In the middle of emerald green fields and coconut trees gossiping with the wind is a patch of elevated land with manicured gardens surrounding an interesting temple. Located in Govindanahalli, this interesting piece of architecture is a rare form of Hoysala Temple architecture as it is a panchakuta temple (five shrines) dedicated to Shiva built in the 13th century. The temple runs parallel to the north-south direction and each kuta (shrine) faces the east. There are two porched entrances which house a nandi each. The porches are located in front of the second and third shrines. The nandi is beautifully sculpted and is adorned with delicate filigree. Unlike typical Hoysala Temples, this temple is not built on a platform. Also, the front wall which is east facing is decorated with jaalis so that there is enough lighting within the temple.
Each of the shrines houses a linga. The five lingas are named Sadyojatheshwara, Vamadeveshwara, Aghoreshwara, Tatpurusheshwara and Ishaneshwara from north to south. Currently, the fourth and the fifth kutas are being restored. The fifth kuta is a later addition and has differently styled pillars. In each shrine, the sanctum (garbhagriha) is connected to a hall (mantapa) through a vestibule (sukhanasi). A long pillared hall on the east connects the individual mantapas together. Smaller shrines dedicated to Ganesha, Mahishasuramardhini and others flank each of the main shrines. There is an idol of Ganapathi holding a weapon which when struck gives a metallic sound! No other part of the idol produces this type of sound. There is a peculiar sculpture of two snakes coiled around each other. One has seven heads and the other has five heads.
The outer wall of the temple is modest and comprises of miniature decorative towers. The usual sculptures of Narasimha, Kalinga mardhana Krishna, Dashavatara and Nritya Ganapathi can be found. They are not too detailed but still well done. The five shikharas are all different and can be viewed together from the North-West corner.
Govindanahalli is a place with rich heritage. It formed a part of Gangavadi under the Gangas of Talakad. Later, it came under the Cholas from whom the Hoysalas annexed. There is a ruined Venu Gopala temple in Govindanahalli. Govindanahalli is just 4km from Kikkeri. Travelling by road is the best option. The Lakshminarayana Temple at Hosaholalu is nearby and so is the Brahmeshwara Temple at Kikkeri. The famous Shravanabelagola is just 20km away.
An alarming fact is that even though the Archaeological Survey of India is maintaining this place, idols are being stolen. The young priest told us that even last month two idols went missing though there were night watchmen on duty. His own grandfather stopped the idol of Ganapathi, which I described earlier, from being stolen years back. The temple is being restored and hence the pillars and walls lie scattered on the lawns open to the elements and to greedy men. The workers tell us that it will take another three years to complete the restoration. My stomach curdles at the thought of how many more idols will be stolen in that time. The ASI has to make some provision to protect this rare temple and its treasures more efficiently. Its isolated location makes it vulnerable and the development of tourism could probably help in preserving what is left.