Temple with a distinct architecture

Last Updated 13 March 2017, 18:33 IST
Nestled amidst the cosy little cottages in sylvan hillsides of Madikeri in Kodagu district is an ancient temple, whose structure resembles a dargah. The golden-coloured domes on its roof glisten in the morning sun and four small minarets rise up towards the blue sky. Surprisingly, the chanting of Om Nama Shivaya echoes from within this structure. This is the famous Omkareshwara shrine — the most popular Shivalaya in Kodagu district.

This Shiva temple has a fairly large built-up complex. As we walk up a ramp-like pathway, we reach a huge kalyani (temple pond) that has fencing all around. A small structure called the kushal mantapa stands in the middle of the kalyani, which is connected to the right bank by a small bridge. The dome of the mantapa is also golden-coloured, built in Islamic architectural style. The pond is full of various fishes and a few ducks, and makes for an interesting and endearing sight.

Special features

A few concrete steps take us up to the archway through which we enter the parikrama. Surprisingly, mukhamantapa, a normal feature in temples, is not present here. Also, instead of nandi, a decorated nandipeetha made of granite stands facing the main shrine at the front. Yet another structure which is missing is the dhwajasthambha (flag mast) which is commonly found in temples.

A few more steps take us to the antarala in front of the garbhagriha. Inside the sanctum, a small nandi is seated, beyond which is placed the large Shivalinga. A small silver pot hangs above dripping jaladhara (stream of water) on the linga constantly. On the left and right sides of the linga, in niches, are placed the idols of Ganesha and Subrahmanya whose darshana can be done through two windows facing them. The bars of these windows are made of panchaloha.

The main shrine is built in a unique blend of Indo-Islamic and gothic architectural styles. The top structure clearly resembles the roof of a dargah with a large golden-coloured central dome that has a lotus design on its base. On the four corners of the roof, there are small minarets and low perforated parapet walls running all around the terrace. Just below each of the minarets, small nandis are sculpted.

Many of the windows and doors have gothic-style arches above them. This unique blend of Muslim and Hindu architectural styles is seen as a symbol of religious and communal harmony. This makes Omkareshwara Temple stand out as a rarity among Hindu temples.

As per historical accounts, the temple was built by Linga Rajendra II, the king of Kodagu, in 1820. Legend has it that the king had slain an innocent brahmin to fulfil his political ambitions. It was believed that the dead brahmin’s spirit started harassing and terrorising the king and the local people in revenge.

As advised by priests, Linga Rajendra travelled to Varanasi and brought a sacred Shivalinga from there. It was later installed at the same location where the brahmin was killed. Later a temple was built over it. The Shivalinga was called Omkareshwara and regular worship was initiated. Since then, it is said, the evil spirit has not created any problems to anyone.

The main festivals celebrated at this shrine are Shivaratri, Skanda Shashti and Ganesh Chathurthi. During these festivals, one can see many people coming from near and far to visit the temple. So, the next time you are in Madikeri, take some time off to visit this architectural wonder.
(Published 13 March 2017, 16:44 IST)

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