Gadag – home to fascinating temples of kalyani chalukyas

Later Chalukyas, popularly known as the Chalukyas of Kalyan or Kalyani Chalukyas form an integral part of ancient Karnataka history of early medieval period. They succeeded the mighty Rashtrakutas in the state. They ruled for more than 200 years from Basavakalyan, presently a taluka in Bidar district. Basavakalyan, more than its historical importance as capital, was also a place where well-known philosopher Basaveshwara and his guru Allamaprabhu came from. It was a centre of philosophical discourse among the scholars and social and religious reformers.

Kalyan Chalukya rulers patronised temple construction, dance and music, as their predecessors did. In a span of 200 years of their rule, they built more than 3,000 temples, mostly in the northern parts of Karnataka, bordering Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.


The period also witnessed a steady growth of literature on various aspects. Sanskrit encyclopedia Manasollasa, also known as Abhilashitartha Chintamani, was compiled by King Someshwara-III of the Chalukya dynasty. This work has lengthy descriptions on architecture, mural painting and art of living and administration. Another important work of the period is Mitakshara, a treatise on law, compiled by Vijnaneshwara after Yajnavalhya Smriti. During this period, only Kashmiri poet Bilhana lived in the court of Vikramaditya-VI, he composed eulogia on his king titled Vikramanka Deva Charita. Another important work by Bilhana is Chaura Panchasika.

During the reign of Kalyan Chalukya kings, the temple architecture was rather redefined with the iconometric and architectural grammar as defined in the ancient architectural texts like Samaranganasutradhara. Some of the most fascinating temples worthy of visit and study are Mahadeva Temple at Itgi (Yelburga taluk of Koppal district), Lakkundi group of temples (Gadag, district and taluk), Galaganatha, Kuruvatti, Haralalli, Chaudadanapura, Nilgunda, Bagali all situated in Davangere and Bellary districts. Besides, there are temples that are very important and also interesting for their architectural style and sculptures.

Gadag, which has many temples, possibly built during 1050-1150 AD, illustrate architectural excellence. Gadag is one of the district headquarters in Karnataka, 50 kilometres from Hubli. It has railway connectivity from Bengaluru, Bijapur, Hubli and Bellary. The nearest airport is in Hubli. There are frequent flights between Bengaluru, Chennai, Mumbai and Hyderabad. Gadag has good hotels and restaurants.

The temples in Gadag are the best examples of medieval period, and they are well preserved. The most important ones are Trikuteshwara Temple, Someshwara Temple, Rameshwara Temple and Veera Narayan Temple. Trikuteshwara and Veera Narayana temples are situated in a large compound and supported by the traditional ancient mahadwaras, while Rameshwara and Someshwara temples are situated close to each other without any compound wall.

Trikuteshwara Temple is particularly important for its association with Kalamukha, and Saraswathi Temple on the southern side. The temple has a single sanctum with a large audience hall and entrances at eastern and southern sides. The temple follows a standard plan, as sanctum ( garbha griha), vestibule ( sukanasi), hall ( navaranga) and entrance mantapa ( mukhamantapa). The temple has a tower which follows the Dravida style of architecture. It is built on a platform that forms an outer projection at the audience hall. It was once open and possibly covered at a later period. Temple walls have projections with regular kuta and panjara decorations.

However, the walls are plain but for these architectural veneering. An interesting thing about the temple is, it has beautiful carvings on the outer wall of the rest-back ( kakshasana) projection of audience hall. This is a common feature among the Kalyan Chalukya temples. Interestingly, the Hoysala temples also followed the same typology in their temples.

Kalyan Chalukya temple door frames are decorated with exquisite carvings of jambs and architraves ( lalata Pattika). Architrave will invariably have the depiction of the deities, who are the crest images. Here, one can notice standing figures of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, carved with great sensibility. Even in small figures like these the artist has used his skill in carving minute details.

The temple is called Trikuteshwara, meaning a temple with tri kuta — three sanctums. However, here the sanctum is a single one, while the Shivalinga symbolically represents the Trinity — Tripurusha — Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva . The temple has a provision for circumambulation ( pradakshina patha) around the sanctum. It appears the outer wall of the temple around the sanctum was built later. There are niches with projected round pillars creating a mantapa-like form on all three sides of the sanctum.

Another interesting aspect of the temple is its walls, which are decorated with small-sized carvings, depicting various deities. There are a series of small figures decorating the bench-back of the main mantapa. It appears that the main mantapa was originally open and might have been covered with perforated window-like walls at a later date. The sculptures have been carved with utmost details, the jewellery, dress, the anatomy, postures and gestures all well matched within the composition of the subjects. These figures are synthesised versions of the temple narrative. These sculptures depict apsaras, the mithuna couple and Bhagavatha, where the miracles of Krishna are portrayed. Apart from these, there is also a dancing Ganesha with devotees, 12 forms of Adityas (Surya), Shiva-Parvathi, Kama-Rati, Ravana lifting Mount Kailash and many others, decorating the space.

The temple is known for its tiny sculptures and majestic design. On the southern side is a Saraswati Temple. Usually, Saraswathi temples are built on southern sides of Saiva temples. There will be an entrance on the southern side in the main temple for easy approach to Saraswathi Temple. This feature became a common phenomenon in medieval Karnataka temples, where Kalamukha Saiva school was prominent in controlling their administration. The Kalamukha teachers were well versed in Veda, Purana, Upanishad, Saiva Agamas and Sanskrit literature. Temples as schools evolved with Sarswathi Temple, also called Saraswathi Mutt. The Saraswathi Temple is a simple flat-roofed rectangular oblong hall, having an open mantapa and entrance on the northern side.

Saraswathi image and sculptures on the outer wall of the temple exhibit excellent architectural designs. There are apsaras carved on outer walls. The Saraswathi sculpture, which is partially damaged, displays intricate craftsmanship. The deity, seated in a padamasana posture , is dressed exquisitely. The sculptures of apsara exhibit graceful postures. The temple is embellished with fine carvings and its ornamentation makes it look very rich in appearance. Saraswathi being the goddess of wisdom, the temple is designed to suit schooling needs. There are plenty of inscriptional evidence of grants made to the school and its students.

Among the other monuments in Gadag, Veera Narayana temple is also worthy of a visit. It is believed that this temple was built by the Hoysalas. The temple has typical Hoysala-Dravida structure with a large compound and mahagopura at the entrance. The Vijayanagara structure was added at a later date. The sanctum has an image of Narayana — Vishnu carved in black stone. Gadag is also associated with Karnataka’s poet Kumara Vyasa — who wrote Kannada Mahabharata popularly known as Gadugina Bharata or Karnataka Bharata Katha Manjari. The text dates back to Vijayanagara period of the early sixteenth century AD. It is believed that poet Kumara Vyasa sat in front of Veera Narayana and wrote the text.

Therefore, Gadag besides its architectural splendour also has all such cultural entities. It has also contributed to Hindustani music. Blind musician, legend in his own time, Sri Puttaraja Gawayi has been hailed for his contribution. Gadag district has a large number of historical monuments, which form a part of the rich later Chalukya architecture.