May 17, 2010
Traveling eastwards from Hubli on NH-63, we are transformed into a bygone era. An illustrious period of the Chalukyas wherein many magnificent temples were constructed that remind us of our glorious past.
An early morning start from Hubli enables one to visit all these treasures enroute to Hampi. Our first stop is Annigeri which is also the birth-place of the great Kannada poet Pampa. The Amruteshwara temple at Annigeri is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is a perfect example of the artistic excellence which the Chalukyas had way back in the 11th century. The temple is situated right in the middle of the town and has been declared a heritage site by the Government. The road leading to the temple is adorned by stalls which sell offerings and also refreshments. It is ideal to spend a while in this tiny hamlet and watch the peasants get along with their work before we hit the highway and proceed towards Gadag.
Reaching Gadag, which is about 60 kms from Hubli, one finds the hustle and bustle as in any other town. Gadag is the district headquarters and is a town comprising of many temples. The two prominent ones are the Trikuteshwar Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and the Veernarayana Swamy Temple dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara.
As one enters the town, there are signboards put up by the Karnataka Tourism department which help the traveler locate these beautiful shrines. The Trikuteshwar Temple has three ‘Lingas’ mounted on the same stone. This temple also enshrines the Goddess of learning – Saraswati.
It is also yet another perfect example of the Chalukyan architecture, the enchanting stone pillars in the temple which are neatly carved, herald the glorious past of which we are all proud of. At the Trikuteshwar Temple, ‘poojas’ are conducted to the presiding deity who is Lord Shiva. There is no pooja done at the Saraswati Temple as it was vandalized. A visit to this temple is bound to leave one spell-bound.
We next visit the Veernarayana Swamy Temple. The imposing ‘Gopuram’ of the temple is ivory coloured and is a sight to behold. Legend goes to say that Naranappa, a peasant, narrated the epic of Lord Venkateshwara and he drew inspiration to do so only if he sat before the Lord in a holy posture.
There is also a garden of saint Raghavendra Swamy in the temple premises.
After visiting the Veernarayana Swamy Temple, it is advisable to relax for a while and break for lunch as Gadag is a major town and there are plenty of eateries where food as per one’s choice is available.
Our next stop is Dambal. To reach there one must deviate from NH-63 and take the road which leads towards Mundargi. Dambal is about 20 kms from Gadag. The Dodda-Basappa temple at Dambal is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple, as its name suggests, has a beautiful monolithic statue of a bull right in front of the presiding deity.
The temple, also a perfect example of Chalukyan architecture, is unique as it has a star-shaped plan for its ‘Vimana’. Each of these is divided into four 22.5 degree angles and is again covered with intricate carvings.
As one enters Dambal one is greeted by this marvelous piece of architecture. The temple is also a heritage monument. A lush lawn and garden is maintained by the department. After visiting the Dodda-Basappa Temple, one needs to return back to the highway NH-63 and then proceed eastwards towards Lakkundi.
Lakkundi is about 11 kms from Gadag and is a small village which comprises of ruined temples. There are close to 50 temples which are in a ruined state. There is also a well with 101 steps called the Kalyani or ‘Pushkarni. Among the ruins, the Kashivishvesvara Temple stands out.
Yet another masterpiece of the Chalukyan architecture, this temple has shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva as well as Lord Surya. The shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva has a ‘Linga’ standing three-feet tall in the sanctum. The shrine dedicated to Lord Surya faces the main shrine which is that of Lord Shiva.
The intricate carvings in the temple depict the various gods and goddesses from Hindu mythology. Lakkundi is also famous for its Jain ‘Bastis’ and there is also a museum which comprises of findings from excavations. Lakkundi can be very truly described as a place towards which archaeologists gravitate.
A drive around the ruins leads to the well with 101 steps, which was used to fetch water during the Chalukyan era.
After spending a couple of hours at Lakkundi we proceed on NH-63 towards Itagi, our final stop before we reach Hampi.
To reach Itagi, we need to turn left at a village called Kuknur. A 7 km drive along the countryside, and one is welcomed by the imposing sight of the Mahadeva Temple at Itagi. The temple dedicated to Lord Shiva has one of the best carved stone pillars and is declared a heritage monument by the tourism department.
The carvings are done on granite and the sight of these pillars leaves one speechless. There is a huge pond in front of the temple. It is learnt that the Amruteshwara Temple at Annigeri was used as a prototype in the construction of the Mahadeva Temple. The main sanctum in the temple comprises a ‘Linga’ of Lord Shiva and is surrounded by thirteen minor shrines each with its own Linga.
The temple got its name from the Chalukyan general Mahadev who was a commander in the army of western Chalukyan king Vikramaditya VI. The temple also has shrines dedicated to the parents of Mahadeva.
When we set out on this journey, little did we expect that we would visit places which are of so much prominence and with so much cultural vibrancy. As the sun went down, we proceeded towards Hampi which is about 60 kms. Driving along, we realized the true treasures we posses and the importance to preserve them for the generations to come.