“It is dusk, a time for foreplay to begin @ Aihole “ felt the artisans of the chalukyan era. The artistic freedom for the artisans to depict erotica was witenessed in plenty. For skeptics it may sound like an exaggerated marketing gimmick to promote a tourist destination, for lovers of heritage it real passionate plea inviting them to explore the fourth century passion play exhibited on granite. No wonder Aihole is considered to be school of architecture in Indian History. On the banks of river Malaprabha flourished a civilization beyond imagination, unknown to the invading Ghori’s, Ghazni’s, Moghuls, Sultans or even Tipu Sultan. However the amount of artifacts missing from the site of Aihole seems to be mindboggling. If one can conjure up 500 temples in and around this ancient city of Aryapura according to inscriptions, it points out to systematic approach to rediscover the same. ASI has set up an office and doing precisely the work of re-inventing and sprucing up the destination, with a little help from Govt, if they could relocate 50 odd families residing in and around the monuments we could discover an ancient world beyond imagination.
Aryapura or modern day Aihole was the first capital of the Early Chalukyan Kings. Majority of the temples are of Vaishnavite origin, than Shivite or Saivite along with Jaina origin. The Mayura hotel complex houses a crude foundation plan of a Hoysala temple. For some unknown reason the plan has been aborted, the star shaped structure is clearly evident and from the foundations along with the rock hewn structures for constructing the pillars and other façade elements. Another possibility is that this site might have housed the palace of the Kings which has been demolished and the entire treasure has been smuggled. I hope ASI preserves this structure for posterity because the ASI office itself is located adjacent. In this manner one can probably discover many a facts which are on speculative ground, including looking a pristine skyline in the dark when there is a power cut. One can see from the terrace a number of shooting stars, constellations, etc. Power cuts may be curse to the public but it brings forth another dimension to the ancient civilization.
Recent excavations seem to be pointing towards civilization existing prior to the Chalukyan period, probably dating back to Ashoka period or Mauryan period. The Buddhist influence in temple construction is prominent in the Lad Khan temple. It is believed that this structure was originally meant to be meeting place for the king and his ministers. It was not built as a temple, but converted into a temple due to alternate plan. The number of temples constructed points to one significant fact which may be missed by many historians is where is the trace of the Royal Palace where the Kings resided. It is surprising omission or clever subversion of the fact that all these structures have razed to the ground with systematic loot of the treasury filled with gold and precious jewelleries.
One of the most impressive temple in Aihole is the Durga temple which has been constructed based on the Buddhist chaitanya halls. The temple has perforated windows and statue of Durga destroying the demon Mahishasura.
Ravanpadi is one of the oldest Rock cut temples in India, it maybe a transformation of old Neolithic man’s dwelling place. There is shiv ling in the centre and on the façade beautiful picture of Lord Shiva dancing in his fabled Rudra tandav style.
Melguti temples are dedicated to Jain thirtankara. It is located on the hillock, one has to climb a small hillock with a well laid out 124 steps. The complex is built like a fort, with separate living quarters below. The main temple has depiction of Jain thirtankara, along with upstair structure approachable through a stone ladder. This temple has been re-built by ASI.
Huchhappayya Temple, is once again a rebuilt temple which is well landscaped and maintained. This temple is an experimentation of sex education. The first clear indication that sex is not a taboo. Most of the sculpture on the façade of the temple which signifies that foreplay was an essential part of the good conjugal married life. One of panel shows a women literally stroking the penis of her partner. Another displays a man trying to have an intercourse with a women standing and lifting her torso towards his phallus. Another depiction shows the protagonist stroking the breast of his lover. Since the temple has been rebuilt careful conservation effort has gone to protect monument which is more than 1500 years old. But nevertheless it is left to the imagination of the onlooker how rich the erotica would have been rest of the wall panels but for its loss due to aging factor.
Ramlingeswar Temple, it is located on the Banks of Malaprabha river. It is basically shivaite lingas on the centre stage. These temples are still used for some utsav with concrete roads leading to temple precints. The show of ancient heritage is lost due to mindless painting of the temple.
Veerabhadhra temple : This temple seems to be of recent origin rather than ancient. The temple premise clearly indicates that it is designed for gathering with platforms erected at various levels. The main diety is Veerabhadra.
Galganath complex has a group of thirty odd temples big and small. It has erotic sculpture displayed in a miniature format. A Classic missionary style sex is exposed in absolute perfection. Another sublime form of sex with an animal is depicted on the wall panel. Various forms of scuttle and mellowed down activities are also on display on the wall panels of the temple. The complex also houses an asokan type of arched pillar. An artifical shed may be house the domestic animals is also quite prominent part of the complex. It looks as if there is one upmanship among the artisans to prove their sculpting capability.
For sake of paucity of time we ended up covering only 60 percent of the monuments. One needs to have a full day programme to do full justice to Aihole. There is a good KSTDC guest house with dormitory type of accommodation as well. However incase one wishes to have more option halting at Badami is advisable.