There’s nothing better than sudden plans on a Sunday. We decided to drive out of Bangalore to breathe in some fresh air and rejuvenate ourselves. We decided to drive to Turuvekere which is about 128km from Bangalore. Turuvekere was the cradle of Vedic scholars. The revered T S Vishweshwara Dikshith was born here. In the 13th century, Turuvekere was an agrahara (rent-free village for Brahmins) which housed scholars of all the four Vedas and it was called Sri Sarvagnya Vijaya Narasimhapuri.

After a breezy drive on the National Highway 48 and a 32 km meandering drive through the countryside we reached Turuvekere. We stopped and asked the locals about the old temples in the town and we were directed to the Gangadhareswara Temple which was locked. We then found the priest’s house and he happily obliged to open it for us. The first thing that strikes the eye is the exquisite statue of Nandi which is carved from saligrama stone. The delicate carvings on it and the perfect proportions make it a master piece. The temple itself is unpretentious and is in Dravida style. It was built by a palegara (chieftain) called Annaya Nayaka. The deity housed in the garbhagriha is called Gangadhareswara as the Shiva linga is crowned with the matted locks of Shiva and there is a sculpture of Ganga seated. The sun and the moon and the twenty seven nakshatras also crown the linga. The temple is north facing and has a separate shrine, facing the east, dedicated to goddess Bhavani who is depicted in the standing posture. The priest drew our attention to the utsava murti of the main deity. There is an eye on the feet of Shiva which is a peculiarity. There is a lateral porched entrance to the temple which houses a huge bell made from soap stone which has a sound quality similar to that of metal bell. One of the pillars of this entrance has a sculpture of Bedara Kannapa which is a rare one.

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The exquisitely carved Nandi at the Gangadhareshwara Temple

The priest then told us about two Hoysala Temples in the vicinity of the Gangadhareswara Temple. Fortunately he had the keys to those temples. First, we went to the Chennakeshava Temple which is a small yet typical Hoysala ekakuta temple. It was built in 1258 by Somanna Dandanayaka under the reign of Narasimha III. The ruined temple was restored in 1991 but it wears an abandoned look today. Vegetation is slowly covering up the temple. The garbhagriha houses an intricately carved idol of Chennakeshava, a form of Vishnu depicted with a mace in one hand and a lotus in the other. The interior of the temple is simple and without any kind of detailing though it contains all the basic elements of a Hoysala temple. The exterior too is devoid of sculptures but is decorated with miniature towers. The temple is built on a star shaped platform and has a small shikhara (tower).

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The neglected Chennakeshava Temple

We then went to the Moole Shankareshwara temple built in a hollow on the shores of a huge lake. A lone cow grazing obediently greeted us. This temple has a unique architecture rarely found in South India. Only one other Hoysala temple, the Sadashiva Temple at Nuggihalli has this type of architecture. Built on a star shaped platform, this temple faces the east and has an entrance in the south through a porch. The tower is said to be of the bhumija type usually found in western India, northern Deccan and the Malwa regions. The temple was visited by Sir M Vishveswariah in 1939 and he proposed measures to support the ruined structure. The temple was formally restored only in 1993.  This temple was the first one to be built by the Hoysalas in Turuvekere and was hence called Moola Shankareshwara but later the name got distorted to Moole Shankareshwara. The name is justified now because this temple has been relegated to a corner of the growing town.

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Facade of the Moola Shankareshwara Temple
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