Once the capital of the Chalukya dynasty, Aihole is a village with some hundred temples around and is known as the cradle of Indian temple architecture. It is a place which hold historical significance and is therefore, a popular tourist spot in Karnataka. There are prominently two temple groups, namely, the Kontigudi group and the Galaganatha group of temples in Aihole. Among these, Lad Khan temple, Huchappayyagudi temple, Durga temple, Ravanaphadi temple and Suryanarayana temple are famous.
HOW TO REACH
The nearest airport is Belgaum-189 km, which is connected to Mumbai by Vayudoot flights.
Aihole is connected by road to Pattadakal (17 kms), Badami (44 kms) and Bangalore (490 kms). Package tours are conducted every day from Bangalore during the tourist season. One can also use any road service from Belgaum city via Bagalkot to reach Aihole.
The nearest railhead is Bagalkot — 34km on the Hubli-Sholapur meter gauge line.
WHAT TO SEE
This temple is one of the best known and important temples of Aihole. It was probably built during the late 7th century or early 8th century. It is apsidal in plan and its architecture resembles a Buddhist chattalaya. The architectural features of the temple comprises an elevated plinth, a high moulded adisthana, a gallery encircling the sanctum and a curvilinear tower or shikhara. A pillared corridor runs around the temple.
The Ravana Phadi is one of the oldest rock cut cave temples in Aihole, dating back to the 6th century AD. It is located to the south-east of the Hucchimalli Temple. Consisting of large carved pillars and a veranda, this temple houses a Shiva Linga in the inner sanctum. It features a rectangular shrine with two mantapas and its sanctum is inclusive of an entrance hall with three entrances. Its walls are also covered with various carvings of Lord Shiva.
Jain Meguti Temple:-
The Meguti Temple has the distinction of being the only temple in Aihole which can clearly be traced back to 634 AD. Perched above a small hill, this temple, though incomplete, represents the early development of the Dravidian style of architecture. Built without mortar, the Meguti Jain Temple placed is on a raised platform with a flight of steps leading to the large, pillared mukhamandapa. Upstairs on the roof is another shrine directly above the main shrine. The superstructure rising above the sanctum wall of the temple has been built at a later date. Even the 16-columned porch and hall extensions are later additions.
The Lad Khan Temple:-
The Lad Khan Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and was probably built in the late 7th century or early 8th century AD. It is located to the south of the Durga Temple and is considered the oldest temple of Aihole. The temple is named after a Muslim prince who turned this temple into his residence. It was built in a panchayat hall style and is indicative of early experiments in temple building. The main shrine houses a Shiva Linga with a Nandi.
Kontigudi Group of Temples:-
The Kontigudi group of temples is situated near the middle of the Aihole Bazaar and consists of four temples, the first of which features a carving of the Trimurtis on the ceiling. These temples were mainly built in the 7th century AD and various adjuncts were added to these, in later centuries. The only dilapidated structure among them is a temple that belonged to the 10th century.
The Galaganatha Group:-
The Galaganatha Group of temples has 38 small shrines of which, the Galaganatha Temple is intact, while most of the other temples are in a ruined state. This group of temples is located on the banks of the River Malaprabha, further south of the Huchappayyah Temple. The main shrine of the Galaganatha Temple houses Lord Shiva. The temple comprises a curvilinear shikhara, interior passage, hall and sanctum and has images of Yamuna and Ganga, at the entrance, which are a feature common to many Chalukya temples. Though most of this temple complex dates back to the 8th century AD, there is a temple in this group that belongs to the 10th century.
Ilkal (36 Kms) is famous for its traditional handloom, art silk and silk sarees
Eating options are limited in Aihole. Most of the restaurants offer only vegetarian cuisine. South Indian cuisine is predominantly served in restaurants.