A sculptor's timeless creation

A sculptor's timeless creation

Illustrious rulers leave behind not just trails of their conquests, but indelible footprints on the sands of time.

The Hoysala kings, descendants of the Yadava clan, patrons of literature, art, and architecture, exemplify bequeathing of a legacy.

They have immortalised themselves through the numerous temple structures they built throughout Karnataka, many of that have withstood the vagaries of weather, marauders and vandals.

The little known, but stately Panchalingeshwara Temple, tucked away in a little village in the midst of lush lands at Govindanahalli is one such example.

Panchalingeshwara Temple, which was built by the Hoysalas around 1238 CE during the reign of King Vira Someshwara, stands desolate, yet majestic, in the small hamlet of Govindanahalli, surrounded by lush paddy fields, banana and coconut plantations, adding to its ageless beauty.

The Temple, built between 1937 and 1938 by the renowned Hoysala sculptor, Ruvari Mallitamma, is a unique Hoysala period edifice, in that, it is one of few panchakuta or five-towered shrines built during the time.

The village Govindanahalli, perhaps, derives its name from the magnificent sculpture of Krishna in the form of Govinda on the Temple walls.

Govindanahalli was once part of the ancient Gangavadi region that was first under the suzerainty of the Gangas of Talakad and was later ruled by the Cholas.

The Panchalingeshwara Temple, however, was built during the rule of the Hoysalas, who wrested power from the Cholas and held sway over most parts of southern Karnataka.

It is surmised that the Temple was originally a chatushkuta – an edifice with four shrines, each with its own tower, built in Dravidian style.

The Temple, as it presently stands, has a fifth sanctum sanctorum, considered a later addition.

The differently-sized pillars, the facade, the distance between the kutas or towers and the different kinds of stones used for construction, make one infer that this shrine might have been a later addition.

While the overall architecture of the Temple is typically Hoysala in style, the star platform and profusion of sculptures covering the exterior walls are conspicuous by their absence.

The Temple has been constructed directly on the ground, without a pedestal. The ornate towers are uniform and Dravidian in style.

Temple plan

While each tower of the Temple faces east, the entire complex runs linear in a north-south direction.

The panchalingas, each in their independent sanctum sanctorum, lie alongside each other at Govindanahalli. Strangely, however, only two of the shrines have pavilions for Nandi, Lord Shiva’s vehicle, the bull.

Though each sanctum sanctorum has a separate antarala or antechamber between the sanctum and the hall, they have a common navaranga or enclosure.

The sanctum in each shrine is connected to a mantapa or hall by a sukanasi or vestibule.

A long pillared hall, about 120 ft in length and resembling a corridor, connects the individual halls together.

Twin porches held aloft by lathe-turned pillars serve as entrances to the complex.

The tower over each shrine has the characteristic three tiers of roofs shaped like pyramids in ascending order, tapering towards the top.

The top of the pyramid typically has the stupi which holds aloft the kalash or decorative pot-like structure.

The inner walls of each hall have seventeen niches with miniature carvings in some of them.

The exterior walls are modestly adorned and have bedecked miniature turrets on pilasters.

The segment between the eaves and base mouldings have sculptural representations of episodes from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Stone lattice work windows on the eastern wall of the Temple are aesthetic in
appearance and allow sufficient light to enter the complex.

The harmony between the Shaivite and Vaishnavite sects finds depiction through the pantheon of deities – forms of both Shiva and Vishnu on the exterior walls of the Temple.

Besides Vishnu’s Dashavathara or ten avatars, there are several carvings of Lord Vishnu in various forms and postures, figures of apsaras and Mandakini are sculpted on the walls and pillars of the Temple.

Apart from the lingas, the doorways of the sanctums are adorned with idols of Shiva, Parvathi, Ganesh and Karthik.

Small towers on the exterior walls house idols of Shiva-Parvati, Ganesha and Mahishasuramardhini. While most of the idols have remained intact and reflect every minute detail, some sculptures have been defaced, probably due to changes in nature.

Historical tale

According to mythology, the concept of panchalingas, which is considered as ancient as the Puranas, came about when the gods approached Lord Shiva and requested him to manifest himself in a smaller number than his thousand forms, as they found it difficult to worship.

Acquiescing to their request, Shiva manifested himself in five forms, each
representing a cardinal direction – north, south,east and west with Kailasa, his abode in the centre.

Thus, by worshipping Panchalingeshwara, one would derive the merit of worshipping Shiva in his thousand forms.

However, there is no concurrence on these five forms of Shiva. While in Talakad for instance, Vaideeswara, Arkeswara, Mallikarjuneswara, Pataleswara and Maraleswara are considered the five aspects of Shiva, it is Aghora, Ishana, Tatpurusha, Sadyojata and Vamadeva at Govindanahalli.

Govindanahalli is about 8 km from Kikkeri (in Mandya), which is also home to the Brahmeshwara Temple, another classical example of Hoysala art.

Unfortunately, the Temple, though well maintained, wears a desolate look and lacks visitors, and is little known, even to the locals.

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