Kikkeri – The Cult of Brahmeshwara


Introduction – Kikkeri is a large village in Mandya district of Karnataka. As per a legend, the village was so named after a tribesman called Keeka. There is a temple dedicated to the village goddess Kikkeramma which appears to be the deity of these tribesman.

Kikkeri has been noted for its love for literature. Sixteenth century Virashaiva saint Nanjunda came from Kikkeri. He is famous for his work Bhairaveshvara-kavya. Dr. K S Narasimhaswamy was born in Kikkeri on January 26, 1915. He studied in Mysore University and Central College, Bangalore. He is famous for his romantic poems which were inspired by Robert Burns whose work he translated in Kannada. His poems were unique in Kannada language as at that time most of the Kannada poetry dealt with nature and the natural world. His work was in simple Kannada and therefore he was able to reach a large audience. He received many awards and recognitions, including Pampa award for Kannada literature given by the Karnataka government for his poetry collection ‘Dundu Mallige’ in 1997.

Keshava Image from Kikkeri now in Met Museum of Art, New York

An inscribed image of standing Vishnu as Keshava at The Metropolitan Museum of Art at New York is inscribed with label of its artist ‘Dasoja’. The museum mentions that this image probably came from Belur which is also the opinion of M S Nagaraja Rao however Suryakant Kamath in Karnataka Gazetteer tells that this image was once adorning the Vishnu Temple at Kikkeri which is also the opinion of A V Narasimha Murthy.


  1. Stone in the ruined Malleshwara temple below the big tank – Epigraphia Carnatica vol VI, no 37 – dated saka 1017, corresponding 1085 CE – the inscription starts with obeisance to Shambhu and Shiva. Then it refers to the reign of the Hoysala king Hoysaladeva who was ruling over Ganga-mandala from his capital Dvaravati. It tells that Bittideva granted 15 khandugas of wet land to go Mulasthana Brahmeshvara of Kikkeri and also village Bhuvanahalli to Brahmarashi-pandita. The grant is said to be continued with his sons and grand-sons. Areca-nut is garden to Binnamma, who was ruling over Kikkeri, by samanta Bhimanna. Perggade Malliyanna, son of Brahmarashi-pandita, caused to be built a temple for god Mahadeva, got excavated a new tank and granted that tank to the god as his own charity.
  2. Stone forming the roof of the prakara-mantapa of the Brahmeshwara Temple – Epigraphia Carnatica vol VI, no 23 – dated saka 1056, corresponding 1134 CE – mentions Bolla, son of the illustrious Chatti-setti
  3. Stone standing to the north of Nandi-mandapa to the east of the Brahmeshwara Temple – Epigraphia Carnatica vol VI, no 27 – dated saka 1093, corresponding 1171 CE – the inscription start with obeisance of Shambhu. Then it describes the Hoysala king, Narasimhadeva, crest jewel of Yadava race. Various other dynasties are described over which Narasimha got victories, these are namely the Cholas, the Pandyas, the Tuluvas, the Malepas. He is said to have captured Talaka, Kongu, Nangali, Nolambabadi, Banavase and Hanungalu. Narasimhadeva was ruling from Dvaravati. Tutelary deity goddess Vasantika is mentioned. Samanta Barmmayya’s wife Bammavve-nayakiti constructed the Brahmeshwara temple. On the request of Tilenayaka-heggade, king Narasimhadeva granted village Bhuvanahalli to Brahmarashi-jiya of god Brahmeshwara temple for renovation and daily worship of the god. The details of the boundaries are mentioned. Various other grants are also mentioned.
  4. On the second pillar to the right of mukhadvara of the Brahmeshwara Temple – Epigraphia Carnatica vol VI, no 24 – not dated – mentions that Basavap-nayaka, the son-in-law of Kotur setup this pillar for the broken upper beam
  5. On the basement cornice of the eastern wall of the Brahmeshwara Temple – Epigraphia Carnatica vol VI, no 25 – mentions label ‘Devaharada’
  6. Southern basement slab of the Brahmeshwara Temple – Epigraphia Carnatica vol VI, no 26 – refers to the reign of the Hoysala king Narasimhadeva – mentions faith of Paru Bommavve in the town of Kikekri, tells that this Brahmesha came from Kailasha with Parvati
  7. On the pillar to the south of the Nandi-mandapa – Epigraphia Carnatica vol VI, no 28 – refers to the Hoysala king Narasimhadeva – the king is said to be ruling from Dorasamudra. Dharanideva of the customs department of Kikkeri, Chaudayya and Kamatamma, granted one gadyana and two hanas annually from a duty of a one hana on each load from the customs dues of that Kikkeri, in order to provide for a perpetual lamp for the god Brahmeshwara.
  8. On the same pillar as no 28 – Epigraphia Carnatica vol VI, no 29 – The inscription tells that this new door was fixed on the 11th day of the dark fortnight of Vaishakha, in the year of Krodhi.
  9. On the southern basement stone of the Nandi-mandapa – Epigraphia Carnatica vol VI, no 30 – label ‘Nakarachari’
  10. On the southern wall of the Nandi-mandapa – Epigraphia Carnatica vol VI, no 31 – mentions Stanika Malla
  11. On the top of the Brahma-Sarasvati image on the southern wall of the Brahmeshwara temple – Epigraphia Carnatica vol VI, no 32 – reads ‘Adhanatara Saleya Pejarana’
  12. On the eastern cornice of the Brahmeshwara Temple – Epigraphia Carnatica vol VI, no 33 – reads label ‘Masana’
  13. On the cornice of the eastern wall of the shrine of goddess in Brahmeshwara Temple – Epigraphia Carnatica vol VI, no 34 – reads ‘A thunderbolt to the enemies Harimalla of rekha-vilasa…..’
  14. On the basement cornice of the goddess shrine in Brahmeshwara Temple – Epigraphia Carnatica vol VI, no 35 – mason’s marks depicting directions for stones to be placed
  15. On the walls of the goddess shrine in Brahmeshwara Temple – Epigraphia Carnatica vol VI, no 36 – mason’s marks depicting directions for stones to be placed
  16. On a stone setup to the north of the Narasimha Temple –  Epigraphia Carnatica vol VI, no 38 – illegible, mention of god Ramachandra of Nirgundi and Biradevi is found, seems to record a grant of income from bedige
  17. On the pedestal of the Keshava image in the Metropolitan Museum of Art at New York – The Hoysala Artists – (This is) image of Keshava, a work of the sculptor Dasoja of Balligame, who belonged to (the order of sculptors known as) Sarasvati-gana.
Brahmeshwara Temple

Brahmeshwara Temple – This temple consists of a garbha-grha (sanctum), a sukhanasi (ante-chamber), a navaranga (hall) and a porch which is attached to a Nandi-mandapa (hall). The temple faces east and is dedicated to Shiva. Entrance is provided via porch from north and south.


Unlike other Hoysala temples, this temple is not constructed over a jagati (platform) but its foundation is laid directly over the ground. Regular bands above the basement depicting animals and epic scenes, which are found on other Hoysala temples, are also missing here. This either suggests that this temple is an early Hoysala temple when these features were not developed or the donor of the temple does not have much funds to go all gung ho about the Hoysala themes.

Madanika – 1
Madanika – 2
Madanika – 3
Madanika – 4
Madanika – 5
Madanika – 6
Madanika – 7
Madanika – 8

Slanted back-rests are provided above the parapet walls of the mandapa. Two enormous dvarpalas are present at the navaranga entrance. These dvarpalas are bedecked with usual Shaiva attributes. Navaranga has four central pillars supporting its ceiling. Over these four central pillars are supported exquisite madanika statues. One specific madanika is shown beating a drum. This statue is so expertly carved that the hands of the lady hidden behind the drum are visible from outside like a diaphanous cover. At present there are only eight such statues, the others are lost or stolen.

Navaranga Ceiling

The navaranga central ceiling has a carved stone block having nine divisions. The central three divisions show Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu. Musicians and dancers are depicted in other divisions. In the sanctum, a shivalinga is worshiped as god Brahmeshwara.


On the exteriors are found various icons. Hindu Trinity is present with their respective consorts on three different sides. These are namely, Uma-maheshwar, Lakshmi-Narayana and Brahma-Sarasvati. Apart from these are present Bhairavi, Varaha, Narasimha, Gajantaka, Nataraja, Ganesha, Vamana and Mahishasura-mardini. A foreigner, probably Portuguese, is also present in one of the panel.


It appears that the cult of Brahmesha in Kikkeri was older than this temple. An inscription dated 1085 CE mentions about god Mulasthana Brahmeshwara of Kikkeri. This inscription is the foundation inscription of Malleshwara temple. This Malleshwara temple might be the previous temple dedicated to Brahmeshwara where the god was later transferred or reanimated at the present Brahmeshwara temple.

The reason of this transfer might be the unsuitable location of Malleshwara temple as it is located near the tank and would have been flooded for most of the times. A support for this theory comes from inscriptions.

The priest mentioned in the foundation inscription of Brahmeshwara temple, Brahmarashi-jiya might be the same Brahmarashi-pandita who is mentioned in the foundation inscription of Malleshwara temple. This suggests that the god Brahmeshwara was first enshrined in Malleshwara temple and later shifted to the present temple. However its just a hypothesis, not supported on proper evidences except the presence of Brahmeshwara cult prior to construction of the Brahmeshwara temple.

As per its foundation inscription, this temple was built by Bammavve-nayakiti, the wife of samanta Baramayya, in 1171 CE during the reign of the Hoysala king Narasimhadeva.

Malleshwara Temple – This is much ruined temple located below the tank. This temple is the oldest temple assignable to 1085 CE, probably the earliest dated temple belonging to the Hoysala Vishnuvardhana.


How to Reach – Kikkeri is on Srirangapatna-Channarayapatna (state highway no 7). It is 70 km from Mysore, 158 km from Bangalore, 58 km from Hassan and 76 km from Mandya. Hassan is the nearest railway station and Mysore is the nearest airport.


  1. Epigraphia Carnatica vol VI. University of Mysore. Mysore.
  2. Annual Report of the Mysore Archaeological Department for the year 1915. Government Press. Mysore.
  3. Abhishankar, K (1967). Mandya District Gazetteer. Karnataka Government Press.
  4. Collyer, Kelleson (1990). The Hoysala Artists – Their Identity and Styles. Directorate of Archaeology and Museums. Mysore.
  5. Foekema, Gerard (1994). Hoysala Architecture: Medieval Temples of Southern Karnataka built during Hoysala Rule. Books & Books. New Delhi. ISBN 9788185016412
  6. Settar, S (1992). The Hoysala Temples. Kala Yatra Publications. Bangalore. ISBN 9788190017213


  1. ಸೌರಭ ಅವರಿಗೆ,
    ತುಂಬಾ ಧನ್ಯವಾದಗಳು, ಐತಿಹಾಸಿಕ ದಾಖಲೆಗಳೊಂದಿಗೆ ಸಂಪೂರ್ಣ ಮಾಹಿತಿ ಕೊಟ್ಟಿದ್ದೀರಿ. ಅನೇಕರು ಕೊಡುವಂತೆ ಅಂತೆ-ಕಂತೆಗಳನ್ನು ಕೊಡದೆ ‘ಅಥೆಂಟಿಕ್’ ಆಗಿದೆ. ಮತ್ತಷ್ಟು ನಿಮ್ಮ ಚಟುವಟಿಕೆಗಳ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ತಿಳಿಯಬಹುದೆ?
    ಎಸ್ ಆರ್ ಜೋಶಿ,ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು.


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