While travelling from Mandya to Nagamangala, you will pass through the village of Basaralu and if you don’t look closely enough, you will miss a gem in the crown of Hoysala temple architecture. The Mallikarjuna Temple at Basaralu is a small trikuta (three shrines) temple but it has numerous sculptures of very good quality. It is one of the few temples in which the Hoysala crest of Sala slaying the lion is preserved on top of the nose (sukhanasi). Even the kalasa on top of the shrine is intact.
A beautiful pillared entrance on the south leads to the temple. The entrance itself is ornate, the roof of which is carved with the ashtadikpalakas. There is an empty shrine on the left across which the ASI has placed a board stating that the temple was consecrated in 1235 by Harihara Nayaka under the rule of the Hoysala King Veera Narasimha II.
In typical Hoysala style, the temple stands on a jagati (platform). Even though it is a trikuta temple, only the central shrine has a sukhanasi (nose) and a shikhara (tower). Large wall images form a continuous row all around the exterior of the temple. There are some which stand out from the rest. The sculpture of Arjuna shooting an arrow at a fish by looking at its reflection is one such. The sculpture of Vishnu in Varaha avatara carrying Bhudevi, seated Brahma with Saraswathi sitting on his lap, nagakanya and Shiva seated on Nandi along with Parvati are some of the unique ones.
Though the sculptures are all ornate, they have been eroded by water and wind. The stones used to make the jagati are loose at some places and one has to walk carefully to avoid falling off. The whole temple itself seems to be a little tilted. Though the ASI has restored this temple, the restoration work is shabby. Some panels are lying in awkward places. I hope the ASI puts some more effort to preserve this temple in its original form.
Below the series of wall images, the base of the temple consists of six friezes of equal width. From top to bottom they show hamsas (swans)in the first frieze, makaras (mythical aquatic monsters) in the second, epics and other stories in the third, lions in the fourth, horses in the fifth and elephants in the sixth. In many places, the row of makaras is interrupted by the kirtimukha which is the face of another kind of mythological creature.
Two lateral entrances lead to the interior of the temple which is equally ornate. The three shrines are arranged around one common hall. The central ceiling of the hall has been replaced by a window to allow sunlight into the hall. The central shrine contains a linga. The one facing the north contains Suryanarayana and the one facing the south contains a pair of nagas. Both these are cult-images. There are smaller shrines dedicated to Sharada, Ganesha and Chamundi in the hall. The uncommon feature of this temple is the pavilion that is attached in front of the entrance of the hall. It houses a beautifully sculpted nandi and is closed on three sides with stone screens. There is a 20 feet long pillar opposite to the temple which lies outside the present compound wall.
Though small in size, the Mallikarjuna Temple at Basaralu is a fine specimen of Hoysala Temple architecture as it has an intact shikhara and sukhanasi and the sculptures are comparable to those found at Belur and Halebid.
Basaralu is located in Mandya District. It is 65 km from Mysore and 125 km from Bangalore. The nearest town is Nagamangala which is 17 km away.
Plan a Day Trip
Bengaluru – Saumyakeshava Temple, Nagamangala – Mallikarjuna Temple, Basaralu – Cheluvanarayana and Yoga Narasimha Temple, Melukote – Temple Trio, Thondanur – Bengaluru
Read my articles on Saumyakeshava Temple at Nagamangala and the temples at Thondanur – Timeless Thondanur