The history of South India dates back over 4000 years and this period saw the rise and fall of multiple dynasties like the Cholas, Cheras, Pallavas, Pandyas etc. Most of these emperors built elaborate temples as a mark of their authority, establishment and power. Moreover, temples at that time were not only places of worship but also the ‘nuclei‘ of all activity including art and culture.
All this, resulted in the evolution of distinctive styles of architecture that is still today, a reflection of our glorious past. These temples, thus, are a picture of the architectural brilliance and superlative craftsmanship that existed in the ancient times.
One such famous town is the temple town of Keladi that is located in the in Sagara Taluk of Karnataka state. At a distance of about 8 km from Sagara town, Keladi was the erstwhile capital of the Nayakas who were once a part of the famous Vijaynagar empire. They asserted their independence and ruled over this region after the fall of the latter.
The town of Keladi is synonomous with the renowned Rameshwara Temple which is of the finest examples of the Nayaka style of architecture. Built by Chowdappa Nayaka, the temple also has influences of the Hoysala and Dravidian style of architecture. The entrance to the temple is simple yet elegant with wooden pillars supporting a brick tiled roof which then opens up into a large courtyard complex.
The temple encloses three shrines, namely that of Parvati, Rameshwara and Veerabhadra. Lord Rameshwara is depicted in the form of a “Linga” in front of which there is the statue of the Holy bull or Nandi. The ceiling and pillars of the Parvati temple are made up of intricately carved wood. The patterns on the ceiling in particular are exquisite and the best part is that it includes a pattern of several unique flowers no two which are the same!
The Veerabhadra temple has the beautiful Vijayanagar-style pillars with carvings of horses, lions and other legendary animals. There are several exclusive and truly unique sculptures on the walls and ceiling here. The first one is of the “Navagrahas” or nine planets and the second being the “Nagamandala” or the serpent motif.
The third is that of “Gandaberunda”, which is the mythical two-headed bird of Karnataka. The bird is depicted as holding a lion with its mouth and an elephant by its claws and is supposed to be the epitome of immense strength. It is, in fact, the symbol of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRCTC) in the present times.
The statue of the Daksha Prajapati with his goat-head and the carving of the Vastu Purush or the God of structures are some of the really rare sights that can be seen here. Per our guide, these structures are not seen anywhere else in Karnataka.
The massive 24-feet pillar or Mahasthambha in the backyard which has a Ganesha deity with Rani Chennamma paying respects along with her consorts is yet another highlight of the temple.
Close to the temple is the Keladi Museum and Historical research bureau which houses some rare artifacts and a rich collection of palm-leaf manuscripts reigning back to the Keladi Nayaka reign.