Introduction – Lakshmeswar is a town municipality in Gadag district in Karnataka. It was known as Purigere, Puligere, Hurigere, Huligere and Purika-nagara in the past. There are more than fifty inscriptions found in and around Lakshmeswar therefore tracing back the history of the town is not much of a problem.
The earliest reference of the city comes in an inscription of the time of the Badami Chalukya king Pulakesi II (610-641 CE). After the Badami Chalukyas, it came under the Rashtrakutas ruling from Manyakheta. One inscription of the Rashtrakuta king Dhruva (780-793 CE) is found here. After the Rashtrakutas, Western Gangas ruled over this region. Three inscriptions of their dynasty are found here, all belonging to king Marasimha II (963-975 CE).
After the Western Gangas, Lakshmeswar came under the Western Chalukya dominion. An inscription at Annigeri informs that the Cholas invaded the Western Chalukya dominion during the reign of king Somesvara I and ravaged southern provinces and destroyed the city of Pulikara-nagara, i.e. Lakshmeswar. The inscription asserts that the Chalukyas defeated the Cholas and stopped further incursions.
Lakshmeswar was the capital town of Purigere-300 division. First reference of Purigere comes in the Rashtrakuta inscription however it is not referred as Purigere-300. Its first reference as Purigere-300 is from the times of the Western Chalukya kings. During the reign of the Western Chalukya king Vikramaditya VI (1076-1126 CE), Purigere-300 which was governed by Mahamandaleshvara Lakshmarasa. Purigere-300 was included in a bigger and important division as it is told that Yuvaraja (Jayasimha III), younger brother of the Western Chalukya king Vikramaditya VI (1076-1126 CE), was governing Banavasi-12000, Purigere-300, Belvola-300, Santalige-1000 and Kandur-1000.
The Kalachuris governed the region as the feudatories under the Western Chalukyas. A Brahmapuri was established during the reign of the Kalachuri king Bijjala in 1166 CE. After them it was the Suenas and after them the Hoysalas. Many Suenas inscriptions are found here but no Hoysala inscription is found. In the last the town came under the Vijayanagara sovereign. During their times, many disputes between the Jains and Hindus were reported.
When the town came under the Mughals and other Muslim rulers, various Mohammedan buildings were constructed. The ratio of the Muslim population increased during this time however the harmony was probably maintained among all ethical groups. If not at that time, harmony is maintained at present.
Lakshmeswar is also famous for Pampa or Adi Pampa, the first Kannada writer. He was born in 902 CE. His father abandoned Brahmanism to adopt Jainism. Pampa became the court-poet and a minister under a prince named Ari-kesari whose court was situated at Lakshmeswar. Ari-kesari claimed to be a descendant from the early Chalukyas but was then a feudatory under the Rashtrakutas.
It is here in Lakshmeswar that Pampa composed his two poems which made him eternal in the history of the Kannada literature. These two compositions were Adi Purana and Vikramarjuna Vijaya or Pampa Bharata.
Imperial gazetteer of India mentions the population of the town 10,274 in 1881. It grew to 13,339 in 1951 as per Dharwad gazetteer. As per 2001 census, the population stood at 33,441 which grew to 36,754 in 2011 census.
Jain Connection – From its earliest inceptions to the last few, Lakshmeswar was all painted in the Jain color. One of the earliest Kannada dynasty, the Badami Chalukyas, patronized several Jain temples at this site. The earliest one seems to Sankha Basadi which has an inscription dated to the reign of Pulakesi II (609-642 CE). The priesthood at that time was in the hands of the priest hailing from Deva-gana of Mula Sangh.
Sankha Basadi received continuous patronage under the Badami Chalukyas till the time of Vikramaditya II (733-746 CE). It is also said that the sister of the Badami Chalukya king Vijayaditya constructed a Jain temple, Anesejjeya Basadi. The priests of this temple seem to hail from Surastra Gana as evident from an inscription of the Western Chalukya time. The inscription mentions nirvana of two priests by observing sallekhana.
The Jain temples of Lakshmeswar regained the impetus under the Western Gangas.During the times of the Western Gangas, Ganga-Kandarp-Jinalaya was patronized along with Sankha-basti. Ganga-Kandarp-Jinalaya might have been constructed by Marasimha II. The priesthood was put into the charge of priests hailing from Balakara-gana of Mula Sangh.
There are evidences of the presence of Sena-gana priests of Mula Sangh in Lakshmeswar. An inscription of the time of the Western Chalukya king Vikramaditya VI mentions Jain cult in Lakshmeswar where the grants were entrusted to Narendrasena belonging to Sena-gana.
During the Vijayanagara times, disputes were reported between the Hindus belonging to Someswara temple and Jains belonging to various basadis. An inscription of the Vijayanagara period mentions a dispute over land between the Someswara temple priest Sivaramayya and Sankha-basadi priest Hemadevacharya. The dispute was settled by Mahapradhana Naganna-dandanayaka. The judgment was in favor of the Jain priest of Sankha-basadi.
A little time later, another dispute is mentioned in an inscription of sixteenth century CE tells that the dispute was between the Jains headed by Samkhanacharya and Hemanacharya of the Sankha-basadi and Kalahastideva and Sivaramadeva of the temple of Dakshina-Somesvaradeva.
Monuments – Lakshmeswar has many temple, Jain basadis and Islamic structures.
Sankha Basadi – This is the earliest basadi in Lakshmeswar. Though it is not certain when it was founded however it was in existence in the seventh century CE as evident from inscription found here. The temple received continuous patronage from the Badami Chalukya kings from Pulakesi II to Vikramaditya II. The god is referred as Sankha-Jinendra in an inscription of the Badami Chalukya king Pulakesi II (610-642 CE). The temple seems to belong to Mula Sangh monastic order of Jainism which is synonymous with Digambar Jain order in today’s parlance.
Dhruvadevacharya was the main priest of the temple during the time of the Badami Chalukya king Vinayaditya (680-696 CE). He is said to belong to Mula Sangh and Deva Gana. Deva Gana is one among the four different ganas organized and defined by Acharya Arhadbali. Wikipedia mentions that Deva Gana traces their lineage from Acharya Akalanka Deva who lived in eighth century CE. However, inscriptions at Lakshmeswar take back the Deva Gana time to the last quarter seventh century CE at least.
The present structure is the result of recent conservation and renovation. Now it is known as Neminath Basadi, conch (sankha) being Neminath’s symbol therefore it was known as Sankha Basadi in earlier days. It is entered through a big hall, in front of which a high dipa-stambha is erected. This hall seems to have been constructed during the Western Chalukya time. All around the hall is a low parapet wall, which instead of being open is closed on top with pierced window panels.
The space between the parapet wall and window panels is carved with different images of amorous couples, musicians and dancers. The presence of huge volume of the figures of amorous couples will make a local guide to compare the temple with Khajuraho, however there is nothing to compare it with that. Entrance to this hall is provided on three sides. The shikhara of the temple is a modern structure, nothing can be said on how it would have been originally, whether dravida or nagara style.
This large hall is connected to an another hall which is smaller in size. This smaller hall would be contemporaneous with the original temple. At present this is reconstructed with original material wherever possible. This hall is connected to the sanctum with an ante-chamber. Inside the sanctum is an image of Neminath, the 22nd Jain thirthankara.
It is said that Adi Kavi Pampa composed his Adi Purana seated in this Basadi.
Anantanatha Basadi – This is a trikuta (triple celled) structure which can be assigned to the Western Chalukya period. The shikhara is constructed in the Chalukya Phamsana style. An standing image of Anantnath, fourteenth Jain tirthankar, is put in the sanctum. The other cells have Parshvanath and Jina.
All the three cells are connected to a central hall via ante-chambers. This is a live temple and various modern images are installed around.
There are many different Basadis found in inscriptions which are not traceable at present. The list is provided below.
Anesejjeya Basti – This is supposedly built by Kumkumadevi, the sister of the Badami king Vijayaditya. An inscription of the time of the Western Chalukya king Vikramaditya VI, the priest of this temple, Srinandi-Panditadeva, belonging to Surastra Gana observed sallekhana for one month. His elder brother, Bhaskarnandi-Pandita, also followed him.
Ganga-Kandarp-Jinalaya – First reference of this temple appears in inscriptions of the Western Ganga king Marasimha II (963-975 CE). The temple would have been named after the Ganga king. Ganga-Kandarp-Jinalaya would have been a different temple than Sankha Basti as one inscription of his talks about the latter and two inscriptions talk about the former.
Permadi Basti – Reference of this temple comes in an inscription of the reign of the Western Chalukya king Somesvara II (1068-1076 CE) when his mahasamanta Jayakesirayasa made some grants to this temple at the request of Tribhuvana-chandra-pandita, disciple of Gandavimukta–Bhattaraka of Mula Sangh and Balatkara-gana. The inscription mentions that the mahasamanta visited Permadi Basti and made it into a pura. What does pura mean? Does it refer to construction of boundaries to turn this basti into a fort like structure?
One interesting observation is the change of the order of the priesthood in comparison to Sankha-basti. In this inscription, the priest Tribhuvanachandrapandita belonged to Mula Sangh and Balatkara-gana. From earlier inscriptions of Badami Chalukyas, the priesthood of Sankha-basti was in the hands of the priests from Mula-sangh and Deva-gana. Though both ganas trace their foundations from Mula Sangh but these were different orders.
Dhavala Jinalaya – mentioned in inscription 5 of this article
Jine-Bhattaraka temple – mentioned in inscription 3 of this article
Goggiya-basadi – mentioned in inscription 20 of this article
Santinathadeva Basadi – mentioned in inscription 43 of this article
Vijaya-Jinalaya – mentioned in inscription 38 of this article
Someswar Temple – First reference of this temple comes in an inscription dated 1102 CE where god is referred as Muddesvara and svayambhu-Someswar. The Acharya at that time was Mahendrasoma-pandita. Later the god is referred as Svaymbhu-Somanatha or Dakshina-Somanatha.
This east facing temple has a large ranga-mandapa which has three entrances, west, south and north. With an ante-chamber, it is connected to another smaller mandapa which also has entrance on south and north. These entrances are adorned with porches on outside. The ante-chamber also has entrances on either side.
The external walls have suffered much deterioration. There would have been an arrangement of Ashta-dikpalas on the exterior, only few of these remain, that too in much damaged condition. The image inside the sanctum is unique as instead of Shiva represented in his linga form, he is shown here riding over Nandi which is standing over a pedestal.
There seems to be a ghatika attached to this temple as grants were made to take care of it. Ghatika is an educational institution where Vedic studies were pursued. 13th century witnessed renovation of the temple under Acharya Nageshvara who hailed from Saurashtra. It appears that the construction of the temple was motivated from the Somanatha temple at Gujarat. The idea was to introduce Somanatha in Lakshmeswara hence it was referred as Dakshina-Somanatha.
A dancing girl quarter was attached to the temple. An inscription of the time of Vikramaditya VI, repairs were made to this quarter.
There are many other temples and deities mentioned in inscriptions which are not traceable at present. The list of these is provided below.
Rameshvara Temple – This temple is mentioned in inscription 16 and 18 of this article. There seems to be a matha attached to this temple where proper studies were carried out. A grant was made to take care of feeding and lodging of teachers and students who were taught Kumara-vyakarana in this matha.
Kattamesvaradeva Temple – mentioned in inscription 26 of this article, this inscription is in Somesvara temple
Svayambhu-Lakshmanesvara – mentioned in inscription 30 of the period of the Kalachuri king Sankama. It might be same as Svayambh-Someswar temple.
Virabhadra temple – mentioned in inscription 34 of this article
Gods Kedaradeva and Chikkesvaradeva – mentioned in inscription 37 of this article
Inscriptions – As there are more than fifty inscriptions found here, therefore I have collected all those in a separate page which can be viewed here.
How to Reach – Lakshmeswar is about 50 km from Gadag and 55 km from Hubli. Nearest railway station is Gudageri, about 12 km far.
- Burgess, J (1885). Lists of the Antiquarian Remains in the Bombay Presidency. Government Central Press. Bombay.
- Palande, M R (1959). Dharwad District Gazetteer. Karnataka Government Press.
- Rice, Edward P (1921). History of Kannada Literature. Asian Educational Services. New Delhi. ISBN 8120600630