The town of Aihole came towards the end of our trip, but historically it preceded both Badami as well as Pattadkal. The Badami Chalukya architecture was a temple building idiom that emerged in the 5th – 8th centuries in present-day Bagalkot district of Karnataka.
During 450 CE, the Chalukya style of architecture originated in Aihole, matured in Badami and is said to have been perfected in Pattadakal.These Chalukyan artists experimented with different styles, blended the Indo-Aryan and Dravidian styles, and evolved their own unique style. They favoured two types of monuments viz. the rock cut halls(cave temples) and the structural temples.
Being the first step in their study of art and architecture, perhaps they may have spent ample time making smaller models with a greater scope for experimentation. One could be sure to run into an ancient temple at every turn, each one depicting a different style or design. Temples here are rarely used for worship, and seem like a unique backdrop for daily life scenes in a town that is quite far from the advances of technology. Many farmers live around these temples, as is evident from the bullock carts and tractors that are parked in the vicinity.
Some temples here have found favour with the tourists and are within an enclosure alongside a museum maintained by ASI.
The Durga temple is probably the most popular in Aihole. Contrary to its name, it isn’t dedicated to the Goddess Durga, but is a fortress temple. The apsidal plan, appears to have been inspired from a Buddhist chaitya, yet it has a shikara and a pillared corridor. The temple is decorated with beautiful carvings all around.
Each temple stands out with a unique design and structure. The Lad Khan temple has a square and a rectangular plan, and is built in a Panchayatana style, indicating an early experiment. It’s two-tiered roof, resembles a wooden construction, and the joints between the roof slabs are covered with stone that are shaped like logs. The windows are filled with lattices – a style often seen in North Indian temples.The Lad Khan temple is named after a general who had lived here.
Ravanphadi is a rock cut Shiva temple, with large figures including that of a dancing Shiva adorning a wall engraved in a bold relief and elegant style. The ceilings is quite ornate, a feature that went on to become characteristic of the Chalukyan architecture.
The Meguti Jain temple stands on a hillock and can be reached through a flight of stairs. On the way up, one can also see two storeyed Buddist cave. At the last step to the Meguti Temple, the elevation offers a view of the entire village with ancient temples scattered in all directions. At the Meguti shrine, one can see an epigraph popularly known as ‘Aihole inscription’ that provides insights into the times of Chalukyan rule. This inscription was written by the Ravikirti, court poet of the Chalukyan King, Pulakeshi II.