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Timings : 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM

Time Required : 1-2 hrs

Entry Fee : Citizens of India, SAARC and BIMSTEC countries: INR 15,
Citizens of other countries: INR 200,
Children (up to 15 years): Free

Durga Temple, Aihole Overview

Aihole is called the cradle of temples in Karnataka and rightfully so, and the Durga Temple of Aihole is a beautiful and interesting slice of it. The ancient Dravidian structure can be traced back to the 7th-8th century during the rule of the Chalukyan kings in South India. Like every other monarch, this dynasty too built a good lot of temples and Durga Temple is among the most graceful as well as unique ones. The presence of pillars leading up to the sanctum and the apsidal corridor along the circumference of the core of the shrine give the majestic temple a true artistic divinity.

Much of the soul of a temple lies in the grandeur of its architecture; and though not vast in size, the design of the Durga Temple speaks of significance from each of its carvings. Tourists flock here as a part of their temple visits in Aihole to witness a real sample of authentic Dravidian construction. This mighty temple has long been desolate and parts in ruins, and there is no deity commanding the abode of the sanctum sanctorum. Nevertheless, there is a sense of spirituality in the air that is only possible because of the brilliant architecture by the Chalukyan artisans. It has more uniqueness to offer in terms of its name as well - turns out that the temple is not of Devi Durga at all but has an entirely different story behind it.

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History of Durga Temple

Like most of the temples of Aihole, the actual origin of the Durga Temple cannot be determined with absolute accuracy. However, there are certain features of the structure and architecture, like the evolved shrine-fonts in the niches and the sculptures all direct towards the early seventh-late eighth century during the Chalukyan rule. Moreover, there is an inscription of Chalukyan king Vikramaditya II along the south-western enclosing wall, who ruled from 733 AD to 764 AD.

Earlier it was believed that the unique apsidal form of the temple was influenced by the Buddhist architecture of Chaitya halls that flourished in India during the Mauryas and the Guptas and the Palas. However, later it was determined that the apsidal design is indigenous to Hinduism and was a pan-Indian tradition even before the extensive spread of Buddhism.

Naming of the temple
The name of this temple in Aihole is quite confusing. Most would assume that it is a shrine dedicated to Goddess Durga, but the case might not be so. There is a beautiful and detailed sculpture of Durga inside the temple accompanied by her loyal pet-vehicle the lion and the buffalo-headed demon she vanquished, popularly known as the Mahishasur. However, there are way too many sculptures of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu which leads to the idea that this was originally a temple of either of these two gods.

Irrespective of the argument that who is the principal deity, the name of the temple has a very different source. The name Durga temple comes from the fact that the temple was part of an intricate fortification - most probably erected by the Maratha Empire for stronghold purposes. 'Durg' in Hindi means fortress, and thus the temple got its name.

Architecture of Durga Temple

Following the trend of temple construction in South India, the Durga Temple of Aihole too is predominantly Dravidian even though there are touches of Nagara style as well. Hinduism is an ancient religion, and many of the practices were prevalent in the ancient time as well which is proved by the apsidal architecture of the temple, probably created for the devotees to do their circumambulation of the sanctum.

Two staircases on two sides take you up to the porch, and to the lifted peristyle platform. A peristyle means a patch of place separated by columns of pillars - an architecture usually seen in king's courts as well as southern temples. From here, the pillared room will lead you inside to the sanctum sanctorum of Garbha Griha of the shrine. There sits no deity, but one can assume there used to be one.

The pillared enclosure before the sanctum goes around the core area of the shrine encompassing the sanctum region forming an apse. This pillar bordered corridor is meant for the holy parikrama of the deity that is a very significant ritual even today. The heart of the shrine has a tower above it, which forms the base of the external towers - shikharas and vimanas forming the crest of the temple.

Such a shape was prevalent among quite a few Indian temples and resembled the back of the elephant when seen from above. Hence it got the name Gajaprashtha - 'Gaja' means the elephant and 'prastha' means back. All the pillars and parapet walls have detailed and intricate carvings of Hindu gods and goddesses, mythological creatures and events and other generic Hindi motifs of foliage. On the outer side of the pillars along the parikrama corridor, there are 6 very important sculptures -  starting from Shiva Nandi Bull, Narasimha and Varaha avatars of Lord Vishnu and the lord on his pet-vehicle Garuda, an image of Harihara and the Durga sculpture mentioned earlier - spearing the demon with her trident.

How To Reach Durga Temple, Aihole

Aihole, for apparent reasons of tourism, is well connected with all the important cities around like Badami, Pattadakal and Belgaum. The nearest airports are at Belgaum about 189 km away and Hubli, around 106 km away. Volvo buses are a popular mode of transport to reach the Durga Temple. Taxis and private cars can also be hired easily.

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