The magic of Durga Temple of Aihole in Karnataka

After breakfast, at 9 o'clock we left for Aihole, arriving at 12. We discover the biggest and most beautiful sanctuary of the site. It is the Durga Temple. It is made of yellow-orange sandstone, and has an oblong shape with a small tower that is rather damaged. Its roof is in the shape of a staircase, and it is formed of immense flat pieces of sandstone placed next to each other.

The city and the site along the Malaprabha River is as we saw in Badami with temples extending over two periods from the Vth century to the VIII century during the great Chalukya and Rashtrakuta dynasty. Then we see temples from after the end of these dynasties until around the 12th century.

The city was surrounded by a circular fortification wall of about 500 meters. The walls are still visible in some places to the west. As everywhere, the stones are reused in the construction of houses. Some stones have kept their inscriptions of time!

In front of us is the splendid Durga Temple. It is impressive by its style, its architecture and its decoration. It is a temple with peristyle and ambulatory, of oblong shape. The plane of this sanctuary is dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva.

We went around to arrive at the entrance. There are two steps aside to get to the ambulatory. Indeed the bedrock of this temple is very high, significant and carved in the top. We go around the ambulatory. There are 6 large monumental statuary, decorating the wall of the sanctuary strictly speaking.

Then we see a small canopy with magnificent carved pillars and small stone benches attached to it. On the pillars are large statues of loving couples, guards etc. Aihole is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The whole is very tall, monumental, because the main structure rests on a large base, you can on this base and especially on the upper part, a succession of friezes not in very good condition.

Arriving uphill by one of the stairs we had in front of us a gigantic porch, with a splendid ceiling, a huge rose window and below is the river goddesses. We start by discovering the ambulatory. In fact there is a walk around the sanctuary. On the outside we see square pillars. On some we discover beautiful sculptures, guards and guardians and often couples. The others pillars are sober and bare.

The other wall of the ambulatory encloses the room and the sanctuary. All along there are six windows. They are sandstone openwork (all different) and allow the light to enter the sanctuary. Between these windows, there are 8 huge niches, in 6 of which we admire 6 monumental sculptures. The first represents Shiva. He has his eight arms, some a little abyss or truncated. He has his updo chignon with a diadem, he is dressed in a simple drape and his body is supported by the Nandi bull.

Between these huge sculptures, I see some details of faces that I liked very much. The second monumental sculpture represents Narasimha. We have already seen in cave 3 of Badami. He is sober and elegant with his beautiful lion's head. The symbolic texts are in the articles of the Badami caves.

In the beginning of the peristyle of the temple, Vishnu is imposing. He wears his tiara and sit on his Garuda mount. At his feet is all sensual and in love with Lakshmi. We pass two empty niches and arrive to Varaha. We also saw it in the caves of Badami. He has his boar's head, represented by a beautiful woman. At his feet is the Naga.

Badami's sculptures for me were more prestigious in their art than here! Violent, striking, sensual, Durga or Mahishamardini has eight arms and some of her attributes (trident, sword, snake, bell, drum, bow, wheel conch, arrow club, water vase) on top of the Asura. She is accompanied by her lion.

The last one represents Harihara. We also saw it in the Badami caves. Its arms are very damaged, and is the fusion of Vishnu and Shiva and gives the supreme god Shankaranarayana. On each side is Parvati and Lakshmi. We see a beautiful statuary of a young woman with a child in her arms, beside her companion.

All the pillars of the ambulatory are not decorated. Here we see guards, some beautiful couples and in love and languid, leaning on each other. There are in the base of the pillars, a series of benches where it is nice to sit and dream even a few minutes.

The room and the sanctuary (dark and small) is sober. The light arrives by the pretty windows seen in the ambulatory. The pillars are worked especially in height and we find the same floral garlands as Badami. We left around 3 for Palolem, passing through Ankola forest.

We arrived around 10 at the guesthouse, the best place with difference of the whole trip. The room and the bathroom are totally new. After settling in, I went for a walk and eat dinner with cheese angoori, roti and fruit juice. Then I went to the beach. I enjoyed a beautiful full moon. The beach is with fine sand, very beautiful. On the way back, in the hotel restaurant I had a good fruit salad with a banana lassi.
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