History & Culture

Speaks of catholic outlook

The pillars with stunning sculptures at one of the chalukyan temples.

The pillars with stunning sculptures at one of the chalukyan temples.  


This is the final part of the two-part series on the temples and architectures built by the Chalukyas in and around Karnataka.

A joke used to do the rounds of the Madras Bar in the early 1900s, about an observation of Advocate General Corbett. Having a dig at some British judges, who came to India without knowledge of Hindu law, Corbett said that one of them had asked him, ‘What does Mr. Mitakshara say on this point?’ Not knowing that Mitkashara was the name of a treatise and not the name of the author was unforgivable, for after all these judges had to rely on the Mitakshara, a commentary on Yajnavalkya Smriti, to dispense justice, in matters of Hindu law. Vijnaneswara’s Mitakshara- mita (limited) akshara (letters) - was anything but limited. Vijnaneswara was originally called Kancha and belonged to the Bharadwaja Gotram. He was patronised by the Kalyani Chalukya King, Vikramaditya VI. But we are getting ahead of our story.

As with all dynasties, the fortunes of the Badami Chalukyas also took a dip, and the Rashtrakutas gained supremacy. But in 973 A.D., Taila II, who belonged to a collateral branch of the Chalukya family, defeated the Rashtrakutas. Later kings of this resurgent branch of the Chalukyas ruled with Kalyani as their capital, and the dynasty came to be referred to as Kalyani Chalukyas.

Like the Badami Chalukyas, the Kalyani Chalukyas too were catholic in their religious outlook. The cluster of temples at Lakkundi has Jain and Siva temples. The Brahma Jinalaya here was constructed by Attimabbe, wife of Nagadeva, who served as general under both Taila II and Satyasraya Irivabedanga (997-1008 A.D.). Satyasraya Irivabedanga had the title ‘Sarvavarnadharmadhanu’ – meaning bow that respects all religions, without discrimination.

In 1071 A.D., Bhuvanaikamalla Someswara ordered the Governor of Belvole 300 and Purigere 300, to help Jainism flourish. Sakkottai Krishnaswamy Iyengar writes that while Someswara I was a Saivite, his son Vikramditya VI was a Vaishnavite. According to Iyengar, the founding of Trivikramapura and the construction of palaces and shrines near the temple of Vishnu Kamalavilasin, as recorded by poet Bilhana, indicate that Vikramaditya VI was probably a Vaishnavite. But he too, like the other kings of his dynasty, was non-parochial. A Dambal inscription of 1095 A.D records grants which he made to Buddhist viharas.

By far the greatest king of the Kalyani Chalukyas was Vikramaditya VI (1076 -1126 A.D), a contemporary of the Chola King – Kulotunga I. The wandering Kashmiri poet Bilhana finally found his niche in Vikramaditya’s court. Bilhana’s Vikramankadeva Charitam throws light on the history of the period and gives an account of the achievements of Vikramaditya VI. An inscription, dated 1098 A.D., talks about Dandanayaka Someswara Bhatta, who was an authority on the Rig Veda. This Vedic scholar was also a good administrator and Vikramaditya appointed him the Pratama Mahamatya and made him in charge of administering grants and gifts. Of all the people who adorned Vikramaditya’s court, the one best remembered is Vijnaneswara, author of Mitaksara, which was the authoritative law book in much of medieval and Modern India, until the codification of the Hindu laws in 1955-56.

Vijnaneswara is known for his extensive writing on coparcenary law. Sanskrit scholar Dr. P.P. Apte says there were other significant contributions too. “Vijnaneswara stressed that when there is a clash between local customs and Dharmasastra proclamations, local custom should prevail. So Vijnaneswara allowed ‘matula kanya parinaya’- marrying the maternal uncle’s daughter, for South Indians, because this was a custom prevalent in South India, although this was against Dharmasastra rules.”

Qualifications for ministers

Vikramaditya’s son Someswara III wrote Manasollasa, a work in Sanskrit, that has 100 chapters. It lays down the qualifications mandatory for ministers – he must be a native of the country, should have good memory and must not be arrogant. It says the royal treasury should be full of gold and silver, to meet contingencies. It even talks about treating the diseases of horses and elephants. Dr. Satyavati, whose Ph.D. thesis was on the portions of the Manasollasa which relate to music, says that Someswara was the first to say that ragas were delineated by the judicious use of microtones. In other words, he was the first to point out that ragas were not scale based. Dr. Satyavati says, “All of Someswara’s compositions, all in Sanskrit, were in praise of Vishnu. But he says that songs can be in praise of any deity and in any language. They can even be in praise of a king or one’s lover! Manasollasa has 600 slokas on music and gives a list of 51 ragas and 31 talas that were in vogue. “Someswara III called his work Jagadacharya Pustaka - a book that instructs the world and has something for everyone.

The Kalyani Chalukyas left the landscape dotted with temples. They used soapstone (Chloristic schist) as the basic building material in these temples. Henry Cousens, who worked in the Archaeological Survey Department, and who studied Chalukya temples and took photographs of them in the 1800s, says that the change in building material for temples “was conducive to a change in style.” Indeed the style of the Kalyani Chalukya temples is distinctive, with elaborate decorative work and embellishments. Looking at the pillars in these temples, Colonel Meadows Taylor, a civil servant, observed, “It is impossible to describe the exquisite finish of the pillars… nor to estimate how they were completed in their present condition, without them being turned into a lathe.”

The temples in Lakkundi, which are under the control of the ASI, belong to the 11th century. Many of them have a navaranga (pillared hall) and artha mantapam. There is also an ornate stepped well here, belonging to the 11th century, with steps leading to the water from three sides. Above the steps on the southern side, is a two-storeyed mandapam.

Intricate sculptures

The Trikuteswara temple in Gadag has three lingams in the sanctum. All around the temple there is intricate sculpturing, which is protected from the elements by eaves. There is a separate shrine for Saraswathi, but the idol has been mutilated. One could see students seated there, studying for their exams, with a hope that the Goddess will grant them success. The entrance to the navaranga here has decorations of beaded strings, flowers and creeper scrolls. It must have been decorative sculpturing like this that led Meadows Taylor’s observation about Kalyana Chalukya ornamentation: “No work in gold or silver could possibly be finer and the patterns to this day are copied by goldsmiths, who take casts and moulds from them, but fail to represent the sharpness and the original finish.”

Our last stop is the Mahadeva temple in Itagi, Koppal district. Although the other temples do impress with their detailed sculpting, it is the Mahadeva temple that gives us a sense of wholeness. It has a sanctum, a navaranga, a mukha mantapam and maha mantapam. The pillars in the maha mantapam are in one of four styles- star shaped, cylindrical, square and pillars with vertical and horizontal bands. The sikhara above the sanctum has features of both the Nagara and Dravida styles. In the ceiling of the maha mantapam is an octagonal structure, which has the image of Nataraja with ten-hands. On a lintel are reliefs of devotees and the label inscriptions identify them as members of the family of Mahadeva Dandanayaka, the builder of the temple and who was the commander in chief of Vikramaditya’s army. His description of the temple as Devalaya Chakravarti- Emperor among temples, is no exaggeration. It seems fitting that our ten-day tour of Chalukya temples, should have such a grand finale.

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Printable version | Dec 16, 2019 1:44:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/speaks-of-catholic-outlook/article4698597.ece

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