The Kirti Narayana Temple in Talakadu stands as proof of the Hoysala victory over the Cholas.

On the banks of the Cauvery, the ancient capital of the Ganga Dynasty is almost submerged in the white mounds of sand.

The locals believe that the sandy beach of Talakadu hides many mysteries, including several temples.

Talakadu is a much-sought-after destination today for the Panchalinga temples, some of them still buried partially under the sand dunes. “Last year, more than two lakh devotees came here to visit the Panchalinga temples,” says Narayanan, the guide, a self-proclaimed veteran of over 20 years.

“But, Talakadu was once an empty town with huge sand dunes; now, the Forest Department has planted eucalyptus trees, and it looks like a jungle,” he says.

Many dynasties

He coaxes us to see the three main temples — Vaidyantheshwara, Pataleshwara and Maruleshwara — built during the Ganga dynasty, with the finishing touches given by the Cholas. The town has been under the reign of several dynasties — the Gangas, Cholas, Hoysalas, Wodeyars and even the Vijaynagar rulers.

As we pass various mounds, Narayanan says that another 30 temples are still under the sands.

An Indian grey hornbill catches my attention as I walk on the sand. That is when I see the remains of a beautiful Hoysala temple. A couple of children rolls on the sands while their parents rest their feet near the temple.

This is the Kirti Narayana temple, the only Hoysala monument that stands apart from the other temples. “The main monument had fallen, and we are trying to restore it,” explains Narayanan as we walk towards it.

“It was built by Vishnuvardan when he defeated the Cholas herein the 12th Century.”

The Hoysala king who was ruling from Dwarasamudra or the modern-day Halebeedu had also built the Chennakesava temple in Belur to commemorate the victory over Cholas.

“It was a very important victory for the Hoysala king as he was only a feudatory of the Chalukyas; this victory made him an emperor,” adds Narayanan.

Symbolic emblem

My thoughts go to the Hoysala emblem sculpted all over the Chennakesava temple in Belur. A soldier with a dagger is seen killing a yali or a tiger.

While many myths refer to it as the Sala myth, where the founder of the dynasty, Sala, killed the tiger when his guru said “Poi Sala”, historians believe the emblem depicts the symbolic defeat of the Cholas (the tiger) by the Hoysalas.

I wonder if the Kirti Narayana temple has the emblem as well, and ask Narayanan. He looks down at the sands. “Who knows what the sands have hidden? But, the sands have also swept away everything — victory or defeat.”