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History of the Ancient Durga Temple of India

Archana Das is a voracious reader. She likes to dig into the stories of Indian mythology and pen down her thoughts on paper often.

Durga temple at Aihole, Karnataka, India

Durga temple at Aihole, Karnataka, India

The Durga Temple is a beautifully curved Hindu temple established in the early 8th century. It is an ancient medieval-era worship home, or goddess Durga’s home, in Aihole, Karnataka, India. Originally, the temple was dedicated to Lord Surya, but as per the name, the temple is devoted to the Mother Goddess, Durga.

It has beautiful artwork depicting the beliefs of Shaivism, Vaishnavism, Vedic, and Shaktism deities.

Besides its breathtaking artworks and carvings, the temple is notable for its apsidal plan—a rare insight and thoughtfulness in early Chalukyan Hindu temple architecture.

Mother Durga, the protector of the world, is a featured deity of the Durga Temple. However, the temple also has Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, along with Lord Brahma, completing the holy trinity of Hinduism.

The temple complex is maintained wonderfully and is under the aegis of the Archaeological Survey of India. It represents Karnataka's religious and spiritual life, making it a popular tourist destination and place of pilgrimage. The temple is so beautiful, and its interesting carvings attract thousands of visitors from around the globe every year.

Beautiful carvings at the entrance of the temple.

Beautiful carvings at the entrance of the temple.

Archeological History: Art and Structure

The Durga temple has been the subject of debate for years due to its unrecorded discovery and establishment. Gary Tartakov, one of the renowned scholars of architecture and archaeology, published a detailed and long review of how scholars have been baffled over its exact date of discovery and development, as well as whether or not early Hindus belonged to this temple.

It is believed that the ruins of the Durga temple were re-discovered by a British artillery officer named Briggs during the 1860s. Briggs sensed the temple's art and structure and took some pictures. Thereafter, he published them as "Shaivite temple in lillee."

After some time, another scholar named James Fergusson declared that the temple was a "Buddhist monument" due to its apsidal shape. He further speculated that the temple is a beautiful example of a "Buddhist chaitya hall " that was made by Brahmanical Hindus."

Eye-pleasing pillars of Durga temple

Eye-pleasing pillars of Durga temple

Badami Chalukya Architecture and Sanctum (Garbhagriya)

This breathtaking Durga temple is famous for its sanctum. It has a square mandapa. This temple is the largest of a group of 120 temples at Aihole and depicts the great history of Badami Chalukya architecture.

The Durga temple's architecture is appealing and sophisticated, with an apsidal plan for its garbhagriya and a non-apsidal Nagara-latina shikhara with roots in North Indian architecture.

Mandapa has a mix of architecture with rectangular and square plans, with a mukhacatuski-style entrance. It also has an ambulatory passage that displays a fusion of south- and north-Indian architectural designs, such as the adhisthana, which was created by Nagara khura-kumbha, and the decoration is completed with Dravida architecture.

Mahishasumardani-Goddess Durga in a fierce form.

Mahishasumardani-Goddess Durga in a fierce form.

Artwork, Deity, and Pillars

Durga Temple consists of several works of art, most of which have been damaged.

Additionally, some parts of the Durga temple have been destroyed, including the artwork. Some of the art panels are missing as well. At some point, archaeologists might identify the carvings of the lords and goddesses on the pillars. This would certainly help us understand the temple's origins more deeply.

You can also find the major artworks on the entrance pillars. One such pillar is Mukhamandapa. The first two pillars flank the apsidal ambulatory. The outer pillars are plain.

Beautiful Artwork at the Temple Entrance

As the devotee or visitor enters the Durga temple, they can effortlessly witness the Dvarpalas, the guardians of the temple, along with Artha and Kama, a mythological couple in Hindu scripture.

At the bottom of the pillars, you can find the smaller panels containing a scene from the Hindu epic Ramayana.

Six Shakhas: A Concentric Cluster of Artwork

The temple’s gudha-mandapa has six shakas, beautiful artwork. These are Valli, Naga, Stambha Bahya-style decorations and Mithuna bands.

The door frames also contain the goddesses Ganda and Yamuna, along with their attendants.

As you get closer to the sanctum, you will be able to witness legends and deities from the epics circling in a clockwise fashion.

  1. Vrishavahana (Shiva with Nandi)
  2. Narasimha (Man-lion avatar of Lord Vishnu)
  3. Vishnu along with Garuda
  4. Varaha, an avatar of Vishnu
  5. Mahisasuramardini, Goddess Durga
  6. Harihara, half-Shiva and half-Vishnu

How to Reach the Durga Temple

The Durga Temple is an ancient Indian heritage site. It represents the rich culture of India and its glorious tradition. Visitors from around the world visit here and admire the magnificent architectural wonders of the temple.

You can visit the temple through several modes:

  • By air: To reach the temple, you can land at the airport nearest to Aihole. It is 189 km from the temple.
  • By rail: The nearest railway station is the Hubli-Solapur. It is almost 34 km away.
  • By road: Aihole is the principal city in Karnataka. People around the world travel here to witness the grandeur of the temple.
  • By bus: You can even take a bus to visit the temple from several nearby cities.

References

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Archana Das