Gadag beckons

The tiny district of Gadag is both culturally and architecturally rich that offers visitors glimpses of a bygone era resplendent with beauty and craft, writes Vathsala V P

Trikuteshwara Temple Complex

The district of Gadag always held a special place in my heart as I had learnt of it in my poetry class in school when memorising the birthplaces of some prominent Kannada poets, including Kumaravyasa, Chamarasa and Chennavira Kanavi. So, when I had some spare time during my trip to Hubballi, I seized the opportunity to explore this culturally rich district.

Temples galore

I decided to begin my exploration from Gadag town itself. Located at just 60 km from Hubballi, this town had a very homely feel to it. As soon as I reached the town, I headed straight to the famed Trikuteshwara Temple Complex that dates back to the early Chalukyan period. Everywhere I looked, there was sheer poetry in stone. Ornate carvings covered everything, with each stone and pillar standing testimony to the glory it enjoyed in its heyday during the reign of Kalyani Chalukyas who were great patrons of art and culture, and built around 50 temples in the area.

Sculpted by the legendary sculptor Amarashilpi Jakanachari, this temple complex houses temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Saraswati. The distinctiveness of Trikuteshwara Temple is that there are three shivalingas mounted on a single stone in the sanctum sanctorum. There are two Saraswati temples in the complex. While one has a broken idol and is not in worship, it has wonderful carvings that have borne the brunt of natural elements and invasions; the other one is in worship and has the goddess flanked by two other deities. The well in the complex is also worth a visit.

Other places worth a visit in the town are Veeranarayana Temple, dating back to the 11th century, which attracts many devotees, and Jumma Masjid, built during the 17th and 18th centuries when Gadag was ruled by Muslim kings. And, of course, the statue of Basaveshwara, which stands tall, literally, and is visible from most parts of the town.

Zoo tales

Having had my fill of temple architecture, I headed straight to the zoo next, as I was accompanied by my friend’s eight-year-old. Known as Binkadakatti Zoo, it was just a short drive of 5-6 km from the town. Though small by any standard, it was a pleasure to be there. With schools being closed for summer, the zoo had many excited young visitors who were running around and playing in the park at the zoo in gay abandon, while also enjoying the sight of their favourite animals including tigers, leopards, deer, bear, jackal and crocodiles, as also a variety of colourful birds at the aviary. Set up in 1972, this zoo, spread over 40 acres, has been adopted by the ‘rich’ zoos of our state — Mysore Zoo and Bannerghatta Biological Park — to turn it into a tourist attraction. I left the zoo with a smile on my lips.

A tiger in Binkadakatti Zoo
A tiger in Binkadakatti Zoo

Next on my Gadag itinerary was a trip to Lakshmeshwar, an hour’s drive away from Gadag town, known for its sculptural wonders. This town was a renowned Jain pilgrim centre during the reign of the Chalukyas of Badami. Known previously as Puligere (Tiger Pond), Huligere, Purigere, Porigere, Purikanagar and Pulikanagar, Lakshmeshwar probably owes the origin of its name to King Lakshmanarasa who ruled Puligere, or from the Lakshmi-Lingana Gudi (temple) here. Be that as it may, the main tourist draws of the place are the many temples here.

Let’s begin with Someshwara Temple that was built towards the end of the 11th century. When I reached this temple, I thought the driver had mistakenly brought me to a fort. Yes, such is this temple’s structure. It had three main entrances and was surrounded by high walls. Once inside, I was awed by its Chalukyan style of architecture and the exquisitely sculpted idols of Shiva and Parvati. According to the locals, these idols were brought by a Shiva devotee from Saurashtra and installed here, and hence referred to as Saurashtra Someshwara also.

The other temples in the town include Lakshmeshwara Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, built during the reign of King Lakshmanarasa. This temple is popularly known as Lakshmi-Lingana Gudi, the reason for which is not known. As also, Balleshwara and Gollaleshwara temples, once again dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Jain influences

It was now time to explore the many influences of Jainism on this town. I started with Shankha Basadi as Mahakavi Pampa is believed to have written his monumental work, Adi Purana, at this very basadi. Dating back to the eighth century during the reign of Kirtivarma II, this basadi is dedicated to the 16th Jain tirthankara, Shaninath, whose symbol is a shankha (conch), hence the name Shankha Basadi.

Yet again, the sculptural beauty of the basadi with its high walls adorned with stonework lattice took my breath away. There were visible signs of the basadi having undergone several rounds of restoration. My next visit was to the other well-known basadi, Ananthanatha Basadi, dating back to the mid-13th century. It is dedicated to Ananthanatha, one of the 24 tirthankaras, and draws a lot of visitors owing to its splendid carvings.

If you thought that the attraction of Lakshmeshwar ends with temples and basadis, then you are mistaken. The town is home to many mosques, the most prominent ones being Jumma Masjid and Bade Nana Dargah, both built during the reign of the Adil Shahi dynasty. Beautiful examples of Indo-Sarcenic architecture, both the mosques are spellbinding. Jumma Masjid, with its two tall minarets, a large semicircular dome, and massive doors that are bigger than that of a fort, left me in awe.

It was time to call it a day. I headed back to Gadag town, planning my next day’s itinerary. That’ll be another story, for another day. 

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