The twin treasures of Nagalapura

The twin treasures of Nagalapura

Explore the twin treasures of Nagalapura

A stone wonder in Nagalapura

Speaking of Hoysala temples, there are the much-feted superstars like Belur, Halebidu, Somanathapura. There are also the much-admired temples of Nuggehalli, Hosaholalu. But did you know that there are also little, unsung gems lurking in the shadows of neglect like Nagalapura?

Though just 123 km from Bengaluru, it seems to take forever to reach the sleepy little town of Nagalapura in Turuvekere taluk of Tumakuru district. Under the hot sun, Nagalapura looks clean but quite deserted, save a couple of goats stirring in sight. But once there, it’s easy to find the temples neatly fenced and fronted by the familiar blue ASI signboard.

The two Hoysala temples of Nagalapura, Kedareshwara and Channakeshava, are a couple of streets apart from each other, but similar in size, structure and the state of repair. They had obviously collapsed into rubble before the ASI renovated them. Neither temple has any inscriptional evidence about the date of construction or the name of the patron who commissioned them.

According to ASI, ancient Nagalapura formed a part of Gangawadi and was a flourishing agrahara under the Hoysalas of Dwarasamudra. The temples, built of soapstone, date to circa 12 CE, based on their architectural styles. Both have a modest garbhagriha, a small antarala and a compact navaranga with no mukhamantapa. The vimana is missing in both.

Kedareshwara Temple, which stands on a raised platform in the company of a lush bilwa tree, sports five bands of animated friezes. The outer walls are clad with large, lovely sculptures depicting icons from Shivite mythology. Both age and neglect have taken a toll on the exquisite workmanship of the sculptures. 

This temple seems to have been abandoned unfinished for reasons unknown. Many sculptures are just rudimentary drafts. But the finished ones, though damaged, show the sculptor’s excellent dedication to the craft. The detailing seen in jewellery, hairstyle, clothing and accessories is truly awesome.

The small lingam in the garbhagriha is evidently in active worship. A tiny lamp glimmers weakly, showing up the fresh, yellow flowers on the lingam, as well as the very handsome, polished Nandi, who sits gazing at his Lord in eternal devotion.

Channakeshava Temple looks like it has suffered a lot more damage than the Shivalaya. One part of its lateral wall is made up of only plain, blank slabs. Here, too, we see the multiple horizontal bands of lively figures like elephants, horse riders, birds, etc. The figures on the walls are all different forms of Vishnu. Ironically, the garbhagriha does not enshrine a Hoysala Keshava, but a Venkatesha of later Vijayanagara style.

Though modest in size, these two examples of mature Hoysala art are well worth a visit. Absence of touristy crowds is a great advantage. And, photography is not prohibited.