Beautiful Basaralu

Located in Mandya district, Basaralu is an ancient town with a stunning temple that's perfect for a day’s outing

Mallikarjuna Temple, Basaralu

The journey or the destination? What’s more beautiful? If the destination is the Mallikarjuna Temple in Basaralu town of sugar city Mandya, just under three hours’ drive and about 129 km from Bengaluru,  then the wavy stretch of Mandya-Nagamandala Road sets the tone.

The red blooms of gulmohar trees and the greens of the fields take turns to line either side of the neatly- tarred road. The sweet smell of jaggery from the ale manes (jaggery-making unit) fills the air now and then. Clusters of banyan-studded villages pass by to slow down time.

And a break from this beautiful journey into a by-lane leads to a compact temple complex of grey and rusty orange, which glows in the evening sun. Beyond the tweets and flutter of sparrows and Oriental magpie-robins, there’s hardly any sound.

Under the aegis of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the stone compound holds a central temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, raised on a ragged, star-shaped plinth or jagati, and is adorned with frieze wall narratives that typify Hoysala architecture.

Among the 103 cravings, consider finding the 16-handed Shiva dancing on Apasmara, a dwarf who represented ignorance and epilepsy - it’s called the specialty of the temple - Durga with 22 hands; Ravana lifting Kailasa; dancing Saraswati, and from the Bhagavata, the stories of the childhood of deities Krishna and Prahlada.

A key way to identify a Hoysala structure is to look for their emblem — of a lion being killed by a man. In the words of legends, a young brave man, Sala, saved another human by striking (‘hoy’ in old Kannada) down a tiger, thus lending the empire its name ‘Hoysala’.

But historical records date this temple’s construction to 1234 AD and credit it to Harihaha Danayaka, an officer under the Hoysala king Narasimha II.
It’s of type trikutachala or having three garbha grihas, and has a porch and a nandimantapa. A manicured garden surrounds the temple and in the rear, an ancient well completes the beauty of the set-up.

With 10-15 visitors a week, an estimate by the caretaker appointed there by the ASI, the monument of ‘national importance’ seems a quiet companion to the 100-odd Hoysala temples that are spread across the state. But this obscurity could well be the reason for its beauty.

So, the journey or the destination? Here, it’s both.

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