Harihar situated on the banks of the Tungabhadra River is often referred to as Guharanya Kshetra or Dakshina Kashi and has been revered for its religious and spiritual potency by yogis, tapasvis, saints and jnanis. Legend has it, Guhasura performed tapas (severe austerities and penance) by the Tungabhadra for years.
Lord Brahma became pleased with him and granted him a boon. Guhasura was yet to conquer his ignorance and requested Lord Brahma that he would not be killed by either Lord Shiva or Lord Vishnu in battle. Lord Brahma agreed and blessed him. Overjoyed by this, Guhasura went on a rampage and started tormenting the sages who were conducting yagnas and yagas in the forest, animals and trees.
The sages appealed to Lord Brahma to save them from his tyranny. Lord Brahma revealed the boon that had been bestowed to him and asked them to seek the assistance of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. On hearing their plight, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu decided to descend to earth at the sacred land of Harihar as one and kill the tormentor of the sages.
A fierce battle ensued with Lord Harihara delivering the final blow on Guhasura. He was stamped in his heart by the Lord and pushed into the nether world. A dazzling light manifested and when that radiance slowly lessened, a beautiful idol of Lord Vishnu adorned with the shankha and chakra wearing His diadem on the left and Lord Shiva with matted hair holding the japamala and trishul in His hands on the right was seen. Interestingly, the portion below the knees remains below the earth.
It appears that a small temple had been built in the 5th century and a larger temple with an elaborate entrance gateway leading to a courtyard was built during the reign of Maharaja Veera Narasimha II in the 13th century. The sabha mandapa with exquisite lathe-turned pillars and intricately carved wall parapets with typical repetitive patterns, gods and goddesses, auspicious Hindu iconography, foliage and floral motifs and miniature niches is a visual spectacle.
The navaranga has entrances in the north and south with the northern porch extended slightly to become the antarala for another shrine. While the doorway to the navaranga is highly ornate, the entrance doorways to the antarala and garbha griha are quite simple.
The ceilings are nothing short of spectacular with stunning receding roof designs, concentric lotus motifs and repetitive patterns. The temple is built using the locally available stone (soapstone) and had a richly embellished gopura which was destroyed by Tipu Sultan who used it to construct a mosque. The external facades have charming sculptures, motifs, linear elements and others in their projections.
There is a shrine dedicated to Lord Nandi, Parvati Devi, Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi. There are huge stone inscriptions found all over the temple. As the Kadambas strongly promoted the Kannada language, it can be safely said that they had some hand in the construction of this temple during the 4th – 5th century. Some additions were made in the latter part of the 13th century under Maharaja Narasimha III.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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