Ishwara Temple, Arasikere, Karnataka
The road from Bangalore to Jog Falls is studded with several gems (read temples) of Hoysala origin. We made our first halt at Arasikere, one of the oldest towns of Karnataka. It came to existence in 1882. Arasikere translates to Queen’s Tank in Kannada. History records of this place mention: of the attack of Marathas during the reign of Mysore Wodeyars to the days of Shivappa Nayak of Ikkeri from whom it was regained by the Mysore rulers in the year 1890.
A classical monument, this Ishwara Temple was built in the year 1219 during the reign of King Ballala II. As we stepped in to the premises of the temple, the neatness with which it is maintained impressed us. Further when we explored the temple we were mesmerized by the intricate sculpted works on the façade, interiors and pillars of the temple.
Hoysala Architectural Style in Ishwara Temple
This typical architectural style is the building style developed during 11th to 14th century under the reign of Hoysala Empire. Several Kings from this empire left their mark by encouraging the building of these style temples. The decoration and ornamentation are so unique. Simply enclosing the deity didn’t seem enough; they took pains to carve out stories, forms and repetitive designs on the walls and ceilings of shrines. You will hardly find any similarity between the temples.
The temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva or Lord Vishnu. Ishwara Temple is dedicated to the former enshrined in the form of a linga. Garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) houses the linga. This is a closed mantapa with very less light and no photography was permitted. The ceiling of this closed mantapa had amazing work. The pillars are decorated with fine bead work, each bead so well defined. The outer walls of the temple are divided in to three vertical sections. The parts are: the bands (pattikas) at the base, the wall proper from the top of basement to the eaves and the parapet.
There are 120 large images depicting various Gods we were told.These images add grace and beauty to the temple when seen from a distance. But as I observed carefully, I was disappointed to see the damage done to the sculptures. Almost all figures heve been defaced. The details of eyes and nose have been scraped off, it was really sad to see the destruction.
The mukhmantapa (open pillared hall) is most impressive. Do sit here in the stone benches. Very small area, yet a cool and calm place. Transport yourself back in time and you will find yourself discussing matters of importance to the society then!
Other Places around Ishwara Temple
Sahasrakuta Basadi, a place of worship of Jaina community.
Malekal Tirupathi hill which has a temple at the top.
Arasikere is well connected to all important cities and towns of Karnataka both by road and rail. It lies at about a distance of 170 kilometers from Bangalore city on Bangalore – Honnavara National Highway. Hotels are available for a comfortable stay, if needed.