Stories set in stone

Stories set in stone

M S Dwarakinath visits Kalleshwara Temple at Bagali in Davangere district. The temple is a confluence of Chalukyan and Hoysala architecture, with ornately decorated pillars and structures.

A great many monuments of importance and magnificence, which at one time flaunted royal power, prosperity and patronage of art and architecture are now scattered over many obscure villages in the State.

Kalleshwara Temple, a confluence of Chalukyan and Hoysala temple architecture is situated in a tiny, sleepy and dusty village called Bagali which lies at a distance of about 45 km from Harihara town of Davangere district.

With the temple complex coming into view as we alight the steps from the tank bund, the hardships of the spine-breaking journey, covering a distance of about two km on a bumpy road off the highway, melted away magically.

The temple is not a large one, but an elegant picture-postcard perfect one and stands on plain ground abutting verdant agricultural lands on one side and protected by a raised embankment wall of a tank on the other side. The undulating hill range crowned with wind mills lying at a far distance on the northern side of the temple transports the visitors into a fairy land.

Architectural glory

The main temple consists of a square garbha griha or the sanctum sanctorum with a stepped pyramidal gopura rising above, a later addition, an antharala, a sabha mantapa and a pillared mukhamantapa (halls). The other auxiliary temples include two shrines, one facing the sanctum sanctorum dedicated to the deity of Surya and an other connected to an open pillared hall on the northern side of the main temple.

This is dedicated to the deity of Narasimha in his ugra rupa (fierce avatar). A small shrine accommodating Veerabhadreswara lies to the south of the main temple along with four other mini shrines of Seetheswaralinga, Ramalinga, Vishnulinga and Virupakshalinga on the northern side, thus forming a temple complex.

An ornately decorated southern doorway, an open pillared hall with a deep domical ceiling supported by about 50 and odd ornately carved and lathe turned pillars each differing from others, and some enigmatic erotic sculptures, are the main attractions of this grand temple.

The doorway of the antharala with five sakhas (bands) is decorated with figurines depicting different postures of bharata­natyam, star-shaped perforations allowing light and air, dancing naga couples and creepers.

The first three bands are continued on lintels with Gajalakshmi flanked by two elephants. Above this one finds finely sculpted figures of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara. The elaborately decorated eastern and southern doorway of the sabhamantapa falls in line with that of the one in the antharala. There is an elaborately decorated doorway, signature of the Chalukyan temple architectural style.

The open-pillared mahamantapa covered with kakshasana (seats) on all the sides with a sloping backrest with about 50 pillars, each differing in its architectural presentation with the others, greatly enhances the beauty of the temple as a whole. The eminence in fine sculpting and excellence of ornate carvings by sculptors of those years is reflected through the 16 figurines found on the pedestal of the four pillars in the centre of the mantapa.

The description of the grandeur of the pillared hall remains incomplete without the mention of the skillfully carved, deep domical central ceiling of the pillared mantapa, the speciality being the carving of ashtadikpalakas (the eight standing sentinels) each riding with his consort on his vehicle.

Museum of sculptures

As one reaches the end of the village road, just before the temple is a museum with a good number of ornately carved sculptures of the gods and goddesses, hero stones and more than a dozen shila shasanaas or stone edicts with their English translations.
The exhibits include the images of Nagaraja, goddess Saraswathi, Umamaheswara, Mahasati, Mahishasuramardini, etc. The museum is open between 8 am and 1 pm, and between 2 pm and 5 pm.

Getting there

The village of Bagali which lies at a distance of about 7 to 8 km from Harapanahalli in today’s Davangere district can reached by an autorickshaw.