Various sources mention that there are ~125 temples and complexes in and around the town of Aihole, most of which are attributed to the early Chalukyas (6th – 8th Century) or Late Chalukyas (11th & 12th Century). The name of the town is probably derived from the kannada word Ayyavole , which was the name given to a group of enterprising traders & merchants in the region.
An inscirption dated 1055 CE describes the activites of the Ayyavole
Famed throughout the world, adorned with many good qualities, truth, purity, good conduct, policy, condescension, and prudence; protectors of the vira-Bananju-dharma [law of the heroic traders], having 32 veloma, 18 cities, 64 yoga-pithas, and asramas at the four points of the compass; born to be wanderers over many countries, the earth as their sack,….the serpent race as the cords, the betel pouch as a secret pocket,…
by land routes and water routes penetrating into the regions of the six continents, with superior elephants, well-bred horses, large sapphires, moonstones, pearls, rubies, diamonds,…cardamoms, cloves, sandal, camphor, musk, saffron and other perfumes and drugs, by selling which wholesale or hawking about on their shoulders, preventing the loss by customs duties, they fill up the emperor’s treasury of gold, his treasury of jewels, and his armoury of weapons; and from the rest they daily bestow gifts on pundits and munis; white umbrellas as their canopy, the mighty ocean as their moat, Indra as the hand-guard of their swords, Varuna as the standard bearer, Kubera as the treasurer..
As you enter Aihole, you pass through a narrow broken lane filled with dirt, muck and garbage. When walking through the lanes of Aihole, be mentally prepared to be assaulted by various smells and keep your eyes on the ground as you never know what you are stepping on. Also note, you will have a lot of kids walking up to you and asking for money or offering to act as guides, which is a put off at times.
Megutti Hill & Jain Temple
You can access the pathway to this hill by using the lane just behind the Mallikarjuna temple complex. Its a short trek to the top and you can see a 2 tiered structure on the face of the hill, which is supposed to be a buddhist temple (based on the headless budha statue).
On top of the hill is the Jain temple which is surrounded by fortification wall. The temple contains an inscription that dates back (634 CE) to the time of Pulakeshin II and provides details of this exploits. Don’t miss the dolmen stones which are supposedly strewn on the hill top behind the fortification wall.
The view from the top helps identify various temples & complexes of interest and is a good place to take a breather and enjoy the solitude..
Located at the base of Megutti hill, this temple complex is again attributed to the early chalukyan period. The wall and ceiling panels do not have a lot of work on them but the free standing Makara Tornana outside the main temple captured our attention.
Originally dedicated to Surya, this temple got its name when a lookout (durg in kannda) was constructed on top of this temple (lookout has been removed now).
The layout of this temple is unlike any other temple that Iwe have been to and is a mix and match of various styles and techniques. The wall & ceiling panels are decorated with beautiful representations of greater, lesser and unknown gods & goddesses from Hindu mythology. Most of the figures are not straight (as seen in hoysala temples) but seem graceful, which is a trait of early chalukyan work. This can also be observed in the cave temples and various other temples in the Badami region.
Named after a muslin medicant, this temple was probably built by Pulakeshin I for his Ashvamedha yagna – horse sacrifice.
Famous for the unique carving of Karthikeya on his peacock (carved in the ceiling, which we did not observe), this temple is again an early chalukyan temple with a large tank.
On the walls of the tank, you can see the faint weather eroded figures of gajalakshmi, karthikeya & a third panel, which I am unable to identify. Also seen a panel depicting the boar hunt scene from Kiratarjunya, where Arjuna fights Lord shiva.
A cave temple built in the 6th Century, this Shiva shrine contains some of the most common statues that you will find in almost every temple in the Badami region – Shiva or Nataraja, Mahishasuramardhini, Varaha carrying Bhoomi devi and Ardhanrisvara. None of the literature that we have read touch upon this fact and I am not sure why these 4 gods/goddesses were represented the most in temples around Badami.
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