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Ravana Phadi, Aihole - ancient rock cut Hindu temples

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 16.0225 N 75.8843 E
No:56        (list of all attractions)
Categories:Hindu shrines, Rock cut architecture
Values:Art, Architecture, History, Archaeology
Rank:8
Address:Asia, India, Karnataka, Bagalkot district, Aihole
Alternate writing:Ravanphadi, Ravan Phadi, Ravalphadi
Age:Around 550 AD
Religion:Hindu
Ravana Phadi, entrance
Ravana Phadi, entrance / Wikimedia Commons, Manjunath Doddamani, public domain

Aihole - the ancient capital of Chalukya dynasty - contains more than 125 temples and many among these temples are cut in rock. Many visitors and researchers have got opinion that this ancient city served as a playing ground in the search of new architectural identity for Chalukyas. This quest for identity was successful - already in Aihole we see the first magnificent examples of Chalukya style.

The first true gem of Chalukyan architecture is rock-cut temple devoted to Shiva - Ravana Phadi.

Description of temple

Ravana Phadi is built sometimes around 550 AD and is one of the oldest structures in Aihole.

It has been carved in sandstone outcrop and has been preserved comparatively well.

Courtyard

Unlike many other rock-cut temples in India, Ravana Phadi has large plain field in the front of outcrop and architects have used this with success.

Entrance in the cave opens to the southwest. Cave itself stands on high platform and can be reached by a flight of steps.

In the front of entrance in the temple there stands huge, monolithic pillar with a square base. Closer to the entrance is sculpture of Nandi - bull which Shiva rides. Bull is seated on platform and is facing the cave.

On both sides from entrance there are located two smaller, free-standing pillared halls, adding much effect to the magnificent architecture of entrance in temple.

Entrance in the cave is adorned with two columns adorned with stone carvings. Both sides of entrance are decorated with reliefs of fat-bellied deities. Possibly these are depictions of Kubera, guardian of wealth.

Ravana Phadi, relief with Nataraja
Relief with Nataraja / Wikimedia Commons, Manjunath Doddamani, public domain

Interior

After entering the cave one reaches the rectangular main hall - mandapa, which is even larger than halls in Badami Cave Temples which were created simultaneously with Ravana Phadi.

Ceiling of this hall is adorned with huge, intricately carved lotus flower. Ceiling contains also remnants of paintings. One of side walls is adorned with Ardhanari - strange embodymewnt of Shiva where he is half man, half women. Ardhanari stands with trident in hand.

On opposite wall there is carving with Shiva, standing under three heads of Ganges - this is allusion to the descent of Ganges from heaven to earth. Shiva is accompanied by Parvati and Bhagiratha. Here is visible also Vishnu with snake and other deities.

Mandapa is flanked by two side chambers. To the left one can ascend steps and reach one of them - very narrow chamber with large, impressive relief of Shiva as Nataraja with ten arms. Shiva holds a snake above his head and on the neck. Nataraja is accompanied by Ganesh and Parvati and seven Matrikas (Divine Mothers). Ganesh is shown with two hands - as it is common in archaic depictions of this deity.

Chamber to the right has no carvings - there is fissure in the roof and possibly due to this the adonrment of this chamber did not take place.

Further, after mandapa there follows a flight of steps and small chamber with exquisite carvings on side walls. They show Durga slaying the buffalo-like demon-king Mahishasura. Her trident has pierced the demon who is kneeling on the ground.

Opposite wall is adorned with a relief depicting Vishnu in his Varaha incarnation. On his arm is sitting goddess-Earth - his wife Bhūmī. Ceiling of this chamber has three large circles carved with Vishnu and Garuda, a lotus and Indra on his mount. Beams are carved with flying apsaras.

Three entrances are leading into the main shrine - cella - where is located lingam - Shivalinga.

Interesting feature of this temple is carving of Bhringi - a saint who appealed to finish with eating. He is shown as a malnourished man praying to Lord Shiva.

Map

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