Aghoreshwara Temple, Ikkeri, Sagara Taluka, Shivamogga District, Karnataka

The fall and eventual disintegration of the mighty Vijayanagara Empire in the Battle of Talikota led to the establishment of an independent kingdom by the Keladi Nayakas. Keladi was chosen as the capital for 14 years after which Ikkeri was nominated as the capital and remained so for more than hundred years.


It is in Ikkeri that the coins of the kings were minted. According to historical records, the capital had huge walls built as three concentric enclosures. A grand palace of mud and timber that was profusely decorated with gods and goddesses. carvings, stories from the Hindu scriptures and auspicious Hindu iconography was reduced to rubble by the Bijapur Adil Shahis in the 16th – 17th century and taken over by Hyder Ali in the mid – 18th century.


The iconic Aghoreshwara Temple was desecrated by the Muslim invaders and later renovated by local chieftains. The temple is regarded to be the only vestige of the former grandeur of Ikkeri.


On first glance, the temple exudes a harmonious incorporation of different architectural styles of the Kadambas, Hoysalas, Western Chalukyas and Vijayanagara Empire with an infusion of the Keladi style. The temple has a large mukha mandapa, an open sukhanasi and a garbha griha with a narrow circumambulation path.


This north-facing temple has a majestic roof with intricately carved doorways on the west, north and east. A pair of elephants are seen at the north entrance. The mukha mandapa has beautifully crafted pillars with richly embellished capitals.


The sukhanasi has a small figure of Lord Nandi carved out of white spar and niches dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Lord Kartikeya, Lord Bhairava and Mahishasuramardini. There are sculptures of three Keladi kings paying obeisance to the Lord in front of the shrine.


The sanctum sanctorum is built of huge stones and has a gigantic pedestal adorned with 32 seated female figures. The original Linga was actually very large in size and placed behind the current Linga. It was destroyed by the Bijapur Adil Shahis. Interestingly, only the padukas of the original Linga is seen on the Shakti Peeta where the Linga has been consecrated.


The temple also has a metal sculpture of Lord Aghoreshwara with 32 hands. Inscriptions found around the temple throw some light on when certain portions of the temple were built and reconstructed.


The external facades have perforated windows, running parapets, miniature niches, ornamental turrets, gods and goddesses, nagas, apsaras, repetitive patterns, floral and foliage motifs and linear elements.


The Akhilandeshwari Temple is located to the west of the main shrine and built perhaps a little later along with the famous Nandi pavilion that houses a magnificent Nandi in black stone with mirror finish. The Akhilandeshwari Temple has a mukha mandapanavarangasukhanasi and garbha griha. The walls are adorned with pilasters, swans and lotuses.


Written by Lakshmi Subramanian

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