Mahadev Temple: ‘The Emperor of Temples’

The 12th Century Mahadeva Temple at Itagi in Koppal District with splendid sculptures is said to be one of the finest examples in the country with respect to the magnificence and decorative details. The Mahadeva Temple at Itagi was built circa 1112 CE by Mahadeva, a commander (dandanayaka) in the army of the Western Chalukya King Vikramaditya VI.  Itagi is about 22 miles (35 km) east of Gadag and 40 miles (64 km) west of Hampi.

Mahadev temple, Itagi,koppal, karnataka (3)

Western Chalukyan art speaks volumes about the taste of the Chalukyan Artisans.

The well-executed sculptures, finely crafted carvings on walls, pillars and the tower make it a good example of complete Western Chalukyan art which speaks volumes about the taste of the Chalukyan artisans. An inscription dated 1112 CE in the temple calls it “Emperor among Temples” (Devalaya Chakravarti).The temple has a special place on the tourist map of Karnataka. The monument and sculptures that adorn the walls of the temple have a rich architectural value. This temple is dedicated to Hindu God Shiva.

Mahadev temple, Itagi,koppal, karnataka (7)

Aesthetic Sense is found in this beautiful temple..

Mahadev temple, Itagi,koppal, karnataka (6)

An inscription dated 1112 CE in the temple calls it “Emperor among Temples” (Devalaya Chakravarti)

One can have a glimpse of the high-towered Mahadeva Temple and a cluster of small temples around it while travelling on Koppal-Yelburga Road. It takes a few hours to watch the remnants of the temple and the architectural skill that glitter in daylight.

Mahadev temple, Itagi,koppal, karnataka (4)

Towards the north of the Shivalinga, there are five temples, of which two are dedicated to Murthinarayana and Chandraleshwari, parents of Mahadeva. There are 13 temples with Shivalingas around the main temple.

The east-faced main temple comprises a shrine with an antechamber, a closed hall with porches on either side of it towards north and south, and openings on either side with pillared halls. The temple roof is supported by 68 carved pillars. Of them, 26 are on the floor and the rest on the stone bench surrounding the hall and carrying the sloping eaves.

The carved columns are symmetrically arranged. The slabs on the central part of the ceiling have “Makaras” which spring from the jaws of “Kirtimuka” masks.

Mahadev temple, Itagi,koppal, karnataka (1)

Sojourn in time..

The walls of the inner hall are adorned with rich sculptures. The pentagon-shaped sanctum sanctorum and its outer walls have beautiful carvings. The 15-foot high main tower of the temple has carvings and projecting cornices.

Mahadev temple, Itagi,koppal, karnataka (9)

Beautifully carved…

The Mahadeva Temple is also known for its erotic sculptures. The temple has a “puskarani (teertha)” on its front side, which is still used by the villagers.

Mahadev temple, Itagi,koppal, karnataka (2)

Puskarini..

Mahadev temple, Itagi,koppal, karnataka (8)

The pillars in this hall bear similarities to the 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.

The Mahadeva temple is officially protected as a national monument by the Archaeological Survey of India. This Temple has a history that is older than Hampi. The temple and its surroundings have been neglected for the past few centuries. The sculptures around the temple are in shambles. Hope Karnataka government takes proper care in protecting these Chalukyan architectural wonders.

Mahadev temple, Itagi,koppal, karnataka (10)

Art historian Henry Cousens called this monument the “finest in Kannada country after Halebidu”. These Western Chalukya monuments, regional variants of existing dravida (South Indian) temples, defined the Karnata dravida tradition. 

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