Banashankari Temple Amargol, Dharwad District, Karnataka

Amargol or Ambaragola as referred to in the inscriptions found was once a part of the Kampana of Unakal – 30 of Halasige – 12000 (Halasi was the secondary capital of the Kadambas of Banavasi). Unfortunately, not only have a sizeable number of inscriptions gone missing but a fair number of temples have been looted, desecrated and reduced to rubble in this region (believed to be the handiwork of Muslim invaders and the British).


An inscription found in what is now known as the Banashankari Temple dated 1120 CE mentions the installation of Lord Keshava and Lord Bhairava by one Jakkarasa of Sadhore during the reign of Maharaja Vikramaditya VI of the Western Chalukyas. It is highly likely that both the idols consecrated were damaged and replaced with a Shiva Linga and Banashankari Devi.


This temple built by the Western Chalukyas in the 11th – 12th century in sandstone is dvikutachala (two shrines) with two garbha grihas (one facing east and the other facing south), two antaralas, two ardhamandapas and a common navaranga. The most fascinating feature of this temple are the four pillars in the Kalyana Mandapa that at first glance appear to be similar in decoration. However, on closer inspection one pillar is simple in design while one is profusely decorated and the other two are somewhere in between.


The pillar that is richly embellished has intricately carved ridges at the capital followed by four equally spaced Kirtimukhas in the lathe – turned section (this varies for three pillars) followed by a square section of Kirtimukhas (three out of the four pillars have 3 Kirtimukhas while one pillar has a single Kirtimukha with decorative strands of beads) followed by a curious mix of circular and octagonal sections and finally, the square section at the bottom.


The bases are adorned with gods and goddesses on each of its faces like Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, Lord Nataraja, Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva, Lord Varaha, Lord Ugranarasimha, Lord Bhairava, Bhairavi Devi, Lord Narasimha, Lord Surya, Lakshmi Devi, Chamundi Devi and Saraswati Devi and others.


The entrance doorway of both the shrines are adorned with carvings, floral motifs, repetitive patterns, gods and goddesses and auspicious Hindu iconography. Gajalakshmi is seated in the Lalata Bimba with five ornate miniature niches above.


The external facades have been severely damaged by Muslim invaders but there are interesting mouldings, pilasters, sculptures in the niches and miniature rekha nagara shikharas.


Written by Lakshmi Subramanian

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