Aihole (ಐಹೋಲ್, ऐहोल, ഐഹോളെ) a town in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka, has its own historical significance and is called as cradle of Hindu rock architecture. Early inscriptions call this town "Ayyavole" and "Aryapura".

Aihole was the first capital of the early Chalukyas and they built over 125 temples in various styles and is said to be a laboratory of experiments in rock cut architecture. Aihole is to the east of Pattadakal, along the Malaprabha River, while Badami is to the west of both. Pulakesi I, one of the greatest rulers of this dynasty, moved the capital to Badami (Vatapi) nearby . It is from these temples that the Chalukyas gained their experience and went on to build the great temples of Pattadakal. The first phase of temple building in Aihole dates back to the 6th century CE, the second phase up to the 12th century CE.

The early Chalukyas inherited architectural styles largely from their neighbours to the north and south of their kingdom. Usage of curved towers decorated with blind arches came from northern India. Pilastered walls with panel inserts are a southern Indian style. The usage of Deccan style is in their balcony seating, angled eaves and sloping roofs, and elaborately carved columns and ceilings.

LocationBagalkot District, Karnataka
Places to visit in AiholeDurga Temple, Ravana Phadi, Jain Meguti Temple, The Lad Khan Temple, Kontigudi Group of Temple, The Galaganatha Group, Suryanarayana Temple, Gowda Temple, Ambigera Gudi Group, Chakra Gudi, The Chikkigudi Group, The Huchimalli Gudi, Rachi Gudi, Jyothirlinga Group, Group of Jainagudis, Group of Yeniar Shrines, Badigera Gudi, Meganagudi Group of Temples, The Halabasappana Gudi and Charanthimatha Group of Temples are popular tourist destinations in Aihole. Distance from Pattadakal to Aihole, Karnataka is 13.8 km and takes around 21 min via SH 14/SH 59. Distance from Badami to Aihole, Karnataka is 35.4 km and takes around 53 min via SH 14.
Best time to visit AiholeWinter Oct to Feb.

Typical features unique to Early Western Chalukyan architecture include mortarless assembly, an emphasis on length rather than width or height, flat roofs, richly carved ceilings, and, sculpturally, an emphasis on relatively few major figures, which tend to be isolated from each other rather than arranged in crowded groups. The aesthetic sensibility of sculpture from this period also seems to retain a certain classical quality whose impulse does not carry over into later periods of Indian art (Susan Huntington, 1985).

A group of three temples is referred to as the Kontigudi group of temples exist here. One of these is the Lad Khan temple, named after a mendicant that lived in this temple in the 19th century, another the Huchiappayyagudi temple and the Huchiappayya math.

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Tourist Attractions in Aihole

Aihole is a treasure trove of ancient temples and historic architecture, making it a must-visit destination for history and culture enthusiasts. Here are some of the top tourist attractions in Aihole:

Lad Khan Temple
Lad Khan temple consists of a shrine with two mantapas in front of it is one of the major attractions. The shrine bears a Shiva lingam (Idols of Lord Shiva). The mukha mantapa in front of the sanctum has a set of 12 carved pillars. The sabhamantapa in front of the mukha mantapa has pillars arranged in such a manner as to form two concentric squares. There are also stone grids on the wall carrying floral designs. The temple was built in late 7th or early 8th century.

Huchappayyagudi Temple
Huchappayyagudi temple has a curvilinear tower (shikhara) over the sanctum (unlike the Lad Khan temple). The interior of the temple has beautiful carvings.

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Huchimalligudi Temple
Huchimalligudi temple at Aihole, built in the 7th century shows an evolution in the temple architecture, as it shows an ardhamantapa or an ante-chamber annexed to the main shrine.

The Galaganatha group is one of nearly thirty temples on the bank of the river Malaprabha. The main shrine of the Galaganatha temple enshrining Shiva - Galaganatha has a curvilinear shikhara, and has images of Ganga and Yamuna at the entrance to this shrine.

Durga Temple or Fortress Temple
Durga temple or fortress temple is the best known of the Aihole temples. It is apsidal in plan, along the lines of a Buddhist chaitya, a high moulded adisthana and a tower - curvilinear shikhara. A pillared corridor runs around the temple, enveloping the shrine, the mukhamantapa and the sabhamantapa. All through the temple, there are beautiful carvings. The temple appears to be of the late 7th or early 8th century.

Meguti Jain Temple
Meguti Jain temple stands on a hillock. It is the only dated monument built in 634. The temple sits on a raised platform, and a flight of steps leads one to the mukhamantapa. The pillared mukhamantapa is a large one. A flight of stairs leads to another shrine on the roof, directly above the main shrine. From the roof, one can have a panoramic view of the plain with a hundred temples or so. The temple which was possibly never completed gives important evidence of early development in dravidian style of architecture. The dated inscription found on the outer wall of the temple records the construction of the temple by Ravikeerthi, a scholar in the court of emperor Pulakeshi II.

Ravanaphadi Temple
Ravanaphadi temple is a rock cut temple, with a rectangular shrine, with two mantapas in front of it and a rock cut Shivalingam. This temple dates back to the 6th century. Ravanphadi cave is located south-east of Hucchimalli temple. This is a Shaivite cave temple with a sanctum larger than that of the Badami Cave Temples. The sanctum has a vestibule with a triple entrance and has carved pillars.

Gowda Temple
Gowda temple is built on similar lines as the Ladh Khan temple but earlier. It has sixteen plain pillars and is dedicated to goddess Bhagavathi.

The Museum & Art Gallery
The Museum & Art Gallery is a sculpture gallery maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India in the Durga Temple complex.

Suryanarayana Temple
Suryanarayana temple has a 0.6 m high statue of Surya along with his consorts Usha and Sandhya being drawn by horses. The temple dates from the 7th or 8th century, has a four pillared inner sanctum and a nagara style tower over it.

Top 10 Facts about Aihole

Here are Top 10 facts about Aihole.

  1. Aihole was the first capital of the early Chalukya dynasty, which ruled over parts of southern India from the 6th to the 8th century AD.
  2. Aihole is known for its rich collection of ancient Hindu and Jain temples, some of which date back to the 5th century AD.
  3. The Durga Temple, one of the most famous temples in Aihole, is believed to be the first example of a complete Chalukyan style temple architecture. It was built in the 7th century AD and is dedicated to Goddess Durga.
  4. Aihole has more than 125 temples, many of which are in ruins. The temples are built in different styles including Dravidian, Nagara, and Vesara.
  5. Aihole is also known for its rock-cut caves, which were used as shrines and residences by the Chalukya rulers.
  6. The village is situated on the banks of the Malaprabha River, which adds to its natural beauty.
  7. Aihole is a popular destination for tourists and history buffs who come to explore its ancient temples and monuments.
  8. The nearest airport to Aihole is in Hubli, which is about 125 km away, while the nearest railway station is in Bagalkot, which is about 35 km away.
  9. Aihole is located in the northern part of Karnataka and is well-connected to major cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Mumbai by road.
  10. Aihole is also known for its handicrafts, particularly the famous Aihole toys, which are made by local artisans using wood and paint.

How to Reach Aihole

By Rail: The nearest railway station is Begalkot.
Road: Aihole is connected by road to Pattadakal, Badami, Bangalore