Travelling through Karnataka can be quite an adventure. When travelling from one major city to another, you will most likely pass through a now insignificant village or town which was once the cornerstone of an empire. On one such journey I came across the bustling town of Hanagal. Hanagal was once the seat of the Kadambas who were feudatories under the Kalyana Chalukyas. The Kalyani Chalukyas were the pioneers of temple architecture and they popularised the use of schist in building beautiful structures across northern Karnataka.
Hanagal was an important bastion even when the Hoysala Dynasty ruled over large chunks of Karnataka. Located on the left bank of the river Dharma, Hanagal has a connection to the Mahabharata also. The kingdom of Virat where the Pandavas spent a year incognito is identified with present day Hanagal. A crumbling fort and a handful of desolate temples from the 8th to the 12th century now dot the once prosperous town. The most notable among them is the Tarakeshwara Temple which is a mélange of different architectural styles put together namely Kadamba, Kalyana Chalukya, Dravidian, Nagara and Hoysala.
The Tarakeshwara temple is well designed and has a mukhamantapa, a sabha mantapa, a navaranga, an antarala, a sukhanasi and a garbhagriha. This temple is one of the rare temples which have all the main components of a temple. The garbhagriha houses a tall linga placed on a decorated platform and is topped with a with a Kadamba-Nagara style shikhara. The antarala has an ornately carved doorway which is one of the finest specimens of lattice work that I have come across. The inside of the antarala is supported by stocky pillars which support a roof with a beautiful three dimensional flower motif. The Sabhamantapa is star-shaped and has simple pillars but raise your eyes towards the ceiling and there is the piece de resistance. A domical ceiling which rises upwards in steps and then a flower shaped motif blooms from the apex. The mukhamantapa too has simple pillars and it is proportioned to complement the sabhamantapa. The outer walls of the temple are relatively simple. A few panels depict scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Though rudimentary, they showcase the creativity of the sculptors in depicting the most famous scenes from the epics.
The area around the temple is well maintained but it is slowly being encroached. There are houses within the compound wall of the temple and at many places the boundary grills have disappeared. To one side of the Tarakeshwara Temple is a small south-facing temple dedicated to Ganesha. It has a miniature nagara styled shikhara. A tall stone pillar stands in front of the pillar and has a unique shape. Smaller temples dedicated to Veerabhadra, Billeshwara and a Jain Temple are also nearby.
Hanagal is in Haveri District and is about 75km from Hubli and is en-route to Sirsi from Bangalore. Do visit the historical town of Hanagal which was once the heart of an empire.
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This article was published in Spectrum, Deccan Herald on 3rd February, 2015