Mahadeva Temple Itagi, Karnataka built by Kalyani Chalukyas -- symphony in rock

Itagi Mahadeva temple, Karnataka.

Ornate pillars, Mahadeva temple, Itagi, KA

Aptly called "Emperor among Temples",  the Mahadeva Temple  in the town of Itagi,  Koppal District of Karnataka state is truly a legacy of  Western Chalukya rulers and their architectural finesse.  A protected monument under the ASI - Archaeological Survey of India, unfortunately,  little attention is paid to the architectural splendor of the  western Chalukyas  and their monuments here.  These rulers ruled the central Karnataka for a long period about 200 years. The Kalyani Chalukyas  (western Chalukyas) were as good as Hoysala rulers in the realm of fine temple architecture using soapstone. As a matter of fact, Hosalas introduced lathe-turned pillars,  and other styles and aesthetics based on  the models of Kalyani Chalukyas. A good example is: Chennakeshava Temple at Belur, Karnataka. Mahadeva temple,  the largest and most ornate of the temples built by Kalyani Chalukyas and many smaller temples  that are scattered  across the Tungabhadra region form a monument complex, highlighting the religious fervor of the Kalyani Chalukyas.

Itagi Mahadeva temple, KA

Above image; Note the two mantaps (hall). One is closed and the other one  is open

Itagi Mahadeva temple, KA

Above image: Small Nandi (bull) in sitting position is facing the sanctum (garbhagudi). The pillar in the front may be later addition to support the beams.

Itagi, Koppal dist. Karnataka 

12 th C. Step-well, Itagi Mahadeva temple, KA

ASI  has been making improvements on  this historical and richly decorated temple since its take over in 2005. Prior to that this place and the surrounding areas were in bad shape with no proper access road for the tourists, let alone lack of barricade. Unlike many south Indian temples the construction material used here is mainly soapstone  also called Steatite (talc-schist - a metamorphic rock consisting of  magnesium rich talc) which is widely found in this area. Being soft, but durable, it is easy to make fine carvings on these rocks. Obviously, this temple built in  1112 CE has rich ornamental  features and attributes that show a fusion  of Dravida and Nagara styles. They are well highlighted in the super structures.   The plan of this temple is quite similar to that of Amruteshwara Temple at Annigeri, Karnataka. 

The builder of this temple (main deity is God Shiva) was  a commander (Dandanayaka) in the army of the Western Chalukya King Vikramaditya VI. Well made  sculptures, meticulously crafted carvings on walls, ornate pillars, the tower  and the nearby symmetrically designed  open step well called ''Shivatheertha''  (80-ft deep ) behind this place  give us some idea about the ingenious handling of  stone works and the depth of imagination  of  the highly talented artisans of the Chalukya period. This monument, no doublet, architecturally  is as good as the one at Halebidu. Surprisingly, the East - facing temple has two shrines  dedicated to  Murthinarayana and Chandraleshwari, parents of Mahadeva, the Chaukya commander.  

12th C, Itagi Mahadeva temple, KA, ornate pillars

The main deity Shiva is enshrined in the sanctum - garbagriha which is surrounded by as many as 13 small shrines, each one with a  ''linga''. As in many temples, the main shrine is connected to the closed mantap (hall) through an antechamber.  The western doorway in the mantap  leads  to the sanctum.  The ceiling of the porches has a ribbed design.  

 Mahadeva temple, Itagi.Sanctum outer view

Above image; Itagi Mahadeva temple, Karnataka. Exterior view of the  sanctum;  the other one is across. Artistically designed small  tower tapering toward the top.

, Mahadeva temple, KA

Above image:  Dancing area below the ornate dome; sanctum (garbhagudi) in the back drop. The plain pillars are meant to support the upper beam.

Ornate porch, Itagi Mahadeva temple,

With regard to the open mantap that connects the closed mantap,  the walls have similar design  as that of the inner shrine. The  big open mantapa  is supported by 64 lathe-turned pillars, out of them 24 are built from the bottom to the ceiling.   The  rest are half pillars  that rise from  the bench (parapet wall) that surrounds the mantapa and support the sloping eaves. The pillars  resemble those   porch pillars at the Dodda Basappa temple at Dambal and the lathe-turned pillars (whose rounded sections are lathe-turned) at the Kasivisvesvara temple at Lakkundi.

Itagi Mahadeva temple, KA.

Above image: Note the ornate lathe-turned small pillars set on a narrow stone platform to support roof edge.

Interesting stone work can be seen on the four main pillars in the open mantapa which  exhibit  fine fretted stonework. The decorative arabesque foliage and makaras (mythical beasts) which flow from the mouth of a Kirtimukha (gargoyle or demon face)  mark a high degree of workmanship, considering their complicated design.  It is said  that bracket figures  mostly female forms that once adorned the outside pillars are now missing. 

Mahadeva Temple, Itagi,

Above image: Ornamental inner roof of the sunshade (canopy) supported by  pillars partly flushed with the outer wall.  

According to an hereditary  archaga  Shrikanth Dattatreya, priest  of this temple  long ago, the place was known as  Ishtagapuri, which changed to Itige,  the temple is one of the finest examples of Kalyani Chalukyan architecture. He says, ''According to a stone inscription, 400 Brahmin families had settled here and were experts in 64 subjects such as scholastic studies, poetry, music, Vedic studies, etc.The result was a temple with 64 soapstone pillars with intricate carving in every nook and corner, be it ceilings, pillars or walls. It took 550 architects many years to design and have the temple built''.

This protected monument  is about 7 km (4 mi) from Kuknur and 20 km (12 mi) from Lakkundi;  about 22 miles (35 km) east of Gadag and 40 miles (64 km) west of Hampi. It  is worthy of a visit if your are an admirer of Hindu temple architecture..,_Itagi