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Aihole Stone Inscription of Pulakesin II 634-635 A.D.

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Jain temple, Meguti hill – close up
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Sanskrit Inscription of Pulakesin II, composed by Ravikirti – 634 A.D.

Aihole in Karnataka state, India, is known as Cradle of Indian architecture. It was the first capital of Chalukyas where they built numerous temples dating back to the 6th century CE. Many inscriptions found at Aihole, but the inscription which found at Meguti Temple popularly known as Aihole inscription, which has the significance in the history of India, witnessed for the many historical events of Chalukyas. The inscription is written in Sanskrit language and uses old Kannada script. There is a mention about the defeat of Harshavardhana by Pulakesin II and also about the victory of Chalukyas on Pallavas. There is also a reference to shifting of the capital from Aihole to Badami by Pulakesin II. There is mention about the poet Kalidasa. The Aihole inscription was written by the Ravikirti, court poet of Chalukya King, Pulakesin II who reigned from 610 to 642 CE.

Below are the pictures of translation of this inscription –

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General Remarks –

This extremely valuable inscription is engraved on a stone slab of the Jain temple built on the Meguti hill at Aihole in the Hungund taluka of the Bagalkot district in North Katnataka. It was twice edited by Dr. Fleet in Indian Antiquary V. 67 and VIII. 237. Its revised edition was published by Dr. Kielhorn in Epigraphica Indica Vol. VI. The inscription contains 19 lines of writing.

The content of the inscription can be divided into the following sections –

1. Mangala  addressed to Jinendra, the presiding deity of the temple. v.1.

2. Description of the Chalukya family in which the patron of the temple builder was born.  v.2.

3. That of king Satyasraya born in that family, who was the patron of the temple builder. v.3.

4. In the Chalukya family a king named Jayasimha Vallabha was born after many generations. v.4-5.

5. His son was Rranaraga. v.6.

6. His  son was Pulakesin, who made Vatapi his capital. v. 7-8.

7. His son was Kirtivarman, who conquered Nalas, Mauryas and Kadambas. v. 9-10.

8. His younger brother was Mangalesha, who conquered the Kalachuris and seized the island named Revatidvipa. v. 11-13.

9. Long description of his nephew Pulakesin II. v. 14-31.

  • He forcibly seized the throne.
  • He defeated Appayika and persuaded Govinda to turn to his side, when they had invaded the country north of Bhaimarathi.
  • He besieged Vanavasi surrounded by the river Varada.
  • He defeated Gangas and Alupas.
  • He defeted Mauryas in the Konkana.
  • He beseiged the toen of Puri on the sea.
  • He forced the countries of Lata, Malava and Gurjara to seek his protection.
  • He checked the further march of Harshavardhana.
  • He kept a strong force on the banks of the Narmada near the Vindhya mountains.
  • He conquered the three countries known by the name of Maharashtra and 99000 villages.
  • He subdued the Kalingas and the Kosalas.
  • He took the fortress of Pistapura.
  • He subdued the island of Kunala.
  • He defeated the Pallavas of Kanchi.
  • The Cholas near the Pandyas were won over from the side of the Pallavas to his side.

10. While Satyasraya (another name of Pulakesin II) was ruling at Vatapi (v.32) in the year 3735 of the Bharata war (v.33) and in the year 556 of the Saka era (v.34) the temple of Jinendra was built by Ravikirti (v.35).

11. The prashasti was composed by Ravikirti himself, the builder of the temple.

12. Wish for the success of Ravikirti who was equal to Kalidasa and Bharavi in glory.

Historical Value of the Inscription

This inscription is chiefly devoted to furnish a eulogistic account of the Chalukya faily.

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Chalukyas of Badami

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Extent of Badami Chalukya Empire 543–753 A.D. (source: Wikipedia)

The Chalukya dynasty was an Indian royal dynasty that ruled large parts of southern and central India between the 6th and the 12th centuries. During this period, they ruled as three related yet individual dynasties. The earliest dynasty, known as the “Badami Chalukyas”, ruled from Vatapi (modern Badami) from the middle of the 6th century. The Badami Chalukyas began to assert their independence at the decline of the Kadamba kingdom of Banavasi and rapidly rose to prominence during the reign of Pulakeshin II. After the death of Pulakeshin II, the Eastern Chalukyas became an independent kingdom in the eastern Deccan. They ruled from Vengi until about the 11th century. In the western Deccan, the rise of the Rashtrakutas in the middle of the 8th century eclipsed the Chalukyas of Badami before being revived by their descendants, the Western Chalukyas, in the late 10th century. These Western Chalukyas ruled from Kalyani (modern Basavakalyan) until the end of the 12th century.

The rule of the Chalukyas marks an important milestone in the history of South India and a golden age in the history of Karnataka. The political atmosphere in South India shifted from smaller kingdoms to large empires with the ascendancy of Badami Chalukyas. A Southern India-based kingdom took control and consolidated the entire region between the Kaveri and the Narmada rivers. The rise of this empire saw the birth of efficient administration, overseas trade and commerce and the development of new style of architecture called “Chalukyan architecture”. Kannada literature, which had enjoyed royal support in the 9th century Rashtrakuta court found eager patronage from the Western Chalukyas in the Jain and Veerashaiva traditions. The 11th century saw the birth of Telugu literature under the patronage of the Eastern Chalukyas.

Origins

While the opinions vary regarding the early origins of the Chalukyas, the consensus among noted historians such as John Keay, D.C. Sircar, Hans Raj, S. Sen, Kamath and Karmarkar is the founders of the empire at Badami were native to the modern Karnataka region. 

A theory that they were descendants of a 2nd-century chieftain called Kandachaliki Remmanaka, a feudatory of the Andhra Ikshvaku (from an Ikshvaku inscription of the 2nd century) was put forward. This according to Kamath has failed to explain the difference in lineage. The Kandachaliki feudatory call themselves Vashisthiputras of the Hiranyakagotra. The Chalukyas, however, address themselves as Harithiputras of Manavyasagotra in their inscriptions, which is the same lineage as their early overlords, the Kadambas of Banavasi. This makes them descendants of the Kadambas. The Chalukyas took control of the territory formerly ruled by the Kadambas.

A later record of Eastern Chalukyas mentions the northern origin theory and claims one ruler of Ayodhya came south, defeated the Pallavas and married a Pallava princess. She had a child called Vijayaditya who is claimed to be the Pulakeshin I’s father. However, according to the historians K. V. Ramesh, Chopra and Sastri, there are Badami Chalukya inscriptions that confirm Jayasimha was Pulakeshin I’s grandfather and Ranaranga, his father. Kamath and Moraes claim it was a popular practice in the 11th century to link South Indian royal family lineage to a Northern kingdom. The Badami Chalukya records themselves are silent with regards to the Ayodhya origin.

The epigraphist K. V. Ramesh has suggested that an earlier southern migration is a distinct possibility which needs examination. According to him, the complete absence of any inscriptional reference of their family connections to Ayodhya, and their subsequent Kannadiga identity may have been due to their earlier migration into present day Karnataka region where they achieved success as chieftains and kings. The writing of 12th century Kashmiri poet Bilhana suggests the Chalukya family belonged to the Shudra caste while other sources claim they were Kshatriyas. 

The historians Jan Houben and Kamath, and the epigraphist D.C. Sircar note the Badami Chalukya inscriptions are in Kannada and Sanskrit. According to the historian N. L. Rao, their inscriptions call them Karnatas and their names use indigenous Kannada titles such as Priyagallam and Noduttagelvom. The names of some Chalukya princes end with the pure Kannada term arasa (meaning “king” or “chief”). The Rashtrakuta inscriptions call the Chalukyas of Badami Karnatabala (“Power of Karnata”). It has been proposed by the historian S. C. Nandinath that the word “Chalukya” originated from Salki or Chalki which is a Kannada word for an agricultural implement.

Historical sources

Inscriptions in Sanskrit and Kannada are the main source of information about the Badami Chalukya history. Among them, the Badami cave inscriptions of Mangalesha (578), Kappe Arabhatta record of c. 700, Peddavaduguru inscription of Pulakeshin II, the Kanchi Kailasanatha Temple inscription and Pattadakal Virupaksha Temple inscription of Vikramaditya II (all in Kannada language) provide more evidence of the Chalukya language. The Badami cliff inscription of Pulakeshin I (543), the Mahakuta Pillar inscription of Mangalesha (595) and the Aihole inscription of Pulakeshin II (634) are examples of important Sanskrit inscriptions written in old Kannada script. The reign of the Chalukyas saw the arrival of Kannada as the predominant language of inscriptions along with Sanskrit, in areas of the Indian peninsula outside what is known as Tamilaham (Tamil country). Several coins of the Badami Chalukyas with Kannada legends have been found. All this indicates that Kannada language flourished during this period. Travelogues of contemporary foreign travellers have provided useful information about the Chalukyan empire. The Chinese traveller Xuanzang had visited the court of Pulakeshin II. At the time of this visit, as mentioned in the Aihole record, Pulakeshin II had divided his empire into three Maharashtrakas or great provinces comprising 99,000 villages each. This empire possibly covered present day Karnataka, Maharashtra and coastal Konkan. Xuanzang, impressed with the governance of the empire observed that the benefits of king’s efficient administration was felt far and wide. Later, Persian emperor Khosrau II exchanged ambassadors with Pulakeshin II.

Periods in Chalukya history

The Chalukyas ruled over the Deccan plateau in India for over 600 years. During this period, they ruled as three closely related, but individual dynasties. These are the “Chalukyas of Badami” (also called “Early Chalukyas”), who ruled between the 6th and the 8th century, and the two sibling dynasties, the “Chalukyas of Kalyani” (also called Western Chalukyas or “Later Chalukyas”) and the “Chalukyas of Vengi” (also called Eastern Chalukyas).

Chalukyas of Badami:-

In the 6th century, with the decline of the Gupta dynasty and their immediate successors in northern India, major changes began to happen in the area south of the Vindyas – the Deccan and Tamilaham. The age of small kingdoms had given way to large empires in this region. The Chalukya dynasty was established by Pulakeshin I in 543. Pulakeshin I took Vatapi (modern Badami in Bagalkot district, Karnataka) under his control and made it his capital. Pulakeshin I and his descendants are referred to as “Chalukyas of Badami”. They ruled over an empire that comprised the entire state of Karnataka and most of Andhra Pradesh in the Deccan.

Pulakeshin II, whose precoronation name was Ereya, commanded control over the entire Deccan and is perhaps the most well-known emperor of the Badami dynasty. He is considered one of the notable kings in Indian history. His queens were princess from the Alupa Dynasty of South Canara and the Western Ganga Dynasty of Talakad, clans with whom the Chalukyas maintained close family and marital relationships. Pulakeshin II extended the Chalukya Empire up to the northern extents of the Pallava kingdom and halted the southward march of Harsha by defeating him on the banks of the river Narmada. He then defeated the Vishnukundins in the southeastern Deccan. Pallava Narasimhavarman however reversed this victory in 642 by attacking and occupying Badami temporarily. It is presumed Pulakeshin II, “the great hero”, died fighting.

The Badami Chalukya dynasty went into a brief decline following the death of Pulakeshin II due to internal feuds when Badami was occupied by the Pallavas for a period of thirteen years. It recovered during the reign of Vikramaditya I, who succeeded in pushing the Pallavas out of Badami and restoring order to the empire. Vikramaditya I took the title “Rajamalla” (lit “Sovereign of the Mallas” or Pallavas).[64] The thirty-seven year rule of Vijayaditya (696–733) was a prosperous one and is known for prolific temple building activity.

The empire was its peak again during the rule of the illustrious Vikramaditya II (733–744) who is known not only for his repeated invasions of the territory of Tondaimandalam and his subsequent victories over Pallava Nandivarman II, but also for his benevolence towards the people and the monuments of Kanchipuram, the Pallava capital. He thus avenged the earlier humiliation of the Chalukyas by the Pallavas and engraved a Kannada inscription on the victory pillar at the Kailasanatha Temple. During his reign Arab intruders of the Umayyad Caliphate invaded southern Gujarat which was under Chalukya rule but the Arabs were defeated and driven out by Pulakesi, a Chalukya governor of Navsari. He later overran the other traditional kingdoms of Tamil country, the Pandyas, the Cholas and the Cheras in addition to subduing a Kalabhra ruler. The last Chalukya king, Kirtivarman II, was overthrown by the Rashtrakuta King Dantidurga in 753. At their peak, the Chalukyas ruled a vast empire stretching from the Kaveri in the south to the Narmada in the north.

Architecture

The Badami Chalukya era was an important period in the development of South Indian architecture. Their style of architecture is called “Chalukyan architecture” or “Karnata Dravida architecture”. Nearly a hundred monuments built by them, rock cut (cave) and structural, are found in the Malaprabha river basin in modern Bagalkot district of northern Karnataka. The building material they used was a reddish-golden Sandstone found locally. Though they ruled a vast empire, the Chalukyan workshops concentrated most of their temple building activity in a relatively small area within the Chalukyan heartland – Aihole, Badami, Pattadakal and Mahakuta in modern Karnataka state.

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Chalukya emblem of Aihole in Karnataka depicts Vishnu in Varaha form. A 6th century stone emblem. (source: Wikipedia)

Other aspects

Army

The army was well organised and this was the reason for Pulakeshin II’s success beyond the Vindyas. It consisted of an infantry, a cavalry, an elephant corps and a powerful navy. The Chinese traveller Hiuen-Tsiang wrote that the Chalukyan army had hundreds of elephants which were intoxicated with liquor prior to battle. It was with their navy that they conquered Revatidvipa (Goa), and Puri on east coast of India. Rashtrakuta inscriptions use the term Karnatabala when referring to the powerful Chalukya armies.

Land governance

The government, at higher levels, was closely modelled after the Magadhan and Satavahana administrative machinery. The empire was divided into Maharashtrakas (provinces), then into smaller Rashtrakas (Mandala), Vishaya (district), Bhoga (group of 10 villages) which is similar to the Dasagrama unit used by the Kadambas. At the lower levels of administration, the Kadamba style prevailed fully. The Sanjan plates of Vikramaditya I even mentions a land unit called Dasagrama. In addition to imperial provinces, there were autonomous regions ruled by feudatories such as the Alupas, the Gangas, the Banas and the Sendrakas. Local assemblies and guilds looked after local issues. Groups of mahajanas (learned brahmins) looked after agraharas (called ghatika or “place of higher learning”) such as at Badami which was served by 2000 mahajans and Aihole which was served by 500 mahajanas. Taxes were levied and were called the herjunka – tax on loads, the kirukula – tax on retail goods in transit, the bilkode – sales tax, the pannaya – betel tax, siddaya – land tax and the vaddaravula – tax levied to support royalty.

Coinage

The Badami Chalukyas minted coins that were of a different standard compared to the coins of the northern kingdoms. The coins had Nagari and Kannada legends. The coins of Mangalesha had the symbol of a temple on the obverse and a ‘sceptre between lamps’ or a temple on the reverse. Pulakeshin II’s coins had a caparisoned lion facing right on the obverse and a temple on the reverse. The coins weighed 4 grams and were called, in old-Kannada, hun (or honnu) and had fractions such as fana (or fanam) and the quarter fana (the modern day Kannada equivalent being hana – which literally means “money”). A gold coin called gadyana is mentioned in a record at the Vijayeshwara Temple at Pattadakal, which later came to be known as varaha (their royal emblem).

Religion

Both Shaivism and Vaishnavism flourished during the Badami Chalukya period, though it seems the former was more popular. Famous temples were built in places such as Pattadakal, Aihole and Mahakuta, and priests (archakas) were invited from northern India. Vedic sacrifices, religious vows (vrata) and the giving of gifts (dana) was important. The Badami kings were initially followers of Vedic Hinduism and dedicated temples to popular Hindu deities in Aihole. Sculptures of deities testify to the popularity of Hindu Gods such as Vishnu, Shiva, Kartikeya, Ganapathi, Shakti, Surya and Sapta Matrikas (“seven mothers”). The Badami kings also performed the Ashwamedha (“horse sacrifice”). The worship of Lajja Gauri, a fertility goddess is known. Jainism too was a prominent religion during this period. The kings of the dynasty were however secular and actively encouraged Jainism. One of the Badami Cave temples is dedicated to the Jain faith. Jain temples were also erected in the Aihole complex, the temple at Maguti being one such example. Ravikirti, the court poet of Pulakeshin II was a Jain. Queen Vinayavati consecrated a temple for the Trimurti (“Hindu trinity”) at Badami. Sculptures of the Trimurti, Harihara (half Vishnu, half Shiva) and Ardhanarishwara (half Shiva, half woman) provide ample evidence of their tolerance. Buddhism was on a decline, having made its ingress into Southeast Asia. This is confirmed by the writings of Hiuen-Tsiang. Badami, Aihole, Kurtukoti and Puligere (modern Lakshmeshwar in the Gadag district) were primary places of learning.

Society

The Hindu caste system was present and devadasis were recognised by the government. Some kings had concubines (ganikas) who were given much respect, and Sati was perhaps absent since widows like Vinayavathi and Vijayanka are mentioned in records. Devadasis were however present in temples. Sage Bharata’s Natyashastra, the precursor to Bharatanatyam, the classical dance of South India, was popular and is seen in many sculptures and is mentioned in inscriptions. Some women from the royal family enjoyed political power in administration. Queen Vijayanka was a noted Sanskrit poet, Kumkumadevi, the younger sister of Vijayaditya (and queen of Alupa King Chitravahana) made several grants and had a Jain basadi called Anesajjebasadi constructed at Puligere, and the queens of Vikramaditya II, Lokamahadevi and Trailokyamahadevi made grants and possibly consecrated the Lokesvara Temple (now called Virupaksha temple) but also and the Mallikarjuna temple respectively at Pattadakal.

Political History of the Chalukyas of Badami

Jayasimha was the first Chalukyan king. His father’s name was Ranaraga. From the Kauthem inscription we come to know that Jayasimha defeated Indra, the son of Krishna and thereby re-established the Chalukya dynasty. But, we do not find this reference in the Aihole inscription, hence, this cannot be fully believed.

Pulakesin I

He was the first great king among the Chalukyas. He was the first independent ruler. In fact, he is regarded as the real founder of this dynasty. He has titles of Ranavikram and Shree Prithvi – Vallabha.  He has been credited to perform several Yajnas and sacrifices; for example, the Hiranyagarbha, the Ashwamedha, Agnishtoma and Vajpaye. He was a great scholar, well – versed in the Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharata. According to the Badami inscription, he laid the foundation of the Vatapi fort. 

Kirtivarman

Kirtivarman ascended the throne in 566 or 567 A.D. He constructed several temples in the city of Vatapi. He had defeated Vangas, angas, Magadha, Keralas, Vatmas, Madraka, Gangas, Pandyas, Cholas, Mousikanoes and Aluka. The Mahakuta inscription and the Aihole inscription both refer to his victories in the battles.

Mangalesha

Kirtivarman was succeeded by his brother Mangalesha in 597 or 598 A.D. as he had no successor. Mangalesha had taken upon titles such as Rana-Vikrama, Parambhagavata, etc. The Aihole inscription refers to his victories over Kalachuris and Revati island. The Mahakuta inscription also tells about his victory over Bodhara,j a Kalachuri ruler. Towards the end of his reign, Mangalesha had to fight his nephew Pulakesin II, who killed him and asecnded the throne in 610 A.D.

Pulakesin II

He had acquired the titles of Shree Prithvi – Vallabha and Parameshwara. At the time of his accession, there was a political chaos and several rulers took advantage of the civil war and established independent kingdoms. The capital city was threatened by foreign enemies. In such a situation Pulakesin II took a diplomatic and tactful step. He adopted the policy of divide and rule. Entering into an allegiance with Govinda, he defeated Appayika ( It is even possible that at least one of them, if not both, was Mangalesha’s son. Pulakeshin II confronted their army on the banks of the river Bhima. Appayika ran away from the battlefield, while Govinda surrendered. Pulakeshin built a pillar to celebrate his victory).

After strengthening his power, he adopted a policy of aggression and brought all neighbouring states under his authority. The Aihole inscription provides elaborate description of his great deeds. He had become the head of three states namely, Maharashtra, Konkan and Karnata. He had also established cordial relations with the Cholas, Keralas and Pandyas.

Social conditions – Xuanzang was a Chinese traveler who visited India in the 7th century. Xuanzang praised the Chalukya king Pulakeshin II as a “man of farsighted resource and astuteness who extends kindness to all”. His subjects obey him with perfect submission. The people of the Chalukya kingdom left a strong impression on him. He stated:The people preferred death to disloyalty. “They were tall and sturdy in stature and proud and carefree by nature, grateful for kindness and revengeful for injustice.” If they or their family were insulted they would call for a duel”.  Xuanzang vividly described the Chalukya army of Pulakeshin II, which had hundreds of well-trained and armed warriors as well as numerous elephants which were given alcohol before letting loose on the battlefield. Although Pulakeshin II was a Hindu ruler Xuanzang mentioned that there were one hundred Buddhist monasteries in his kingdom.

Battle with Harsha – When Pulakeshin II pushed forth up to the Narmada, he came face to face with Harshavardhana of Kanauj who already had the title Uttarapatheshvara (Lord of the North). In a decisive battle fought on the banks of the river Narmada, Harsha lost a major part of his elephant force and had to retreat. The Aihole inscription describes how the mighty Harsha lost his harsha (joy) when he suffered the ignominy of defeat. Pulakeshin entered into a treaty with Harsha, with the Narmada River designated as the border between the Chalukya Empire and that of Harshavardhana.

Xuanzang describes the event thus:

“Shiladityaraja (i.e., Harsha), filled with confidence, himself marched at the head of his troops to contend with this prince (i.e., Pulakeshin); but he was unable to prevail upon or subjugate him”.

It was indeed a great victory for the Chalukya monarch, who assumed the proud titles of Parameswara (Paramount Overlord), Satyashraya, Prithvivallabha. With this conquest, Pulakeshin’s control extended over most of Southern India, including Maharashtra and parts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. He received the title Dakshinapatheshvara (Lord of the South) at around the same time. These victories happened before 634 A.D. According to Dr. Shreenand L. Bapat, Registrar, Bhandarkar Oriental Research institute, Pune, Pulakeshin II defeated Harsha on the banks of Narmada in the winter of 618-619 A.D. His information is based on a recently discovered copperplate inscription of Pulakeshin II. Pulakeshin II married a princess of the Alupas of South Canara.

Death and Legacy

Pulakesin II could not resist the Pallavas for long – Narasimhavarman I, invaded Badami and conquered it. It is possible that Pulakeshin II lost his life in one of these encounters against the Pallavas and was possibly killed directly by Narasimhavarman I. The thirteen years that followed saw the eclipse of Chalukya power, while Badami remained in the hands of the Pallavas.

Pulakeshin exchanged ambassadors with the Shah of Persia Khosrau II. His reception of the Persian ambassador is depicted in one of the paintings in the Ajanta caves. The Chinese traveller Hsuan Tsang, who visited India in the 7th century, wrote admiringly of Pulakeshin and his Empire.[citation needed]

Pulakeshin was the first ruler in South India to issue gold coinage. Broad and circular in shape, the punch-marked coins had various punches at the edge, and a central punch depicting a Varaha or Boar. The Boar was the royal emblem of the Chalukyas. Contemporary literature cites the gold coins of south India as Varahas.

Pulakeshin had five sons, Chandraditya, Adityavarma, Vikramaditya, Jayasimha and Ambera. They fought among themselves after his demise, trying to divide the kingdom into territories for each of themselves. Pulakeshin’s third son Vikramaditya I became the Chalukya king in 642 and successfully re-united the kingdom after defeating his brothers. He was eventually successful in driving the Pallavas out of Badami after their 13 years of occupation. A later King of this dynasty, Vikramaditya II would re-build the empire to the zenith of power enjoyed during the rule of Pulakeshin II.

The last king of the Chalukyas of Badami was Kirtivarman II. He ruled till 757 A.D. During his reign the Chalukya dynasty started hastening towards decay and downfall. Within a short period of time, the Rashtrakutas became powerful in the southern part of India.

References –

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Aihole – the beginning of temple architecture and so much more… part 1

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Aihoḷe (16°1′08″N, 75°52′55″Eis a quaint little village having a historic temple complex in the Bagalkot district of Karnataka, India. It is located 510 km from Bengaluru city. It is primarily known for Chalukyan architecture, with about 125 stone temples dating from 5th century A.D., and is a popular tourist spot in north Karnataka. It lies to the east of Pattadakal, along the Malaprabha River, while Badami is to the west of both. With its collection of architectural structures, Aihoḷe temple complex is on the pending list of UNESCO World heritage sites.

Located near to the right bank of the Malaprabha river, about 35 kilometres from Badami via Pattadakal / Pattadakallu, this sleepy town preserves a large number of Buddhist, Jain and Hindu temples. All the rock – cut caves and temples are carved into or built out of golden yellow sandstone.

These religious structures are most likely assigned to two distinct eras – namely Early Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas extending from late 6th to 8th century A.D. and that of the Late Chalukyas from 11th – 12th century A.D.

Aihoḷe was earlier known as Ayyavoḷe and Aryapura in its inscriptions. It was established in 450 A.D. as first capital of Chalukya kings and has about 125 stone temples, some which were constructed as experimental structures by artisans of Chalukyan period. A place known by as Morera Angadigalu near the Meguti hillocks has a large number of cysts of pre-historic period. The place was an agraharam. Aihoḷe has been described as a cradle of temple architecture. Some brick structures of pre-Chalukyan times have also been excavated in this village. Aihole has historical significance and is called the ‘cradle of Hindu rock architecture’ (cradle of Indian architecture).

Pulakeshin I, one of the greatest rulers of this dynasty, moved the capital to Badami nearby. Badami was then known as Vatapi. It is from these temples that the Chalukyas gained their experience and went on to build the great temples of Pattadakal. The first phase of temple building in Aihole dates back to the fifth–sixth century, the second phase up to the 12th century A.D.

Fortifications contain Aihole in an approximate circle, about 500 metres north to south and somewhat less from east to west. The fortifications employ huge sandstone blocks with tapering profiles, reinforced at regular intervals by sloping square bastions. Some wall blocks are inscribed with letters of the 11th – 12th century A.D. suggesting that the fortification should be attributed to the Late Chalukyan period. It was during this period that a federation of wealthy merchants based in Aihole, known as ‘Ayyavole 500’, became celebrated throughout much of the Deccan and Southern India.

Important temples at Aihole

  1. Durga temple complex
  2. Lad Khan Temple
  3. Ambigera Gudi complex
  4. Mallikarjuna temple complex
  5. Chikki temple
  6. Rachi temple
  7. Eniyar temples complex
  8. Hucchimalli temple complex
  9. Ravanaphadi rock-cut temple
  10. Jain temple, Meguti temple
  11. Hucchappayya Math Complex
  12. Kunti temples complex
  13. Jain temple, Charantimath complex
  14. Tryambakesvara group
  15. Gauri temple
  16. Jaina temples in the village
  17. Rock-cut Jain Basadi
  18. Ramlingesvara Temple Complex
  19. Galaganatha Temple Complex

The first thing that attracts the visitor in Aihole is the well-maintained main enclosure of temples in the centre of the village. Taking a tour of the large Lad Khan Temple and well-known Durgi Gudi that has parallels with the Parliament building in its façade.

Getting there
Aihole is an hour’s drive from Badami, the nearest town. You can also reach Badami via Hubli, which is 130 km away. Take a local bus or hire a private vehicle to get from Badami to Aihole. Local KSRT buses ply frequently between Badami and Aihole via Pattadakallu. A bus going towards Amingad will take you to Aihole in about an hour. You can also stop at the UNESCO world heritage site of Pattadakal on the way. Another option in case you are halting at Bagalkot is to take the one and only early morning bus no. 632, which departs at 8:00 am. While returning you can get a direct bus to Badami from Aihole itself, but otherwise you will have to manage to go to Amingad, from where you can catch frequent buses going towards Bagalkot. The last bus going to Amingad is at 7:30 p.m. In case you miss your bus you can take a share auto (15/- per head) to Amingad (9 km away).

  1. MEGUTI HILL

Meguti hill is situated south-east of the town, from where fine aerial view can be seen of the whole Malaprabha valley as far as Pattadakallu. An early morning climb to the top of the hill is recommended for serious tourists. The flight of steps that ascends the hill is accessed from a lane running besides the Mallikarjuna complex of temples, besides the main road, passing through a cattle compound dotted with carts and small houses. Just below the crest of the hill is two – storeyed Buddhist temple. In front of it is placed a headless statue of Buddha. The temple presents two superimposed colonnades, each of which gives access to a small chamber cut into the cliff face. The doorway to the inner chamber, now empty, has delicately worked foliage ornament which suggests and early date, perhaps towards the end of 6th century A.D. A relief carving of Buddha seated beneath a parasol is seen on the ceiling.

Only a few more steps are required to reach the summit of the Meguti hill. Here, stands the Jain temple, facing north towards the town. This temple is important both historically and architecturally. Set into its wall is a grey stone slab with an inscription. Dated to 634 A.D. this consists of a poem in Sanskrit composed by Ravikirti, the court author of Pulakesin II. This composition gives an account of the Chalukya family and the exploits of his royal patron. The temple consists of an open porch adjoining a closed mandapa and a sanctuary surrounded by a passageway. The outer walls are raised on basement mouldings that rhythmically project and recess in accordance with the pilastered walls above. Empty niches as well as uncut, raised blocks indicate that the sculptural portions of the temple were never completed. While the kapota-eave and the portions of the parapet with model roof forms can still be seen, the original tower is lost (the small rooftop chamber is a later replacement).

The Jain affiliation of the Meguti temple is evident from the image placed within the sanctuary. Now defaced, the naked meditating figure of a tirthankara is depicted seated on a throne with lions at the base and makara heads at the sides. The remarkable icon of the Jain goddess Ambika, seated beneath a flowering tree, that was once placed within the vestibule in front is now displayed in the Archaeological museum in the town.  

The Meguti temple stands in the centre of a spacious enclosure, defined by rubble walls that run up the sides of the hill with a prominent circular bastion at the south-west corner. The occasional reused Jain memorial stone from the 10th – 11th centuries set into the walls indicate that the hill continued to be sacred to the followers of this religion in the Late Chalukyan times. On the boulder strewn top of the hill beyond the walls can be seen a number of Dolmens, many now collapsed. Those that survive in a comparatively complete condition consist of four upright stone slabs creating a quadrangular chamber, topped by a larger unshaped horizontal slab. The Dolmens are east facing and they date back to the 2nd – 1st millennia B.C.

The last feature to be noticed on this hill is the Jain-Cave Temple cut into the southern flank of the Meguti hill. It too, may be considered one of the earlier monuments of Aihole, having been excavated towards the end of the 6th or early 7th century A.D. The cave temple is most conveniently reached by a side road, about 1 km to the south of the town. Though presenting an unadorned, plain exterior, the interior is richly embellished with carvings. The long transverse vestibule, which is reached after passing through a plain doorway, has its ceiling entirely decorated with delicate relief patterns of lotus petals, separated by panels with huge makaras (crocodiles) disgorging tiny human figures. At either end of the vestibule are deeply sculpted figures of Parshvanatha (left) and Bahubali (right), both with female attendants. A triple-bayed opening within the vestibule leads to a spacious square hall. This too has its ceiling covered with relief designs, especially lotus medallions, with imaginative designs in between including makaras, fish and even human torsos. Triple-bayed openings on three sides gives access to smaller chambers. The chamber on axis with the entrance is flanked by two armed guardians holding small lotuses, an enthroned Jina is seated within. The chamber on the left contains a similar figure, but this is flanked by a host of worshippers, mostly women and others riding on an elephant. The corresponding chamber on the right was never finished. A path to the left of this temple ascends to the Dolmens at the top of the Meguti hill.

Reference

Michell, George: 2011 – Badami . Aihole . Pattadakal. Jaico Publishing House, Mumbai.

ISBN 978-81-8495-600-9

 

 

 

 

 

A prologue…

This blog contains authentic information about several tourist places, historical monuments, nature, and cultures across the length and breadth of India. Most of the posts are photographic in nature and few contain information about lesser known places and also attempt to throw light upon hidden aspects of our culture. I have visited most of the places alone and have managed to extract interesting information, which I would like to put up on this blog. At times, I was accompanied by my family and friends for which I am ever grateful.

Aakanksha Roychowdhury

(Archaeologist, Photographer, Musician, Student and Foodaholic).