A Vijayanagar relic in Alambagiri

The Lakshmi Venkateshwara temple in Alambagiri or Alamgiri in Chintamani taluk of the Chikkaballapur district is yet another relic of the architectural grandeur of the Vijayanagara empire.

Though having been recently renovated and sporting a tall raja gopura that attracts everyone’s attention, the remaining portions of the compound wall have still been retained, maintaining its antiquity. With two tall mantapas located a slight distance away in front of the temple,3 sthambhas (pillars) mark the entrance.

The temple is built in typical Vijayanagara style. The shrine of the main deity Venkateshwara is located at the centre, while that of his consort Padmavathi is located to the left. The temple structure consists of a mukhamantapa (outer pillared porch), navaranga (inner pillared hall), shukanasi (ante-chamber) and finally the garbhagudi (sanctum sanctorum).

On the auspicious day of Ekadashi, devotees are given the rare opportunity of entering the temple through the Vaikunta dwaara located on the left. Having been sand blasted recently as part of renovation, the figurines of the deities  speak volumes of the craftsmanship of the ancient sthapathis (temple architects). Some of figurines include Vaali-Sugreeva duel, Bhoganarasimha, Chamundeshwari and Ganda-bherunda.

Crossing into the ante-chamber from the navaranga through a doorway, one gets to see a regular room like structure supported by four pillars at the centre. These pillars too are adorned with exquisite carvings depicting Ganesha, Anjaneya and Venkateshwara. One particular sculpture that draws attention is that of a woman churning butter milk on one facet of the pillar while the other facet has an ambegaalu (crawling) Krishna being attracted to it.

The main deity Venkateshwara is carved in saligrama (black stone). Bedecked in the finest ornaments and most beautiful flowers, the deity with his rugged handsomeness is the cynosure of all eyes.

The mukhamantapa which is usually the main entrance to the temple had been made an exit for that day and thus was the last section to be seen. It would not be wrong to say that the mantapa is a masterpiece in itself, with many supporting pillars that encompass several rare depictions of deities and other objects.

Some interesting carvings are that of a dragon like creature breathing fire, the demon Hiranyakashipu being slain by Narasimha, Markandeya hugging the linga and being rescued by Shiva, a weary traveller who bears a striking resemblance to the Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang and a half-man half-lion like creature offering puja to a linga etc. Unfortunately, with no information boards being available, the exact meaning of these sculptures is left to interpretations of the visitors.

The outer structure of the temple houses depictions of various incarnations of Shakti all around in addition to the Dashavathara at the entrance. The shikhara is also beautifully designed. In front of the mukhamantapa, a small shrine dedicated to Garuda, divine vehicle of the deity is also built along with the standard Garuda gamba.
The shrine housing the deity’s consort Padmavathi is equally noteworthy with beautiful carvings adorning the outer structure. The idol of the Goddess is carved in saligrama as well, matching her consort in radiance and splendour.

Stucco like depictions showcasing important events from the Ramayana and other scriptures are clearly visible on the outer periphery. In addition to these, the temple compound also houses two mantapas with one of them substituting as a sangeetha mantapa (music hall) for devotees interested in exhibiting their artistic talent while the other is currently unused. The rest of the temple compound has been neatly maintained and suitable provisions have been made for its upkeep.

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