METRO PLUS

Sculpture picnic

HERITAGE Lakshmidevi temple is a protected monument

HERITAGE Lakshmidevi temple is a protected monument  

Two villages near Belur offer superb sculpted scapes

Doddagaddavalli may not sound inviting for picnickers and weekend pleasure seekers in the first instant. But if one is interested in sculpture, particularly of the Hoysala period, then this is the village to start from. The earliest Hoysala temple, built in 1113 AD during the reign of Vishnuvardhana (1106-1142 AD), a patron of arts, is tucked away in this remote village in Hassan taluk.

It lies off Belur Road and is about 18 km from Hassan town. After driving approximately 14 km on Belur Road, take the mud road on the left and drive another 4 km through the village main road. Most probably you will miss the turning, as nowhere on the Belur Road is there a single signpost indicating directions to this temple. But the villagers are aware of their legacy and will readily point the road to Lakshmidevi temple.

The temple is a protected monument, announces a notice put up by the Archaeological Survey of India. The temple is still, in modern parlance, "live", which means puja is performed daily. If the main entrance of the temple is closed, do not be disappointed. The priest lives nearby and will happily open it for the visitors.

The temple has four sanctums for four deities — Lakshmi, Siva, Visnu and Kali, with goddess Laksmi being the presiding deity. The germination of the intricate carving and ornamentation, the hallmark of Hoysala sculpture, can be seen on the stone figures of the doorkeepers and on the towers on the four cells. Interestingly, the cell of the goddess Kali is guarded by two emaciated and naked life-size figures of goblins with protruding tongues. Two erotic figures a la Khajuraho (Tantric influence?) are also carved beside the goblins. Mythical scenes and images of deities adorn the outer wall of the temple.

A detour of another 20 km from Hassan through tarred roads takes you to Koravangala, another village with three more Hoysala temples — Nakeshwara, Govindeshwara and Buceshwara. Actually, these are temples of Eshwara (Shiva) built by three brothers Naka, Govinda and Buciraja around 1176 AD. Buceshwara temple, also a protected monument, illustrates the next phase of the development of Hoysala art that reached its culmination at Belur and Halebidu. The outer wall of the temple is richly carved with mythological scenes and images of deities. A sculpture of Arjuna targeting the fish, whose reflection he sees in the water, particularly attracts visitors' attention.

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FACT FILE

Doddagaddavalli and Koravangala are not on the tourist maps and buses do not ply there. The swaying green fields with vegetables on both sides of the road induce a relaxed mood, and those who like the freshness of the countryside will enjoy the drive.

SANTONA BASU

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