Temples of Karnataka
The Karnataka landscape is characterized by a profusion of ancient temples and sacred shrines that have withstood the vagaries of time. These temples, spread across the length and breadth of the state, are renowned as much for their magnificent architecture as for their religious pre-eminence.
The growth and proliferation of temples in Karnataka can be ascribed to the zealous efforts of a succession of royal dynasties who reigned supreme in the Deccan plateau. The Kadambas, Chalukyas, Hoysalas, Gangas, Vijayanagara Kings - all of them were devout rulers and prolific temple builders. During their reign, each of these kingdoms has given rise to a distinctive school of temple architecture. While the Badami Chalukyas were the builders of rock cut caves and ancient temple complexes, the Hoysalas built temples on raised complex star shaped platforms. The Hoysala temples were characterized by a wealth of intricate carvings and friezes on the temple walls. Karnataka has also been home to prodigious scholars and great spiritual leaders like Adi Shankaracharya and Saint Basaveshwara who consecrated a number of holy shrines and temples.
Chennakeshava TempleA supreme example of Hoysala temple architecture, the Chennakeshava temple in Belur, Karnataka leaves one spellbound with its exquisite structure. The temple was constructed in 1117 AD by Hoysala king Vishnuvardhan to celebrate his victory over the Cholas at the battle of Talikad. A culmination of over hundred years of painstaking craftsmanship, the Chennakeshava temple is decorated with stories from the Puranas, the Upanishads and the epics of Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
Gavi Gangadhareshwara TempleBuilt in the 16th century by Kempe Gowda, the founder of Bangalore, the Gavi Gangadhareshwara Temple is an architectural marvel that attracts devotees by hordes. One of Bangalore's oldest temples, the Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple was built by Kempe Gowda in gratitude after being released from his five-year incarceration by Rama Raya. Built inside a natural cave in
Gavipuram, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is carved out of a monolithic stone. The chief attractions of the Gavi Gangadhareshvara temple are the Granite Pillars two of which support mammoth discs representing the sun and the moon, while the other two have a Nandi figure at the top.On the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti, the temple witnesses a unique phenomenon when the evening sun's rays passes through an arch between the horns of Nandi and falls directly on the linga inside the cave, thereby lighting up the idol inside. It is a phenomenon that is proof of the technical excellence of ancient architects, of their knowledge of astronomy combined with great architectural skill.
Hoysaleshwara TempleA gem of Hoysala temple architecture, the Hoysaleshwara temple of Halebid is ornamented with a plethora of exquisite carvings and sculptures. It was built by Ketamalla, a minister of Hoysala ruler Vishnuvardhana, in the 12th century AD. It is believed that the construction of the Hoysaleshwara temple never reached completion as the Hoysala rulers were forced to relocate their
capital in the face of attacks by the rampaging armies of Malik Kafur.The Hoysaleswara temple enshrines the deities of Hoysaleswara and Santaleswara, named after King Vishnuvardhana Hoysala and his wife Queen Santala. The composite structure of the Hoysaleswara temple comprises a pair of identical temples, each with its own east-facing linga sanctuary opening on to a hall and a screened porch. As the two halls are joined together to create a spacious columned interior, the temples function as a single monument.
Madhukeshwara TempleThe renowned Madhukeshwara temple is the prime attraction of Banavasi, a quaint town located on the border of Uttara Kannada and Shimoga districts. Banavasi was the capital city of the Kadamba kings, the first royal dynasty of Karnataka who established their empire in 345 AD. The Madhukeshwara temple stands proudly embodying the architectural grandeur of the Kadamba era.
As dynasties rose and fell apart with the passage of time, the temple was subjected to additions and renovations by later dynasties. As such the Madhukeshwara temple came to be known as an amalgamation of several schools of architecture. The presiding deity of Madhukeshwara is a honey colored lingam dedicated during the period of Mayura Varma, the first king of Kadambas. As one strolls around the sprawling temple compound, one stumbles across a number of structures bearing the hallmark of different architectural dynasties. The Sankalpa mantapa in front reveals the influence of the Chalukyan style, while the Nritya mantapa or the dancing hall was added during the Hoysala period and has exquisite carving on the pillars and the ceiling. There are also beautifully carved monolithic structures, credited to Sonda rulers.
Mahabaleshwar TempleThe Mahabaleshwar temple is located in Gokarna, a sacred pilgrimage site in the Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka. One of the seven Mukti Sthalas of Karnataka, Gokarna is also known for its idyllic beaches and serene landscape. The Mahabaleshwar Shiva temple is regarded to be next in sanctity only to the Vishwanath Siva Temple in Varanasi and is often called the
Dakshina Kashi.The Mahabaleshwar temple enshrines the Aatma Lingam of Lord Shiva. Legend has it that the holy Lingam was given by Shiva to King Ravana to make his kingdom an invincible fortress. Varuna and Ganesha tricked Ravana into placing the Lingam here and in spite of the might exerted by Ravana (Maha Bala) the Lingam remained rooted to the ground. The six foot tall Shiva Lingam, enclosed in a square Saligrama Peetham, can be seen only once in 40 years, when the Ashta bandana Kumbhahishekam is performed. It is customary here to have a dip in the sea and then worship a Shivalingam made out of sand, before worshipping at the temple. Maha Sivaratri is of great significance in this shrine located in idyllic surroundings. Also located around Gokarna are Sejjeshwara, Gunavanteshwara, Murudeshwara and Dhareshwara. These four temples along with Mahabaleshwara are known as the Pancha Maha Kshetras.
Mookambika TempleNestled in the foot of the Western Ghats, the Mookambika temple in the village of Kollur attracts devotees from all over India. One of the seven pilgrimages created by Parashurama, Kollur is devoted to goddess Parvathi while the other pilgrimages are devoted to Lord Shiva, Lord Subramanya and Lord Ganesha. The temple derives its name from a demon Mookasura who was destroyed by the goddess Shakti.
The sanctum sanctorum of the Sri Mookambika temple contains the Shiva lingam called the Jyothirlingam. The lingam is divided into two unequal parts by a golden line and is visible only in the light of reflected sunlight pointed at the lingam. The right portion of the lingam represents Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva while the larger left part represents Lakshmi, Saraswathi and Parvathi. The Panchaloha image (five element mixed metal) of the Goddess on Shree Chakra is stated to have been sanctified by great religious scholar Adi Shankaracharya during his visit to this place. The temple has a gold plated crest and copper roofs.
Pattabhirama TempleThe Pattabhirama Temple is a major pilgrimage center in the ruined city of Hampi. Along with the Virupaksha and Vitthala temples, the Pattabhirama temple embodies the prolific temple-building ventures of the Vijayanagara rulers.
This presiding deity of the Pattabhi Rama temple is Lord Rama. Known for its splendid architecture, the temple complex is confined within a large rectangular enclosure. The sanctum sanctorum with its axial mantapas is situated in the centre of the courtyard. A pillared colonnade runs along the inside of the wall round the courtyard. The east-facing sanctum is a tri-tala vimana with an antarala, ardha-mantapa and maha-mantapa. The large and square maha-mantapa is a finely proportioned seven aisled structure with tall and slender composite pillars of various types. To the east of the ardha-mantapa is the usual covered pradakshina-prakara enclosing the garbha-griha and the antarala.
Someshwara TempleOne of the prominent temples in Bangalore, the Someshwara temple was built during the reign of the Chola dynasty. Endowed with splendid architecture, the Someshwara temple bears testimony to the architectural expertise of the Chola era. Right at the entrance of the temple, a Rajagopuram (tower) and a Dhwajastambha (massive pillar) provide glimpse of the master craftsmanship of a bygone era.
Though the presiding deity of the temple is Lord Shiva, the temple houses other deities of Kamakshamma, Arunachaleswara, Bhimeswara,Nanjundeswara and Panchalingeswara as well. While the main temple was built by the Chola kings, the impressive Rajagopuram and the compound of the temple was built by chieftain Kempegowda, the founder of Bangalore.On the eve of Shivarathri in the month of February, devotees flock to the Someshwara temple in large numbers. Worshippers jostle with each other for a darshan of Lord Shiva and the Pancha Lingeswaras. The temple celebrates Brahmotsava on the full moon day and Kamakshamma Pallaki Utsava festivals in the month of April. The deity of the temple, Goddess Kamakshamma, is taken in a procession in a Pallaki (palanquin) around the temple.
Virupaksha TempleThis temple, in worship, known as 'Shri Lokeswara-Maha-Sila-prasada' from the epigraphs, was built by Lokamahadevi, the Queen of Vikaramaditya II (A.D.733-745) in about A.D.740 to commemorate her husband's victory over the Pallavas of Kanchipuram. It closely resembles the Kailasanatha temple at
Kanchipuram on plan and elevation and represents a fully developed and perfected stage of the Dravidian architecture.Facing east, this temple has on plan a square sanctum (garbhagriha) with a circumambulatory path (pradakshinapatha), an antarala with two small shrines for Ganesa and Mahishamardini facing each other infront, a sabha-mandapa with entrance porches on the east, north and south and a separate Nandi-mandapa in front. The complex is enclosed by high prakara walls. Against the inner faces of these walls there were small shrines (originally 32) dedicated to the subsidiary deities (parivaradevatas) of which only a few are extant now. The enclosure has been provided with ornate entrance gates ((pratolis) on both east and west. The temple is built on a high plinth of five fully evolved mouldings. The outer faces of the walls of the sanctum are divided into a central projection, two intermediate projections and two corner projections with four recesses in between. Likewise, the mandapa walls on either side of the northern, eastern and southern proches are divided into two projections and two recesses. All these projections of the sanctum walls carry niches housing images of Saiva and Vaishnava deities like Bhairava, Narasimha, Hari-Hara, Lakulisa etc., while there are perforated windows of various design in the rest of the recesses. The parapet consists of architectural elements called kutas (square), panjaras (miniature apsidal shrines) and salas (oblong) corresponding to the projections below and the linking courses (harantaras) above the recesses. The superstructure over the sanctum is a Dravida-vimana in three storeys with a sukasana projection over the antarala. It is square in plan and repeats in its elevation many elements of the parapet and walls beneath. It has a beautifully shaped square roof (shikhara) with a round finial kalasa above.
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