. The literal meaning of Trikutachala Mandiris3 celled temple.It is one of the later temples of Aihole as it was built in 12th century C.E.
Needless to say, the temples of Tryambakesvara temple group are devoted to Shiv Bhagwan. The Nataraja idol, dancing form of Shiv ji, can be admired in one of the temples here. Each of the window here display a different design.
Triyambakeshwara Group of temples which is also spelt as Thryambakeshwara temple of temples are located near Charantimatha temple complex. Pillars with metal like polish can be seen in the Trimbakeshwara temple. The roof of Trimbakeshwara temple is shaped like pagoda.
Soul Window Facts
Do you know more about Trikutachala style of temple architecture? Well, not many know that the Trikutachala architecture style is very common. We must have seen it but we don’t know it. In a typical Trikutachala style temple, there are three garbhagrihas in a triangular fashion.
Eka kuta, Dwikuta, Trikuta is a terminology which is based on how many Garbhagrihas the temple has. This makes me sit and appreciate the creative genius of the Chalukyas. The Chalukyan art and architecture is indeed of international standard.
Apart from Chalukya temples, many Hoysala temples also feature Trikutachala. Some of the temples which have Trikutachala are Mamiyoor temple near the famous Guruvayoor temple and Vadakkumbatha Kshetram of Thrissur in Kerala. Luckily, I have travelled to all of these Hindu temples.
The Hoysala Kings built Trikutachala style temples so that they could accommodate the family of Shiv ji in separate garbhagrihas devoted to them. This is why many Hoysala temples have 3 Garbhagrihas devoted to Ganesh Bhagwan, Maa Parvati and Shiv ji. These are also called as Trikuta temples.
Other examples of Trikutachala include the offbeat Lakshami Narsimha temple of Hassan district. It was built in 1246 C.E. under the rule of Hoysala Someswara. Since Trikutachalas have 3 shrines for 3 deities, Lakshami Narsimha temple has shrines for Venugopala (south), Lakshami Narsimha (north) and Kesava (west).
Veera Narayana Temple at Belavadi and Sri Lakshmi Narayana which is located at Hosaholalu in Mandya district of Karnataka is another example of Trikutachala.
There are many such similar features between Kakatiya and Hoysala temples as well. The Thousand pillar temple also known as the Rudreshwaralayam of Warangal is also a Trikutalayam devoted to 3 Hindu deities. The Kakatiya rulers have also commissioned many Hindu shrines in the form of Trikutalayam.
Vesara temple style
The literal meaning of Vishra is spacious. Vishra is the phenomenon where a large mandapa is created in order to provide roof to 3 temples in the Trikutachala temples. This results in the requirement of more pillars to support the 3 separate temple cells. This gave birth to Vesara temple style.
Ramalinga Group of Temples
The main deity at the Ramalinga Temple complex is Sri Ramalinga. While many temples in Aihole are dysfunctional, poojas are still conducted in the Ramalinga temple. If you want to be transported in a bygone era, do offer your prayers at the Ramalinga temple. This is how it must have been like thousands of years ago in India.
2 of the cells of Ramalinga Group of Temples house a Shivlinga. Image of maa Parvati can be prayed at in the third cell. It is a trikutachala temple. There are two Kadambanagara shikharas in this temple complex. These towers face west.
While many temples in Aihole are dysfunctional, poojas are still conducted in the Ramalinga temple. If you want to be transported in a bygone era, do offer your prayers at the Ramalinga temple. This is how it must have been like thousands of years ago in India.
Ramalinga Group of Temples which date back to 11th century C.E. are located in the south direction of Yeniar temples. You can also see a small mosque near Ramalinga Group of Temples. These temples are located at the banks of Malaprabha River. It is located in an isolated and peaceful place.
Rachi Gudi Temple
This Trukitachala Shiva temple comprises of 3 temples. Images of Ganesh ji, Vishnu ji and Natraja, the dancing form of Shiv ji can be seen on small niches on the outer walls of Rachi Gudi temple.
Standing on a high plinth, it speaks volumes about the glorious Hindu past of what is now Karnataka.
Rachi Gudi Temple, which was built in 11th century C.E. is located on the western side of Aihole village.
Jaingudi or Jain Basadi temples
The Jaingudi or Jain Basadi temples are lesser-known temples of Aihole. These Jain basadis are known as Yoginarayana and Jainanarayana.
Idol of Parshwanath can also be prayed to in the central temple of campus. The architecture style of Jain Basadis belongs to the Kalyana Chalukya style trikutachala structure.
It was a typical architecture style that prevailed in the 11th century C.E. Jaingudi or Jain Basadi temples are located towards the north of Triyambakeshwara temples Group.You can visit 3 more temples in this complex.
Charanthi Matha temple group
Charanthi Matha temple group is named after Charantimatha who had control over the premises for some years. This trikutachala has 3 temples which are connected by a portico in the front.
Constructed in the typical Kalyana Chalukya style, Charanthi Matha temple complex was built between the 11th and 12th century C.E. One of the inscriptions recovered in Charanthi Matha temple group marks its date of construction as 1120 C.E.
Charanthi Matha temple group are Jain temples. One porch serves the twin basadis here. There are images of the much-revered Jain Tirthankaras in each of the basadi.
Charanthi Matha temple group is located near Triyambakeshwara Group of temples and Kontigudi temples.
Soul Window Fun Facts
Did you know that the word Basadi is derived from the ancient Sanskrit word Vasati? Mostly the word basadi refers to a Jain shrine or temple of Karnataka in South India. In North India, the basadi word is often used with reference to the Luna Vasahi and Vimala Vasahi temples in the quaint hill station of Mount Abu in Rajasthan.
Jyothirlinga Temple Complex
Located at walking distance from the Durga Temple and Ravalphadi cave temple, Jyothirlinga Temples is another major tourist attraction in Aihole. Despite being in ruins, Jyothirlinga Temples impressed me with its architecture. Jyothirlinga group of Temples consists of 16 big and small temples here devoted to different deities.
For example, the temple complex has a Shivalaya which dates back to 8th century C.E. The Sapatamatrika panel of this Shivalaya is worth appreciating. The Jyotirlinga temple complex also has a Vishnu temple built in the Kalyana Chalukya architectural style. This 11th century Vishnu Mandir has an image of Vishnu ji inside the garbhagriha or the sanctum sanctorum.
I walked around the Jyothirlinga Temples complex, keeping my eyes peeled for masterpieces and other sculptures, lurking in the corners of the temples. I also discovered a beautiful image of Mahishamardini and Surya Bhagwan in the vicinity.
What’s more, there is even a rare small temple devoted to Bhagwan Parshuram here! The Sangamanatha temple, built in 12th century C.E. and the Brahma Temple are other major Hindu shrines here.
Aihole inscription of Meguti Jain temple is not the only historical inscription discovered in Aihole. Not many know that precious medieval inscriptions from the Kalyana Chalukya era have also been found in two of the temples of the Jyothirlinga Temple Complex.
Also, do not miss the phansan shikharas in two of the temples here. Nandi mandapas face the two small temples or mandir which have flat roofs. Kadambanagara towers can be noticed on two of the temples here.
It is easy to miss all these precious details, so to make your visit meaningful, it’s better to book a local tourist guide for a full day tour in Aihole.
Soul Window Thoughts
Most of the ancient buildings, scriptures, languages, religious practices, musical tradition, literature, cultural vestiges are found in Non-western nations of Asia, Africa, South America and Central America.
And still the West calls these nations as Third World! Did you notice the lies too? We have a lot to unlearn!
Veniar group of Temples
Another offbeat place to visit in Aihole are the lesser known Yeniar group of Temples. These are the group of 8 medieval temples located on the banks of the Malaprabha River. Dating back to the 11th and 12th century C.E., the many of the Yeniar group of Temples have a hall, garbhagriha, cella and porch. Image of Gajalakshami can also be seen here.
Veniar Gudi group of Temples are also known as Yeniar temples or Eniyar Temple Complex. It is located in the western outskirts of Aihole. Kunti Gudi, Rachi Gudi and Huchchappayana Matha are all located in western side of Aihole.
Soul Window Observations
The precision, magnificence and sophistication of the temples of Aihole and much of South India are to be seen to be believed.
Aihole Temples from 12th Century C.E.
I noticed that the Gowda aka Gaudar Temple of Aihole looks structurally similar to Lad Khan temple, which is located nearby. Devoted to Goddess Bhagavati, the Gowda temple of Aihole also reflects elements from the Kalyana Chalukya architectural style. Gowda is a 12th century Hindu temple.
16 pillars are located in its outer part on a high moulded platform. There are no carvings or embellishments on the plain pillars of the Gowda temple. This is unlike many other temples, the pillars of which are highly carved. Gowda aka Gaudar Templeor Gaudara Gudiis located towards the north direction of Jain temples.
The Gauri temple of Aihole was originally devoted to Vishnu Bhagwan. Dating back to 12th century C.E., it is one of the best kept temples of Aihole. It is now also known as Virupaksha temple of Aihole. The Gauri temple has a huge Ranga Mandapa.
This is not to be confused with Virupaksha temple of Hampi or Virupaksha temple of Pattadakal. Neither is it as grand or functional as the ones in Pattadakal and Hampi. Both Hampi and Pattadakal are located in the South Indian state of Karnataka.
The female forms as seen in the mandapa are the reasons why this temple is known as Gauri temple. Intricately carved lathe turned pillars are one of the noticeable features of the Gauri temple of Aihole. And not to forget, the lattice windows of the garbhagriha allow natural sunlight and air to pass, making the temple well-lit and ventilated in an era when there was no electricity.
Kunti Temple Complex
Located at walking distance from the main attractions of Aihole, the Kunti group of temples is a must see! The temples located here have partly open halls, overhanging eaves and sloping roofs. You will also notice a free-standing portal. It has brackets with animal motifs. It links two temples with each other.
It is easy to spot the erotic couples on the external columns of the mandapas of Kunti Temple complex.There are sculpted figures on one of the temples here.The 3 ceiling panels are thebest thing to see here.These panels include sculptures ofVishnu ji on the serpent,Shiv ji with Maa Parvati andBrahma ji on the pious lotus flower.
The dwarpalas can be seen guarding the temple doors. The Kunti Temples date from various different periods. 2 of the temples here are said to belong to the Rashtrakuta era. We know this from the columns which have designs of lotus flowers in triangular panels and squat proportions. These are probably built between 5th and 8th century C.E.
This small temple has a main hall and garbhagriha or sanctum. Idols of much revered Maa Ganga and Yamuna ji adorn the doorframes at the main entrance of Halabasappana Gudi. I am not sure when it was built. Aihole archaeological complex is full of such gems.
Excursions from Aihole
There are many interesting places which you can visit near Aihole. I am listing them below so that you can club your Aihole trip with these tourist places. I have also mentioned their distances later in the blog, so that it helps your planning.
I have been to these places and can vouch for the brilliance of their heritage. The Hampi Badami Aihole Pattadakal itinerary is a simple and easy one to follow.
- Halebidu: The Hoysaleswara temple is another gem of Karnataka
- Hampi: Jaw dropping remains of the powerful Vijayanagar empire
- Dandeli: Go here for wildlife and birdwatching, especially hornbills.
- Badami: Breathtakingly beautiful rock cut caves, museum and Mahakuta temple.
- Belur: The Chennakesava temple of Belur took my breath away with its architecture.
- Pattadakal: Cluster of perfected Chalukyan era temple. It is located very close to Aihole.
- Shravanbelagola: I climbed many steps to arrive at the hilltop colossal statue of Bahubali.
Festival of Aihole: Chalukya Utsava
It is a good idea to time your visit to Aihole during a festival. The 3 days Chalukya Utsava celebrates the legacy of powerful Chalukyan kings with much fanfare in Badami and Aihole. Usually, Chalukya Utsava happens once in a year in the month of February.This annual heritage and cultural festival is worth attending. The date of Chalukya Utsava varies each year. One of the best times to visit Aihole is during the Chalukya Utsava.
An annual car festival also happens in the month of February or March near Ramalinga temple. It is located on the banks of Malaprabha River.
Some of the best features of Chalukya Utsava include the below mentioned:
- Classical musical shows
- Classical musical dances
- Dollu Kunitha: Drum beating
- Temple processions
- Art exhibitions
- Wrestling competitions
- Stunt shows
- Food stalls
- Local sports and games
Artists from different districts of Karnataka congregate in Aihole during the annual Chalukya Utsava. You can even see shows by national level artists and performers.
Souvenirs Shopping Guide to Aihole
Philatelists can pick pictorial cancellation featuring Chalukyan Royal Emblem. It is available at the Aihole post office. Inexpensive Souvenirs are also available for sale outside some temples.
You can also visit Ilkal which is 36 kilometres away from Aihole. Ikkal is known for its traditional handloom products. If you are a textile enthusiast, you will like this place.
Vegan and Vegetarian Food in Aihole
This was also the first time I had seen undulating fields of pearl millet or Bajra. No wonder, the healthy Bajra is a staple vegan food in Uttar Karnataka. I saw many Bajra fields right in front of the Ravanaphadi Cave Temple. Do try the vegan Bajra roti with a local vegetable when in Aihole.
You can also quench your thirst by gulping down a glass of two of sugarcane juice and lemonade from the street vendors. I had three lemonades one after the another because I was tired from all the walking since morning.
Small tea shops and snacks are available in Aihole for a quick bite. Tourist homes and hotels do serve proper meals if you inform them in advance.
It is easy to go vegan and vegetarian in Aihole. It must be noted that there are no fancy restaurants in Aihole. Most of the shops are concentrated near Durga temple. I am a flexible no fuss traveller but if you are particular about your diet then you must carry your own food and water.
Solo Trip Tips for Aihole
Aihole is perfect for solo budget travellers like me. Even if you want to splurge there is not much you can spend in Aihole. This makes it perfect for solo budget travellers. Since Aihole is well connected with buses and trains, so that cuts down the cost very much. It is not USA after all where the Cab cartel has ensured their monopoly.
I also feel that places like Aihole is meant for solo travels. Aihole demands concentration and solitude so that you could truly appreciate what is left behind.
Backpacking Budget Trip Tips for Aihole
If you are an Indian backpacker, you will hardly spend on anything. Indians are charged a very nominal fee to enter the premises which houses the Archeaological museum, Durgra mandir, lad Khan mandir and cluster of other temples in the vicinity. There are many other temples like Ravalphadi cave temple, Kontegudi temple which are absolutely free to visit.
Even if you are a foreigner backpacker in India, you will not have to spend much. Compared to the other expensive international tourist destinations such as Petra in Jordan or Colosseum in Italy, you will get great value for money in not only Aihole, Pattadakal or Badami but pretty much at most places across India.
Expenses in Aihole
The only expenses I did in Aihole were on
- Sleeper class train ticket from Bangalore to Badami
- Bus fare of Badami to Aihole via Pattadakal
- Entrance ticket at Aihole
- Camera fee at Aihole
- Sugarcane juice
- Hired Rickshaw for speeding up my Aihole sightseeing (Not required if you have time)
- Bus fare from Aihole to Badami
I didn’t have lunch in Aihole, neither did I stay in Aihole, so that saved my expenses. I had a heavy breakfast in Pattadakal on the same morning. You can also spend on a local tourist guide, which doesn’t cost much.
ATM in Aihole
There are not many ATMs in Aihole. It is a good idea to carry some cash as cards are not accepted at most places here.
UPSC & IAS exam
The question that why is Aihole known as the cradle of Indian temple architecture is also a commonly asked question in the UPSC exams for IAS, IFS, PCS etc! I hope this most comprehensive travel guide answers your query now.
Questions on Prashasti of Aihole and inscription of Muguti temple of Aihole are also commonly asked in UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Exam for IAS.
Is it safe to visit Aihole?
Yes, as an Indian male, I leisurely walked around the dirt roads, open fields and rocky outcrops and no one bothered.
It is a chilled-out place where everyone minds their own business. I felt totally safe while moving around Aihole in broad daylight. If you are staying, then you must limit your movement in the public places only.
Toilet facility in Aihole
Clean toilets are available near Durga temple. It is very well maintained.
Soul Window Travel Tips on Aihole
Below are some of my tips based upon my experience
- Carry food and water
- Hire a guide
- Carry cash as there are few ATMs
- Check out the timings of last bus leaving Aihole.
- Try to eat bajra (pearl millet) based dishes.
Photography Tips for Aihole
The more slowly you travel in Aihole, the more hidden gems you will discover. Aihole is a paradise for those interested in photography of medieval heritage monuments. The best time for photography is the golden hour just before the sun set and just after the sun rise. I had visited in afternoon and still managed to click very nice pictures.
I was aghast to see the Government apathy towards the upkeep of heritage sites of Aihole. In white nations, they would have made it a ‘premium experience’ with ticket entry matching that with the cost of a space mission. Alas, that is not the case in Aihole.
I was shocked to see animals and local people loitering around in some of the temples. They played games in the temple even as the cows carpeted the lawns with what else but their cow dungs.
Here are my suggestions
- There is no cleanliness in many places.
- No proper restaurants run in the vicinity.
- Many temples don’t have security guards. Government must appoint immediately.
- Fences of many temples are broken and looks like a token gesture. It must be solidified.
- There is no protection for the precious Aihole inscription or prashasti of Meguti temple.
Where to stay in Aihole
There are not many places to stay at in Aihole. Do not expect to stay in a luxurious resort in Aihole as it is a small charming village of Karnataka.
KSTDC run Mayura hotel is a nice option to stay in Aihole.
Best Time to visit Aihole?
Winter: There were many fruits of Bajra in the fields when I visited Aihole in the last week of September. It was quite pleasant when I visited Aihole on 28th September. Despite being sunny I was only slightly exhausted from all the walk.
The months of September, October, November, December, January, February and March are the best time to visit Aihole, Pattadakala and Badami.
Summer: You must avoid the hottest months of Aihole which are April, May and June.
Monsoon: It is a pleasure to visist Aihole during monsoon. July and August make the rainy season of Aihole. It rains for sure but it is manageable as I had observed while traveling around the same season in nearby Hampi, Belur etc.
How many days to spend in Aihole?
It is not possible to see all the 125 + temples of Aihole in 2 days. That said, you can easily see around 50 temples in 1-2 days. I had spent only 1 day on my maiden visit to Aihole. I was able to see some 20-25 temples in one day. I highly recommend that you spend at least 3 days in Aihole to completely appreciate and understand the historical legacy of this temple town from the Chalukyan era.
It is totally possible to visit the medieval Chalukyan era sites of Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami in 2 as. I did the same on a Saturday and Sunday when I did a seasonal 2 months job in Bangalore. These 3 historical sites make for a wonderful weekend break from Bangalore and Mysore.
That said, it is a good idea to spend 1 more day each at Aihole and Badami because there are so many places to see. I missed out on some temples due to lack of time. Afterall, there are 125 plus medieval temples in Aihole alone. Entire temple cluster of Pattadakal, however can easily be seen in 2-3 hours.
How to reach Aihole
Despite its remoteness, it is very easy to reach Aihole from Bangalore, the nearest big Indian metro city. Buses, cabs, taxis, trains and flights to Aihole are easily available. Aihole tourism though not very well developed by the Government is still functional.
Soul Window Observations
India has one of the best public transports in the world. Train, Buses, rickshaws and metros are some of the lifelines of an average Indian. I love train and bus journeys in India not only because it is dirt cheap, but also because it gives me an opportunity to see the passing fields and get up, close and personal with Indians, especially in the hinterlands.
South India is one of the best places which can be enjoyed on public transport. As a North Indian who grew up in Indian cities of Uttar Pradesh such as Varanasi, Kanpur, Prayagraj and Lucknow (in that order), I always keep my eyes peeled for the exotic land of South India. Public transport, is thus the best way to get into the skin of South of India.
Reach Aihole by Railway: Aihole is a village.There is no railway station in Aihole. Bagalkot railway station is the nearest railway station from Aihole.
Badami is another nearest railway junction from Aihole. A road journey from Badami by car or bus is the only way to get here. I had arrived at Badami from Bengaluru, the capital of Karnataka by a sleeper class train. I did the golden circuit of Pattadakal, Aihole and Badami in that order as a quick weekend getaway from Bangalore.
Reach Aihole By bus
I had booked my onward train journey from Bangalore to Badami. From Badami, I went to Pattadakal on a bus, right after getting down at Badami railway station. After sightseeing in Pattadakal early morning (which takes only 2 hours), I took a cheap bus to Aihole from Pattadakal. After spending more than half a day in Aihole, I took a connecting bus to a place which I do not remember the name of. Due to language barrier, I asked for help from a local sugarcane shop near Durga temple.
People of India are very helpful and generous. Not only did he help me find a connecting bus but didn’t move away until I boarded the bus. I am sure no one does that in the white nations.
To summarise, there is a robust bus system in South India. Of all my experiences, I have never had to book a bus online or in advance. I always manage to get a window seat in buses of South India, even if I just show up at the bus stations as a walk in. Buses which I took once I arrived in Badami were non-AC and simple Government run ones. Direct luxury and Non-AC buses to Badami from Bangalore are also available.
Reach Aihole by Cab
By booking a cab with driver or self-driving, you can enjoy various stops at this picturesque location where huge boulders punctuate the landscape and sturdy cows with (very) long horns are your constant companion.
The route from Badami to Aihole is visually stunning. If you are visiting in the right season, you will be greeted with undulating fields of yellow sunflowers dotting the landscape. Sunflower is cultivated here to extract sunflower oil from them. The views of the countryside are equally gorgeous. Same can be said about the views between Pattadakal and Aihole. I took this route while arriving in Aihole.
Reach Aihole by air
The closest airport from Badami is located in Hubli. Belgaum airport is another option. From these places, you can take a taxi or bus to Badami and Aihole. Both Belgaum and Hubli are well connected with Indian metros such as Mumbai, Bangalore etc.
Nearest international airport from Aihole are Bangalore International airport and Goa International airport.
Local transport for sightseeing in Aihole
You do not need local transport for sightseeing in Aihole because most of the points of interest of Aihole are located at walking distance from each other. That said, I did hire a local rickshaw to show me some temples which I could not locate due to paucity of time. Rickshaws are easily available near Durga temple.
Distances from Aihole
There are many interesting places to visit near Aihole such as Badami, Mahakuta temples and Pattadakal. Below distance chart from Aihole will help you plan a once in a lifetime trip to tourist places in Karnataka in South India.
The distances from Aihole are mentioned in ascending order of time taken and distance covered. This will help you ij planning your Aihole trip and other places to see in Karnataka.
Distance from Pattadakal to Aihole is 13 kilometres and it takes around 20 minutes via Pattadakal road.
Distance from Badami to Aihole is 34 kilometres and it takes around 50 minutes via Pattadakal road.
Distance from Kudala Sangama to Aihole is 34 kilometres and it takes around 1 hour minutes via SH133.
Distance from Bagalkot to Aihole is 37.6 kilometres and it takes around 50 minutes via SH20.
Distance from Dharwad to Aihole is 136 kilometres and it takes around 3 hours and 30 minutes via SH14.
Distance from Hampi to Aihole is 138 kilometres and it takes around 3 hours via NH50.
Distance from Hubli to Aihole is 140 kilometres and it takes around 3 hours via NH52.
Distance from Belgaum aka Belagavi to Aihole is 177 kilometres and it takes around 4 hours via SH20.
Distance from Dandeli to Aihole is 192 kilometres and it takes around 5 hours via Dharwad Haliyal road.
Distance from Dabolim airport in Goa to Aihole is 297 kilometres and it takes around 7 hours and 30 Bachi Raichur Highway.
Distance from Halebidu to Aihole is 397 kilometres and it takes around 7 hours and 40 minutes via NH50.
Distance from Belur to Aihole is 414 kilometres and it takes around 8 hours via NH50.
Distance from Shravanabelagola to Aihole is 441 kilometres and it takes around 8 hours and 40 minutes via NH50.
Distance from Bangalore to Aihole is 446 kilometres and it takes around 8 hours via NH50.
Distance from Mangalore to Aihole is 497 kilometres and it takes around 10 hours and 30 minutes via NH52 and NH66.
Conclusion: Why visit Aihole?
Before I travelled to Aihole, Pattadakal and Badami, I was confused at what belongs where. There were no consolidated online individual guides for each destination. This is why after I visited these travel destinations of Karnataka, I decided to write detailed post of the tourist attractions of Pattadakal, Aihole and Badami. My blogs on these places are most comprehensive travel guide available on internet.
Aihole is absolutely worth a visit. This historic destination needs more care and government attention. Hope this guide helps clear the air and you are inspired to plan a trip here soon. There are so many things to do with family and kids in Aihole. There are many hidden gems in Aihole, waiting to be discovered, one temple at a time!
Related Blogs on Karnataka
I have written comprehensive travel blogs on destinations such as Badami, Pattadakal and Aihole. I am sure you will be interested in reading all the below mentioned blogs. Also share with your friends and family so that everyone can learn about the rich Hindu history, culture and wildlife!
Pls check below related blogs
- Aihole Inscription
- Guide to Durga Temple of Aihole
- Complete Guide of Badami
- Complete Guide of Aihole
- Complete Guide of Pattadakal
You can also check my comprehensive and information packed travel guide blogs on nearby destinations of Karnataka such as
- Complete Guide of Hampi
- Complete Guide of Jog falls
- Complete Guide of Shivamogga
- Complete Guide of Shravanbelagola
- Complete Guide of Gokarna Beach Trail
- Complete Guide of Murudeshwar Mandir
- Story of the Atmalinga
- Snakes of Agumbe
- Kumara Parvatha Trek
- Gokarna Hindu temples
- Complete Guide of Mattur
- Java Rain Resort in Chikmagalur
- Rameshwara temple of Keladi
- Aghoreshvara temple of Ikkeri
- Chennakeshava Temple in Belur
- Hoysaleshwara Temple in Halebeedu aka Dwarasamudra
The view from my Soul Window is an ode to medieval Hindu India!
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