‘Mahakuta’ means a great group. The name is given to a village as a large number of Lord Shiva temples have been found in the same complex. The temples were founded between 6th to 7th century AD during the Badami Chalukya Dynasty. With my friend Amitabha, I visited the village during our trip to Hampi – Badami – Pattadakal – Aihole.
Located in Bagalkot District of Karnataka, Mahakuta can be reached from Badami by car or local bus within half an hour. To avoid the crowd we visited the holy village early in the morning. Our intention was to reach there before the pilgrims start coming.
As we went inside the temple complex, we heard the raga Bhairavi played in ‘veena’ (musical instrument). It was divine. The priest and his associates were busy in housekeeping activities.
There are six temples inside the complex. A natural mountain spring flows within the temple complex and feeds fresh water into a large tank called the Vishnu Pushkarini (“Lotus pool of god Vishnu”) and an ablution tank called Papavinasha Tirtha (“Tank of Ablution”). Priests and pilgrims take a dip in the tank before entering into the temples.
Structurally most of the temples were found in Dravida style. But suddenly I found the temples with the North Indian Nagara Style. I was a bit surprised. The Chalukya Kings had a great aesthetic sense. They might want to derive a new style of architecture by mixing these two styles. Both of them were local, indigenous variants and unrelated to the architectural styles. They achieved this by combining the basic plan of one style with characteristics of the other. The Dravida style temples here have a tiered tower over the shrine which is capped with a dome like structure. The nagara style temples use a curvilinear tower over a shrine which has a square plan, and is capped by a ribbed stone. The temple complex showcases the aesthetic sense of the Chalukya Era.
We found the ‘Mahakuta Pillar’. According to this stone, the temple complex was built between 595 AD to 602 AD by a grant sanctioned by Durlabha Devi, the mother of then king Mangalesha and the queen of the former king Pulikeshi 1.
We met the priest. He said, “Because of its religious importance, this place is famous as ‘Dakshina Kashi’ (Varanasi of the Deccan).” But the chit chatting was not continued for a long time, as a group of devotees appeared.
We came out of the complex and headed towards Pattadakal.