The remote village of Lakkundi, previously known as Lokkigundi is a treasure trove of stunning temples, stepwells, palatial quarters and dharmashalas that showcase the architectural prowess of the Kalyani Chalukyas (Western Chalukyas), the Hoysalas, the Seunas (Yadavas of Devagiri) and the Vijayanagara Empire. This historical site has rare inscriptions in Kannada and Sanskrit that date back to the pre – 10th century.
As per historians, this city was deemed to be a prominent seat of art, literature and learning during the reign of the Kalyani Chalukyas and became the capital of the Hoysalas. The city was ravaged in the 13th century by Muslim invaders and reduced to rubble. This once-glorious city rose from the ashes during the reign of the Vijayanagara Empire.
Lakkundi has over 50 temples and at least 101 stepwells of interest. Though a sizeable portion of the temples constructed over centuries were looted, desecrated and flattened to the ground, the temples that managed to survive the savagery exude grandeur, charm and artistic excellence.
One of the most brilliant examples of the architectural ingenuity of the 11th century is Muskin Bhavi, a stepwell that is referred to as the Rani Ki Vav of the South. This kalyani or pushkarni located behind the beautiful Manikeshwara Temple is truly a structural marvel!
The stepwell starts below the temple and extends further on. It is accessed by steps on the southern, eastern and western sides. The most striking feature of this kalyani is the attention to detail, symmetry and intricate carvings on the facades of the niche like shrines that adorn its sides.
There is a two-storey pillared mandapa over the steps on the southern side that offers a panoramic view of the well as well as the surroundings. This impressive pushkarni has been impeccably maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian