No fewer than 125 temples, dating from the Chalukyan and the later Rashtrakuta periods (sixth to twelfth centuries), are found in the tiny village of Aihole (Aivalli), near the banks of the River Malaprabha. Lying in clusters within the village, in surrounding fields and on rocky outcrops, many of the temples are remarkably well preserved. Reflecting both its geographical position and spirit of architectural experimentation, Aihole boasts northern (nagara) and southern (Dravida) temples, as well as variants that failed to survive subsequent stylistic developments.

Two of the temples are rock-cut caves dating from the sixth century. The Hindu Ravalaphadi cave, northeast of the centre, a Shiva shrine with a triple entrance, contains fine sculptures of Mahishasuramardini, a ten-armed Nateshan (the precursor of Nataraja) dancing with Parvati, Ganesh and the Sapta Matrikas (“seven mothers”). A two-storey cave, plain save for decoration at the entrances and a panel image of Buddha in its upper veranda, can be found partway up the hill to the southeast, overlooking the village. At the top of that hill, the Jain Meguti temple, which may never have been completed, bears an inscription on an outer wall dating it to 634 AD. You can climb up to the first floor for fine views of Aihole and the surrounding country.

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