Hubli-Dharwad always meant the seat of Carnatic music to me, for being the native place of many doyens of Indian Classical music. I went to explore the same legacy. But I also ended up discovering some ancient Shiva temples. It was not easy to reach these Chalukyan Temples of Hubli. Thanks to Google I knew I am in the vicinity and with a bit of persistence found these gems. I visited two temples, both belonging to the era of Chalukyas and belonging to the golden period of Indian temple architecture.
Ancient Chalukyan Temples Of Hubli
Chalukyan temple’s architecture can be seen in places like Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal, and the region around it. These temples lie at the intersection of North Indian and South Indian style temple architecture and imbibe features from both styles. Though some say that they lean a bit more towards the Nagara or the North Indian style, especially when it comes to the Shikhara or the superstructure.
Chalukyan Temples Architecture
Chalukyan temples typically face east. The main shrine is located in the sanctum sanctorum which is connected by a vestibule or Ardh-mandapa to a mandapa. Mandapa is an open platform supported by finely carved pillars. More often than not, these pillars are made of a single stone and hence not very tall. Mandapa is sometimes also called Navranga or Rang Mandapa. This area was probably used for ritual dances and celebrations.
Mandapa, in turn, opens into an open platform on which the main temple structure stands. This platform with protruding projections presents the shape of a star.
Apart from the main shrine that is dedicated to the presiding deity, the temple has subsidiary shrines dedicated to the family of the presiding deity usually. For example, in a Shiva temple, there would be shrines dedicated to his consort Parvati and his sons Ganesh and Kartik.
At the Chalukyan temples of Hubli, I could see similarities with the temples of Warangal. Like heavily carved doorjambs and latticed windows adjoining the doorjambs. I also noticed the small niches with Shikharas on the outer walls of the temples which I assume would have been idols.
Banashankari Temple, Amargol, Hubli
Amargol is a small town located between Hubli and Dharwad. You need to take a small detour into the village and navigate through numerous narrow lanes. It is easier to walk through these lanes than drive. I saw a massive traffic jam there as narrow streets can not take more than one vehicle at a time. After asking many people I reached a dead end where everyone said ‘That is the temple’ and I just could not see it. I had to step forward and look behind the wall to see the temple that is completely hidden between the village houses.
The first look and it is a beautiful temple. Then I saw a huge boulder in front tied with a rope that was holding some parts of the temple together as it is being renovated by ASI. It is a practicing temple. I saw a woman sitting in the mandapa praying. A fresh Rangoli was drawn outside the temple. The presiding deity of this temple is Banashankari – a form of Shiva’s consort Parvati, as Shankari lives in the forests. The main idol, facing east was adorned with fine silk, flowers, and sandal paste.
If Parvati rules the temple Shiva cannot be away – he sits in another chamber as Linga and faces South in his favored direction.
Unfortunately, the workers working on the restoration of the temple use this chamber as a storeroom but thankfully left a small space around the Shiva Linga.
Temple restoration is in progress. I could see the elements of Shikhara arranged on the floor to be assembled. I could not find a reference dating this temple. But my guess is it should be the late 10-11th CE temple going by the architectural elements.
Architectural features that stood out at Banashankari temple
- The wide door jamb is intricately carved.
- The carved Mandapa Pillars and the Ceiling of the Mandapa.
- A dilapidated Shikhara or superstructure that barely maintains its shape indicates a Nagara Style Shikhara.
- The platform has a stepped diamond shape.
- It is a Dvikuta temple or a temple with two shrines.
- Hope to see this temple when it is restored.
Chandramouleshwara Temple, Unkal, Hubli
Located near the well-known Unkal Lake, this temple too needs to be searched a bit though not as much as Banashankari temple. I reached the temple, passing through streets with many bullock carts parked. The temple is boxed on all sides by construction that has cropped up all around it. At first look, the temple looks very flat as the Shikhara is totally missing but as I went closer its beauty started revealing itself.
Chandramouleshwara temple is dedicated to Shiva. What is unique about this temple is the presence of two Lingas and two Nandis. The smaller Shiva Linga has an oval-shaped Yoni and is a Chaturlinga or a linga with four faces carved on it. The other linga looks from a later period. The temple is absolutely symmetrical with four doors in four directions. As of now only one door – I think the one facing north is open. You can go around and see all four doors and the carvings on the exquisite doorjambs.
I found an uncanny resemblance to the Kakatiya temples of Warangal. Especially the latticed parts around the doorjambs with carvings of musicians and dancers.
Chandramouleshwara temple is multi-tiered. There are sanctums inside the sanctums taking to the total count of doors of the temple to twelve. A Pradakshina path or a circumambulation path goes around the Chalukyan temple.
Inscriptions place this temple somewhere in the 11th CE. Making it the contemporary of the Chandela temples of Khajuraho and the Chola Temples of Tanjore. I saw people coming and praying at the Chalukyan temple, but there seems to be no effort to preserve the temple. There are obvious encroachments all around the temple compound. I wish ASI looks at it empathetically.
Unique features of Chandramouleshwara Temple
- Multi-tiered temple.
- Perfect symmetry with doors on all sides.
- Pierced or latticed windows allow light inside the Chalukyan temple.
- Intricately carved doorjambs with a bottom panel showing people, who could be rulers of the time or patrons of temples or subsidiary deities, standing.
- Two Shiva Lingas and two Nandis.
- Missing Shikhara but still, a practicing temple as deities are intact.
Interestingly the houses around both these Chalukyan temples of Hubli too had very beautifully carved wooden doorjambs. Every house had a different color and style placed perfectly around a strong wooden doorjamb that looked more like the foundation of the house than an entrance.
You only have to visualize India of 10-11th CE when all these Chalukyan temples would have been at their best. And not surrounded by so many other structures.
These are the places to visit in the twin city if you have an interest in heritage, history, and architecture.
Recommend you to read the following travel blog posts on places to visit in Hubli-Dharwad & nearby.