Aihole is a historic site of ancient and medieval era Buddhist, Hindu and Jain monuments in north Karnataka, India dated from the fourth century through the twelfth century CE. Located around an eponymous small village surrounded by farmlands and sandstone hills, Aihole is a major archaeological site featuring over one hundred and twenty stone and cave temples from this period, spread along the Malaprabha river valley, in Bagalakote district.
This place is also known as Aivalli, Ahivolal or Aryapura and is 22 miles (35 km) from Badami and about 6 miles (9.7 km) from Pattadakal, both of which are major centers of historically important Chalukya monuments. Aihole, along with nearby Badami (Vatapi), emerged by the 6th century as the cradle of experimentation with temple architecture, stone artwork, and construction techniques. This resulted in 16 types of free-standing temples and 4 types of rock-cut shrines. The experimentation in architecture and arts that began in Aihole yielded the group of monuments at Pattadakal, a UNESCO world heritage site.
Aihole has been a part of Hindu mythologies. It has a natural axe-shaped rock on the Malaprabha river bank north of the village, and a rock in the river shows a footprint. Parashurama, the sixth Vishnu avatar, is stated in these legends to have washed his axe here after killing abusive Kshatriyas who were exploiting their military powers, giving the land its red color. A 19th-century local tradition believed that rock footprints in the river were those of Parashurama. A place near the Meguti hillocks show evidence of human settlement in the pre-historic period. Aihole has historical significance and has been called a cradle of Hindu rock architecture.
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