Kolar's shrines of antiquity

Kolar's shrines of antiquity

land of temples

Kolar's shrines of antiquity

Kolar town and its surrounding areas have lots to offer in terms of architecture as well as legends. The region’s history involves powerful kingdoms like the Gangas, Cholas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagar, Tipu Sultan and lastly, the Maharajas of Mysore.

‘Kolara’ or ‘Kuvalapura’ was ruled by the Gangas in the early part of the third century. The three important monuments of antiquity in Kolar are the Kolaramma Temple, Someshwara Temple and Kashi Vishweshwara Temple. All three have been declared as protected monuments and are maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Kolaramma Temple

This ancient temple, which is more than 1,000 years old, is located right in the heart of Kolar town. It is dedicated to Devi Parvati in her fearsome manifestation as Durga. As per inscriptions found inside, this shrine was built by king Rajendra Chola.

The mahadwara (main entrance) has an imposing appearance, and rich carvings of gods, goddesses, birds, animals and apsaras (angels) adorn its rajagopuram (entrance tower) and pillars. Inside the parikrama (circumambulation path), there are well-manicured, signature lawns developed by the ASI. A huge flag mast is positioned facing the entrance, and behind it, in an enclosure, is a four-feet tall balipeetha (sacrificial platform) along with a viragallu (hero stone) adorned with intricate carvings. A small statuette of Devi is placed behind this on a raised pedestal.

Inside the parikrama, one can find two temples built in the Dravidian style of architecture. The main temple of Kolaramma faces east while the other temple of Saptamatrikas faces north. A common pillared mantapa (hall) with multiple panels of sculptures encloses the shrines. The pilastered outer and inner walls of the shrine are carved with numerous inscriptions in old Tamil and Kannada.

The garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) has a flat roof of Dravidian style over it. As you enter it, you will find a small utsavamurthy of the Parvati in front of you. The main deity with eight hands and a demon under her feet is placed in a room on the right side. An interesting thing about this idol is that you cannot look at it directly but can only look at its image mirrored on the opposite wall. According to the priest, this is because the image of Devi Parvati in the form of Mahishasuramardini here is extremely fearsome to look at. 

There is a large gold-plated image of the scorpion goddess called Chelamma placed on the wall next to ths idol and is adorned with replicas of scorpions. People believe that worshipping this goddess will protect them from scorpion bites.

According to a legend, Chamundi Devi began her fight with the demon Mahishasura right at the place where this temple stands, then chased him up the Chamundi Hill in Mysuru, where she finally killed him. In commemoration of this event, the idol was installed in Kolar and later king Rajendra Chola arranged to build a temple here.

In another room of the garbhagriha, we can see the stone images of Sapthamatrikas, the seven powerful goddesses always depicted together — Brahmani, Maheshwari, Kowmari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Indrani and Chamundi or Narasimhi. Just outside the garbhagriha, inside the mantapa, there are huge idols of Kalabhairava on one side and Bhairavi on the other.

Someshwara Temple

This temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is located a little further away from Kolaramma Temple. Constructed in a typical Dravidian style of architecture, this shrine’s origin has been traced to the 14th century, during the rule of the Vijayanagar dynasty. There is a tall rajagopuram over the mahadwara adorning several statuettes of dancing apsaras and sculptural decorations.

As you enter the parikrama, you come to a large multi-pillared mukhamantapa, which leads to the garbhagriha. The pillars are adorned with beautiful carvings and statuettes. Over the garbhagriha rises a tall vimana (tower) decorated with sculptures. A tall brass-plated dhwajasthambha (flag mast) and a rock-cut deepasthambham (lamp post) are located in front of the mantapa.

The Shivalinga is about four feet tall and has a brass pot of water hanging over it. On the left of the entrance to the garbhagriha, you will notice the statue of Veerabhadra and Ganesha, and on the right, Nagas and Kartikeyan with six heads. A huge Nandi is seated in front of the sanctum in a mantapa.

Once you are in the complex, do pay a visit to the vasantha mantapa, yagashala and kalyana mantapa with several pillars adorning beautiful carvings. Out of these, the kalyana mantapa is indeed a magnificent specimen of artistic accomplishment of those times. The sculptures made intricately on granite makes it resemble wood carvings. Many figurines of apsaras, gods and goddesses adorn all sides of the pillars of this mantapa. The base of the surrounding wall of the main shrine is fully decorated with miniature carvings of sages, apsaras, elephants, lions, children playing with lions, fighting elephants etc.

Antara Gange

This is a hill situated about six km away from Kolar and covered with a blanket of dense forest and a rocky terrain. At the base of the hill, there’s a big arch, from where a flight of steps leads you leads one to the top. Hundreds of monkeys can be found scrambling around. At the top, in a small clearing, one can find a small shrine of Kasi Vishweshwara.

Just below this shrine is a small kalyani (temple tank) into which a small stream of water flows, gushing out from the mouth of two small Nandis placed in a cave. This stream is called Antara Gange, because the water is believed to be coming from River Ganga through an underground stream. This is a perennial spring and the water is considered to be holy, capable of curing ailments.

Kolar is located 68 km from Bengaluru. These three temples of antiquity are worth a visit as their sculptural magnificence has stood the test of time, weather and wars.

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