Aihole

Day 3 – Aihole, Jain cave temples, and Buddhist temple

See Badami – Aihole – Pattadakal for the entire travelogue.

The next day, we visited Aihole. Parashuram was there by the time we reached Durga temple. That day, some architecture students had also visited the Durga complex.

It is estimated that the Durga temple complex was built around 5th century CE. There a lot of beautiful sculptures along the walking path. Our guide, Parashuram (Mobile number: +91 94494 15827) almost behaved like a teacher and it turned out that he is a professor. He is not just a good guide, and educator but he is also a very good photographer. He is damn good at finding good perspectives; which I am bad at. He helped me take several good shots. He took several amazing shots with his humble mobile phone. He patiently explained us a lot of details. He seemed very happy with my mother’s keen interest; just like how a teacher would be happy with his most brilliant student 🙂 . He even wrote a book on Badami, Pattadakal and Aihole.

Lad Khan temple is also in the same premises. This is actually an 8th century Shiva temple. Lad Khan, Bijapur commander, briefly stayed here and since then, the place was referred after him. Mom was gushing over how fortunate Lad Khan must be to live in such an amazing place. Stone beams that were acting like logs, were particularly interesting to me.

In the temple complex, there are a lot of beautiful temples scattered everywhere. All with their different names and different architecture. It was almost impossible for me to keep track of them. There are also step wells. Though not as elaborate and deep as their counterparts in Gujarat and Rajasthan, the step wells were quite interesting.

Then we headed to Ravanaphadi cave. The entire cave and its beautiful interiors are cut out of one massive rock. This one of the oldest rock cut caves in Aihole dating back to 6th century.

The exteriors are sadly eroded but the interiors, despite all these centuries, are stunning to the say the least. The main mandapa almost looked like mini mayasabha. Designs are all very intricate, delicate, and so beautiful. The grace and elegance in these sculptures is very obvious despite centuries of wearing off.

Then, we headed to Virupaksha temple. Things are a little sad here. Parashuram had already told us that there are several dilapidated temples. But they were all in worse condition than what we expected. For several temples, there is absolutely no protection whatsoever. They are just at the mercy of nature and local people. Coming to local people, they really have no sense of the importance of these timeless monuments. The monuments are used like home’s backyard at best. This is very sad especially when the UNESO World Heritage sites are so nearby. Badami, Pattadal, and Aihole receives much more tourist traffic than Raichur. There is a lot scope for development and funds also must not be so difficult. In Raichur, reviving and protecting archaeological sites is much more difficult as they receive almost no tourists.

We walked past the neglected temples and finally reached Virupaksha temple. Virupaksha temple was also in a sad state; though not as bad as others. Prayers are performed in the temple. But several intricately carved sculptures are all defaced. I was surprised to see locals use the main mandapa as a lounging place. They were relaxing and browsing videos on youtube. I did not know what to make of all this; if I should be jealous that the locals are lucky to have an amazing place to laze around or if I should feel sorry for them for their blatant ignorance.

The main mandapa got four pillars and each pillar was beautifully carved on four sides. There are 16 sculptures on these 4 pillars. The sculptures are hardly 6-8 inches tall but the designs are unbelievably intricate. They are beautiful despite being defaced. I wondered how beautiful they must have been during their heydays. I can only imagine the hard work and talent of the sculptors who created these marvels. Sad that this mandapa is now a mere lounging place.

While talking with locals, I came to know that locals treat these places as their private property and so, are very reluctant to let government take control. Local politicians are obviously with these people for votes.

We then headed to two storey Buddhist temple. Again, Rasool and Parashuram were not sure if mom could climb so many steep steps. But again, she proved them wrong 🙂 . The place looked more of a vihara than a temple and is simple.

After noticing mother’s keen interest, Parashuram encouraged her to climb and visit Jain temple on Meguti hill. He lent his arm and provided support to help mother climb those steep steps. With his help, we kept climbing beyond the Buddhist temple and reached top of Meguti hill. There is a Jain temple on the top and some remnants of the Aihole fort. As the sun started to set, the landscape turned very pleasant.

IMG_1489
Jain temple on Meguti hill

Since we had to descend steep steps with mom, we started getting down from the Meguti hill. Then, we headed to the Jain cave temple. There was very little light inside the cave as the sun was setting. The view of sunset and moonrise was beautiful. I took some pictures of mom enjoying the sunset.

Parashuram agreed to show us around Pattadakal the next day and said he would take his fee then. He is very friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. I was looking forward to our next day at Pattadakal.

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