Kedareshwara temple, Halebidu

Kedareshwara temple in Halebidu is about 400 mts away from the famous Hoysaleshwara temple.This is not as famous as Chennakeshava temple or Hoysaleshwara but the architecture and interior of the temple are quite impressive.  The quiet, peaceful aura and the area around the main shrine of Lord Shiva has such calming effect that I could have spent my entire day there.

Kedareshwara…Om namah Shivay

Like Hoysaleshwara and Chennakeshava Kedareshwara too is built on a high rise platform. The temple is star shaped. From base to upwards the exterior temple walls comprise of eight tiers. The first tier from base has elephants, second cavalory forces, third is adorned with intricately carved creepers and flowers, fourth has Hoysala emblum, fifth again has flowers, sixth displays various stories and episodes from Ramayana, mahabharata and Geeta, seventh has makara lined up and the eighth one displays elegant swans.

The tiers on exterior wall

With an east facing entrance Kedareshwara is a trikuta temple,i.e. temple having three shrines. There are four star shaped pillars on either side of the way leading to Navaranga Mandapam and then four bell shaped pillars at Navaranga. As is with most of the temples of Hoysala period the ceiling of navaranga too is well decorated.

The pillars
intricately carved ceiling.
A closure view of another portion of ceiling. does it not look like a lotus flower

The main deity in garbhagrah is Shivalinga. The area just outside garbhgraha is the most unique feature of this temple. Ceiling over this area has such structure that natural light enters inside. At the hour we were there in the semi darkness of the hall the light pouring down from above was as if establishing a connection with the Brahmand.The impact was simply beyond words.

Above the eight tiers the exterior walls of temple are adorned with ornate images of various Hindu deities, apsaras and certain images throwing light on social life of that period. The intricacy and detailing in the images proclaim the high standard craftsmanship of sculptures of that time but the bhav, bhangima, the expressions, the mudras; the postures carved by these artists tell that they were well aware of the nuances of bharat natya shatra too. How deeply steeped were these souls in their culture and arts.

Here Shiva is shown inside Gajarajas’s stomach. Look at the feet of elephant below. What an imagination and what implementation!

Prabhavali, i.e. frame around the images too are intricately carved. The corner images almost give impression of being three dimensional. More the time you spend in their company, more enriching the experience gets. There is so much to learn, the mythological episodes, the variety of musical instruments, the dance mudras, historical facts, the list is long, besides all these the most important one is the spritual experience.

This temple was built in 1199 AD by Hoysala king Veer Ballala 2nd and his queen Ketaladevi. Though except a Shivalinga no other shrine has any deity now yet such is solemnity , the aura of the place that one feels in presence of the higher one.

one of the shrine inside temple.

Nirvan rupam kedareshwara

Prayers carved on stone by the unknown craftsmen

At the end of journey with a heart full of gratitude

All the pictures @ Sunder Iyer

Dodagaddavalli is a small village near Belur in Hassan distt of Karnataka. The village is famous for a very unique temple. This temple is perhaps one of oldest architecture of Hoyasala period. It was built in 1113 CE, i.e. even before the famous Chennakeshava temple of Belur.

We started for Dodagaddavalli by our cab quite early in the morning. The way from Belur to Dodagaddavalli offered green, beautiful landscape and the journey turned out to be a very pleasant one. The temple is located at the farthest end of the village. When we reached there though temple gates were open yet Pujari had not arrived by then. Only one person was there in the premises. he was a young man from some nearby village, who worked in Bengaluru and visited this Mahalaxmi temple every time he came to his own village. While roaming around the temple looking at the tall coconut trees and blue stretch of sky I felt a sense of peace and a curious thought too came in mind. Far from my place of birth and settlement I was standing there in that small village at that particular moment, how many journeys we make within our life journey and what is the significance of these journeys. Every moment of our life appears to be pre-planned. Who keeps the record of millions and millions of lives all over the earth.

Come. from my ramblings let us go back to the temple. the Dodagaddavalli temple has raised compound walls. In the corners of the compound walls there are four small shrines. Though the time we visited there were no idols of deities inside these small shrines, however many stone slabs, some with inscriptions and some remnants of certain idols were kept near the walls.

The entrance to the temple is through a pillared hall like Mandapam.

The main temple has four sanctum sanctorum. Dodagaddavalli is the only chatushkuta ( having four sanctums) temple in Hoyasala history. The four Garbhgriha share a common hall and entrance. The four sanctums were originally dedicated to Goddess Kali, Goddess Laxami, Shiva and Vishnu but when we visited Only Shiva and Laxmi were there. The doors of sanctum dedicated to Goddess Kali were closed. We came to know that few days earlier some miscreants tried to steal idol of Goddess Mahakali and on being unsuccessful in their attempt they damaged the idols.

This temple is unique in its aura. Due to low ceiling the temple hall is semi dark. We were not able to see Mahakali idol but the corroborating images and the ambience suggested that this shrine must have been associated with Tantrik tradition. on the door way and the upper jamb of the shrine Bhuta Mukhas were carved. on the either side on the walls were standing images of two full sized Bhutas, skeleton kind of figures. They appeared to be standing like dwarpalas. In the semidarkness that pervaded the hall these dwarpalas are capable of sending a shivering sensation down the spine. There is a Bhairava shrine too in the temple.

The Bhoota Dwarpala outside Mahakali Shrine

Shrines of Goddess Mahalaxmi and lord Shiva are in east and west, i.e. facing each other. in the original plan shrines of Goddess Kali and Vishnu faced each other. We were told that the dedicatory inscriptions found here declares that the temple was erected by the generous grant provided by a diamond merchant Kalhana Rautar. The saying goes like that the wealthy merchant was highly impressed by the Mahalaxmi temple at Kolhapur, Maharashtra, which he happened to visit during his one of the business trip, hence he built a similar one at Dodagaddavalli. The village which was historically referred to as Doddagaddumballe was even renamed as Abhinava Kolhapura.

Goddess Mahalaxmi
Lord Shiva

In comparison to very intricately carved temples of Hoyasala era this one is kind of non- ornate but it has certain unique features of Hoyasala temples such as lathe turned pillars and richly carved ceiling.

All the Shikharas except the one over Goddess Laxmi are of simple pyramidal style, Kadamba Nagara type. The tower over Goddess Laxmi is Dvitala Vimana topped by square shikhara and stone finial. All the four towers display the Hoyasala emblem, Sala striking a tiger.

Slowly walking in the compound of the temple , devoid of tourists and the usual clutter, I felt like being transported to an ancient page of history. A king, a merchant came together to build this unique temple and centuries after its inception I stand there to feel, to imbibe the spirit of the place. Was I there at that time too in some other form, known by some other name?

Pujari arrived at 9O’clock. By that time a small group of visitors from some nearby village had also arrived. We eight people stood there with hands folded, as Pujari chanted shlokas. Glow of lamp lit by pujari filled the chamber with soft, benevolent light. I slowly closed my eyes. I felt a peaceful feeling of bonding, of assurance. I was not to meet any of those persons ever again in this life. I did not know even their names, we could not communicate due to language barrier but at that pious moment standing together before the shrine of goddess Laxami in that small village I felt connected. Benediction was being showered on us all. It was beautiful moment, etched in my heart for ever.

Later on We walked to the back of the temple where a very big pond was there. The village was slowly opening its eyes and daily chores were being started. two- three women were cleaning utensils on the steps of the pond. i met Bhavya there. She was a young girl, who never went out of her village but was familiar with the name of my city. We could communicate in monosyllables in English. She welcomed me to her village and felt happy to know that I came there from such a far away place. When I started to leave she said,” come again.” Both of us knew that it was highly unlikely yet her gesture touched my heart. With those two simple words she made me feel special and welcomed.

Pujari while talking to Sunder in Tamil asked about Kashi. He was a young man of say thirty five or so. He wanted to know how much money he had to save to travel upto Kashi. How many does would take to reach. He did not know how far it is but at least once in his life time he wanted to visit Kashi.

We proceeded back to Belur with a heart full of gratitude.

All pictures @Sunder Iyer

Bhairava

Look at this relief on the wall. Who could he be?  That wreath on his head and beautiful, serene face, doesn’t he look like a Greek God? But that wreath is not of flowers. Zoom in and you find skulls roped in like beads. Interesting, isn’t it? What a fabulous fusion the sculptor’s imagination has created! Neck and beneath till the feet, is it some Jain Muni? Hoyasalas followed Jainism. In fact Queen Shantala the most popular and dynamic queen of the dynasty followed Jainism till her death. There are many Jain basadis and temples spread across Hoyasala kingdom. But he can never be representing anyone even remotely linked to Jainism. Those skulls, snakes, and bhoot, pishach kind of figures in the side towards bottom, the dog licking the blood tells otherwise. Even though the face reflects serenity of the munis, this sculptor surely did not have any Jain muni in his mind. Then who he could be?

It is the most mysterious and enigmatic God of Hindus, The Bhairava.Bhairava is an incarnation of Shiva. Yes, the tridents, the snake around neck, the bhoot pisachs all confirm the association with Shiva. If you come to think of it even the serenity on face is that of Siva. Surrounded by all kinds very unusual companions, His Ganas, even in midst of chaos, decked up in His strange adornments Shiva sits perfectly still, calm and sublime. So yes, this is Bhairava, who was created by Shiva Himself.

Do you know what the skull in his hand and the begging bowl represent? The story goes like this; once Brahma and Shiva had an argument over the issue of supremacy. Enraged by Brahma’s continuous atrocious behaviour Shiva created Bhairava. That is why Bhairava is known as Raudra roop of Shiva. As it happened Bhairava immediately after taking shape decapitated Brahma’s fifth head, which actually was creating the entire problem. But this fifth head of Brahma stuck in Bhairava’s hand and could not be dislodged. The head in Bhairava’s hand in this relief is that fifth head of Brahma. How so ever angry Shiva was with Brahma’s unethical behaviour and He Himself had created Bhairava but justice is a highly valued ethic in our religion, hence Shiva punished Bhairava for the sin of Brahmahatya. He ordered Bhairava to roam around the earth with a begging bowl like a mendicant. That is why we see the bowl in his hand and Bhairava is shown naked or say in tattered rags.

So in this relief the sculptor has etched Bhairava as a mendicant walking on earth with skull and bowl. In this avatara dog is said to be vahana of Bhairava. Otherwise too just imagine Bhairava walking on streets in rags with a bowl and skull in hand, his flaming hair waving and,  dogs following him flashes as a natural reaction.

The mythological story further progresses like this. Shiva while ordering Bhairava thus had told that when the skull would automatically dislodge from his hands, he should understand that he had been absolved off his sin and then he had to stay at that place and this happened when Bhairava entered Kashi. Since then Bhairava is stationed there in the famous Kal Bhairava temple.

There is another story about Bhairava which says that during His punishment tenure   wandering once Bhairava came to dense Deodara forest where many Rishis used to reside. Bhairva’s mysterious enigmatic naked presence with a God like aura attracted the women in Ashramas. They were not able to resist His charm.  This infuriated rishis and they casterated Bhairava. The fallen Linga immediately turned into an endless column of fire and Rishis understood the miracle of God and started worshipping Linga. Some what similar story I heard at Jageshwar in Uttarakhand where the famous Bal Jageshwar temple of Shiva is located. Jageshwar is surrounded by dense Devdar trees. It made me wonder how our mythological stories spread so far. Did pilgrims covered such long distances from one part of nation to other? That too when fast modes of transportation were not available.

Another question which popped up in my mind while going through these stories is why our Gods, Devtas are depicted to behave so human like. They represent Supreme Being yet they are shown to have weaknesses, human weaknesses. Do these tales want to convey that it’s ok to have weaknesses but if we work upon the positive and just forces inside us, we too can develop certain traits which could produce miraculous results? One very popular thought propagated in our religion is that we carry a part of God within us. May be that is what it means. Ah! Thoughts would go on churning, let us move forward and enjoy the dazzling testimonies of art and sculptures.