Kotipura referred to as Devasthanada-hakkalu in the historical records and as Kuntalapura or Kuntalanagara, capital of Maharaja Chandrahasa of the Mahabharat boasts of the ancient Kaitabheshwara Temple. As the name suggests, the Shiva Linga was consecrated in the Krita Yuga by Madhu and Kaitabha who were killed by Lord Vishnu after a gruelling battle that went on for ages.
This Shiva Linga was rediscovered in the Dwapura Yuga by Banasura, who through his tapas shakti (strength of penance and austerities) summed up the spiritual potency of the sacred land. A magnificent temple called Kotishwara or Ananta Kotishwara was built by Vishwakarma in accordance with the tenets of the Shilpa Shastra. The temple has been described as perfection in gold, dazzling with precious stones with tall towers that reached the skies!
There is some historical reference to the Kadambas also contributing to the construction of the temple between the 4th – 5th century. However, the temple took on its present form in the 11th century (1070 CE) as per the Kannada inscriptions with a unique combination of Hoysala and Western Chalukya influence. There is architectural evidence to suggest that even the Seunas and Vijayanagara Empire gave significant grants to the temple.
This temple has been designed with a mandapa, an antarala and a garbha griha. The mandapa has five entrances as per the panchakona yantra of Lord Shiva. The spacious mandapa has lathe-turned pillars with richly embellished ceiling panels of lotus patterns. The beams and the underface of the eaves of the mandapa are decorated with flowers, gods and goddesses and repetitive elements. There are niches dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Lord Vishnu, Naga Deva and Sapta Matrikas.
The gopura above the sanctum sanctorum has well-defined four tiers adorned with exquisite carvings of Mahishasura Mardini, Bhairava and Maheshwara. The ceiling of the sukhanasi has a beautiful multi-petalled lotus while the doorway has a divine sculpture of Gajalakshmi.
The garbha griha has a highly ornate entrance doorway with Gajalakshmi on the Lalata Bimba. There are other shrines in the premises that are of the Hoysala period.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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