Situated on the bank of the Mallaprabha River in Bangalkot, Karnataka, Aihole is famous for the temples built here. Aihole is a major tourist attraction in north Karnataka especially popular among spiritual folks and those who are interested in Indian heritage. Aihole has numerous temples nearby villages.
There are various legends related to the place. One of the legends says that Parshuram from the Hindu epic Ramayana cleaned his axe after killing the Kshatriyas. Early inscriptions describe this place as Aryapura and Arya-vole. There are various historically significant caves and temples in Aihole and it holds an important place when it comes to ancient rock architecture. That is why Aihole is also referred to as the cradle of Hindu rock architecture.
Aihole also served as the first capital of the Chalukya dynasty. The Chalukyas built around 125 temples in Aihole and used this experience at various places in rock architecture building. Some of the temples date back to as early as the 5th century but mostly the first phase of temple construction began in the 6th century and the second phase started in the 12th century.
The Chalukya King Pulakeshi II was a major contributor on temple building and was inspired by Jainism which is the reason some of the temples have a Jainism influenced look. There are also some temples related to Buddhism.
Inscriptions have also been discovered by archaeologists in the area in the Sanskrit language which date back to 634 CE. It is about the achievements and victory of Pulakeshi II over Harshavardhana.
Aihole can also be described as the laboratory of rock architecture of Chalukya artisans. Here they experimented with various styles and came up with the earliest rock cut shrines. According to the structure, the temple has been divided into 22 groups by historians.
The Lad Khan Temple is the oldest temple of Aihole dating back to the 5th century. The Lad Khan Temple consists of a shrine with two mandapas in front of it. The shrine bears a Shiva lingam. The mukha mandapa in front of the sanctum has a set of 12 carved pillars.
Other famous temples of Aihole are Huchappayya (gudi) Temple, Durga Temple, Meguti Jain Temple, Ravana Phadi Cave, Gowda Temple, Suryanarayana Temple, etc. Aihole also has a museum and art gallery which displays the ancient art works and inscriptions found in Aihole.