Paean to the sun god

Paean to the sun god


Paean to the sun god

Kalagi in Gulbarga district was a vibrant cultural, educational and commercial centre during the reign of the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta and Chalukyas of Kalyan. The most important structure here is the Suryanarayana temple. A shrine dedicated to the sun god is rare to spot. Srinivas Sirnoorkar visits the village.

Today’s Kalagi in Chittapur taluk of Gulbarga district, about 40 km from the district headquarters, was once a well-developed rich urban centre in the ancient and medieval period, with a population of several lakhs. Aptly described as the ‘Garden of Temples’ — because it is home to over a dozen temples, all examples of great architecture — and ‘Dakshina Kashi’ for being a religious centre with many rare Shiva lingas, today, Kalagi is in ruins. Once a booming capital, it is just a gram panchayat only now slated to become a taluk.

Referred to as ‘Kaluge’ in ancient inscriptions, it was the capital of Mannedadi-1000 Division. A very vibrant cultural, educational and commercial centre both during the reigns of Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta and Chalukyas of Kalyan, Kalagi has a very rich heritage and has a lot of historical significance.

As many as 11 inscriptions are reported to have been found here. It attained the status of a political, educational and religious centre when it was the capital of Mahamandaleshwars of the Bana dynasty. The earliest inscription dates back to 1043 and belongs to the reign of Kalyana Chalukya ruler Jagadekamalla. There are over a dozen temples in the village, all with a significance of their own.

Rare shrine

The most important is the Suryanarayana temple — it is rare to spot a temple dedicated to the sun god anywhere.

The temple is in a shambles with one portion having already fallen; there is the danger of other portions falling at any moment. It was only very recently that the State Archaeology Department has stepped in to save the temple for posterity. The large trikuta temple sans the deity of Suryanarayana has been built with black stone; Shiva lingas can still be spotted here. Only parts of the garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum) and antarala (an inner chamber) have been preserved while the rest has been destroyed.

The beauty of the temple lies in its exterior. The surrounding wall has images of Vishnu, Brahma, Ishwara, Bhairava, Nataraja, Umamaheshwara, Mahisha­mardhini and Ganapathi.
The aesthetics of the temple have been enriched with exquisitely carved images or shilabalikas (beautifully sculpted women). This temple is no less beautiful than the Hoysala temple, according to experts. The presence of the Suryanarayana temple shows that there were many followers of the sun god. This unique temple is said to have been constructed during the reign of Vikramaditya-VI, one of the most powerful emperors the world over and belonging to the Kalyana Chalukya dynasty, as recorded by historians. Apart from this temple, there is a complex of other temples which are referred to in inscriptions as Someshwara, Bibbeshwara, Kaleshwara, Jayalingeshwara and Gonkeshwara. Now they are called in different names. Gonkeshwara temple has now become Mallikarjuna temple and to its left is Siddheshwara temple, both belonging to the 12th century.

The Kaleshwara temple complex includes the temples of Neelakanteswhara, Revanasiddheshwara, Ishwara, Someshwara, and Veerabhadra. In its precincts are the sculptures of four-headed Ganesha, Kartikeya, a kiranastambha (pillar) a and hero stone. By the side are the temples of Kashi Vishvanatha, Ramalingeshwara and Nandi.

Star plan

Another wondrous structure is a temple with a stellate plan, housing the sculptures of Narasimha and Ishwara. It is built in the panchamukhi well and the structure is a small mahal with beautiful carvings around it. Historians opine that this sculpture is very rare in South India. To its right is Sahasralinga Netreshwara temple.

The series of versatile temples do not stop here. There is a dilapidated 11th-century trikuta basadi dedicated to Parshvanatha. Kalagi is also home to a huge sculpture of Ganapathi measuring 10ft tall and 6 ft wide. Kalagi is also home to the deity of Chaturmukha Brahma, sign of Brahma worshippers in the region.

It is in this temple that a fragment of sculptured panel with engraved line drawings depicting three women were discovered in 1986. This discovery led to the hypothesis that Kalagi may have had Roman links.

What makes the Kalagi temple complex picturesque is the perennial water source in the form of an ever-flowing rivulet adjacent to the Kaleshwara temple complex. There is also a beautifully built pushkarni, the sacred pond. Villagers point out that the rivulet has never gone dry and is full of water at all times.

Needless to say, Kalagi, which is at least 1,300 years old is ideally suited to be developed into a tourist and pilgrim centre and is a paradise for historians and research scholars.