Between 1001 and 1500 CE, Karnataka, Western Chalukyas

Lakkundi – Forgotten Hoysala Capital

Introduction – Lakkundi is a small village in Gadag district of Karnataka. Bombay gazetteer informs that the population of the village was 3263 in 1881. It informs that there were about fifty temples and thirty-five inscriptions. Population as per 2011 census stands at 11,960.

The village is referred as Lokki-gundi in its inscriptions. It is said to be a maha-agrahara settlement consisting one thousand mahajanas. As per inscriptions, this agrahara was established by Rama of the Ramayana period. The earliest inscription found here is of the Western Chalukya period. This and the other major earlier inscriptions are of Jain order which suggest influence of Jainism in this area during those times.

In the later period of the Western Chalukyas, the Kalachuris ruled over this region as their feudatories. After the Western Chalukyas, the region came under the Suenas (Yadavas of Devagiri). They patronize various Shiva temples here. During the Western Chalukya times, Lakkundi has a royal-mint as evident from its inscription. A part of earnings from the mint was donated to the temples here.

In 1192 CE, the great Hoysala king Ballala II established himself at Lakkundi as his capital. According to a tradition, between 1187 and 1192 Lakkundi was the scene of a battle between Ballala II and Jaitugi, the son of Suena king Bhillama. In this battle, Jaitugi is said to have worsted. Since then the region was under the able rule of the Hoysala kings.

Though no VIjayanagara inscription is found here, however it can be said with certainty that the region was under their rule as that dynasty was ruling over whole of south India at some point of time. It would have come under the rule of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan and ultimately to the British.

Inscriptions – J Burgess enumerated thirty-five inscriptions at Lakkundi, the same number is also accepted by J Campbell in Bombay gazetteer. However, the Dharwad gazetteer provides count of twenty-nine inscriptions.

Monuments – As per the Bombay gazetteer, the important temples were Chandramauleshvar, Ganesha, Gokarneshvar, Halagund Basavanna, Ishvar, Kashivishveshvar, Kumbhargirishvara (or Nadayadeva), Lakshminarayana, Mallikarjuna, Manikeshvar, Nagardevara, Nanneshvara, Nilkantheshvara, Someshvara, Virabhadra, Virupaksha and Vishvanatha. Dharwad gazetteer mentions all except Chandramauleshvar, Ganesha, Gokarneshvar and Ishvar.

Colonel Meadows Taylor is of opinion that these temple suffered severely during the Chola invasion in about 1070 CE when Lakshmeshwar temples were destroyed. He also thinks that the feuds between the Brahmans and Lingayats further added to their injury.

Brahma-Jinalaya

Brahma-Jinalaya – This east facing temple is the oldest Jain temple at Lakkundi. The temple consists of a garbha-grha, antarala, nava-ranga, an open mandapa and mukha-mandapa. Balustrade entrance flanked the mukha-mandapa. The open mandapa is supported on twenty-eight pillars. As observed in other Western Chalukya period temples, we do not find slanted-backrest seating like arrangement in this open mandapa. Navaranga has four pillars in center to support the ceiling above the central stage.

Mandapa

Mahavir

Antarala doorway has Gaja-lakshmi on its lalata-bimba. The garbha-grha doorway has an image of Mahavira on its lalata-bimba. The garbha-grha is a square sanctuary and it houses a Mahavira image standing above a simha-pedestal. On his left is shown yakshi Padmavati and on his left is a yaksha.

Padmavati

Brahma

Inside the nava-ranga, on either side of the antarala doorway, are placed two exquisite sculptures, one of Padmavati and one of Brahma. Brahma is shown standing in sambhaga posture. He is shown with his four heads and four hands. Because of this image, the temple is probably known as Brahma-Jinalaya.

Temple Shikhara

Temple Vimana

The shikhara of this temple is very noteworthy. It is constructed in three stories topped with a crowning member. The first story is taller than the above two stories. It rises above the garbha-grha and provides a cavity for another smaller garbha-grha. It is topped with two stories of same design. The crowning member is square in shape and has a pot-finial above it. The whole scheme is executed in Dravidian style.

Second Temple

There is another small temple on the north of the main temple. The mandapa of the temple has not survived. An image of Mahavira, which head is broken, is placed over the platform of the mandapa. The shikhara of the temple is also lost.

As per an inscription, it was constructed by Attiyabbe, the wife of chief Nagadeva, in about 1007 CE. Her son is said to be governing the Masavadi country. The temple was under the priesthood of Archanandi-pandita who belonged to Surastha gana of Mula Sangh of Digambar order.

Kashi-Vishvanatha Temple

Kashi-Vishvanatha Temple – This twin temple has two temples joined by a mandapa which at some point of time was covered with a roof above it. The main temple is a Shiva temple and faces east. It has a grabha-grha, antarala, mandapa and a porch. Entrance to the mandapa is provided on its east and south.

Southern Side

Southern Doorway

The entrance on the south is an exquisite piece of art and style. It is very elaborately carved and designed. Each doorjamb has eight sakhas, with a pilaster in middle. On either side, at the bottom are shown nine guardians and dvarpalas. Gaja-lakshmi is present on lalata-bimba. Above the lintel are arranged eleven or twelve male figures either representing ekadasha (elevn) Rudras of dvadash (twelve) Adityas, out of which only three have survived. Being a Shiva temple, Rudras would be more appropriate here.

Eastern Doorway

The eastern doorway of the mandapa rivals in execution with the southern doorway. It has total six sakhas and two intermittent pilasters. Gaja-lakshmi is present on its lalata-bimba. Many perforated sections are carved on these sakhas. It would be very tiresome and expertized job to executed on these perforated sections.

Navaranga

Sapta-Matrikas with Shiva Veendhara and Ganesha

Inside the mandapa are found Sapta-matrikas and Ganesha on either side of the antarala doorway. The garbha-grha doorway lintel has Shiva in middle with Brahma and Vishnu on either side. Shiva is shown with Parvati. Below these figures are placed fighting scenes of horses and elephants having rider on few. Inside the garbha-grha is a shivalinga. The god is referred as Kavatalesvara and Kavatala-chamundeshvara in inscriptions.

Bhima and Arjuna fighting with Bhagadatta

Ravana lifting Kailasha

Ravana fighting with Indra

Shiva as Gajantaka

The external walls of the temple are decorated with various sculptures. Among these Ravana lifting mount Kailasha, Shiva slaying Gajasura, Bhima fighting with Bhagadatta, Ravana fighting with Indra etc. are notable. These sculptures are much mutilated and spoiled. Noteworthy are the majority of elephant fight themed sculptures on these external walls and presence of elephants on the lintel of the garbha-grha. Whether it has any significance or not is not known.

Surya Temple

The other temple, facing opposite to Kashi-Vishvanatha temple, is dedicated to Surya. Both these temples are connected by a high raised platform which would have borne ceiling at some point of time. This surya temple faces west. Mandapa doorway lintel depicts Surya with Usha and Pratyusha. Surya is shown in his high boots.

Surya with Usha and Pratusha

Around the vimana, on central niches of all sides, horses of Surya are still intact though the niches are empty now. Inside the garbha-grha is a pedestal over which seven horses of Surya with charioteer Aruna are left but image of Surya is missing.

Nanneshvara Temple

Nanneshvara Temple – Built on a high-rising jagati, this temple stands opposite to Kashi-Vishvanatha temple. It consists of a an open mandapa, closed mandapa, antarala and garbha-grha. The open mandapa is supported on sixteen pillars. Entrance to the closed mandapa is provided on the east and south.

Mandapa Doorway

Southern entrance doorway is devoid of any decoration except plain jambs. Dvarpalas are provided at the bottom on a separate pilaster attached to the doorway. Gaja-Lakshmi is present on lalata-bimba. The closed-mandapa doorway is decorated with three sakhas with pilasters on either side. Dvarpalas are provided at the bottom. Gaja-Lakshmi is present on lalata-bimba.

Neelkantha Temple

Neelakantha Temple – This ruined temple has lost its shikhara and mandapa walls. There are stones placed over the walls that gives the temple and interesting appearance.

Manikeshvara Temple

Manikeshvara Temple – This is a big temple complex as it also houses a pushkarni (tank), locally known as Muskin Bhavi. This is a trikuta (triple-celled) temple. Shikhara of all the cells are lost. The main cell houses a shiva-linga. The common mandapa is fronted with a porch supported on four front pillars.

Muskin-Bhavi

Perforated panels are present on either side of the antarala door-jambs of all the cells. External walls are devoid of any sculptures. Miniature shrines are present on the south and north vimanas.

Naganatha Temple

Naganatha Temple – This is a Jain temple which is now converted into a Hindu shrine. It consists of a front proch, a closed mandapa, antarala and garbha-grha. Porch is supported on two front pillars. Mandapa doorway lintel has Gaja-Lakshmi. Mandapa is supported on four central pillars.

Shiva-linga in garbha-grha

Garbha-grha has Parshvanatha on its lalata-bimba. Inside the garbha-grha, the snake canopy and pedestal of the original image is remained however a shiva-linga is placed over this pedestal.

 

How to Reach – Lakkundi is situated 11 km from Gadag and well connected by bus route. Gadag is the nearest railway head.

References

  1. Burgess, James (1885). List of Antiquarian Remains in the Bombay Presidency. Government Central Press. Mumbai.
  2. Campbell, J M (1884). Gazetteer of Bombay Presidency vol 22: Dharwar. Government Central Press. Bombay.
  3. Cousens, Henry (1926).The Chalukyan Architecture of the Kanarese Districts. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi.
  4. Palande, M R (1959). Dharwad District Gazetteer. Karnataka Government Press.
  • N S Sharada Prasad

    A useful article with lot of material and references. It is a pity that the present day youth are not motivated to read such articles and visit nearby places of historical importance. Wherever the Hoysalas have ruled they have left behind them a legacy in architecture and sculpture.

  • s r joshi

    sourabh
    I don’t know how to thank you. You have given lot of information and references which I was looking around. why don’t you write about Mahadeva Devalaya of Itagi near Koppal, which is known as “Devalayagala Chakravarthi”, It is also of western chalukya period structure.
    thank u

    • http://msg4saurabh.blogspot.com Saurabh

      Thanks for appreciation. Yes Itagi is in my list and I will soon be writing an article on this temple. Please keep posted.

  • Ashok naragund

    Lakkundi is the best histrical place in karanataka Temeple also so good.

    Ashok Naragund