Lakkundi, famous for the splendid edifices of the Kalyani Chalukyas (Western Chalukyas) is revered for its spiritual potency and finds mention in both the Ramayana and Mahabharat. This remote village in Gadag district has the best illustration of the unique Lakkundi school of architecture (also known as Western Chalukya style of architecture) shaped by the Kalyani Chalukyas in the form of the Kashi Vishweshwara Temple.
The Kashi Vishweshwara Temple along with the Surya Narayana Temple on the opposite side is a rare example of a twin temple sharing a mandapa. This layout is all the more interesting as the Kashi Vishweshwara Temple faces east while the Surya Narayana Temple faces west.
This unusual combination is one of its kind and makes for an interesting study. According to historians, the Kashi Vishweshwara Temple was built in the 11th century (either 1085 or 1087 CE) and either rebuilt or renovated in the 12th century by the Cholas. The modified sections of the temple have typical styling and detailing more commonly seen in the temples built across Tamil Nadu by the Cholas.
What makes the Kashi Vishweshwara Temple so fascinating is its artistic excellence, architectural beauty and structural harmony. The external facades in particular are a visual spectacle with an array of sculptures, mouldings, repetitive linear and horizontal elements, auspicious Hindu iconography, miniature niches and the legendary Kirtimukha.
Intricately carved panels of Dasha Mahavidya, Ravana lifting Kaliash Parvat, Lord Shiva slaying Gajasura, Tarakasura vadha, Ekadasa Rudras, Twelve Adityas, apsaras, musicians, dancers, sages in tapas (penance and austerities), stories from the Puranas, the Mahabharat and the Ramayana are some of the extraordinary depictions found in the temple. Besides these, the entrance doorway to the sanctum sanctorum has stunning ornamentation with Gajalakshmi, Lord Shiva and Parvati in the middle flanked by Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu on the Lalata Bimba.
Sapta Matrikas, Lord Ganesha, Lord Surya with his two wives, repetitive floral and foliage motifs adorn the doorway. The pillars, pilasters, door jambs, mouldings, beams and even the ceiling are richly decorated. Lord Shiva is consecrated in the form of a Linga in the garbha griha.
The entire temple exudes elegance, charm, grandeur and astounding skill and craftsmanship. Though many sculptures were destroyed and defaced by the Muslim invaders, those that have survived are nothing short of impeccable.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian