An intricate blend of art and architecture

An intricate blend of art and architecture

An intricate blend of art and architecture
Ikkeri and Keladi are two small towns situated close to Sagara town in Shivamogga district. It is in these towns that Aghoreshwara and Rameshwara temples are located. These towns were parts of the capital of the Nayakas of Keladi who ruled this region between 1499-1763.

There are interesting legends about how these temples were established. Two brothers, Chavude and Bhadre Gowda, had employed two labourers to cultivate their fields. After a while, the brothers noticed a cow milking on an anthill. Upon digging it, the brothers found a linga. So, the brothers built a small temple here. Later, they found a sword and treasure nearby. After discovering it, they had a dream in which they were asked to perform a yajna at the location before taking the treasure. After acting upon the dream, the brothers soon became wealthy and powerful. However, the Vijayanagar forces soon captured them.

But they were later released when they agreed to kill one of the rebellious chieftain. The brothers gained their freedom after completing the deed. Thereafter they rebuilt the two towns, and eventually, the temples were constructed.

Both the Aghoreshwara Temple and Rameshwara Temple display a fine blend of Kadamba, Vijayanagar and Hoysala styles of architecture.  

Ikkeri temple

The Aghoreshwara Temple in Ikkeri faces north and has a well-decorated vimana with ornamental doorways from the mantapa on all sides. Statues of two elephants flank the steps to the mantapa. Inside the garbhagriha, there is a huge pedestal called the shakthi peeta which is decorated with many female figures. The linga rests on this. A unique feature of this temple is that it also has a nandi inside the garbhagriha. On the right side of the entrance to the garbhagriha, there are statuettes of Ganesha and Subrahmanya, while on the left, there are statuettes of Mahishasura Mardini and Kalabhairava.

According to the temple priest, the original idol of Aghoreshwara was gigantic and was located behind the linga. This is said to have been destroyed during the attack led by the Bijapur Sultans. Only the enormous feet of the idol exists now on an ornate pedestal on which the linga is placed. Alongside the parikrama (pathway around the shrine of the temple), there are broken idols of various gods and goddesses. The outer walls of the temple have intricate carvings of apsaras, nagas and animals, and miniature shikharas. Old Kannada inscriptions can be seen on some stone slabs inside the complex. The temple is a protected monument and is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Keladi temple

In Keladi, the Rameshwara Temple is located on a higher level from the road and there are many steps leading to it. The architecture is more or less the same as Aghoreshwara Temple. The only difference is that there are large stone slabs fixed all around the outer walls of the temple on which there are beautiful carvings of gods and goddesses. There are also small shrines for Devi Parvati, Lord Rameshwara and Lord Veerabhadra here. What makes the Rameshwara Temple stand out is that its inner roofs and pillars are made of wood which have carvings on them in the Dravidian style which has a tall stone-cut dhwajasthambha in the front, which is decorated with statuettes and motifs all around.

A noteworthy sculpture on the ceiling of the Veerabhadra shrine is the exquisite carving of Gandaberunda — a two-headed Garuda holding lions with its beak and elephants with its claws. Each head faces different directions. There is also a small museum attached to the temple where many artefacts, coins, manuscripts, statues and brass idols that are said to have been recovered from the premises are displayed.

The temples of Ikkeri and Keladi are worth visiting for a few hours to enjoy their architectural beauty or to get immersed in spirituality in their quiet environs.