Lakkundi, a treasure trove of ingenious stepwells, temples, halls, dharmashalas and palatial quarters built by the Kalyani Chalukyas (Western Chalukyas), the Hoysalas, the Seunas (Yadavas of Devagiri) and the Vijayanagara Empire is renowned for its unique architectural style. The Lakkundi school of architecture is perhaps the finest illustration of an artistic harmony of architectural styles and elements of North and South India.
It is therefore unsurprising that the temples of Lakkundi are one of its kind in terms of architectural prowess and excellence, artistic mastery and structural innovation. One such example is the Suryanarayana Temple that sits opposite its famous brother, the Kashi Vishweshwara Temple.
This rare twin temple shares a common mandapa with the Kashi Vishweshwara Temple facing east and the Suryanarayana Temple facing west. Though the Kashi Vishweshwara Temple is often mentioned as the greatest edifice of its time, the Suryanarayana Temple is beautiful in its own way.
The most striking feature of this temple is the lintel on the entrance doorway that has five tiers, each intricately carved with repetitive motifs, sculptures, patterns and figures within the auspicious foliage design. A spectacular sculpture of Gajalakshmi with an elephant on either side is placed in the middle of the lintel.
The bottom of the door jamb has five columns of sculptures that are truly extraordinary in terms of detailing and proportion. Even the pillars are adorned with sculptures, Makara, bells, lamps, Hindu iconography, flowers and linear patterns.
The sanctum sanctorum is now bereft of the presiding deity, however Lord Surya’s heavenly chariot drawn by seven horses is seen on the external façade. The entire temple including the ceilings, running beams, internal and external facades and shikhara are profusely decorated with sculptures, mouldings, repetitive linear and horizontal elements, sacred symbols, miniature niches, the legendary Kirtimukha and panels depicting stories from the Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharat.
What is really impressive about this temple is the delicate ornamentation and subtle grandeur.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian