Balligami, a city of immense spiritual, religious and literary importance was ruled by the pious Satavahanas, Chutu dynasty, Kadambas, Badami Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas of Malkhed, Kalyani Chalukyas, Kalachuris, Seunas, Hoysalas and finally, the Vijayanagara Empire. The Kalachuris overthrew the Kalyani Chalukyas in 1156 CE and erected marvellous edifices that are unmatched in the beauty of their sculptures and carvings. It is their reign and patronage that took the ancient city to great heights in terms of artistic and architectural mastery.
The now forgotten Panchalinga Temple near the Jiddikere tank, a part of the famous Balligami temple complex is one such structure built in the 12th century having several sculptures and details of the Badami Chalukyas of the 7th century. In fact, the original complex had many temples built by the Badami Chalukyas that have been moved as they were desecrated by the Muslim invaders and have fallen into a state of disrepair.
It is highly likely that the Panchalinga Temple that is still standing was a large temple with an imposing gopura. The temple today is a small structure with a huge Shiva Linga consecrated in the garbha griha. The temple is stated to have been a Sanskrit school in the 12th century. The two Dwarapalakas are housed in a museum.
The sukhanasi and the main shrine have elaborately carved doorways. The most impressive feature of this temple is the incredibly rare Uma Maheshwara sculpture of perhaps the 10th or 11th century that has been described as an exquisite example of sculptural poetry.
Uma Devi is seated on the left lap of Lord Maheshwara on a raised simhasana. Lord Shiva has a soft facial expression and is shown with His damaru, trishula and a crown. Lord Ganesha, Lord Kartikeya, Lord Nandi and Bhringi Maharshi have been carved at their feet. There are figures of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva as well.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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