The spiritual centre of the south known as Dakshina Kedara is the ancient city of Balligave. Also referred to as Balligavi, Belagami, Balligamve, Balligame, Ballegavi, Belagavi, Balligrama, Ballipura and Balipura in several inscriptions, this city derives its name from Chirañjīvī Mahabali who was sent to the nether world by Lord Vamana.
This city was ruled by the pious Satavahanas, Chutu dynasty, Kadambas, Badami Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas of Malkhed, Kalyani Chalukyas, Kalachuris, Seunas, Hoysalas and finally, the Vijayanagara Empire. Many historical texts have described this city as the pinnacle of all capitals with astounding riches, wealth, knowledge, virtue and wisdom.
One of the finest edifices of this sacred city is the Kedareshwara Temple. It is unclear who and when this temple was built as the architectural style appears to be a harmonious combination of the Western Chalukya and Hoysalas but certain sculptures, details and stone images appear to be of the 6th – 7th century.
Roughly estimated to be around the 11th century, this temple is designed as a trikutachala (three shrines). This east-facing temple has Shiva Lingas consecrated in the west and south with a magnificent shrine of Lord Vishnu in the north. Historians opine that the Shiva Linga in the south is said to be Lord Brahma and the temple was conceived as the union of the Trinity.
The temple made of soapstone has well-defined structural aesthetics with profuse ornamentation, elegant sculptures and intricately detailed architectural elements of both the Western Chalukya and Hoysala period. The three gopuras like the walls have three tiers adorned with kirtimukhas, gods and goddesses, repetitive patterns, linear and horizontal elements, miniature niches, coiled serpents and auspicious Hindu iconography. The grand emblem of the Hoysalas adorns the external facades and the gopura.
The square mandapa is open on three sides and has a navaranga with shiny lathe-turned pillars with the typical bell mouldings and leaf shapes in the inner line and sixteen-sided fluted ones on the outer line. The ceilings are divided into square panels and richly embellished with lotus carvings. The central ceiling has Tandaveshwara in the middle surrounded by the Ashtadikpalakas.
The entrance doorway of the sukanasi of the main shrine has perforations on either side. Lord Shiva is seated in the centre of the lintel flanked by Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, Lord Ganesha, Lord Kartikeya and others.
Sculptures of different periods are preserved in the museum next to the temple. Lord Vishnu, Naga Devata, Lord Veerabhadra, Mahishasuramardini, Sapta Matrikas, Trimurti, Lord Ganesha, Lord Kartikeya and others along with a four-faced Shiva Linga are seen here.
There is another shrine called Prabhudeva within the temple complex with shrines dedicated to Lord Veerabhadra and Lord Shiva.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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