In India, a famous folklore is “Your pilgrimage is possible after God summons you.” Both of us (myself and my co traveller and friend Mr. Amitabha Gupta) are travellers and fond of architecture. So admiring the architectural relics of any hidden place is a kind of pilgrimage to us. Like other Indians, we were not aware of the place Lakkundi. After our extensive Hampi Trip, we started for our next destination Badami by a rented car. Suddenly a friend suggested Amitabha Da to visit Lakkundi – a village in Gadag district. After Googling for a few minutes we found the legacy of Western Chalukya Architecture is kept sacredly in Lakkundi . So, we finally decided – “Let’s Lakkundi”.
Before telling the tale of my Lakkundi trip, it is better to brief about the history of the place.
History of Lakkundi:
This region has its name in the epic Mahabharata. Gadag, mythologically known as “Krutapura” is the place where “Janmejaya”, the ancestor of both Pandava and Kaurava, organised “Yagna” or sacrifice.
Even in the Ramayana, the Lakkundi is believed to be a “village found by Lord rama.”
But Lakkundi is now famous for the architectural remains of Western Chalukya or Kalyani Chalukya. After defeating Rashtrakuta King, Kalyani Chalukya Dynasty started ruling from Kalyana (now in Bidar District). The first king Taliappa II claimed himself as a descendant from Badami Chalukya. The Kalyana Chalukyas were great patrons of art and built glorious temples and tanks at Itagi, Lakkundi, Kuruvatti etc. But their culture reached its zenith during 11th and 12th century when they built temples and tanks in Lakkundi.
The place is also known by the famous ‘Danachintamani Attimabbe’. She sanctified the place here by patronage for Kannada literature and Jain religion.
Going and Staying Option:
Though not surprising, it is quite frustrating that Lakkundi is not prominent in the tourist map of Karnataka. Located in between two giant tourist places Hampi and Badami, this area is also a little neglected, just as the beautiful little flowers are not recognised among the big trees in the forest. If the traveller wants to enjoy the beauty of those wildflowers even if he respects the trees then only s/he can get the pristine beauty of forest, however, it is always a tough job.
By rail you can reach Gadag Junction which is only 12 kilometers away from Lakkundi.
So, like us, clubbing Lakkundi with the trip to Hampi or Badami is always a better option.
Using Google Maps we reached Lakkundi. But the roads to the temples were unknown as only very few of them were roughly marked on that time. Moreover, we did not know the local language Kannada. By English, interacting with common people of the prominent tourist spots can be possible but impossible in a remote village in India. Most of the common people were unable to give proper ideas about the temples. Here our driver acted as a samaritan. He started interaction by understanding our requirements, finally we managed to see 7 out of 20 temples scattered in the narrow bylanes of the hamlet.
I found one one interesting fact in Lakkundi temples. “Kirtimukha” sculpture (the “face of Glory”) is depicted on the Vimana (tower of the sanctum) in many temples of this place. Kirtimukha is a ‘fierce monster-face with huge fangs and gaping mouth’. Though the concept of Kirtimukha is usually found in Shiva Temples but in Lakkundi, Jaina temple has Kirtimukha in a wide variety of styles. We can call Lakkundi as the “Land of Kirtimukha”.
Brahma Jainalaya Temple was the first temple of Lakkundi visited by us. Located just behind the ASI office the temple is a marvel of 2nd Phase Kalyani Architecture. Brahma Jainalaya Temple was built by Attimabbe, wife of Nagadeva, who served as general under both Taila II and Satyashraya Irivabedanga. Satyasraya Irivabedanga had the title ‘Sarvavarnadharmadhanu’ – meaning bow that respects all religions, without discrimination.
Structurally the temple is divided into the Main Sanctum, AntiChamber and the main hall (Mukhamandapam).
We reached there, crossed the gate and a few steps on the staircase we arrived at the Mukhamandapam (the main hall) of the temple. The Mukhamandapam has 32 well polished pillars.
Personally I was astonished by the AntiChamber and the Main Sanctum of the temple. The doorway of the antichamber consists of the figurine of Gaja-lakshmi on its lalata-bimba. The main sanctum doorway has an image of Mahavira on its lalata-bimba. The garbha-grha is a square sanctuary and it houses a standing Mahavira image above a simha-pedestal. On his left is shown yakshi Padmavati and on his left is a yaksha.
The Vimana (Tower above the main sanctum) of this temple built in three stories topped with a crowning member. The first story is taller than the above two stories.
Brahma Jainalaya of Lakkundi is regarded as the most beautiful Jain Architecture of Decan. However, this temple is the most prominent architecture of Lakkundi.
There is another small temple on the north of the main temple. Neither the mandapa nor the vimana of the temple exists nowadays. An image of Mahavira, whose head is broken, is placed over the platform of the mandapa.
Here we met a local guy who was working for ASI. According to him, along with Brahma Jainalaya, the other prominent temples of Lakkundi are Nanneshwara Temple and Kashi Vishweshwara Temple. They were facing each other.
We came out of Bramha Jainalaya. Heading towards the east followed by two consecutive right turns we reached in front of the two facing temples.
First we chose to go inside Nanneshwar Temple. Built on the Jagati (High rising platform), Nanneswar temple is a lovely example of Deccan Architecture. The temple consists of a main sanctum, antichamber, closed mandapa and open mandapa. Open Mandapa consists of well polished pillars.
The exterior of the temple is decorated with devakosthas or small temples. Specially I liked the decoration of the doors of the temple.
Kashi Visheshwara Temple and Surya Narayana Temple are twin temples sharing a common mandapa and located just opposite to Nanneswar Temple.
The magnificent Kashi Vishveshwara Temple echoes the architectural excellence achieved during the Kalyani Chalukya era. Structurally the east facing temple can be divided by Main Sanctum, Antichamber, Mandapa.
The eastern doorway has a total six sakhas and two intermittent pilasters. Gaja-lakshmi (Laxmi riding on elephant) is present on its lalata-bimba.
The exterior of the antichamber and main sanctum are decorated with various sculptures. To me the best one is Dashamahavidya (uploaded earlier in this post). Unfortunately the sculptures are much mutilated and spoiled. Some of the sculptures are given below:
Connecting with Kashivishveshwara Temple, the Surya Narayana Temple was facing west. I found it something very unusual. But amitabha Da mentioned about the Martand Sun Temple of Kashmir also faces west.
We found no deity inside Surya Narayana Temple.
Walking 220 meters towards South we reached at Halugonda Basaveshvara Temple. Since the temple was under maintenance, we could not explore the temple.
In Spite of our failed mindset we headed for Virupakha Temple which is located 620 meters away from Halugonda Basaveshara Temple.
The temple was not very exciting, moreover somebody parked a car in front of the temple.
Our temple hunting continued. Next we headed for Manikeshwara Temple.
Manikeshwara Temple is located inside a huge complex. The main temple is a Trikuta Chala temple (triple celled). Vimana of all the cells are lost. There was not much work on the outer walls but temples are depicted on one of the cells.
One major attraction of the temple complex is Musukina Bavi – a stepped well.
Time was running like a gold medalist sprinter. Hence our temple hunting came to an end but before concluding, we went to Kumbareshwara Temple.
Kumbareshwara Temple is also a Trikuta Chala temple. Much is not known about the temple. The temple is not mentained. While entering to the temple we encountered snakes.
After Kumbareshwara Temple, we decided to call it a day and headed for Badami. We called our friend who suggested for Lakkundi and thanked him a lot.