Thursday, January 29, 2009

Aihole - A great ancient city

North Karnataka trip was one of the most memorable trips I ever had.Here we can see the rich culture and beauty of the time during the reign of the Chalukyas. The Durga Temple

The Durga Temple is the first one we see, as soon as we enter the temple complex. Built in a horse-shoe shape, the temple is so called not for the deity, but for the fort around it. The temple dates back to the late 7th century. Aihole is historically famous as the cradle of Hindu temple architecture. Aihole was the first capital of the Chalukya kings .There are about 125 temples divided into 22 groups scattered all over the villages and nearby fields.
Most of these temples were built between the 6th & 8th centuries and some even earlier. All have exquisite, intricate carvings. Aihole stands on the banks of the river Malaprabha.

The name Aihole came from the words Ayya hole, or city of scholars (in Sanskrit, Arya Pura). Another explanation comes from a legend, and is much more interesting. This relates to the sage Parasurama, the warrior sage, the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Parasurama was the son of the sage Jamadagni, who was killed by the king Kartyaveera Arjuna. Consumed by anger, Parasurama set out to kill the king, but the act alone did not appease his anger. Believing the entire Kshatriya (royal) race and its behavior the reason for his father’s demise, he went on a rampage, killing kings all over the world. At last, his blood lust sated, he calmed down and came to the river Malaprabha, which flows through this area. Seeing the amount of blood on his axe (his weapon of choice), he cleaned it in the waters of the river, which at once turned red, filled with the blood of kings. A local woman came then to fill her water pot, and seeing the color of the river, shouted, Ayyo, Hole”(! Blood!), and thus the place came to be known as Aihole.

The Lad Khan temple is one of the oldest temples in this complex. Dating back to the 5th century, this temple does not have a spire at all! Instead, there is a small rectangular shrine on the roof! If you are wondering about the name, as I mentioned earlier, it has nothing to do with the temple but with who lived there! it was the residence of a Muslim prince of that name when the ASI officials recognized it as a temple, so the name stuck! Considering today’s situation where we are having problems convincing illegal encroachers to move, I wonder how the British officials managed to move so many encroachers then, especially this one, who was a prince! Incidentally, this temple is believed to have been intended for Lord Vishnu, but today, there is a Shiva linga here, along with a huge Nandi in the centre of the pillared hall!

 The golden period of Aihole was between the 6th and the 8th centuries, when, under the reign of the Chalukyas of Badami, it saw a boom in temple architecture. Aihole is considered to be the cradle of Chalukya architecture. From what we learned from ASI records, the skill of the Chalukyas was evolved in Aihole, developed in Badami, and reached its pinnacle in Pattadakkal. As our guide put it, Aihole must have been the primary school of the Chalukya architects, Badami their secondary school, and Pattadakkal their college! Hucchimalli Temple,Ravanphadi Cave,Meguti Temple,Gowda Temple,Surayanarayana Temple,Konti Group of Temples thease are all some of the famous temples.
Meguti Temple
The only dated monument in Aihole, the Meguti Temple was built atop a small hill in 634 AD. Now partly in ruins, possibly never completed, this temple provides an important evidence of the early development of the Dravidian style of Architecture. The inscription dating the monument is found on one of the outer walls of the temple and records its construction by Ravikeerti, who was a commander & minister of Pulakesin II. Apparently a Jain Temple as seen from the seated Jain figure here, the superstructure rising above the sanctum wall of the temple is not original & the 16-columns porch and hall extension are later additions.

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