Aihole is a pretty village 10km north-east of Pattadakal and 25km from Badami in Karnataka. It’s well worth combining Aihole with a trip to the other perhaps more well known temple sites. Here is an extensive collection of Jain and Hindu shrines in various architectural styles dating from the 6th to 12th centuries.
Although there are some 30 temples dotted around the village of Aihole, the focal point is a cluster in the heart of the village where you will need to purchase a entrance ticket. The first temple in this specific compound is the Durga Temple, not however dedicated to the goddess, it is named because of it’s proximity to the nearby durg, or fort.
The Durga Tenple is considered one of India’s finest and most unusual early temples, with a horseshoe-shaped design similar to many Buddhist rock-cut temples. The covered passageway around the relatively bare interior has some amazing carvings, such as Durga killing a demon buffalo. Similarly the porch of the temple has a number of fine carvings, including several amorous couples. The carvings from the ceiling are now in the National Museum in Delhi.
South of the Durga Temple are several more shrines, my favourite being the Ladkhan Temple. The design of this temple is unusual in that it was usually used for wooden buildings, with a roof structure made to look like split logs. Inside is an extremely photogenic Nandi bull in the assembly area, if you have the temple to yourself it’s quite a magical and atmospheric experience.
There are many smaller shrines in the compound that are worth exploring, the Sura Narayana Temple, Gaudar Gudi Temple, Badiger Gudi Temple and the Chakra Gudo Temple.
Outside the compound there are many other temples to explore, I was a little bewildered where to head for. I turned right on leaving the entrance, went straight ahead at the crossroads, and then turned left into the Chikki Temple Complex.
This was absent of any visitors, which may have been what enticed me to go there, but it’s worth seeking out. These are 7th century structures, and the carvings inside are exquisite, in particular the ceiling. A caretaker was quietly snoozing inside the main covered temple, leaving me to quietly tip-toe around the interior taking a few shots of the carved scenes. Luckily I didn’t wake him up.
This temple was every bit as enjoyable as the main cluster that attracts all the visitors, it really does pay to explore a bit further afield.
On leaving Aihole village it was clear something was happening. Finely decorated carts were appearing from all directions, and clearly families were heading somewhere specific. This was March 23rd 2013 so I can only imagine it was some kind of festival day, possibly the start of the Hindi new year (?). If anyone knows for sure, I’d really like to know !
Not far out of Aihole we came to another set of temples, not as well maintained as those at Aihole and surrounded by daily life. If you can find it, and I’m afraid I don’t know the name of this place, it’s worth spending 20 minutes to wonder around.
The main temple complex at Aihole is open sunrise to sunset.
If you’re interested in using any of my photography or articles please get in touch. I’m also available for any freelance work worldwide, my duffel bag is always packed ready to go…