Tarakeshwara Temple, Hangal, Haveri District, Karnataka

Hangal, the former bastion of the Kadambas, the Hoysalas, the Kalyani Chalukyas and the Vijayanagara Empire is best known for the ‘Lotus of Hangal‘, a breathtaking architectural and structural marvel in the Tarakeshwara Temple. This centuries-old temple was built by the Kadambas in the 5th century with additions by the Hoysalas in the late 10th – 11th century and the Kalyani Chalukyas in perhaps the latter part of the 12th century. It is one of those rare temples in this region that harmoniously incorporates the insignia and architectural elements of all three mighty dynasties.


Tarakeshwara Temple is an exemplary piece of artistic, architectural and structural innovation. It is indeed baffling how the artisans were able to carve these spectacular sculptures, niches, motifs, animals, gods and goddesses, scenes from the Puranas, the Ramayana and the Mahabharat, apsaras, sages, musicians and dancers with such precision, proportion, symmetry and detail using greenschist.


Every inch of this temple from the entrance makaras, to the richly embellished lathe-turned pillars, to the entrance doorways, to the parapet walls with miniature niches and array of sculptures depicting stories of Lord Krishna, the Ramayana and Hindu scriptures and to the ceiling brackets and roof designs exudes elegance, charm and grandeur. One must remember that the artisans built this entire temple using just a hammer and chisel!


This east-facing temple has an entrance arch and a Garuda Kamba in front of the mukha mandapa. The intricately carved circular balipeedam sits in the courtyard. The temple has a mukha mandapasabha mandapanavaranga, an antarala and a garbha griha.


As one walks into the pillared mukha mandapa and sabha mandapa, one can only gasp in surprise and admiration at the central ceiling pattern. This magnificent design of a bloomed lotus is carved within an octagon that is supported by eight sculpted pillars that are further supported by eight smaller pillars next to them. There are concentric circular patterns resembling the folds of the lotus around the central lotus bud. The Ashtadikpalakas have been depicted according to the tenets of the Shilpa Shastra on the capitals of these pillars.


The navaranga had entrances on the north, south and east originally but the northern and southern were converted into smaller shrines in the late 12th century. The antarala has stunning bands of decoration, carvings of Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya. Lord Nandi sits majestically in the antarala.


The entrance doorway of the sanctum sanctorum is profusely decorated. The sanctum sanctorum has a Shiva Linga and sculptures of Lord Vishnu, Lord Brahma, Lord Kartikeya and Nandi. The tiered roof over the mandapas has been designed in accordance to the climatic conditions prevailing in this region.


Three memorial stones in honour of fallen heroes and broken sculptures are placed in the sabha mandapa. There is a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha to the north-east of the main temple. It has also been designed with a mukha mandapa, an antarala and a garbha girha. Lord Ganesha has been consecrated in the sanctum sanctorum.


Written by Lakshmi Subramanian

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