Tsubosaka-dera Temple

Tsubosaka-dera Temple is a Buddhist temple located on the mountain of Tsubosaka, which overlooks Mt. Yoshino, one of the most popular cherry blossom viewing spots in Nara. It is considered to be one of the oldest and most historically significant temples in Japan, with a history that dates back more than 1,300 years.

According to the temple’s “Nanhokuji Koroden”, it was originally built in the late Taiho era in 703 CE. The temple is officially named Tsubosakayama Minami Hokkeji Temple, however over the years people have become used to calling it Tsubosakadera temple. In this article, we will explore the history and significance of Tsubosaka-dera Temple, its architectural features, and the best time to enjoy this hidden gem.

After a long gap of three years, Mani and I were back in Japan. Due to the stringent travel restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, we missed out on two opportunities to visit this captivating island nation. Following a day of relaxation in Kyoto, we made the decision to venture into the outskirts of Nara. Although the cherry blossom season had recently concluded, a time renowned for its enchanting beauty, we remained thrilled about the prospect of exploring the splendid temple.

Starting from Kyoto Station, we embarked on the Kintetsu Limited Express bound for Kashiharajingu-Mae Station. Upon reaching Kashiharajingu-Mae Station, we made a transfer to the Local Yoshino train, which conveniently transported us to Tsubosakayama Station. The journey from Kyoto Station to Kashiharajingu-Mae Station typically lasts around an hour, whereas the Tsubosakayama Station is just a brief 10-minute ride away from Kashiharajingu-Mae Station.

From Tsubosakayama Station, you can either take a cab to the temple or wait for the local bus. The buses are at wide intervals, so we walked down to the local mall nearby. After a quick lunch from a sushi box, we walked back to the station to find the bus already waiting. Apart from us, there were hardly any passengers on the bus. Once we started from the station, it took us around 15 minutes to reach the temple parking lot.

A brief history of Tsubosaka-dera

Tsubosaka-dera Temple was founded in the early 8th century by the monk Benki Shonin, a monk of Gango-ji Temple, who is known for his role in spreading Buddhism throughout Japan during the Nara period.

The temple was originally named Tsubokokubun-ji and was dedicated to Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of healing. Over time, the temple became known as Tsubosaka-dera and became associated with Kannon, the bodhisattva of compassion, who is now enshrined there. It is also called Minami (south) Hokke-ji Temple, while Kiyomizu-dera Temple is known as Kita (north) Hokke-ji Temple. During the Heian period, it was listed as a fixed temple along with Hase-dera (847), and the Heian aristocrats often visited the temple.

Sadaijin Fujiwara no Michinaga (966 – January 3, 1028), whose son is credited with building Byodo-in Temple in 1052 stayed at this temple on his way to visit Yoshino in 1007 CE.

During the Heian period, Tsubosaka-dera Temple was an important center of Buddhist learning and scholarship. Many prominent scholars and monks studied and taught at the temple, and it was renowned for its extensive library and collection of Buddhist scriptures.

In the 12th century, Tsubosaka-dera Temple was severely damaged by fire and had to be rebuilt. Tsubosaka-ji Temple also declined with the downfall of the Ochi clan (12th – 14th centuries), which had been protected at that time, as it was involved in the upheavals of the Northern and Southern Courts and the Sengoku period. The temple was restored several times over the centuries, with major renovations taking place in the 17th and 19th centuries. Many roof tiles from the time of the Fujiwara Palace have been excavated from the precincts. At its height, there were thirty- six halls and sixty-odd temples on the mountain, but only a three-storied pagoda and a few temples remain in the precincts today.

Daikodo (Lecture Hall)

The lecture hall has traditionally been one of the seven structures on the grounds of Buddhist temples in Japan. It is one of the main structures on the compound of a Buddhist temple, in which sutras are read, Buddhist doctrines taught, and rituals performed.

The Hina dolls are not dolls people play with, but very elaborate, decorative dolls depicting members of ancient Japanese society. Hina dolls, also known as Hina-ningyo, are traditional Japanese dolls that hold great cultural significance. They are typically displayed during the annual festival called Hinamatsuri or Girls’ Day, which takes place on March 3rd.

Hina dolls represent the imperial court of the Heian period in Japan and are a symbol of good luck and protection for young girls. These dolls are beautifully crafted, usually made of wood, and dressed in elaborate silk costumes reminiscent of traditional court attire.

In the lecture Hall, you can also find several ancient pieces from India. Here we see two rock-cut heads of Budha. The left one is from the 5-6th century CE from the Gupta period. The one on the right is from Mathura dating from the 7-8th century.

Below them are two bas-reliefs of Shiva. The one on the left looks very much like Buddha and the right one is a depiction of Shiva with his consort Parvati.

From the lecture hall, we went up the hill toward the upper part of the temple grounds. The grounds are adorned with stone lanterns at several points. Stone lanterns, known as Ishidōrō in Japanese, hold a significant place in the aesthetics and symbolism of Japanese temples. They serve both practical and spiritual purposes, providing light to guide visitors during evening visits to the temple and symbolizing illumination of the spiritual path.

Even though we didn’t come expecting to see any cherry blossom, we were greeted by some Yae-Zakura. Yaezakura, which means “multi-layered cherry blossom,” is used to refer to all cherry blossoms with more than five petals. These flowers bloom a little late in mid-to-late April. The Yaezakura have petals that range from light to dark pink.

Because of the double layers of petals, they’re known as a symbol of strength in comparison to the delicate “Somei Yoshino”. The normal type of one-layer sakura tends to be fragile and easily blown away by strong wind or rain.

The mix of Japanese and Indian styles makes this temple unique. There are several Indian-style stone Buddhas and bas-relief carvings in white stone. These were presented by the Indian government as a gesture of thanks for the temple’s work to help leprosy sufferers.

To the left of the stone Buddha idol, you can find the Chōzu-ya. The Chōzu-ya is a water pavilion for ceremonial purification. It is a designated area within the temple grounds where visitors can perform the act of cleansing before entering the sacred spaces. The Chōzu-ya typically consists of a stone basin, known as a Tsukubai, filled with water. Visitors use a long-handled ladle to pour water over their hands and rinse their mouths as a symbolic act of purifying themselves before engaging in religious activities or paying respects to the deity.

This is an important place to purify one’s mind and body before approaching the main shrine and conversing with the gods to symbolize this people wash their hands and mouth in a small personal purification ritual before going further into the shrine. The act of purification is considered essential in Japanese religious and cultural practices, emphasizing the importance of physical and spiritual cleanliness. The Chōzu-ya serves as a peaceful and contemplative space for individuals to prepare themselves spiritually and mentally before entering the sacred precincts of the temple.

Taho-to Pagoda

We kept walking towards the left to reach the Tohoto Pagoda. Tsubosaka-dera Temple is known for its distinctive architectural style, which blends elements of both Japanese and Chinese Buddhist architecture. The temple complex consists of several buildings, including a main hall, a pagoda, a bell tower, and a number of smaller structures.

The Tahoto Pagoda is an exquisite example of Japanese architecture, featuring intricate wooden carvings, elaborate roof decorations, and ornate details. It is unique among pagodas because it has an even number of stories (two). Its name alludes to Tahō Nyorai, who appears seated in a many-jeweled pagoda in the eleventh chapter of the Lotus Sutra. With square lower and cylindrical upper parts, a mokoshi “skirt roof”, a pyramidal roof, and a finial. After the Heian period, the construction of pagodas in general declined, and new tahōtō became rare.

According to the Hoke-kyo (Lotus Sutra), when Shaka Buddha was preaching, the ground cracked open and a stupa appeared from below. From inside the stupa, a voice emanated saying “Wonderful, wonderful, Sakyamuni Buddha. Your sermon is the truth.” That was Taho Nyorai (the Buddha of the Past) proclaiming the truth of Shaka’s words. Hence, traditionally the temples which practice the chanting of the Lotus Sutra build Tahoto pagodas.

Kanjo-do Hall

Just beside the Tahoto Pagoda lies the Kanjo-do Hall. It is built in irimoya-zukuri style (a hip-and-gable roof construction, or a building with this roof construction) and hongawarabuki (tile roofing in which round and square tiles are laid down alternately). An irimoya style roof is composed of a kirizuma-zukuri style roof in its upper part (which inclines backward and forward when viewed from the longer side of the roof) and a yosemune-zukuri style roof in the lower part (which inclines in each of the four sides of a rectangular house). This roof style was introduced in medieval Japan from China at the same time as Buddhism in the mid-6th century.

There were some very ancient wooden idols inside the Kanjo-do Hall, but they were prohibited from photographing. Just beyond the hall, we found a huge stone idol of Kannon.

Couples Kannon

Juichimen Kannon (ekadaza mukha in Sanskrit) is one of the venerable entities of Bosatsu This is also a Kannon that was brought over from India to commemorate the 350th anniversary of the founding of Sawa City and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of a nursing home for the elderly. This stone idol was commenced in 2011.

In front of the Kannon lies a flat circular platform. Several visitors were standing on this power stone bare-naked foot and asking for Kannon’s power and blessing. The power stone contains green malachite, which is said to improve eyesight and ward off evil, and blue is lapis lazuli, which is said to improve health and improve brain clarity.

The pedestal for praying to this Kannon is made of power stone. If you look closely, you can see the seams. It is also called Daikofusho Kannon, and it is said that the 10 faces on the front, back, left, and right among the 11 faces on the head show Jicchi (ten stages) while the topmost Butsumen (the head of a Buddha) shows nirvana. It is said that this shows the pious act of cutting away 11 kinds of ignorance and the earthly desires of living things opening the path to nirvana.

Sanju-do Pagoda

The pagoda at Tsubosaka-dera Temple is also an impressive structure. It is a three-story tower with a hexagonal base and is said to be one of the oldest surviving pagodas in Japan. It was rebuilt in 1479 in the Muromachi period. It is designated as a “National Important Cultural Property”.

Hakkakuen-do (Octagonal Hall)

When most people think of Hakkakuen-do, they think of the Yumedono Hall of Horyu-ji Temple. Yumedono was built by a monk named Yukinobu in 739 CE. The octagonal hall of Horyu-ji Temple was the mausoleum of Prince Shotoku, and Yukinobu built Yumedono to comfort Prince Shotoku’s spirit. Benki, who is said to be the founder of Tsubosaka Temple, may have had the same motive as Yukinobu when he built the octagonal hall.

Another octagonal building that comes to mind is the North Round Hall of Kofuku-ji Temple, which was proposed by Emperor Gensho as a mausoleum for Fujiwara no Fuhito. There is no other way to think that the Octagonal Hall of Tsubosaka Temple was built by Benki to mourn for the spirit of Emperor Jito.

As you enter the hall, you will find hundreds of hina dolls lined up. Tsubosaka-dera holds an event called “Dai-hina Mandala” every year during the Hinamatsuri, in which many Hina dolls are displayed around the statue of Buddha.

A total of 3,500 Hina dolls are displayed on the temple grounds. Of these, the Raido, which is an important cultural property of Japan, has about 2,300 Hina dolls on the tiers surrounding the statue of Dainichi Nyorai.

The dolls depict the Emperor, Empress, court attendants, musicians, merchants, their wives, lords and ladies, wizards and wise teachers, girls and boys, men drinking sake in an izakaya, etc., all dressed in the traditional court dress of the Heian period. Tsubosaka Temple’s “Dai-hina Mandala” remains open to the public until the 18th of April.

These Hina dolls are handmade treasures, and people keep them for generations. Please note that these precious dolls are not on display all year round. They are shown only once or twice per year depending on the temple authorities.

When inside the Octagonal hall, remember to follow the guided path indicated by arrows. You’ll end up walking around the sacred statue 3 times (clockwise direction), the last round will see you out of the building to witness the beauty of the mountain.

Rei-do (worship hall)

The Reido Hall was built around 1103 CE and again rebuilt before the middle of the Muromachi period (1336 -1392). The main focal point of the temple is the eleven-faced Kannon Bosatsu Zazo, a seated statue of Kannon. This revered Gohonzon stands at an impressive height of 3 meters, making it quite imposing when viewed up close.

The statue portrays Kannon seated on a lotus throne with its forty hands gracefully extended. Originally constructed during the Muromachi period, the current idol replaced the previous Thousand-armed Kannon that resided there. Made with oak marquetry, this masterpiece holds significant cultural and historical value. The Kannon enshrined in this temple is widely worshipped as the “Buddha of the eyes.” It has garnered national treasure status in Japan, representing one of the finest examples of early Buddhist sculpture in the country. While rare, there are occasions when visitors are allowed to touch this revered statue.

According to legend, the temple was built on a sacred site. In ancient Japan, a monk was in the midst of prayer when he noticed a bluish light outside his room. Upon investigation, the light was emitting from the ground. He dug that location and uncovered a statue of Senju Kannon (Thousand Arm Avalokitesvara)

Many years later after the story of the Buddha statue and of monk Benki’s healing skills had spread and grown popular, he was summoned to the Imperial Palace by Emperor Gensho, who founded Heijo-kyo in Nara. The Empress was suffering from an eye disease. Benki cured the Empress of an eye ailment. She rewarded him by financially supporting him in building Tsubosaka Temple and also enshrining the Senju Kannon in the Hakkakuen-do in 717. Subsequently, this temple became renowned for curing eye ailments.

Within the room, you can find a number of additional idols. Behind a glass wall, a pair of bronze statues caught my attention, conveying a sense of antiquity and value. Positioned slightly behind the main Kannon, I observed a distinct variant of Kannon. While I am unsure of its specific narrative at the moment, I will make sure to provide an update to this post once I gather more information.

After capturing some shots of the main hall, we hiked up the hill towards the Grand Stone Statue of Avalokiteshvara brought from India. On the way, we noticed some devilish oni statues. One of them holding out 2 fingers in a sign of peace.

This majestic Kannon is the largest stone statue in the world, standing tranquilly on the mountaintop. The mudra or hand gesture in this image is known as Karana Mudra. It means subduing evil forces!

Placed before it you can also see the stone statue of Buddha in Nirvana, also brought from India. The garden area is paved with fine-grained gravel.

By the way, the size of the Great Buddha in Nara is 14.98m in height and the base is 3.05m, so the total is 18m. The Daikannon of Tsubosaka Temple is even bigger! The huge statues were created by thousands of Indian stonemasons, and sent to Japan in pieces. The pieces were then assembled on location at this mountain. Some of the stone used to create the Buddha statues dates back millions of years.

The statue of Shaka Nyorai Dainirvana is 8 meters long. it presents a beautiful view of the Yamato Basin making Tsubosaka a memorable and grand place to visit.

Did you know: The nighttime illumination of the Tenjikutorai Daikannon stone figure located on the temple grounds is fully using solar panels installed at the site.

Tsubosaka Temple is in the mountains, so it is rich in nature. You can enjoy all four seasons, with yamabuki and cherry blossoms in spring, lavender in summer, and autumn leaves in autumn. The mountain scenery is beautiful too.

Myths relating to Tsubosaka-dera

There is a Bunraku story called Tsubosaka Reigenki. According to this story, a blind man, Sawaichi, found out his wife, Osato, went to Tsubosaka-dera Temple every day to pray for a cure for his blindness. Sadly, Sawaichi suffered from depression and tried to commit suicide by throwing himself off the edge of the temple. His wife lept after him. However, the Kannon of Tsubosaka-dera Temple saved them and Sawaichi regained his sight.

There are no souvenir shops nearby, so maybe this is not a tourist spot, but it is certainly a big temple if you compare it to the other temples of the Saigoku Pilgrimage.

At Tsubosaka Temple, you can also enjoy viewing the cherry blossoms at night during this period.

The cherry blossoms that cover the temple grounds and large stone Buddha statues are lit up, creating a magical beauty that is different from the daytime.

How to get to Tsubosaka-dera Temple

From Shin-Osaka Station: take the subway to Tennoji Station (about 20 minutes), then walk to Kintetsu Osaka Abenobashi Station (just across the street from Tennoji) and take a limited express train to Tsubosakayama Station (about 40 minutes).

From Kintetsu Kyoto Station: take a limited express train to Kashiharajingu-mae Station, then change to Tsubosakayama Station (about 70 minutes).

Tsubosakadera Temple is 10 minutes by taxi from the Kintetsu Tsubosakayama Station.

Admission Timings:

Opening hours : 8:30 to 17:00

Admission Tickets:

Adults: ¥600
Children: ¥100
5 years and under: free

What is the best time to visit Tsubosaka-dera?

late March to early April

Annual Events:

18th of every month except for February and June: Kannon fair
August 18: Segaki-e (hungry ghosts’ feeding rites)

When is Tsubosaka-dera Illumination?

March 25th (Sat) to April 9th ​​(Sun), 2023
*Subject to change depending on the cherry blossom season

Viewing hours during illumination:
Gate opening time during the light-up period: 7:30-20:00
Lighting time during the light-up period) 18:00-20:00

The historic ramparts of Chitradurga Fort

Chitradurga Fort is an ancient fortress located in the Chitradurga district of Karnataka. This imposing structure, which covers an area of approximately 1,500 acres, is perched atop a hill surrounded by seven towering walls, making it one of the most impressive fortresses in South India. The city also takes pride in its historical ties to the Mahabharata legend and the mythological figure of Hidimba.

Located at a 3-hour drive from Bangalore, the fort is locally known as “Kallina Kote” or Stone Fortress, formed of two Kannadiga words “Kallina” which means stone and “Kote” which stands for fort. Because of its huge defensive fortification and tenacity to hold up against long aggressive raids, it is also referred to as Ukkina Kote or “Steel Fort”. Situated almost on the highway that connects Bengaluru to Hospet, this is a prominent point of interest in Chitradurga and was the center of Deccani politics for over three centuries.

We were lodged at the Hotel Mayura Durg. It offers excellent value for your money, and the standout feature is its prime location, just a brief 5-minute stroll from the Fort.

Admission tickets to enter the fort can only be purchased using UPI payment apps at the main gate. If you are not using any, you have to visit a website to use online banking to purchase the tickets. At the time I visited the fort, entry tickets for Indian nationals and visitors from SAARC countries were set at Rs. 20 per person, whereas for foreign visitors from other countries, the fee was Rs. 250 per person.


Chitradurga has a rich history of being ruled by many dynasties. Edicts of Emperor Ashoka from the 3rd century BCE were found near Molakalmuru, a taluk in the same district. To the west of Chitradurga, there was once an ancient city called Chandravalli, where excavations revealed the presence of a prehistoric city.

The fort rests on the seven hills of Chinmuladri range which are some of the oldest granite formations of the Indian subcontinent. As you enter through the Rangayyana gate, the first thing you see is a large water tank known as Kamana Bavi.

The fort’s history dates back to the 10th century when the region was under the control of the Rashtrakutas. Initially, it was mostly a mud fort surrounded by boulders. It was later taken over by the Chalukyas and then the Hoysalas, who added several temples to the fort’s architecture.

In those times between the early 1300s to 1500s, regions like Chitradurga were mostly governed by local chieftains, and the land was largely dominated by Bedar (Valmiki) tribes. The Bedar tribes claim descent from Brahminic rishi Valmiki and trace their origins to southern Andhra Pradesh from where they had emigrated with their herds.

In Kannada language the term ‘Bedar’ means Adivasis or hilly people with mostly hunting as their occupation. The Bedar community is also called as ‘Valmiki’ tribe, ‘Balmiki’ tribe or ‘Beda’ tribe.

However, it was during the reign of the Nayakas in the 17th century that the fort was transformed into its current formidable form.

Timmana Nayaka who was a chieftain under the Vijayanagar empire was given the rank of governor of Chitradurga as a reward for his excellence in military achievements. The first instance of fortification at Chitradurga was by Kamageti Timmanna Nayaka by about 1562 CE. Obanna Nayaka, also known as Madakari Nayaka, declared his independence from the Vijayanagara Empire. In 1602 CE he was succeeded by Kasturirangappa Nayaka, Madakari Nayaka-II (1652 CE), Chikkanna Nayaka (1676 CE), Linganna Nayaka (Madakari III), Bharamappa Nayaka (1689-1721 CE), Hiri Madakari Nayaka, Kasturi Rangappa Nayaka II. The Nayakas of Chitradurga made significant additions to the fort, including the seven concentric walls, which are the hallmark of the fort today.

At its prime, the Chitradurga fort is said to have 19 impressive doors, 38 smaller doors, 4 secret entrances and about 2000 watchtowers.

The fort is structured into seven tiers. Three lower tiers are adjacent to the hill and four tiers are on the slopes of the hill. The first tier has four gates (called Bagilu in Kannada):

  • Rangayyana bagilu (Rangaiyya’s gate) on the east
  • Santhe bagilu (market gate) on the north
  • Seenirina hondada bagilu (sweet water pond gate) on the northwest and
  • Lal Kote bagilu (red fort gate) on the south

The entrance of the rocky gateway is adorned with engravings of Gods and a huge snake on the rock wall. These walls were constructed using massive granite blocks, some of which weigh as much as 50 tons, and are separated by moats, which are now mostly dry. Depending on the topography and the geological strata of the land, the fort walls were built with a height ranging from 5–13 meters. Initially, it was built in mud these walls were subsequently strengthened in stretches with granite stone slabs in the 18th century. The three outer walls of defense are provided with deep broad moats.

An outstanding feature noticed in these stretches of the fort walls is that no cementing material was used in joining the large granite cubes that have been neatly sized, cut, trimmed, and placed in position. The total length of the exterior fort walls is about 8 kilometers and covers an area of about 1,500 acres. The narrow winding path leads to Kamana Bagilu, the start of the second tier of the fort.

The Nayak Palegars built the fort as an impregnable fortification for defense purposes with 19 gateways with bent passageways, a palace, 18 temples, 38 posterior entrances, 4 secret entrances, and subsidiary structures like multiple reservoirs, granaries, oil pits, along with 2000 watch towers to guard and keep a strict vigil on the enemy incursions. The storage warehouses, pits, and reservoirs were primarily designed to ensure the food, water and military supplies required to endure a long siege. Underground tunnels were built that served as escape routes in case of an attack. The fort’s strategic importance increased during the Vijayanagara Empire, and it was used as a garrison to protect the empire from invading forces.

Beyond the kamana Bagilu, there is a wide open space. It is up to you to choose which area you would like to explore first. We decided to head straightaway to Maddu Besuva Kallu, an area where gunpowder was ground. This lies in a secluded area on the southern side of the fortress. Once you cross the Kamana Bagilu, turn left and walk about 200m.

Maddu Besuva Kallu which means “gunpowder grinder” contains four stones at four corners similar idea to what we used to have to grind grains to make flour. These were used to grind the gunpowder for the cannons. The stones were powered by the animals either elephants or bullocks, which would rotate them in a circular motion. The grinders have teeth to break the lumps in gunpowder to make it fine so it can be bunt more efficiently with less oxygen inside the cannon chamber. A gunpowder storage room is also located near this place.

From Maddu Beesuva Kallu, we walked to the Chitradurga Fort jail. These are located directly opposite to each other but we wanted to cover these areas before hiking up the hill toward the upper echelons of the fort

The fort is situated on massive rock foundations and the view from the fort features towering boulders. The structure has been built with seven concentric fortification walls each of which has narrow passageways and gates. Thus, it is also known as Yelu Suttine, meaning “fort of seven circles”.

Chitradurga Fort Jail

One of the notable features of the jail area is the presence of a massive cannon. This colossal cannon, with a length of 22 feet and a weight exceeding 50 tons, served as a formidable defender of the fort in times of conflict. Its immense size necessitated the efforts of more than 100 men for loading and firing, and it boasted an impressive firing range of over 2 kilometers. This location within the fort receives relatively fewer visitors.

This cannon, one of two 18-pounders abandoned at the Tipu Sultan Battery on the northeastern corner of the fort, was cast in 1792 at the Carron Works in Falkirk, Scotland.

From the jail area, we backtracked towards the Kamana Bagilu gate to explore the upper reaches of the fort.

This stupendous fort has witnessed some of South India’s bloodiest wars. The fort successfully repelled a near-constant stream of would-be invaders until 1779, when it fell to Hyder Ali of the Kingdom of Mysore. It was during the reign of Madakari Nayaka, the city of Chitradurga was besieged by the troops of Hyder Ali. A chance sighting of a woman entering the Chitradurga fort through a crack hole in the rocks led to a clever plan by Hyder Ali to send his soldiers through the crack hole.

Chitradurga was under siege for almost two years before Hyder Ali was able to capture if from Madakari Nayaka.

Twenty years later, the British forces defeated and killed Tipu Sultan in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War of 1799 CE. Between 1799 and 1809 CE, Chitaldoorg, as the British pronounced it, was garrisoned by British troops as it was perceived to be a potentially useful base along Mysore’s northern line of defense. Later, the fort was handed back to the Mysore government.

Britishers who captured the fort from Tipu were not able to pronounce Chitradurga and called it Chittaldroog

Many of the fortification lines possess elaborate gateways. Among the elaborate gateways, this gateway to the east of the fort has architectural features typical of the Bahmani Sultanate in Northern Karnataka.

The stairs keep going up toward the upper part of the fort where we can find a number of temples in a cluster. There are 14 important temples in the fort. Among them, Hidimbeshwara, Ekanatheshwari, Sampige Siddeshwara, Gopalaswamy, and Phalguneshwara are the important ones.

The presiding family deity of the Nayakas of Chitradurga was Goddess Ekanatheswari, an incarnation of Adi Parashakti. Ekanatheswari’s footprints are sculpted into a block of stones at the entrance of the fort. Some of the well-known temples were the Hidimbeswara, Sampige Siddeshwara, Ekanathamma, Phalguneshwara, Gopala Krishna, Lord Hanuman, Subbaraya and Nandi. Some of the temples have shikharas in Chalukyan style. The Siddheshwara and the Hidimbeshwara have shikhara that resemble a festive chariot.

Shri Ekanatheshwari Devi Temple

The gateway leads to its south leads to Hidimbeswara temple, one of the oldest temples on the hill. This temple is dedicated to the goddess Ekana, Ekavati or Ekanatheshwari. In ancient times, devotees used to sacrifice male buffalo here.

From the Ekanatheshwari Devi Temple, there are two paths, one leads east towards a walled compound popularly called the Mint, and the other leads south, towards the Hidimseshwara Temple.

Tankasale – Mint

These remnants of stone-mud walled structures are believed to have functioned as the administrative hub of Chitradurga Fort during the Palegar rule. Within this administrative center were the Darbar Hall and the Treasury/Mint. These mud walls have endured for approximately half a millennium.

Embedded within these walls are wooden columns, likely supporting the building’s roof with wooden beams. Surprisingly, even the wood from that era has remarkably well-preserved itself. The soil used in these walls is meticulously chosen, likely sourced from a lake bed. The mud is meticulously dried, then finely ground and sifted to obtain a uniform powder. Afterward, it is blended with water and thoroughly mixed until the entire mixture achieves uniform consistency. This procedure demands significant labor and is meticulously overseen at every stage to ensure quality and security, guarding against potential sabotage.

A narrow path beside the Mint leads to a wide open area where we can find a bridge over the Akka and Tangi ponds. There are several other points of interest on this path. A road leads past the Mint to the main western gate, called Basavana Bagilu, and another line of fortifications, which protect the inner fort.

Akka and Tangi Honda

Akka Thangi Honda stands for two massive ponds named Akka Honda (elder sister pond) and Thangi Honda (younger sister pond). These are part of the Fort’s well-planned and sophisticated rainwater harvesting and water conservation system.

The excess water collected in Gopalaswamy Honda flows into Akka Honda and then gradually to Thangi Honda. The pond where 2 queens of Nayaka king drowned after Hyder Ali succeeded in his 3rd attempt to capture the fort. This was a ”jauhar” of its kind.

From here a long winding path toward Gopalaswamy Temple.

We stopped for a breather at this gate just before reaching Gopalaswamy Temple. Garuda and Aanjaneya are carved on either side of the entrance.

A few feet ahead, a freshwater channel flows all the way through the passage that leads to the entrance. A freshwater pond is seen to the left side as soon as we enter. The pond named after the temple – Goplaswamy Honda (pond) is a tank that gathers rainwater from the hilltop. The greenery surrounding the pond is like a mini-jungle amidst a rocky terrain. The Gopalswamy Honda in front of the temple was one of the main water sources for people residing inside the fort.

The vast open space between the palace complex and the Honda is known as Sringara tota referring to the beauty of the landscape. The honda was a part of the palace complex and probably meant for the exclusive use of the royal family. The corner is where palace attendants would draw up water since that’s the closest to the palace complex.

The Gopalaswamy Honda is the largest waterbody inside the fort. This manmade waterbody serves as a mini reservoir nestled in a valley. A 45-meter-long stone wall across the valley is the dam that blocks the flow of rainwater in the valley creating a reservoir that is 50m at its widest point and 140m at its longest point. As to the depth I was told it could be around 10 to 12 feet in the middle.

Gopalswamy Temple

One of the most impressive features of the fort is the steep climb to the top. There are over 2000 steps leading up to the peak of the fort, which can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to climb, depending on your fitness level.

This temple facing east is of Dravidian order with the usual garbhagriha, sukanasi, a six-pillared navaranga. a large four-pillard closed mukha mandapa with a closed passage around the garbhagriha for circumambulation. In the garbhagriha is an image of Gopalakrishna measuring 1.05 m in height from sometime in the early 14th century CE.

There is a reference to this temple in an inscription from 1338 CE. The figure of Gopalaswamy stands cross-legged, playing a flute. On either side of the image, you can see cattle listening to the flute. The sukanasi doorway is flanked by dwarpalas. In the navaranga images of Ganesha, Garuda, Brahma, and Vishvaksena adorn the walls. The ceiling has a large shallow dome fashioned into a lotus. The beam features more images of Indira, Krishna, and other deities.

The climb is challenging but rewarding, as it offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape and the fort’s architecture. While coming down from the Gopalswamy temple, we took a short detour to the Obavve onake.

Obavve onake

When the fort of Chitradurga was attacked by Hyder Ali, according to a legend there was a woman by the name of Obavva, the wife of a guard at the fort, who is said to have single-handily killed several of Hyder Ali’s men who were entering the fort through a small hole in between the rocks. She fought them off with a pestle (onake) and thus this legend is famously called the Obavve onake legend.

During that time, Hyder Ali attempted to capture the fort during the reign of Madakari Nayaka V, the last Nayaka ruler. The structure had a crevice that was discovered by Hyder Ali’s army. However, when Ali’s men attempted to squeeze through this crevice at night, a woman was guarding it on behalf of her husband.

When the brave woman noticed this, she killed the trespassers by hitting them with a pestle. When her husband returned, he discovered the bodies of dead soldiers in the fort’s crevice. He informed Madakari Nayaka and his soldiers about the invasion right away. Hyder Ali, however, was successful in invading and conquering the fort and the last Madakari Nayaka and his family was imprisoned at Srirangapatna.

Nonetheless, the brave woman’s story was not forgotten. History of the fort still remembers her courage and love for her land. Obavva’s courage has been memorialized in Chitradurga by setting up the Onake Obavva Stadium and a life-sized sculpture near the District Commissioner’s Office in Chitradurga.

From Obavve onake, we walked back to the Ekanatheshwari Devi Temple from where we hiked further south up to the Hidimbeshwara Temple.

Hidimbeswara temple

Hidimbeshwara Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is believed to have been built during the 15th century. It is the oldest temple in the area, situated above a massive boulder crowned with a stone superstructure. Within this temple is a sanctum (garbhagriha) housing a linga. On the front side of the outer sabha mandapa, there is a small mukh mandapa (porch) with bench-like seating. The temple’s pillars exhibit diverse designs, featuring octagonal or hexagonal shafts with ornamental details near the top.

The sole captivating feature at this site is the standard representation of Virabhadra, positioned in the navaranga and affixed to a base adorned with a bas-relief displaying seven horses on the front, symbolizing the Sun god, Surya. At the top of this structure is the smallest chamber, crowned with a square stupi. An ancient stone inscription from 1286 CE, found in the outer navaranga, records the generous grants made by Perumale Bandanayaka to the temple.

Myths surrounding Hidimba

The Hidimbeswara temple houses the tooth of Hidimba, the formidable giant (Rakshasa in Sanskrit). The legend goes that Hidimba and his sister Hidimbi once resided on this hill. Hidimba was a source of great trouble for the local populace, and when the Pandavas arrived in the area, they too encountered his menacing presence.

According to the ancient tale, the hills surrounding the fort held great significance during the time of the Mahabharata. Hidimba, the fierce giant, was believed to have inhabited the Chitradurga hill and caused fear among the inhabitants. When Bhima was in exile, traveling with his Pandava brothers and mother Kunti thousands of years ago, he crossed paths with this demon.

There you can find a piece of bone much larger than that kept in the Hidimbeshvara temple, believed to be the tooth of Hidambasura.

Bhima was challenged to a duel by Hidimba, and in the ensuing battle, he defeated and vanquished Hidimba. The boulders in this area are also believed to have been utilized as weapons during their epic confrontation. Hidimbi, who fell in love with Bhima (the second of the Pandava brothers from the Mahabharata legend), went on to marry him, and together they had a child named Ghatotkacha.


In front of the Hidimbeshwara temple, on a lower level is a three-storied stone tower (Mahadwara) with pillared verandas on the sides. It appears to have been built in 1411 CE by Mallana Odeyar, a relative of Devaraya of Vijayanagara.

Sampige Siddeshwara Temple

A monolithic pillar and two swing frames lie between the entrance to this gateway and the Sampige Siddheshvara temple, which rests at the foot of the hill in the left background. This temple was built by Thimanna Nayak in 1568.

The Gaalimandapa which is the Mahadwara of the Siddheshwara temple is more elaborately designed with a series of pillars in the facade of the second storey on all sides. The mandapa was constructed in 1355 CE while the torana was made in 1411 CE by Mallana Odeyar.

The prominent among them is the Sampige Siddeshwara Temple. The temple of Siddeshwara is a cave temple associated with a hillock named Mukthi Shivalaya Shikhara (abode of Shiva-pinnacle). Located on the southern side, the temple gets its name Sampige Siddeshwara because of the Michelia Champaca, the magnolia flowers, called Sampige in the Kannada language.

This Temple is named after the Sampige tree, which was planted by the Madakari nayaka’s ancestors. It is said to be named after the Sampige tree which was supposedly planted by the ancestors of Chitradurga ruler Madakari Nayaka. This temple is situated at the base of a massive rock formation. Atop the rock formation is the Kavalu Battery

The temple comprises a mukha mandapa, sambhamandapa, sukanasi, and a garbha griha, all axially located. We took a short stroll through the temple to explore the sanctum, vestibule, and hall. Inside the sanctum, you’ll find a daily worshiped Shiva Linga known as Sidhanta, which gives the temple its name, Siddheshwar. The veneration of this deity is linked to Veerashaiva Saints such as Revannasiddha (Sri Revana Siddeshwara Swamy is considered one of the eminent Saints of the Shaiva Sect within Sanatan Dharma).

In the sukanasi you can find images of Nandi and Parvati. It leads to an enshrined linga, better known as Siddheswara Linga. On the south wall is a niche containing a relief group in which two chieftains are depicted with daggers a their girdle in ceremonial attire, holding a linga each in one hand and a pike in the other.

The hall has sculptures of Allama Prabhu, Ganesha, Shula, Brahma, Nandi, Bhairava and several Naga stones. At one corner there is an impressive statue of Veerabhadra.

In the courtyard, there is a huge squarish platform where the palegars and chiefs of Chitradurga Fort were crowned once. In its heyday this place must have seen a lot of ceremonial activities, now it is bare and mute.

Murugharajendra Matha

Murugha Matha was built during the reign of Bharamanna Nayaka (1689 – 1721 CE). Bharamanna Nayak made many additions to the fort and built the Murugha Rajendra Matha, which since then has been the residence of a well-known guru of the Lingayats. The Matha is a spacious and impressive two-storied stone structure, with a pillared hall and a gateway known as Ane bagilu (elephant gate)

Archeological findings at the Chitradurga

Through excavations and investigations in the vicinity of the town of Chandravalli, a recurring sequence of two distinct cultures has been unveiled. This sequence begins with the Neolithic culture, followed by the Iron Age Megalithic culture, and subsequently transitions into the Early Historic period, notably the reign of the Satavahanas.

Several Satavahana coins were unearthed at the outset of the last century. Evidence of the Neolithic culture, such as pottery, has also been discovered in the area. The presence of cupules and engravings of human and horse footprints is discernible within the fort, and intriguingly, cupules have been identified on the dressed stone blocks comprising the fortification wall.

Rainwater-harvesting structures were built in a cascade development, which ensured large storage of water in interconnected reservoirs. It is said that the fort precincts never faced any water shortage.

Historical linkage has been established by an archeological inscription dated 1284 CE found in the Panchalinga (Five Lingas) cave in the Ankhi Matha area, to the west of Chitradurga. The inscription attributes the establishment of the Five Lingas (aniconic symbols of Lord Shiva) to the Pandavas. At Ankhi Matha, approached by stone steps, a series of ancient subterranean chambers cut out at different levels are seen, in addition to several places of worship and platforms

Carvings of the edicts of Ashoka dating to the 3rd century BCE have been found at the fort, and a legendary duel described in the Mahabharata between the hero Bhima and the demon Hidimbasura is said to have taken place on its grounds.

Chitradurga Fort is a magnificent piece of ancient architecture and human skill. Its imposing walls and intricate architecture serve as an important reminder of the rich history of Karnataka, and its conservation and preservation are crucial to ensure that it remains a part of our heritage.

Despite its age and the wear and tear of time, the fort remains an impressive sight, and its architecture has stood the test of time. Visiting the Chitradurga Fort was an unforgettable experience. The fort’s imposing walls, steep climb, and stunning views make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in history, architecture, or nature. The magnificent fort is now maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. Though signs of deterioration are visible in the fort today, its sheer size, complexity, and detailed design, and the valor of those who gave their lives to protect it, speak volumes of its glorious past.


What kind of weather should I expect at Chitradurga?

Summers can be extremely hot and not advisable for the huge area that requires you to climb several stairs.

When is the rainy season in Chitradurga?

June – September

What are the languages spoken and understood at the site?

English, Hindi & Kannada

Is the fort accessible?

The fort is not disabled-friendly

What are the rules with regard to the usage of Tripods?

Tripods are not allowed inside the fort premises. If you are carrying a tripod, you will have to keep it at the front office at your own risk.

What is the cost of admission tickets??

Tickets must be bought at the front gates, and entrance fees are ₹20 for Indian citizens and ₹250 for foreign nationals.

The Dazzling White Temple: Wat Rong Khun

Nestled in the serene landscape of Chiang Rai, Thailand, Wat Rong Khun, commonly known as the White Temple, is a contemporary Buddhist temple. The temple’s design is unique and striking, featuring an intricate structure covered in white plaster and adorned with pieces of mirrored glass. This reflects the sun’s rays, creating a dazzling effect that symbolizes the purity and wisdom of Buddha.

The temple was designed and built under the visionary guidance of renowned Thai artist and architect Chalermchai Kositpipat and is proof of his artistic brilliance. Chalermchai’s vision has not merely bestowed upon the local residents a place of worship but has also transformed it into a sought-after tourist destination.

The white temple had been on my radar since the time a fellow photographer posted some pictures on 500px several years ago. When my dream of visiting Thailand was finally becoming a reality, there was no way I would miss this opportunity to visit one of the most iconic complex in all of Thailand.

Wat Rong Khun is not just a religious site but a masterpiece that has captivated the hearts of visitors worldwide. Chalermchai has been successful in creating a temple that not only serves as a place of worship but also as a work of art that transcends cultural and religious boundaries. Tourism in Thailand is seen as a way to increase the country’s reputation in the world. as a source of national pride and a modern symbol of the nation, the temple has now become an iconic landmark within the province and, to a significant extent, across the entire country.

The temple opens to the public after 8 am but since it is not hidden behind any enclosure, if you wish to observe the temple sans the crowds, you can come anytime in the early morning. There is a small shopping arcade nearby where you can wait for the temple to open over a fresh glass of fruit juice. The outer premises of the temple is decorated with statues of demons and other supernatural beings, manga characters, as well as depictions of several action heroes like Venom and Predator.

Even common signages like a No-smoking sign have been tackled in a creative way making them part of the architectural design of the temple.

Brief history of White Temple

Before we go into the intricacies of the temple it is important to know the name behind this masterpiece. Chalermchai Kositpipat was born in Chiang Rai. He is a renowned contemporary Thai artist and the visionary behind the iconic Wat Rong Khun, or the White Temple. His artistic journey has left an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of Thailand, blending traditional Thai artistry with modern expressions.

Built in the 1950s, Wat Rong Khun initially stood as one among numerous small village temples in Thailand. By the 1990s, this four-decades-old temple required extensive repairs. The dining hall and grand gate underwent reconstruction, supervised by Phra Khru Chakhriyanuyut, who also introduced a herbal sauna for the rehabilitation of drug addicts. Nevertheless, the main structure, known as the bot or ubosot, also demanded restoration, as it had become unsuitable for religious worship.

In 1996, the decision was made to demolish the old bot or ubosot to pave the way for a new hall. Regrettably, a year later, the financial crisis of 1997 gripped the entirety of Thailand. Faced with economic hardships, the villagers lacked the resources to contribute to the reconstruction efforts, resulting in the abandonment of the project and leaving them without a bot. Given that Rong Khun is his hometown, Chalermchai, determined to lend a helping hand, took charge of the situation.

In the late 1990s, he embarked on the ambitious project of transforming the decaying Wat Rong Khun into a masterpiece that stands as a symbol of Thai culture and spirituality. Wat Rong Khun is not only a place of worship, but also a symbol of Ajarn Chalermchai’s vision of a “new art form” in which traditional Buddhist teachings are blended with modern ideas and images.

The construction of the new temple was undeniably a monumental undertaking, unparalleled in scale across Thailand. The initial temple occupied 4 rai, equivalent to 6400 m2, a typical size for a village temple. However, Chalermchai’s expansive vision surpassed this modest scale, necessitating additional space. To accommodate his grand design, surrounding rice paddies were procured and integrated into the temple grounds. Consequently, the temple now spans 10 rai and 100 square wa, equivalent to 16400 m2, making it notably larger in comparison to other village temples in Thailand.

The construction of Wat Rong Khun began in 1997 and most of it was ready by 2008 when it was opened to the public. The temple is a testament to his artistic genius, featuring intricate handcrafted details, stunning architecture, and a fusion of Buddhist symbolism with contemporary themes. Kositpipat, however, has an even mega plan for the site. Once finished, the complex of the White Temple will comprise nine structures, incorporating the current ubosot, a relics hall, a meditation hall, an art gallery, and residential spaces for monks. By the time of writing this article, the project has cost him more than $30 million of his own money. If all goes well, the temple should be finished by 2070.

White Temple

The temple ground is rectangular, with a walkway as its main east-west axis. The ground is then divided into three sections, two on the southern side of the walkway and one on its northern side. The temple currently has nine main buildings, three in each section and some other minor ones. These three main sections are the Karawat, the Sanghawat and the Buddhawat. The Karawat is the section for the laity, with a shop, a bathroom and a preaching hall. The Sanghawat, the section for the monks, has the crematorium, the kuti or the residence for the monks, and a hall of contemplation. The Buddhawat is the section for the Buddha, where we find the bot, the pavilion of relics and the pavilion of images.


The Buddhawat occupies the entire northern expanse of the temple, separated from the Karawat and the Shangawat by a white picket fence. Within this section, three principal structures – the bot, the pavilion of relics, and the pavilion of images are aligned in a straight formation, with two bridges interspersed between them. This arrangement is complemented by various auxiliary constructions, forming an intricate and ornamentally adorned ensemble. The Buddhawat features an array of embellishments, including fountains, water pools, freestanding statues, meticulously tended trees, and bridges one situated in front of the bot and another linking the pavilion of images and the pavilion of relics along with other decorative elements.

The bridge of “the cycle of rebirth”

Once we crossed the gate into the Buddhawat, we were directed towards a path leading to the “bridge of rebirth.” It is the most iconic feature of Wat Rong Khun, which leads to the main temple. The “Bridge of the Cycle of Rebirth,” is a long, white, and narrow bridge that stretches over a small pond. It is covered in intricate designs and symbols, including depictions of demons and other figures from Buddhist and Hindu mythology.

Before reaching the bridge, however, the visitors need to walk over Mara’s mouth, in which you can find hundreds of hands as well as a few feet and faces of people damned to hell. These hands and feet are close to the visitors, making this a physical and graphic journey through hell. This section of the temple attracts a lot of attention.

The bridge represents the journey from the cycle of birth and death to the path of enlightenment. The hands reaching up from the depths of hell symbolize the struggle to overcome worldly desires, while the heavenly figures on the other side signify the attainment of spiritual liberation. The bridge serves as a symbol of the journey from the material world to the spiritual world, and the process of attaining enlightenment.

The demons are meant to represent the obstacles one must overcome in order to attain enlightenment. The white color of the temple symbolizes the purity of the Buddha and the glass and mirror decorations are meant to represent the Buddha’s wisdom and the reflections of the visitors.

After traversing the representation of hell, visitors encounter two stylized demons, positioned on either side of the Bridge of Rebirth. While statues of demons are commonly seen in Thai temples, the ones at Wat Rong Khun differ significantly from the more conventional depictions typically found in expansive, traditional Thai temple grounds. The demons here at Wat Rong Khun bear a closer resemblance to characters found in graphic novels rather than adhering to the conventional styles of traditional Thai art.

Visitors must cross the Sukhawadee Bridge to enter the temple, representing the transition from the material world to the spiritual world. As they walk on the bridge, they pass by the statue of demons and other figures, which serves as a reminder of the negative qualities and obstacles that one must overcome in order to achieve enlightenment.

Gate of Heaven

Upon crossing the bridge, visitors reach the “gate of heaven,” protected by two creatures symbolizing Death and Rahu, determining the fate of the deceased. In front of the ubosot, numerous meditative Buddha images are displayed.

Below the gate, you can find a cute little pond with Koi fishes swimming in the clear transparent waters.

A statue of a Kinnaree is located just before the main hall of the temple. The statue is depicted with a serene expression and is holding a lotus flower, which is a symbol of spiritual purity and enlightenment. This statue serves as a reminder of the beauty and grace that can be attained through spiritual practice.

A Kinnaree is a mythical creature that is typically depicted as a half-human, half-bird being. In Thai Buddhism, the Kinnaree is associated with beauty, grace, and spiritual purity. The Kinnaree is often depicted in art and architecture, particularly in temples, as a symbol of the spiritual journey and the attainment of enlightenment.

In addition to the statues, the Kinnaree is also depicted in various other forms of art and decoration throughout the temple, such as in the murals and frescoes. This serves as a reminder of the importance of art and culture in Buddhism, and how it can be used to convey spiritual messages.


As I followed the only path available, I crossed the enchanting Bridge of Rebirth, finding myself standing in awe before the most captivating structure on the temple grounds – the Ubosot (main hall). The leaf-like patterns at the top of the bridge unfolded a story of Mount Meru, while the fountain-like structures beneath, nestled in the pool, mirrored the embracing mountain range.

My eyes were drawn to the four flame-like structures at the corners of the bot, each adorned with small human figures symbolizing the Buddha’s early disciples. As I gazed up at the pinnacle of the bot, the roof finials took on the shapes of stylized animals, gracefully representing the four elements: fire, water, air, and earth. The intricate details painted a vivid narrative, making my journey through Wat Rong Khun an immersive and personal experience.

The temple is also adorned with pieces of glass and mirrors, which reflect the sunlight and give the temple a shimmering appearance. The main hall of the temple, known as the “Ubosot,” features a statue of the Buddha made of black glass and gold leaf.

The Ubosot is a large, all-white building that serves as the center of the temple complex. It is the place where the main altar is located and where ceremonies and rituals are held. The Ubosot is adorned with intricate details and symbols, including depictions of demons and other figures from Buddhist and Hindu mythology. You will have to carry your shoes in your hand while entering the Ubosot.

The main attraction of the Ubosot is the statue of the Buddha made of black glass and gold leaf. The statue sits in the center of the hall and is surrounded by other statues and sculptures. Photography is not allowed inside. The statue is a representation of the Buddha’s teachings and serves as a reminder of the path to enlightenment.

A large mural in front of the statue depicts the struggle between Buddha and the demon Mara. It represents the final conflict of Lord Buddha’s own demon before he attained enlightenment. The eyes of the demon have George Bush and Bin Laden painted in the pupil area. When asked about these depiction, Ajarn Chalermchai had responded that it was to caution both as violence hurts entire humanity.

The Ubosot also features several other statues and sculptures, including statues of the Hindu god Ganesha and the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. These statues serve as a reminder of the universality of spiritual teachings and the importance of transcending cultural boundaries in the pursuit of enlightenment.

Once you come out of the Ubosot, you can find a small enclosure that seats about three people at a time. Here you can get back into your shoes.

From here you can continue on the circumambulatory passage going around the temple hall. On both sides of the main hall, there are beautiful depictions of Buddha sitting inside a lotus.

Just behind the main hall lies the Buddha Relics Tower. But it was closed at the time of my visit

In addition to the demon head and multi-armed statue, the Wat Rong Khun also features other monster idols such as a giant serpent and a demon emerging from the ground. These statues serve as a reminder of the dangers and obstacles that can arise on the path to enlightenment, and that one must always be vigilant in order to overcome them.

To come out of the temple you have to come out through this southern gate.

The exit gate features two of the most beautifully designed dragons.

Coming out of the main temple you will find yourself in front of another beautifully designed golden building. It is a restroom. Of course, when everything else is following the same pattern why not the restroom as well?

Just beside the restroom, there is an intricately decorated walkway that leads to the farther areas of the temple.

As we walked through the walkway, on the right we could see certain areas of the temple that were undergoing renovation.

When this area is finished, it will lead the visitors directly to the Buddhist Tower connected by a small bridge known as the Sukhawadee Bridge.

Buddhist Tower

Belfry at Wat Rong Khun

Dhamma Garden

Ganesha Temple

One of the most prominent symbols is the statue of Ganesha, the Hindu god of wisdom, knowledge and new beginnings.

Ganesha is often depicted as a figure with an elephant head and a human body. He is known for his intelligence and his ability to remove obstacles, making him a popular figure in Hinduism and Buddhism. Ganesha is often invoked at the beginning of any new venture or undertaking as a symbol of good luck and success.

At the Wat Rong Khun, the statue of Ganesha is placed prominently at the entrance of the temple. It serves as a reminder to visitors to approach their spiritual journey with wisdom and knowledge and to be open to new beginnings. The statue also serves as a reminder that obstacles may arise on the path to enlightenment, but with the guidance of Ganesha, one can overcome them.

The statue of Ganesha at Wat Rong Khun is also unique in its design as it is fused with traditional Thai art and culture. It showcases the blending of different cultures and religions, and how they can coexist in harmony. The statue symbolizes the universality of spiritual teachings and the importance of transcending cultural boundaries in the pursuit of enlightenment.

Wat Rong Khun has become a major tourist attraction, drawing visitors from around the globe to Chiang Rai. The unique blend of traditional Thai spirituality and contemporary artistry has created a cultural landmark that transcends the boundaries of religious affiliations. The temple has not only contributed to the local economy but has also elevated Chiang Rai’s status as a must-visit destination in Thailand.

The temple’s popularity has led to increased tourism, benefiting local businesses and creating employment opportunities. Additionally, the revenue generated from entrance fees and donations is often reinvested into the maintenance and restoration of the temple, ensuring its continued splendor for future generations.

However, Wat Rong Khun has also been the subject of controversy and criticism. Some have criticized the temple for its commercialization and the inclusion of non-Buddhist elements in its design. Others have raised concerns about the temple’s environmental impact, as it was built on a rice field and required the excavation of a large area of land. Some also criticized the temple for its lack of religious significance, as it is primarily used as an art exhibit.

Despite the criticism, Wat Rong Khun continues to be a major tourist attraction and a symbol of Ajarn Chalermchai’s unique vision. The temple’s intricate and striking design, combined with its message of peace and unity, make it a worthwhile destination for those interested in Buddhism, art, and architecture. The temple is a reflection of the artist’s creativity, originality, and his passion for conveying the Buddhist teachings in a modern way. Wat Rong Khun is a thought-provoking and inspiring place that challenges traditional notions of Buddhism and art.

After thoroughly explorig the Wat Rong Khun, we walked into the Karawat gift shop. Unlike the usual gift shops associated with temples, especially those attracting tourists, Karawat breaks away from the norm. Instead of the typical religious-themed merchandise like amulets, Buddha statues, or Buddhism-related literature, this gift shop stands out by offering printed reproductions of the artist’s paintings, multiple biographies about him, as well as t-shirts and postcards featuring images of the temple itself.

What caught my attention was the absence of conventional Buddhist teachings and religious paraphernalia that are commonly found in gift shops at other temples. Positioned between a museum gift shop, showcasing art reproductions and coffee table books, and a typical tourist attraction gift shop with various t-shirts, caps, keychains, and trinkets, Wat Rong Khun’s gift shop is truly distinctive. It provides a unique opportunity to purchase printed copies of Chalermchai’s original works, adding an artistic flair to the temple visit. I myself purchased a canvas painting for my study room.

My heartfelt gratitude to each one of you who took the time to read through my article. If you liked it, please leave me a comment. If there are areas where you think I can enhance the storytelling, I would greatly appreciate your feedback.


Zenkō-ji is a Buddhist temple located in the city of Nagano, Japan. The temple was built in the 7th century. The modern city of Nagano began as a town built around the temple.

Catching the train to Nagano

Nagano countryside

Nagano Station

Niomon Gate

Souvenir shops

Sanmon Gate

Incense Urn

Rokujizo Statues

Main Hall of Zenko-ji

Temple grounds

Sutra Depository

Wooden idols inside Sutra Depository


Statue of Shinran

Bell tower

Last shot of Zenko-ji before leaving

Waiting for the train to Nagoya

Thanks for reading

Great Buddha of Shoho-ji

After a beautiful morning at Gifu Castle we were ready to proceed to our next destination in Inuyama. But before we left the area, we dropped by to see the Shōhō-ji Temple – a rarely visited Buddhist temple near Gifu Park.

Shōhō-ji Temple

Shōhō-ji Temple lies at a 5-minute walk from Gifu Park. If you are already here visiting the Gifu Castle, you might as well take out a few minutes to explore this unique Golden Buddha created using dry lacquer.

For a building that houses a 13-meter high Daibutsu (Buddha), the temple building looks very innocuous from the outside. On a stone pillar near the entrance, the words “Nihon Sandai Daibutstu” (Japan’s Third Great Buddha) are engraved. It goes on to say that Gifu Buddha is regarded as one of the three great Buddha portrait statues in Japan along with Todai-ji in Nara prefecture and Koutoku-in in Kamakura.

The temple does not face the road. You have to walk around to the back. You can find the ticket booth on the left side of the entrance gate to the hall.

The admission fee for adults is ¥200. The lady at the counter also gave us a pamphlet in English, explaining various things about Shōhō-ji and the Daibutsu. This was my second visit to the peaceful temple and both times, the area was completely devoid of people.

Brief history of Gifu Buddha

As you enter the darkened room, it will take you a minute to adjust your eyes to the surroundings. To the left of the door lies a small bench, placed parallel to the wall. It is the best place to behold the powerful presence of the “Great Buddha”, with its imposing size and golden body, leaning forward over me with a comforting subtle smile. The statue’s kind and solemn expression combined with the calming nature of the temple in which it sits make for a soothing, comfortable atmosphere.

The Gifu Great Buddha (岐阜大仏, Gifu Daibutsu) in Shōhō-ji is one of the larger indoor Buddha statues that I have been privy to in all of Japan. It was conceived by the 11th head priest of Kinpouzan Shōhō temple, Ichyuu, around 1790 CE, in hopes of averting large earthquakes and famines in the area.

Pursuing this dream to erect a large image of Shaka Nyorai, he traveled far and wide collecting donations, most of the time on foot. Unfortunately, after spending 25 years working on the Great Buddha, he passed away in 1815 CE without seeing its completion.

With his predecessor in mind, Ichyuu’s successor, the 12th generation head Priest Kohshuu completed its erection 13 years later in 1832. Overall it took 38 years of construction to finish the Gifu Buddha.

The noble messenger of the Owari feudal clan attended the completion ceremony of this Great Buddha when it was commenced to the public in April 1832. The turnout for the completion ceremony was as grand as when the famous 16th-century ruler Oda Nobunaga gained control of Gifu and first moved into Gifu Castle. Sadly that grandeur is no more and the temple lies in a debilitated state.

The making of Gifu Buddha

The Great Buddha of Gifu is unique due to the method of its construction. Though most Daibutsu statues are made of metal, this statue was made using a technique called mokushin kanshitsu zukuri, where first a wood and bamboo “skeleton” is built, then paper or hemp cloth dipped in urushi (lacquer) are woven through the bamboo and allowed to dry before being guilt in gold.

Urushi is lacquer, made from plant extracts; when this sealant hardens it creates a water and acid-proof finish on the surface of the object.

The construction of the statue began with a central pillar, 1.8 meters in circumference, from a ginkgo tree. The Buddha’s shape was then formed using bamboo lattices. The bamboo was covered with clay to add shape and the statue was then covered entirely with Buddhist sutras. For this reason, this statue is also known as the “Kago Daibutsu” (the basket Daibutsu).

Finally, the scriptures were covered in lacquer and gold leaf, giving the Buddha the appearance that it has today. Because priests and many others prayed for people’s happiness by using Buddhist sutra scriptures, placing the many scriptures onto the body of the Great Buddha was very important in its construction.

However, a significantly large amount of Buddhist scriptures were necessary to completely cover all of the massive statue. Priest Ichyuu traveled by himself to collect sutras, asking for contributions all around Japan.

Gifu’s Great Buddha was eventually completed at 13.7 meters tall. It is now counted among Japan’s Three Great Buddha Statues and is the largest in Japan to be made of lacquer.

The Daibutsu is built leaning slightly forward, giving the impression that it’s trying to draw nearer to the worshipers who visit it. With its plump cheeks and almost closed eyes, the overall impression exuded by this Buddha is one of kindness.

This Daibutsu is characterized by a very long earlobe. The length of the ears is as long as 2.12 meters. Ear lobes longer than the chin are rare.

Daibutsu statues generally have their right hand opened, but the Gifu Daibutsu has its right hand tied with a fixed seal called “Seppoin“, which makes a ring with the middle finger and thumb, striking a pose that looks like an “OK” sign.

In the belly of the Great Buddha of Gifu, a statue of Yakushi Nyorai is enshrined.

On the right of the enormous image of Buddha lies the Binzuru-sama, the Buddha representing the concept of “mubyō-sokusai” (無病息災) or “being in a state of perfect health”. He is one of the most charming characters in Buddhism. His power to heal was matched by his love of drinking 😅.

It is believed that if there is a part of your body in poor health if you rub the corresponding part of this Buddha’s body, your illness or injury will be healed. But of course, be very careful when touching the statue.

Inside the Great Buddha Hall, about 108 statues of Rakan are lined up on the left and right walls so as to surround the Great Buddha. They are known as the Gohyakurakan – the disciples of the Buddha. Each statue has a unique expression, so it is said you can find at least one stone Buddha that resembles you, your parent, or a friend.

Originally there were more of these figures but many of the Gohyakurakan were severely damaged over the years by earthquakes and, as a result, the ones you see here are all that have survived.

The temple does not take long to explore so if you have the inclination for some non-flashy heritage places, this is a must-go. The temple might lack the charm of a Todai-ji or the fame of Kamakura, but it is an interesting place to enjoy history without the distraction of massive crowds.

Thanks for reading! Please leave me your comments or reviews. If you liked my story please consider following me on Instagram or continue with it as I visit the beautiful Inuyama Castle.

Built in

1832 CE

Built By


Admission Fees



9:00 – 17:00

Praying for love at Izumo Taisha

Izumo-taisha, also known as Izumo Ōyashiro, is one of the most ancient and important Shinto shrines in Japan. No record gives the exact date of its establishment, but some of the oldest mythological stories of the country originate at this very place.

Located in Izumo of Shimane Prefecture, the shrine is dedicated to the god of nation-building, Okuninushi-no-okami, and it is said that, if you visit the shrine, you will have great luck when it comes to your love life and personal relationships.

How to reach Izumo-taisha

I and my wife, Mani, were staying at the Dormy Inn, just beside the Izumoshi Station. Dormy Inn is a nice place to stay in Izumo, with comfortable rooms and easy accessibility to local convenience stores.

This was my first visit to Izumo, primarily because the city is located on the extreme western edge of the Shimane peninsula, and it takes almost 4 hours to reach from Kyoto. I have been to Shimane before in 2016 when I visited the lovely Adachi gardens, but Izumo continued to remain on my bucket list.

The area surrounding Izumoshi Station is very quiet, unlike the bustling stations of Kyoto, Tokyo, or even Osaka. The town is literally littered with idols of Ōkuninushi, like the one below, which I saw on a roadside near the station. Ōkuninushi has had a massive impact on the history of Izumo, but we will delve into his story later on in this article.

It was 9 am in the morning. After a light breakfast of onigiris, we took the local bus to Izumo Taisha. Buses depart from bus stop #1 in front of Izumoshi Station roughly every 30 minutes. The one-way ride to the shrine takes about 25 minutes and costs ¥530.

The bus was mostly empty. I guess most travelers here are locals and they prefer their personal vehicles to travel. We had on us the “Enmusubi Perfect Ticket” which allows for a hassle-free travel on local buses. If you are in Izumo for a few days, I would recommend obtaining the “Perfect ticket” from the Izumo Tourist Information Center, inside JR Izumoshi Station.

This ticket costs ¥1500 per adult and entitles you unlimited free rides on local trains and buses for 3 consecutive days. The ticket also includes discounts and certain special privileges at a few tourist spots.

You can also take the local Ichibata train to the shrine, but it will likely take up more time as it involves changing trains midway at Kawato Station.

The red and white bus dropped us off near a large grey colored Torii gate that marks the beginning of the walk to the heritage shrine. A Torii is the symbol of a Shinto Shrine. It marks the entry into the sacred grounds of the Shrine. Four Toriis in total need to be passed before reaching the Izumo Taisha shrine and each is made of a different material: stone, wood, iron, and copper (in order from the first to fourth). We missed the first Torii since the bus went past it and dropped us off near the second one. If you are interested, you can walk back to the white torii, made of stone. In ancient times, it used to be the original entrance gate to the shrine.

From the wooden torii, a wide paved path leads visitors towards the shrine grounds. Along the way, you will find many stone lanterns like the one below. Moss had gathered around the top and the base. The detailing in the carving of the lantern will tell you that its made for Kimachi stones located near Lake Shinji.

Myths surrounding Izumo Taisha

Before I show you the age-old structures inside the Izumo Taisha complex, let me explain to you some of the myths surrounding this heritage site. Like most cultures, the Japanese also have their own interesting take on the origins of their country. The Shinto myths originating from Japan can be segregated into four eras. Izumo Taisha originates from the first – the mythical era of the heavenly and earthly kami. Kami are basically the spirits, gods, and deities in the Shinto religion. The gods were divided into Amatsu-kami (heavenly gods) and Kunitsu-kami (earthly gods.)

All my conclusions have been drawn from two of the oldest written records in Japan – Kojiki (the legendary stories of old Japan) and Nihon shoki (the chronicles of old Japan). The myths of Izumo represent their own cycle in these classical works, which have several discrepancies with the Yamato myth cycles which mainly concentrated on the tradition of the imperial family and repeatedly tried to downplay the importance of the stories originating from Izumo.

According to the Kojiki; Heaven and Earth were created in this era referred to as the mythical era. The Earth itself at that time was said to be just a formless ocean with no landmass. In the beginning, as is mentioned in Kojiki – five deities came into existence at the time of the creation of the universe, called the Kotoamatsukami. Unlike the later gods, these deities were born without any procreation. The Kojiki further portrays the birth of Inazagi-no-mikoto and his younger twin sister Izanami-no-mikoto as the seventh and final generation of deities that manifested after the emergence of the first group of gods. Together they are considered to be the patriarch and matriarch of all other Japanese gods.

Receiving a command from the other gods to solidify and shape the earth, the couple, with a jeweled spear, standing on the heavenly floating bridge that connected the Heaven to Earth, stirred the watery chaos of the ocean depths. As they raised the spear, it is said, brine that dripped from the tip fell to form solid islands, that together formed the archipelago of Japan.

The two then proceeded to have many children. Izanami, however, died after giving birth to the fire god Kagutsuchi. Izanagi, wishing to see Izanami again, goes down to Yomi no Kuni, the land of the dead, in the hopes of retrieving her, but fails.

On returning back, Izanagi, feeling contaminated by his visit to Yomi no Kuni, went to the river-mouth of Tachibana in Himuka to purify himself. As he immersed himself in the water, various deities came into existence. The three most important kami – the sun goddess Amaterasu Ōmikami, the moon deity Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto, and the impetuous god Susanoo-no-Mikoto – were also born here.

At this time a depressed Izanagi, said, “I have borne child after child, and finally in the last bearing I have obtained three noble children.” Then he goes on to remove his necklace and, giving it to Amaterasu, he entrusted her with her mission, saying, “You shall rule Takama-no-hara, the dwelling place of the heavenly gods.”

Next, he said to Tsukuyomi, “You shall rule the realms of the night.” Finally, he turned to Susanoo, entrusting him with his mission, “You shall rule the ocean.”

The Kojiki states that the world where the people lived is called Ashihara no Nakatsukuni, while the realm of the dead which was believed to exist inside the earth is called Yomi no Kuni.

While the other deities ruled their realms in obedience to the commands entrusted to them, Susanoo did not rule the land entrusted to him. Instead, he wept and howled until his beard extended down over his chest. It is said, the prolonged mourning Susano-o displayed for his mother Izanami, turned green mountains barren. His weeping was such that it caused the rivers and seas to dry up.

In a well-known sequence from that myth-history, the Kojiki relates how the god Susanoo was banished by decree of his father, Izanagi. During his mourning, he committed numerous transgressions like destroying Amaterasu’s rice fields, desecrating the hall where Amaterasu was to taste the first rice, and interrupting the weaving of heavenly garments.

On coming to know of Susano-o’s transgressions, Izanagi asked Susanoo, “Why is it you do not rule the land entrusted to you but weep and howl?” Susanoo replied, “I wish to go the land of my mother.”

On hearing his reply Izanagi, became greatly enraged and said, “In that case, you may not live in this land!” Thus saying, he banished him with a divine banishment to rule over Yomi no Kuni, the realm of the dead on Earth.

Following his banishment, the Kojiki recounts Susano-o’s descent from the Heavenly Plain to the ancient province of Izumo, where his character undergoes a dramatic shift. He resigned himself to his fate and eventually after many wanderings on Earth, built a magnificent palace in Izumo, at Suga. Under his leadership, the Japanese islands came to be controlled from Izumo. Izumo came to be known as the realm of gods on Earth.

Susanoo lived in Suga with his wife and had many children. One of his descendants was Okuninushi. Okuninushi had eighty brothers and was always reckoned to be the least among them. How he came to rule these lands from being one of the most unworthy among his siblings is another interesting story.

It should be noted that the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki – compiled at different moments, in different linguistic modes, and with different sources and audiences in mind contradict each other on various fundamental points.

As we continued our walk towards the shrine, we were surrounded by tall pine trees that were hundreds of years old. In order to protect these ancient trees, visitors are not permitted to walk through the central pathway. The third Torii lies at the start of these pine trees. We took an adjacent path that led us into a wide, open area from where we could see Mt. Yakumo clearly.

At the end of the trail we found a small stone torii. This is the shrine of Kinazuki Forest. Interestingly there is no shrine after the torii. The forested area is itself considered a shrine.

It is said in the old days, the gods of Takama-no-hara gathered in this place to build the “Sunshine Palace“, the predecessor of Izumo Taisha. At the time of construction, the gods used a “pine” to beat wood and solidify the ground. This “pine” used by the gods is said to be still buried deep in the ground of this forest. This torii gate was built and worshiped as a place where tools used by the gods are buried.

The story of Okininushi

As we neared the fourth torii, that leads directly into the innermost shrine grounds, we found the temizuya, or ritual cleansing place where you should stop and wash your hands.

Near the Temizuya, you can find a statue of Okuninushi and what looks like a giant wave with an orb balance on it. This statue is a more artistic depiction when Okuninushi met Omono-nushi, represented by the gold orb on top of the wave. This is an important moment in the mythology of Okuninushi because at this moment he realized that he had the support of the heavenly gods.

The main god worshiped at Izumo Taisha is Okuninushi-no-Okami, who is also well known in Japan as Daikoku-sama.

Okinunishi married several times and had many children. The procreative actions of Okinunishi created alarm bells ringing as their descendants started taking over Earth. Amaterasu, who was still the ruler of heaven, taking displeasure at this act sent deities down to pacify and subdue the land, which was being overrun by unruly and troublesome divinities.

The initial attempts to subdue the unruly divinities ended in failure, as the first deities sent down from Takamahara ended up allying with Okuninushi instead. On her third attempt to dissuade Okuninushi, the heavenly deities decided to send a powerful warrior Takemikazuchi-no-kami who descended on Inaba beach in Izumo. Only after the deity Takemikazuchino descends and is about to kill Okuninushi’s son did he agree to surrender the land to Amaterasu’s envoys.

In exchange for his submission, Okuninushi received recognition for his own status as the deity of the great shrine of Izumo. As a sign of gratitude, Amaterasu let him retain dominion over the religious and magical world.

According to the Nihon Shoki, the goddess Amaterasu said, “From now on, my descendants shall administer the affairs of state. You shall cast a spell of establishing a good relationship over people to lead them a happy life. I will build your residence with colossal columns and thick and broad planks in the same architectural style as mine and name it Amenohisu-no-miya.”

After the subjugation of Okuninushi, a crucial episode in the imperial legitimation follows. Okuninushi resigned and retreated into his palace in Kizuki. Amaterasu assigned her grandchild Ninigi to descend to Earth and take over the rule. Thereafter no other lineage than that of the sun goddess was to hold the sovereignty. The Gods of the Izumo line were thereby downgraded for all times into a subordinated position. The end of the mythical era thus sees the earthen kami subdued by the heavenly kami.

As per her deal with Okuninushi, the other gods were gathered and ordered by Amaterasu to build a grand palace at the foot of Mt. Uga. I used the term palace, do not be confused by it, I am still referring to Izumo-taisha. Izumo-taisha has been known by various names in the past: Sunshine Palace → Kizuki Taisha Shrine → Izumo Taisha Shrine

Since then, couples and sweethearts both young and old have made the pilgrimage together to pray at the temple for good fortune and long lasting commitment. This connection of the divinity to love and sexuality is preserved in the corresponding religious traditions. Okuninushi, the great God of Izumo, today is as popular as he was in the past – as Enmusubi no kami, the divinity of the fateful bonds of love between two people. The belief traveled miles over the years and is now known all over Japan for bestowing fortunate marriage.

As with all mythological stories there are variations and they should be just consumed as a story and nothing else.

Brief history of Izumo taisha

There is no knowledge of exactly when Izumo-taisha was built, but a record compiled around 950 CE (Heian period) describes the shrine as the highest building, reaching approximately 48 meters, which even exceeded in height the 45 meter-tall temple in Nara that enshrined the Great Buddha of Tōdai-ji. A gigantic ramp is said to have led to the shrine building.

There exists a book named “Kuchizusami“, that recorded the names of the famous rivers, long bridges, great buildings, or any other major landmarks in Japan. In the book, one of the phrases mentions “Izumo is the top, followed by Yamato, then by Kyoto”. It could have been in reference to the height of the buildings in Japan at that time, the main building of the Izumo Grand Shrine was number one; the hall for the Great Buddha figure of Todai-ji temple in Yamato (present Nara) was second, and Daigokuden Palace in Heiankyo (Kyoto) was the third in height.

The document from the 10th century, indicate that the highest building in the complex was around 48 meters and stood on 9 massive columns. To reach the temple there was probably a massive flight of steps as well. Excavations have confirmed its probable existence.

Posters with illustrations of this reconstruction can be found throughout the region; they show an archaic shrine, embedded in a mystical scenery. The message of such pictures is clear: The main shrine of Izumo was in antiquity not only the tallest building of Japan – but it was also always stressed that this building was higher than the Todaiji in Nara.

The colossal size of Izumo shrine was quite literally also its downfall as it collapsed on its own weight multiple times in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Up to the Meiji Era, Izumo Taisha was called Kizuki Grand Shrine.

During the Kamakura period, around 1200, the main structure was reduced in size. Then in 1744, the shrine was reconstructed to the present size of 24 meters high and 11 meters square at its base. In the 18th and 19th centuries, as travel became more common in Japan, the shrine became a central place of pilgrimage.

Since the shrine spirit was settled in the inner shrine in 1744, it has been relocated three times for renovation, using a traditional ceremony. The relocations took place in 1809, 1881, and 1953. From 1871 through 1946, the Izumo-taisha was officially designated one of the Kanpei-taisha, meaning that it stood in the first rank of government supported shrines.

In April 2008, the spirit was moved to temporary housing in the front shrine of Izumo-taisha in preparation for the Heisei-period renovations. Izumo-taisha’s inner shrine was opened to the public for the first time in 60 years in the summer of 2008. On completion of the renovations, Ōkuninushi was returned to the inner shrine in a ceremony attended by over 8,000 people, held on May 11, 2013.

Inner area of Izumo Taisha

Let me quickly share a map of the grounds so its simpler for you to follow. The red rectangular text blurb is where the temizuya is.


When you go through the fourth copper Torii, you will see the Haiden, where visitors in general pray. The Haiden (prayer hall) will be the first visiting point for most people. It was re-built in 1959 after the end of the Second World War. The prayer hall holds an impressive three-ton Shimenawa, made of rice straw. A Saisen-bako (money offering box) lies in front of the gate.

I have heard that throwing a coin into the Shimenawa will bring luck, if the coin gets stuck in it. However, I didn’t observe anyone doing it so I too reclused myself from doing it.

Although it is usual to bow twice, clap twice, pray, then bow once more at Shinto shrines, the practice at Izumo-taisha is to bow twice, clap four times, pray, and bow once more.

The Haiden is often directly connected with the Honden. In the case of Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, the Haiden is standing on its own. In its role as a prayer hall, it is used to pray to the kami of the shrine and also host a variety of ceremonies.


Just beyond the Haiden, you will find the Honden, or main shrine, where a statue of Okuninushi resides. Okuninushi is worshiped at the shrine as the deity of nation-building, but, more popularly, also as the deity of ‘en‘, or the ties that bind us to each other.

The main shrine is enclosed inside the Yatsuashi-mon gate, with only a portion of its roof visible from outside. The Yatsuashi-mon is an eight-columned gate, the front of which is occupied with another Saisen-bako. The main shrine was built using one of Japan’s oldest shrine architectural styles, the Taisha-dzuki method, and is recognized as a Japanese National Treasure. This area is surrounded by two sets of Mizugaki (fence).

I was not allowed entry to the inner-shrine precinct. From what I gather, it can be only entered by priests and Miko. An exception is the New Year when during Hatsumode, the Saisen-bako is moved closer to the Honden and visitors can step through the gate.

Standing in front of the Honden, I bowed and then clapped my hands four times, instead of the two that is the standard ritual at Japanese shrines. Clapping twice is believed to get the attention of the gods, but since Okinunishi is the deity of relationships, at Izumo Taisha you need to add a couple of claps for your significant other.

Worshipers are not permitted inside the Honden except on special occasions.

We walked around the sprawling complex. Long rectangular buildings with shuttered entrances lined either side of the Honden. In front of the small structures, you can see hundreds if not thousands of omikuji tied to the trees and makeshift wooden panels. If you are a souvenir collector, you can buy amulets created from a hinoki cypress tree that used to support the shrine.

If you’d like to, you can also purchase an ema at the shrine here. The small wooden plaques are a way to write down your prayers or wishes, and by leaving them at the shrine, the gods are believed to be able to receive them. It’s always interesting to have a look and see what people are wishing for at different shrines.


According to an age-old myth, it is said that various gods gathered together at Izumo in the 10th month of the old Japanese lunar calendar. October is thus referred to as Kannazuki, or the “month of no gods” throughout most of Japan. During this time, Okuninushi, is said to summon all earthly deities to decide the fate of all people for the year ahead. For this reason, this month in Shimane Prefecture alone is known as Kamiarizuki – the “month of the gods.”

The row of wooden structures you see below called Jukyusha, are the said to the rooms where the various deities gather and stay during their visit to the shrine.

As we made our way towards the back area, we found ourselves in front of the Shōkokan.


The Shōkokan consists of two floors. The first floor is the reception office for Kaguraden. The second floor consists of a museum for important items. Unfortunately it was closed at the time of our visit.

Some items in the museum are items designated as national treasure and important cultural assets, like jewelry, household articles, paintings, swords, and musical instruments.

Considered most important in Shōkokan are a set of Japan’s oldest wooden pestle and an igniting board and a small boat that was hollowed out of a piece of wood. The small boat was believed to have come from the upper stream of the Yoshino River, through the Seto Inland Sea, and to the Inasa Beach near Izumo-taisha.

Soga-no Yashiro

A few paces beside the Shōkokan, you can find the Soga-no Yashiro shrine, standing exactly behind the main hall, almost enveloped by the forest at the base of Mt. Yakumo. This shrine is dedicated to Susanoo.

On the right side of the shrine, you will find a tray filled with sand. According to Shinto practice, many shrines in the Shikoku and Chūgoku regions, called Izumo yashiki, were purified with small quantities of sand taken from under the floor of this shrine.

If you take some of Soga no Yashiro’s sand with you and place it around your house, it will protect your home.

In front of Soga-no Yashiro you will find a bunch of rabbit idols. According to legend, Okuninushi once saved a rabbit, which is why you will find many cute rabbit statues at Izumo Taisha.

From Soga-no Yashiro, we completed a full circle of the walkway surrounding the main hall. From there we slowly made our way towards the Kagura Hall, which is one of the most photographed shrine on the complex.

Kagura Hall

Izumo-taisha’s Kagura-den was first built in 1776 by the Senge family, as a grand hall for the performance of traditional rituals. It was rebuilt in 1981 to commemorate the centennial of the foundation of the Izumo Oyashiro-kyo order.

The written sign inside Kagura-den is not made with ink, but it’s in fact embroidery. You will see the cross-stitch style if you look closely. There is also a stained glass with pictures of clouds in the shape of Izumo Taisha.

The Kagura-den features the largest shimenawa (sacred straw rope) in Japan. The rope is one of the most easily recognized and distinctive features of Izumo-taisha. The shimenawa is 13.5 meters long and weighs 4.4 tons, making it one of the biggest in Japan. You are sure to be surprised at the sheer scale of this straw rope hanging a few feet above your head.

A few feet away from the Kagura-den you can see a huge Japanese flag swaying in the wind.

After fully exploring the area we walked down to capture the stunning sunset at the Inasahama beach where in a few months the gods would be greeted again for the first day of “Kamiarizuki.”

The sun was just setting behind a veil of violet-hued clouds, and the wide beach was empty save for a few local teenagers and a couple busy with their pre-wedding photo shoot. As the daylight sunk bank into the horizon, we walked back to Izumo Taisha. The road devoid of any streetlights gets pretty dark and we did have some difficulty walking back to the shrine.

Once we reached the shrine, we found ourselves all alone on the massive grounds. A lone guard, neatly dressed in his “royal blue” attire, was standing guard on the premises. I politely asked him if I could use my tripod on the shrine grounds. In a very simple gesture of touching the index finger with his thumb, he gestured that it was okay. I took a couple of pictures of the Haiden, and then walked briskly to the Yatsuashi-mon gate.

Yatsuashi-mon at night

It was a bit eerie around on the grounds with not a soul in sight, but it was also easy on me as I took some lovely night shots of the gate without any photobombs getting in the way.

Kagura-den at Night

Lastly, I captured some shots of the Kagura hall which was looking immersive in the beautiful blue night. Once I had my fill of night shots, we made our way towards the bus stop.

On the way, the Okinunishi’s statue was sitting beautifully illuminated in the night. While the area is mostly unexplored by foreigners, it’s very popular with the Japanese, many of whom arrange to spend summer vacations in this region known for the relatively unspoiled, rugged beauty of its countryside and the relaxed pace and cultural riches of its towns.

Once we reached the iron torii at the edge of the shrine grounds we waited for the next bus, sitting on a roadside bench in front of a lively Starbucks.

Izumo Grand Shrine is one of the most recognized shrines in Japan, and attracts more than 2 million visitors every year. This historic temple is such a valued landmark, that you’ll see some of its architectural elements copied and utilized on the exterior entrances of various restaurants, bars, and shops in the city.

It’s recommended that the best time to visit is in the month of October when a large festival takes place to commemorate the meeting of Japan’s deities within the city of Izumo. If you can’t make the October festivals, you can still take part in a special tradition called shiokumi that is held on the first of every month. In the early morning, you take water from the sea with a special bamboo container. Then, you walk to Izumo Taisha stopping at all the shrines along the way.

Thanks for reading! If you liked my story, please add a comment below or follow my travels as I visit the only original castle remaining in the San’in region – Matsue Castle.

When was Izumo Taisha built?

Unknown. The first written records compiled around 950 CE describes the shrine as the highest building in the region.

What is the Kojiki?

Kojiki is Japan’s oldest book, which was presented to the Emperor of Japan in 712 CE. It is said that a group of government officials of the Imperial court led by Oono Asomi Yasumaro compiled the book based on traditional folklore. The original copy no longer exists, but several manuscripts have been passed down over the ages. Most historical events, myths, and legends from the beginning of the Japanese civilization up to the era of Japan’s first empress, Empress Suiko in the early 7th century, are presumed to be recorded here.

What is the Nihon Shoki?

Nihon Shoki is Japan’s oldest official history, established in the Nara period in the 8th century. It was compiled by a group led by Prince Toneri of the Imperial family and was completed in the year 720 CE. It writes about events of early Japanese mythology up to the era of Emperor Jito to the end of the 7th century.

How to pray at Izumo Taisha?

Bow twice deeply with hands placed around your knees, then clap four times, praying silently, and finally bow once again for the last time. Worshipers may recite this short prayer while praying :
“Saki-Mitama, Kushi-Mitama, Mamori-Tamae, Sakihae-Tamae”

Admission Fees


Open Timings

Always open

Admission cost for Treasure Hall

Yen 300

Treasure Hall timings

8:30 to 16:30

Sunset at Nigatsu-dō

Nigatsu-dō is one of the important structures of the Tōdai-ji temple in Nara. If you are here to know more about Nigatsu-dō, you already must be familiar with the Todai-ji temple, registered as a world heritage site, and one of the most revered Buddhist temples in all of Japan.

I have visited Nara Park many times. Nigatsu-dō is located to the east of the Great Buddha Hall, on the hillside of Mount Wakakusa. Even though I had visited the Nigatsu-dō temple hall earlier, it was only after one of my friends on Instagram posted a picture-perfect view of the evening sunset from here, that it became an obsession to visit this temple again to witness the magic with my own eyes.

The quickest way to Nigatsu-dō is via the northern side of Todai-ji, past the Daibutsu-ike Pond. On this route, you can avoid the large crowds gathered around Nara Park. With wide open areas, the fresh, crispy winter air around the lake will surely awaken your senses.

December is almost the end of Fall season in Nara, but the roads were still lit up by the beautiful Momiji trees. Momiji or Japanese Maple Tree, is probably one of the most beautiful type of maple trees there is, especially in the fall. As temperatures cool down after the scorching summer in Nara, the colors of the leaves change into vibrant shades of orange, red, yellow, and brown.


We followed the road which after a few minutes leads to a narrow cobbled path that gradually goes up the Wakakusa hill. You can find signs in English that will guide you to Nigatsu-dō temple hall. As we approached the ancient hall, we were quite happy to see a deer lost in its own world, munching away at the dried grass.

The deer of Nara park are a symbol of the city and believed to be messengers of the gods in Shinto religion.

There are two ways up the temple hall. As you can see in the image below, you have a covered wooden walkway on the left and a stone staircase on the right to reach the platform at the top of the temple.

Nigatsu-dō was founded by a monk by the name of Sanetada in 752 CE. However the temple is more closely associated with a Buddhist monk named Jitchu. He is thought to have come from possibly in India. He was one of the founding monks of Todai-ji and introduced many of the rituals still used today.

The most noteworthy of these ceremonies was the Shuni-e repentance ceremony established by him in 1960, at the request of Empress Kōmyō, wife of Emperor Shōmu, who hoped to heal the ailing Emperor who had not been well for a prolonged period of time. Since then this rite has taken place as an annual ceremony without a break. This service came to be known as Shuni-e, as it was held in the second month of the traditional lunar calendar.


Before you take the stairs to the Nigatsu-dō hall, on your right you can find the Sangatsu-dō hall. It is considered to be the oldest building in the Todaiji temple precinct. It was founded in 733 CE by the priest Roben. The hall is also known by the name Hokke-do which comes from the practice of holding a yearly service for the Hokekyo sutra in March. Belief in Hokekyo, has been widespread in Japan since the time of Prince Shotoku (574 – 622), who desired to establish a united nation under the Buddhist Law with salvation for all sentient beings, as taught in the sutra. Sangatsu-dō in Japanese means “Third Month Hall” because the service here is held in the third month.

Similarly the name Nigatsu-dō, or “Second Month Hall” is derived from the fact that the Shuni-e Ceremony is held here during the second month of the lunar calendar. You can enter the Sangatsu-dō hall for a small fee to pray to Kannon. Photography is prohibited inside this hall. I had been inside the temple before, so I just went through the gate that took me up the stone stairs up to the Nigatsu-dō temple hall.

As you reach the top of the stone stairs, you will find yourself in a wide open area paved with cobblestones with a Chozuya at the far end. The Chozuya is a water pavilion near the entrance, for cleansing yourself before you approach the deity of the temple. Most of these Chozuyas are relatively simple with running water coming from a pipe, but this one contains an intricately carved bronze dragon head which spurts out the water meant for purifying visitors.

If you are visiting during Fall, you cannot help notice the surrounding vivid yellow Momiji trees just beyond the Chozuya, a little further up the wakakusa hill.

After washing my hands at the Chozuya, I walked over to the platform of the temple. The platform stands over the inclined hill helped by numerous wooden pillars, kind of like Kiyomizu-dera, albeit a lot smaller. Though the skies were a bit overcast today, the Sun would occasionally peak through and cast a beautiful glow over the front deck of the temple.

The observation deck of Nigatsu-dō

The Nigatsu-dō hall holds two Kannons, a large one and a small one, although both of them are classified as Hibutsu “secret Buddhas” – and therefore are not publicly shown. Hibutsu or “secret Buddhas”, are Buddhist statues that are kept out of sight, maybe not permanently but sometimes the intervals when they are displayed to public can be as long as 33 or 66 years.

Some hibutsu, such as the wooden statue of Gautama Buddha at Seiryō-ji in Kyoto or the Amida statuary at Zenkō-ji, are almost never displayed, even to initiates of the temples in which they are held.

Sunset at Nigatsu-dō

Built on a hill, Nigatsu-dō has wonderful views from its observation deck back over Todai-ji and as far as the five-story pagoda at Kofuku-ji Temple. A magical mist had enveloped the heritage city. On a clear day you can see the whole city from here.

Through the mist, you can still observe the fall trees surrounding the Nara Park. The park’s autumn color is mostly scattered around the grounds in small pockets of deciduous trees, as opposed to being in one, breathtaking wall of color.

Since there are no other buildings around it, you can lean on the wooden railing and enjoy the cool breeze as it heals your soul. In addition, compared with the popularity of the main hall of Todai-ji Temple, Nigatsu-dō is much quieter, and the whole atmosphere is very peaceful.

You can sit down on one of the wooden benches inside and immerse yourself in the beauty of the sunset about to happen. There is no restriction on the opening or closing hours of the Nigatsu-dō so you can stay as long as you like.

As light begins to fade, the lanterns surrounding the temple hall are lit up. The once innocuous looking cobblestones begin to reflect the dying rays of the sun as they come alive.

The sparse number of people who know about the magic of this place at sunset were gone once the Sun had set over the horizon. The attendant at the souvenir counter near the stairs was also starting to shut down. I set up my tripod near the Chozuya to capture some of the beauty of the magical hour as the skies went from a vivid golden color to a more softer purple.

As the natural light faded away, the glow from the lanterns hanging around the temple hall became more overpowering.

Within a few minutes the skies changed again, this time into a beautiful blue. A couple of elderly ladies joined us at the observation deck. It was possibly their regular thing as I couldn’t see another soul otherwise.

Compared with the main hall of Todai-ji Temple, there are a lot fewer people who come to Nigatsu-dō, and it is very comfortable to stroll around. Because of the high terrain, one a clear day, you can overlook the entire city of Nara. The leisurely pace and the antique scenery are unforgettable and of course, when the sun goes down, it is just magical!

If you have plans to travel to Nara, don’t just use up all your time at the Todai-ji Temple, remember to climb the mountain and take a look at this beautiful and peaceful scenery of Nara.

Thanks for reading! I hope you like my story. Please leave a comment if you have any questions. Tomorrow we leave for Izumo to spend a few days in the ancient city that is known to be as the realm of the Gods in ancient Japan. On the way we plan to stop for a brief time at lake Shinji to experience another sunset, I hope the rain gods stay away!

Events at Nigatsu-dō

Nigatsu-dō is particularly popular for the Omizutori ceremony that is held for two weeks from 1st to 14th March every year. The ceremony is held to cleanse the people of their sins as well as to usher in the spring of the new year. The ritual has been practiced non-stop since the Heian period, more than 1200 years ago.

During the event, priests with a torchlight in hand descend repeatedly from the Nigatsudo hall to the holy well at the base of the temple. Of the many events held during Omizutori, Otaimatsu, the fire torch is the biggest and the most impressive one at 6-8 meters tall.

When was Nigatsu-dō Hall built?

Nigatsu-dō Hall was founded in 752 by a Buddhist monk named Sanetada

What is the best time to visit Nigatsu-dō?

Early March is the best time to visit Nigatsu-dō. Here is a schedule of the events held during that time:
March 1st-11th: 19:00 (20min)
March 12th: 19:30 (45min)
March 13th: 19:00 (20min)
March 14th: 18:30 (10min)

Group of Monuments at Aihole

Today we drive to Aihole, said to be one of the first regional capital of the Karnakata region under the rule of the Chalukyas. The town contains a large number of early experimental Hindu temples and shrines that date between the 6th – 12th centuries CE.

I and my wife, Mani, were staying at Clark’s Inn, which in my opinion is the best hotel in this area. It was a beautiful morning as we drove to Aihole. The heritage town is about 35 km from Badami and 11 km from Pattadakal, both of which are major centers of historically important Chalukya monuments.

Along the way, we passed vast spaces of empty terrain with nothing but brown bushes. The desolate landscape is strewn with interesting-shaped boulders. The boulders in this area are very different from the ones in Hampi, which is just about a hundred kilometers from here. Whereas the boulders in and around Hampi have been smoothed by wind erosion over thousands of years, the boulders in this region appear more reddish and jagged.

About Aihole

Aihole is a historic site of ancient and medieval era Hindu, Buddhist and Jain monuments in north Karnataka. Located on the banks of the Malaprabha river, the village was referred to as Ayyavole and Aryapura in ancient inscriptions and Hindu texts.

The idyllic town boasts of over a hundred stone and cave temples dating from the fifth century through the twelfth century. These monuments are protected under the laws of the Indian government and managed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Located around a small village surrounded by farmlands, Aihole is a major archaeological site featuring many temples and monasteries, set amidst narrow streets and congested settlements.

Similar to Pattadakal, the heritage site does not have a cordoned parking area. You just park in the space outside the complex. As we got down hoards of local villagers came charging at us selling books and eatables among other items. It is not advisable to buy books from these locals as they will ask for astronomical amounts and you have to bargain. We hurried towards the sanctity of the ASI-protected site, beyond which they didn’t chase us.

Myths surrounding Aihole

Aihole has also been a part of Hindu mythologies. It has a natural ax-shaped rock near the Malaprabha river bank, which is a tributary of the larger Krishna river that flows in north Karnataka, and a rock in the river that shows to be a footprint. A 19th-century local tradition believed that rock footprints in the river were those of Parashurama, the sixth avatar of Hindu God Vishnu.

According to local folklore, Parashurama is said to have washed his blood-soaked axe here after killing the whole clan of King Maheshmati Kartvurya Arjuna, in revenge for the killing of his father.

The story goes that Parashurama’s father had a magical cow, called Kamdhenu. The then King Maheshmati Kartvurya Arjuna forcibly takes the Kamdhenu cow from his father. Parashurama was a saint but he was born with a warrior attitude. He fights a war with the king and brings back the holy cow. On seeing Parashurama commit a sin, his father asks him to atone for his sin. While Parashurama is away in penance, the king comes back and kills Parashurama’s father. When Parashurama hears of this he goes on a killing spree and kills everyone in the king’s family. When other kings come to help Maheshmati’s family, he kills all of them. Still not satisfied, he keeps killing all the Kshatriyas (warrior class) in the region for 21 generations. Talk about holding a grudge!

It is said, after his killing spree, Parasurama came to the river Malaprabha, to wash his hands and the weapon. Due to this, the water of the river turned red. A woman saw this and screamed Ayyo Hole which in the local dialect meant “Oh no! Blood!” Since then the village came to be known as Aihole. It is also believed that the red blood washed away into the river gave the surrounding lands its red color.

Brief history of Aihole

Aihole has been called a cradle of Hindu rock architecture. The documented history of Aihole is traceable to the rise of the Early Chalukya dynasty in the 6th century. Excavations have found evidence of wooden and brick temples dating to the 4th-century. Experiments with stone started in Aihole sometime at the culmination of the 5th century CE. This was a period when the Indian subcontinent saw a period of political and cultural stability under the Gupta Empire rulers. Following the decline of the Gupta Empire, the Chalukyas began to assert their independence. The earliest dynasty, known as the “Badami Chalukyas”, ruled from Vatapi (modern Badami) from the middle of the 6th century. Their presence in the roughly 25-kilometer stretch of the Malaprabha valley is documented mainly at four well-known sites: Badami, Mahakuta, Pattadakal, and Aihole.

From then onwards to about 757 CE, the Chalukyas of Badami were the leading force in the Deccan. They were an indigenous Kannara family with Kannaras as their mother tongue. Their early inscriptions indicate that they worshipped both Vaishnavite and Shaivite deities. The temple architecture of Chalukya Period is actually a mixture of Nagara and Dravida styles. This style has been termed as Vesara style, which indicates to it being a hybrid of both styles.

The Vesara style originated at Aihole and thereafter flourished in Badami and Pattadakal. Aihole was the first capital of the early Chalukyas. It became a major cultural center and religious site for innovations in architecture and experimentation of ideas. The Chalukyas sponsored artisans and built many temples in this region between the 6th and 8th centuries.

After the Chalukyas, the region became a part of the Rashtrakuta kingdom who ruled in the 9th and 10th centuries from the capital of Manyakheta. In the 11th and 12th centuries, the Late Chalukyas (Western Chalukya Empire & Chalukyas of Kalyani) ruled over this region. Even though the area was not the capital or in the immediate vicinity from the 9th to 12th centuries, new temples and monasteries of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism continued to be built in the region based on the inscription and textual and evidence.

In the 13th century and thereafter, the Malprabha valley along with much of Deccan became a target of raids and plunder by the Delhi Sultanate armies devastating the region. From the ruins emerged the Vijayanagara Empire which built forts and protected their monuments.

The region continued to witness a series of wars between Vijayanagara Hindu kings and Bahmani Muslim sultans. After the collapse of the Vijayanagara Empire in 1565, Aihole became a part of the Adil Shahi rule from Bijapur, with some of the Muslim commanders desecrating the temples and using these temples as residences.

Aihole became a significant archaeological site and attracted scholarly attention after the British India officials identified and published their observations. They referred to the site as Aivalli and Ahivolal in the colonial British era. After the British left, Aihole remained a neglected site. Until the 1990s, the site consisted of houses and sheds built up to and in some cases extending into the historical monuments. The walls of the ancient and medieval temples were shared by some of these homes.

Experiments at Aihole

Aihole, along with nearby Badami, was the cradle of experimentation with temple architecture, stone artwork, and construction techniques. Aihole was an early medieval era meeting place for regional artisans whose ideas eventually led to the creation of prototypes of 16 types of free-standing temples and 4 types of rock-cut shrines. Though there is a sprinkling of Jain monuments in Aihole, the temples and relief artworks were predominantly created to spread the theology of Hinduism. These experimentations in architecture that began in Aihole yielded the more polished-looking group of monuments at Pattadakal, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Aihole Museum

Tickets for the Aihole group of monuments are priced very cheap at Rs. 25 for Indians. Foreigners have to pay a hefty Rs. 500 for entry per head. The complex consists of seven Hindu monuments. The first structure you see as you enter the premises is the Durga Temple.

Inside the complex, we started our exploration with a visit to the museum. You can find the museum at the back of the complex, just past the Durga Temple. Surrounding the museum, there are many excavated statues, artwork, hero stones, and temple parts demolished in past, placed over cemented pedestals for display.

Photography is prohibited inside the museum, but you can find very interesting stone idols that have been removed from the main temples. The building was originally planned as a sculpture shed in the year 1970 and was converted into a full-fledged museum in the year 1987. The museum mainly comprises stone sculptures of Brahmanical, Jain, and Buddhist faith, fragmentary carved architectural members, inscriptions, and hero stones. Period wise they range in date from 6th century CE to 15th century CE. These antiquities were acquired through exploration, excavation, and scientific debris clearance near the protected monuments.

The indoor collection includes preserved pieces of statues of Shiva, Parvati, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Brahma, Saraswati & Durga among others. One of the rooms accommodates a bird’s eye view model of Aihole and the surrounding Malaprabha valley, with marked locations of the various monuments. You can also purchase informative books from the museum store, with a compiled history of the region.

Durga Temple Complex, Aihole

From the museum, we walked down to the Durga temple, the most iconic structure of Aihole. One of the finest temple of Aihole, it completely dominates the 14 other temples lying within the enclosure. The temple is part of a pending UNESCO world heritage site. It has a misleading name because the temple is not named after the goddess Durga.

According to one theory, it stands near the ruins of a fort-like enclosure or drug (fort) during a time of late medieval era conflict in the region. According to another local tradition, a stone rubble durg and lookout were assembled on its flat roof, and locals, therefore, began calling it the Durga temple. The fortified lookout now stands removed but the name has stayed.

The Durga temple is the principal attraction for Aihole visitors with its unique semicircular apsidal layout. This shape is similar to 1st century BCE Buddhist chaitya halls found in Ajanta Caves. The Durga temple stands on a high moulded adisthana. On the roof, there used to be a tower that had a curvilinear shikhara. The museum contains a back-dated photo of the temple with its shikhara still somewhat intact. The damaged tower’s amalaka crown lies on the ground.

No cementing mortar was used during the construction of the Durga Temple, stones were fixed by making grooves and offsets.

The temple was initially thought to be dated to be from the 5th century CE but later revised to be from between the late 6th and early 8th centuries. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu god – Surya. It is the largest of a group of over 120 temples at Aihole and the best maintained.

From the front, the temple appears much more conventional with two staircases on either side providing access to the porch. The temple comprises an outer colonnaded veranda with an entrance porch facing the East. As you ascend to the porch you will be greeted with many richly carved relief panels.

The original dedication of the temple may have been to the sun god Surya, but along the passageway, you will find various deities adorning its walls. Upon climbing the steps to the Durga temple, you will find yourself in front of a porch with seating and sculpted columns.

The Durga temple reverentially displays gods and goddesses from Shaivism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism traditions of Hinduism. The included near life-size statues include Shiva, Vishnu, Harihara (half Shiva, half Vishnu), Durga in her Mahishasuramardini form killing the buffalo demon, goddesses Ganga and Yamuna, Brahma, Surya, avatars of Vishnu such as Varaha and Narasimha.

The sober and square pillars are decorated with characters around the porch and the entrance to the peristyle. The parapet is carved with niches and small animals. The inner porch is elaborately adorned with garlands and jewels. The roof contains ceiling panels representing a nagaraja (serpent) in a coiled pose. The porch gives access to rooms with pillars (‘mukha mandapa‘ and “sabha mandapa“) to get into the sanctuary, the heart of the shrine (garba griha).

The mukha mandapa (main hall) and the sabha mandapa (community hall for functions) show intricate carvings. The temple pillars have artwork showing scenes of daily life and couples, including several amorous couples in various stages of courtship, including roundels with groups of lovers.

The most original feature of the temple is a peristyle delimiting an ambulatory around the temple itself and whose walls are covered with sculptures of different gods or goddesses.

Stone grilles with various geometrical openwork patterns ventilate the interior from the ambulatory. The plan of the temple is oblong and apsidal. It means that the corridor with pillars between the porch and the heart of the shrine encompasses the heart of the shrine and allows worshipers to perform the parikrama (circumambulation ritual).

The shape of the temple, in Indian traditional architecture, is known as Gajaprastha which means the resemblance to the back of an elephant. The temple’s unusual apsidal form is thought to imitate the earlier Buddhist chaitya halls, but recent studies suggest that apsidal designs in Indian architecture were a pan-Indian tradition, which was shared by various faiths from the 2nd century BCE.

The corridor of the temple contains idols of the many Hindu Gods, including the one below, which appears to be of Vishnu with Garuda.

Another carving that caught my imagination was that of Varaha. This pose of Varaha is quite different from the depictions I found in Badami. Here the Varaha in semi-boar form holds the bhudevi (Earth) on his raised left elbow.

And here lies the idol of Durga as mahisamardini, poised to strike the demon king.

The Chalukya kings shifted their capital from Aihole to Badami and again from Badami to Pattadakal hence, the temples were also constructed in the same chronological sequence.

Standing a few meters to the south of the Durga Temple lies a small gateway structure with a central passageway referred to as Dwarabagilu. It is hard to tell but it could have been the gate to enter the main temple at some point in time. An icon of Surya is carved onto one of the parapet elements over the passageway confirming the original dedication of the temple itself.

Beyond the hefty gate lies a water tank. It was July and yet the tank was completely devoid of water.

From here we moved to the South area of the complex which contains many other smaller temples. This one appears to be another Shiva Parvati Temple locally known as the Chappara temple.

It follows another Shiva Temple referred to as the Nadyar temple. Not much information is available about this temple.

We went inside the temple, which also has some truly beautiful pillar carvings. The main deity has been moved.

Suryanarayana Temple, Aihole

Just to the left of this temple lies the Suryanarayana Temple. The temple takes its name from a Surya statue, with each hand holding a lotus flower in its garbha griya (sanctum), in a chariot, and seven small horses carved at the bottom. The temple outline is intact, but most of the details are damaged. Some historians argue that the statue is a later insert in the late Chalukya period since the building possesses a nagara-style tower with a curved profile, which was more prevalent during the 8th century.

To the back of the Suryanarayana Temple lies two smaller similar-sized temples. I am not sure about their names.

Lad Khan Temple, Aihole

At the back of this temple lies the Lad Khan Temple. The temple is curiously named after the Muslim commander under Adil Shahi Sultan who briefly stayed here about a thousand years after it was built. He used it to coordinate his military campaign in the region. 

The monument is laid out as a spacious square mandapa, with a central bay, topped by a small rooftop shrine surrounded on four sides by sloping roof slabs in two tiers. The temple embeds three concentric squares, facing the sanctum with a Shivalinga. Inside the inner third square is a seated Nandi.

The two square mandapas surrounding it create the sabha mandapa or community hall, providing ample space for devotees and the community to gather for functions. The second concentric square is supported by a set of 12 intricately carved pillars. The wall has floral designs. The temple inside is lit with natural sunlight coming in from lattice windows of the north Indian style. The temple roof stones include log-shaped stone strips suggestive of an attempt to mimic more ancient timber temple construction.

The Lad Khan temple includes iconography from the Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism traditions of Hinduism. On the lintel of the sanctum with Shivalinga, for example, is a Garuda image that carries Vishnu.

The temple has reliefs showing goddesses Ganga and Yamuna, as well as other deities. A set of stone stairs connect the lower level to the second floor whereupon is a damaged square shrine. On three sides of this upper level are Vishnu, Surya, and Ardhanarishvara (half Shiva, half Parvati). Like other Aihole Hindu temples, the temple includes scenes from daily life, including amorous couples in courtship and kama (sexual) scenes. Some scholars suggest that originally it was a community house, later converted to a temple.

Gaudaragudi Temple, Aihole

And finally, at the south-end most section, we find the Gaudaragudi Temple (also spelled Gaudergudi). Gaudargudi temple stands next to the Lad Khan temple, built on the lines of Lad Khan temple but more open from all sides. It too has log-shaped stones, where its timber-like form is integrated to serve its structural function but it is located on a lower level compared to the Lad Khan temple. The doorway of the shrine is beautifully decorated with floral carving and other figures. On the lintel, there lies a charming figure of Garuda in human form with spread-out wings. The sanctum is empty but has a Gajalakshmi on its lintel.

Another peculiar feature of this temple is its pillar support. Like the Ladh Khan, the ceiling of this pillar is supported by heavy pillars all around. Sixteen pillars are built all around the temple to support the sloping roof.

Gaudar-gudi is the first temple which introduced the circumbulatory passage (pradakshina path)

An inscription engraved on the lintel states that the temple has been dedicated to the goddess Gauri (an aspect of Parvati). There is evidence that the sanctum, the inside mandapa, and niches on the outer walls had carved statues, but these are now empty. Gaudargudi was among the earliest temples when architects included pradakshina patha (circumambulatory path) in Hindu temple design.

Next to the Gaudargudi temple is a large stepwell for utility water storage whose walls have ancient carved sculptures. The stepwell with its Hindu shrine was likely added in the 10th or 11th century.

Nearby, the Chakragudi is notable for its preserved 7th or 8th-century Nagara-style tower superstructure. The temple shows signs of later addition of a mandapa, whose style suggests 9th-century Rashtrakuta extension. After exploring the back area of the temple complex we made our way back towards the exit.

Just before exiting, I captured a last glimpse of the beautiful Durga Temple.

Ambigera Gudi Complex, Aihole

The Ambigera Gudi Complex is one of the archaeologically significant Aihole complexes situated immediately west of the Durga temple complex, near its entrance ticket office. It is a gated complex but does not require admission tickets. It consists of three monuments, all aligned to the east-west axis.

The easternmost monument is a square monument walled on its east, north, and south, and it lacks a tower. It faces the middle monument, which is the largest of the three. The middle monument has experimented with an open verandah design concept with sloping slabs for roof cover. The sanctum is inside, and it contains a damaged Surya (Sun god) image whose crown is visible. These eastern monuments are believed to be from between the 6th to 8th centuries – the Early Chalukya period. The gardens here are not that properly maintained.

The third monument in the Ambigergudi complex is a Late Chalukya design from about the 11th century. Its structure and layout feature all elements of the Hindu temple but it is damaged, the image inside the sanctum is missing and the face, nose, and limbs of most of its intricate carvings on the walls are defaced. The structure experiments with square and cubic shaped elements and arrangement of space. The Dravida design stands out above the sanctum walls, with repeated motifs of resonating tower structure as it rises upwards. Like other elements of this temple, the capping roof and finial are missing.

The archaeological significance of the Ambigergudi temple is from the results of limited excavation near the rear wall of the sanctum foundation. This yielded red-ware bowls dated to the 1st and 3rd century CE, as well as an outline of a single cell more ancient brick temple, which probably the stone temple replaced.

According to the hypothesis of Rao, the excavating archaeologist, the 3rd century CE brick temple served as a model and sanctum ground on which a more lasting stone was built. This hypothesis, however, remains tentative as additional evidence to refute or support it has not been found. Chalukyan temple inscriptions from the 6th to 8th centuries are silent about any existence of prior temples.

Hucchimalli Gudi Complex, Aihole

After grabbing a chilled 7UP we drove further north to the next group of temples in Aihole. Following the map, we took a narrow road to the right. The Hucchimalli Gudi Temple Complex is also a gated complex but I could not see any guards around. You don’t need tickets to go inside.

The main temple faces west towards a stepped tank. The sides of the temple incorporate sculpted figures of gods and goddesses. The temple consists of a mandapa with a passageway contained within walls. its plain exterior is in contrast to the well preserved Nagara-style tower. The temple is entered through a small porch with a unique carving of Kartikeya on the ceiling. A smaller structure lies just beside the main temple. It was probably added later.

The third structure facing opposite to the main temple is clearly another experimentation where the temple is constructed in an elongated shape. It was in all probability a Shiva temple as a small broken idol of Nandi sits facing the temple.

Apart from these three temples, the complex also houses a stepped water tank. The steps here were much wider than the tank in the Durga Temple complex. It was also holding some amount of water when we were there.

Ravana Phadi Cave Temple, Aihole

After exploring the temples of Hucchimalli Gudi Temple Complex, we proceeded to the Ravana Phadi Cave Temple, which was just a short drive away. Ravanaphadi is one of the oldest rock-cut cave temples in Aihole, located less than a kilometer uphill, northeast of the Durga temple complex. The temple dating to the 6th century belongs to the first phase of Early Chalukya architecture.

The entrance has an eroded fluted column and seated Nandi facing the temple sanctum, with three other small monuments each with a porch leading to a chamber. An amalaka lies fallen to the ground behind the seated Nandi. It is not clear as to where the amalaka has fallen from, as the main temple lacks a shikhara.

This is a temple carved into a hill. In front of the temple is a nice garden complete with two Frangipani trees and a monolith pillar.

The small temple in the garden is the only one topped with a kuta type roof.

In front of the cave temple, facing the Shivalinga inside sits a huge idol of Nandi

A small stone staircase leads up to a platform that is flanked by two smaller shrines. The entrance to the Ravanphadi is flanked by relief images of pot-bellied nidhis seated within Dravida-styled pavilions.

The entrance of the cave leads to a rock-cut mandapa with chambers on three sides. The main mandapa connects to two other squarish chambers, one on the right and one in the front.

The left side of the first chamber accommodates an elaborate tableau of a ten-armed Shiva, energetically pacing out the rhythm of the cosmic dance. The head of Shiva is angled sharply to the torso, while in his rear hands he holds up a cobra. In the tableau, Shiva is accompanied by Parvati and a complete set of saptamatrikas, including a boar-headed Varaha, triple-headed Brahma, and sons Ganesha & Kartikeya.

The chamber on the right was empty. At the entrance of this chamber, you can find two wall reliefs on either side. On the left is Harihara portraying a fused image of Shaivism and Vaishnavism. On the opposite side one can make out an image of Shiva with three primary river goddesses of Hindu theology, and he stands with Parvati and the skeletal ascetic Bhringi.

From here the mandapa leads into a smaller vestibule. A pedestal with a monolithic linga lies here inside the cave, never fully completed. On either side of the inner sanctum, we see two amazing works of stone art. On the left, we find a deeply carved image of Vaishnava Varaha or Vishnu’s boar avatar rescuing Bhudevi (goddess earth). To the right is an equally praiseworthy carved image of Shakti Durga as Mahishasuramardini spearing the buffalo demon Mahisasura. The cave was never fully completed as evident from the scooped nootches in this chamber.

The Ravanaphadi cave temple is in my opinion, one of the most enchanting temples in Aihole. Because it is located away from the settlement, this place is very quiet and you can explore in peace. Once we had explored to our hearts content, we drove on along the road searching for our next heritage stop.

Buddhist Temple

A few minutes’ drive from the Ravana Phadi Temple, you can make out the exteriors of the Buddha Temple. But we were exasperated by the heat and decided to skip the Buddha Temple as well as the Temple on the top of the Meguti Hill.

Before moving on, I fished out my long 80-400mm lens and took the shot of the two-storeyed temple, a few steps below the crest of the hill. The two levels of the temple are open and feature four full carved square pillars and two partial pillars on two side walls.

Each pair of pillars goes into the hill to form a small monastery-like chamber. The doorway to the lower level chamber is intricately carved, while the central bay on the upper level has a Buddha relief showing him seated under a parasol. The temple is dated to the late 6th-century.

Jyotirlinga Temple, Aihole

Before starting on our drive back to Badami, we made a last stop at the Jyotirlinga Temple Complex. Admission ticket is not required for this temple. You just open the iron gate and go in. Make sure to close the gate otherwise the cows will barge into munch on the green grass inside.

The Jyotirlinga group of monuments contains 16 Hindu monuments including a large stepwell water utility tank. It is located east of the Durga temple complex compound across the road and to the south of the Ravanaphadi cave. The temples are dedicated to Shiva, with most monuments small to moderate size. 

The complex is largely in ruins, except for the Nandi mandapas and standing pillars inside the temples some of which show intricately carved but damaged images of Ganesha, Kartikeya, Parvati, and Ardhanarishvara (half Shiva, half Parvati). The temples are likely from the Early Chalukya and Rashtrakuta Hindu dynasties. From what I could make out, there are about 4 unnamed fully standing temple structures inside the complex, the rest are in ruins.

The grounds also feature an open-air Shivalinga. I am not sure if the shivalinga never had a roof, as it may have been pulled down by sacrilegists.

The temple premises also features a stepped water tank. Among all the water reservoirs we saw in Aihole, this one looks to be the most properly constructed.

After capturing the pictures, we started on our way back to Badami. Before leaving the area, we stopped briefly to visit the ancient Digambar Jain Temple. The Jain cave temple is to the south of the village, on the Meguti hill. It is likely from the late 6th century or early 7th. The outside is plain, but the cave is intricately embellished inside.

The Aihole site and artwork are a major source of empirical evidence and comparative studies of Indian religions and art history in the Indian subcontinent. Aihole’s antiquity, along with four other major 5th to 9th-century sites – Badami, Pattadakal, Mahakuteshvara, and Alampur – is significant to scholarship relating to archaeology and religions. As there are many temples around the village, I would recommend setting a full day aside to properly explore all the heritage sites surrounding it.

It was an interesting but also tiring day. We almost walked 20 thousand steps today (as per Google) and now it was time to head back to a warm bath and some local Karnataka food at the hotel. Thanks for reading. I look forward to your comments and questions. If you are interested in following my travels, connect with me on instagram.

When were the temples in Aihole built?

5th-12th century CE

What is the architectural style of the templates in Aihole?

The temples in Aihole follow what is termed as Vesara style which indicates to it being a hybrid of Nagara and Dravida styles.

Where can I find the official website for information on Aihole?


What are the admission timings for visiting temples in Aihole?

The temples in Aihole are scattered in open areas and are not bound by time. If you are visiting the Durga Temple, which is an enclosed area, the timings are 10 am to 6 pm.

What is the best time to visit Aihole?

The ideal time to visit Aihole is October to March as the climate is pleasant during these months. The atmosphere is mild to moderate cold in December and January which would be the best time to visit. The period from April to September is hot and is not suitable to visit the spot.

What are the best options for staying at Aihole?

There are no hotels in Aihole but Bagalkot has many good hotels. The place is around 35km away from Aihole. The city has three-star hotels and budget hotels. We stayed at Clarks Inn in Badami and it was a good experience.

Group of Monuments at Pattadakal

Pattadakal, also called Paṭṭadakallu, is a collection of temples from 7th and 8th century CE Hindu and Jain temples in northern Karnataka. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is a historically significant cultural center and religious site to witness the structural tastes during the times of the Chalukya dynasty.

We were staying in Badami, which is just about 23 km from Pattadakal. The drive to Pattadakal is beautiful. Surrounding by empty vastness along a beautifully paved road, you will find the ride very satisfying.

The heritage site falls on the main road and very easy to find using Google Maps. The temple complex lies on the left banks of Malprabha river represents the greatest achievement of the Early Chalukya sculptures. Unfortunately the site does not have a proper parking zone, so we had to park the Brezza just outside the complex.

The admission booth is on the left near the entrance. It costs us Rs. 25 per head. Camera charges apply extra at Rs. 25 per camera. It is a small area compared to Hampi, about the size of about a cricket field.

Monuments at Pattadakal

Pattadakal translates to “place of coronation”. As its name implies, it was used during the Chalukya dynasty for coronation ceremonies, such as that of Vinayaditya in the 7th century CE. Over the years the town has been known by various names like – Kisuvolal meaning “valley of red soil”, Raktapura meaning “city of blood”, and Pattada-Kisuvolal meaning “red soil valley for coronation”.

The rule of the Gupta Empire during the 5th century brought about a period of political stability, during which Aihole became a locus of scholarship. The experimentations in architecture extended into Badami over the course of the next two centuries. This culture of learning encompassed Pattadakal in the 7th century which became a nexus where ideas from northern and southern India fused.

After the fall of the Chalukya Empire, the region was annexed by the Rashtrakuta kingdom, who would rule over the region into the 10th century. Between the 11th to 12th century, the region came under the rule of the Late Chalukyas. Although the area was not a capital region, nor in proximity to one, numerous sources such as inscriptions, contemporaneous texts and the architectural style indicate that, from the 9th to 12th centuries, new Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples and monasteries continued to be built in the Pattadakal region.

Throughout the 13th century, Pattadakal, the Malprabha valley, as well as much of the nearby Deccan region, was subject to raids and plunder by the Delhi Sultanate armies that devastated the region. This period ended with the rise of the Hindu Vijayanagara Empire. It was responsible for the construction of forts for the protection of the monuments, as evidenced by inscriptions in the fort at Badami. Post Vijayanagara Empire the region fell into ruins before ASI took up the protection of these heritage monuments.

The monuments at Pattadakal are evidence of the existence, and the history, of interaction between the early northern and southern styles of Hindu arts. The Hindu temples are generally dedicated to Shiva. The friezes in the Hindu temples display various Vedic and Puranic concepts, depict stories from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavata Purana, as well as elements of other Hindu texts, such as the Panchatantra and the Kirātārjunīya.

There are ten major temples at Pattadakal, nine Hindu and one Jain, along with numerous small shrines and plinths. The complex has now been cleared of the village houses that encroached onto the temples, with the monuments standing in the middle of a landscaped lawn.

Kadasidhdeshwara Temple in Pattadakal

The first temple we reached was the Kadasidhdeshwara Temple. It is a relatively small temple dating back to around the mid 7th century CE. The temple faces east and is built around a square garbha griha (sacrum sanctum). It houses a linga on a pitha (platform), and the Nandi bull faces it from outside.

There is a mandapa around the sacrum center. Another mandapa provides a circumambulation path in an expanded axial layout. The outer walls of the Kada Siddheshwara sanctum feature images of Ardhanarishvara (half Shiva, half Parvati) on its north, Harihara (half Shiva, half Vishnu) to its west and Lakulisha to the south. Mounted on a lintel at the sanctum entrance is Shiva and Parvati flanked by Brahma and Vishnu on either side. The steps at the sanctum entrance are flanked by the river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna, with attendants.

Much of the temple has been eroded or was damaged in the following centuries. Its a small temple but I really loved the shikhara of this temple. Here is another view of the same from the back.

Jambulinga Temple in Pattadakal

This almost similar looking temple just beside the Kadasidhdeshwara Temple is the Jambulinga Temple. This temple also dates to around mid 7th century. The temple is built around a square garbha griha (sacrum sanctum) The temple faces east, greeting the sunrise. The Nandi too is provided with a raised platform which is in ruins and the Nandi image shows signs of erosion.

Even thought the shikhara of this temple is not so detailed, the dancing Shiva Nataraja with Parvati and Nandi by his side on the frontal arch sukanasa is beautifully presented.

Galagalantha Temple in Pattadakal

A few paces ahead towards east, lies the Galagalantha Temple. This temple is estimatedto be from the mid 8th century. The sanctum has a covered circumambulatory path (pradakshina patha), indicating that this Hindu tradition was well established by 7th to 8th century. Various mandapas exist in this temple, such as a social or community hall (sabha mandapa), used for ceremonial functions, and a mukha mandapa, of which only the foundation remains. The entrance to the mandapa is flanked by the river goddesses Ganga and Yamuna.

It is one of the more majestic temple in the grounds. The basement of the eastern moulding is notable for depicting friezes of Panchatantra fables. I went around the temple, clicking pictures as I went around the back. Inspite of its incomplete condition, the Galaganatha temple has a remarkably well preserved tower of the curved Nagara type, with all its precisely carved details intact. The tower is surmounted by an amalaka finial rising to almost 15 meters.

The Galagatha temple is mostly in ruins, except for the southern part which contains a carved slab showing an eight-armed Shiva killing the demon Andhaka, while wearing a garland of skulls as a yajnopavita (sacred thread across the chest).

Making a full circle of the temple.

Sangameshwara Temple in Pattadakal

The next temple we explored was the Sangameshwara Temple. It is probably the one with the largest area. Sangameshwara temple, also called the Vijayeshvara temple, is a large, Dravida style east facing temple located on the south side of the Chandrashekhara temple. Inscription on a monolithic stone at the site records that this temple was erected on the orders of Vijayaditya and dedicated to Shiva.

Below we have a side of the Sangameshwara Temple. Inscriptions at the temple, and other evidence, date it to between 720 CE and 733 CE. The death of its patron king, Vijayaditya, in 734 CE resulted in the temple being left unfinished, although work continued intermittently in later centuries during the time of the Rashtrakutas.

The outer walls of the sanctuary and the tower are fully preserved. Raised on a moulded basement with a frieze of elephant, yali and makara torsos, the walls are divided into four projections.

Although the temple is not the largest among those at Pattadakal it is nonetheless of imposing proportions. The temple has a square layout, with an east facing sanctum. The sanctum, surrounded by a covered pradakshina patha (circumambulatory path) lit by three carved windows.

The vimana superstructure above the temple and the outer walls of the temple are well preserved. The temple is built on a raised moulded base, with decorative friezes of elephants, yali and makara mythical creatures.

Excavations into the foundations of its ruined hall, in 1969 and 1971, revealed the archaeologically significant discovery of a brick temple structure beneath the hall. This discovery led to the proposal that Sangameshwara had been built over an older temple, possibly dating to the 3rd century CE. The next set of temples appeared to be in a clump.

Chandrashekhara Temple in Pattadakal

Chandrashekhara Temple is the first structure in this area of the heritage site. It is a small east facing temple without a tower. It is situated on the south side of the Galaganatha temple. The temple has a garbha griha with a Shiva linga and a closed hall; a Nandi sits on a platform to the east facing the linga.

This temple is said to be the only structure that postdates the Early Chalukyan era. You can clearly observe the difference between it and the other structures on the premises. This one contains no carved ornamentation except for pairs of makaras sitting on the pilasters of the walls.

Kashivishveshar Shiva Temple in Pattadakal

Just beside the Chandrashekhara Temple you can find the Kashivishveshar Shiva Temple. Also known as Kashivishweswara, the Kashi Vishwanatha temple is another of the smaller temples at Pattadakal. The temple has been variously dated to the late 7th century, early 8th century or the mid-8th century.

Much like the other temples, the core of the Kashi Vishwanatha temple is the square garbha griha (sanctum), which houses a linga. The kapota (cornice) are decorated with motifs and carved with ganas (playful dwarfs) carrying garlands; brackets show flying couples and kirtimukhas.

In front of the Kashivishveshar Shiva Temple garbha griha is the moulded platform of a Nandi-mandapa where sits a beautifully carved statue of Nandi.

Monolithic Stone Pillar at Pattadakal

Beside the Nandi, you can find a monolithic stone pillar bearing inscription in Sanskrit. Set up by Kirttivarman II, the last of the Early Chalukya rulers, the octagonal column indicates that the temples at Pattadakal were conceived as commemorative monuments, suggesting that the site may have served as a coronation place for the Early Chalukyas.

Here is a close-up of the monolithic pillar. The inscriptions on the pillar explains that the temples now known as Virupaksha and Mallikarjuna were commissioned by two sister queens of Vikramaditya II to commemorate their husband’s successful raids on the Pallava capital at Kanchipuram.

Mallikarjuna Temple in Pattadakal

On the left of the molithic pillar, you will find the most decorated temple at the site – Mallikarjuna Temple. Mallikarjuna temple, also called the Trailokeswara Maha Saila Prasada in a local inscription, is a mid 8th-century Shiva temple sponsored by queen Trailokyamahadevi. The temple was built about the same time as the Virupaksha temple, with a similar design and layout, but is somewhat smaller and has a few important differences.

The temple reflects a fully developed South Indian vimana style architecture.

The Shiva temple also has a small area designated for Nandi.

Inside the temple, in the dark corridor, you can find a lone Shivalinga. Its garbha griya (sanctum) has a Shiva linga, and features a circumambulatory path (pradakshina patha).

The pillars inside the temple are exquisitely carved. Unlike figures, they depict stories. The use of stone carvings for storytelling is prevalent throughout the temple. The legends of Hindu epics and the Puranas are depicted on the temple pillars in the community hall.

Pillars Carvings inside Mallikarjuna Temple in Pattadakal

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Pillars Carvings inside Mallikarjuna Temple in Pattadakal

The outside is even more interesting. On the left side of the temple the side gates are beautifully designed.

The pillars are are also beautifully carved. Like other Hindu temples, the friezes of the Mallikarjuna temple show kama and mithuna scenes of amorous couples.

Another pillar of the Mallikarjuna Temple

After capturing the side, I walked towards the back of the temple, which also has interesting carving all along the back wall of the temple.

The Virupaksha temple, located to the immediate south of the Mallikarjuna temple, is the largest and most sophisticated of the monuments at Pattadakal.

Covering the full circle of the temple I found myself at the last structure inside the complex. This is the Virupaksha Temple. This is the only active temple on the premises. Originally known as the Lokeshwara, after queen Lokamahadevi, the Virupaksha temple marks a significant advance on the earlier Sangamaheshwara in terms of building design, scale and construction techniques.

In inscriptions, it is referred to as “Shri Lokeshvara Mahasila Prasada”, after its sponsor Queen Lokmahadevi, and is dated to about 740 CE.The temple is notable for its range, and quality, of construction exemplifying a well developed Dravidian architectural style, as well as the inscribed names of the artists beneath the panels they worked on.

As is common with other temples at Pattadakal, the Virupaksha temple was built facing east centred around a square garbha griya (sanctum), with a Shiva Linga, surrounded by a covered circumabulatory path (pradakshina patha).

After capturing all the temples we made our way back to the car, but not before catching a last glimpse of the heritage site.

On the way back, we passed many interesting shaped boulders. This one specifically caught my eye and I stopped to get a shot of this in the setting sun.

Thanks for reading. Please leave me a comment if you liked the post or follow my story as I visit the group of monuments in Aihole.