In early medieval time Jainism was patronized by most of southern India royal dynasties. Some of the sovereigns were devout followers of Jainism who contributed to some finest architectural monuments in south India.
Meguti Jain temple of Aihole is a great example of such great chalukyan structure. This temple had been never completed since ever its starting phase. This temple was constructed by great poet, scholar and general Ravikeerti in 634-35 AD. Ravikeerti was court poet of Chalukyan king Pulakesi II and writer of famous Aihole inscription at Meguti Jain temple. Meguti Jain temple is situated at crest of the hill and dedicated to 24th Lord Vardhman.
It is the first temple with body of the south Indian temple. The temple is made of abundant sand stone with fine grain which is easily available in Aihole’s hills. It is significant in being the earliest dated temple of India showing royal involvement. The Meguti Temple has the distinction of being the only temple in Aihole which can clearly be traced back to 634 AD. Meguti Jain temple is built on a raised platform and fight of steps leads us to Pillared Mukhmandapa. Upstairs on the roof is another shrine directly above the main shrine. The superstructure rising above the sanctum wall of the temple has been built at a later date. 12 pillars and 4 pilasters of the large porch have flat roof with curved eaves. The niches on the exterior walls and friezes on porch parapet wall are now empty. The low parapet wall is decorated with friezes and kudus. An entrance from portico leads us to a chamber divided by a wall. This wall segregates front and rear mandapa. Flight of steps leads us to second elevated chamber and gate of the second chamber leads us to a large hall with four pillars in center. The sanctum is set in the center of the pillars, enclosed in walls.
At the back of the sanctum is an image of Jina .The circumambulatory path around the sanctum is made up for connecting chambers. An image of Jain yakshi goddess is found from this pantheon and now preserved at Aihole local museum. It is assumed that the yakshi is Siddhayika, subordinate goddess of 24th Lord Vardhman. Some scholar consider this sculpture as Yakshi Jwalamalini and it is considered the oldest image of Yakshi “Jwalamalaini”.
Aihole Inscription of Meguti Jain Temple :- The earliest document of Chalukyan chronology is asserted from Meguti Jain inscription. This inscription is inscribed on a vast eastern wall of the shrine. This inscription was written by Poet, scholar and commander Ravikeerti in saka 556 means 634 AD. Ravikeerti inscribed this inscription in Sanskrit language but script was old kannada. As we know that Ravikeerti was contemporary of Great chalukyan emperor Pulakesi II (610-642 AD) .This inscription has initial verses dedicated to Lord Jina’s eulogy.
Great Emperor Pulakesi also called upon as “Satyashray” (Abode to Truth). This Inscription is an account of emperors “Jayasimha,Ranaraga, Keertivarman , Pulakesi I and Pulakesi II expeditions, valour and victories over kadambas, pallavas, nalas latas, malavas and gurjaras. The most important triumph of Pulakesi II over Harsha on the bank of river Narmada. Finally poet Ravikeerti compared himself with Kalidasa and Bhairava in poetic skills and fame. This inscription seems older than triumph of Pallavas over Badami when Badami was under reign of Pallava for 13 years.