Lakshmeshwar, which exhibits the State’s rich heritage through its ancient religious structures, is also known as Tirulugannada Nadu. The place was a Jain stronghold for a long time before the Chalukyas of Kalyana propagated Shaivism. Islam was introduced when the Adil Shahis of Bijapur ruled the region. Thus present day Lakshmeshwar has a temple, a basadi, a mosque or a dargah at a corner of almost every street.
The Someshwara Temple, located in the heart of the town, is an interesting structure. It is said that a 6-century basadi existed at the place prior to the construction of the Temple. The temple complex is being renovated by the Infosys Foundation, Bengaluru. The project director, a retired official of the Archeological Survey of India, took us around. He said that a statue of a Jain thirthankara on a parapet wall of the Temple is an indication of the its Jain heritage. The architectural beauty of an open well, located behind the Temple, is beyond words. A board placed nearby says that this stepped well was constructed by Gowrambika in 11th century.
The doorway to the temple complex is yet another remarkable structure with beautiful sculptural details. The sculpture of a dancing Ganesha is appealing. The main Temple is at the centre of the complex and there are smaller shrines around it. The Temple houses a beautiful and unusual idol of Shiva and Parvati riding on a bull (Nandi). Shiva is sitting in front while Parvati is sitting behind him, side-ways, and can only be seen through a mirror placed at the back of the idol. The deity is called as Saurashtra Someshwara as the idol is believed to have been brought by a merchant from Saurashtra. This is considered to be the only place where Shiva is worshipped in the form of an idol and not as a linga.
Though the outer walls of the temple have intricate designs they are in a sad state now. Many have been defaced while some have been corroded due to nature’s vagaries. The kirtimukha motif is used all over. The uniquely shaped vimana (tower) is decorated intricately.
Shankha Basadi or Neminatha Basadi, another important structure of the town, is tucked away in the midst of a residential quarter and is quite inaccessible. Localites seemed ignorant about the Basadi. The front facade of the Basadi is plain and white-washed. But the side walls of the mantapa of the Basadi are alluring. They are completely adorned with sculptures, not an inch is spared. A panel of erotica runs throughout and it is bordered by a creeper motif on top and flower motif below. This place is worth a visit as it is believed to be the place where Adikavi Pampa composed his two major works — Adi Purana and Vikramarjuna Vijaya.
Later, I set out to find the Jumma Masjid built in 17th century by the Adil Shahis. The Masjid, which is on a main road, is famous for its Indo-Saracenic architecture and numerous stone-chain links. I spent some time in the peaceful environs of the Masjid marveling at the stone work that adorns its walls.
There are many more monuments in Lakshmeshwar, that are steeped in history, but are completely ruined or lost in the midst of a growing town. Still Lakshmeshwar, the land of art and literature, retains the essence of Karnataka’s heritage. It is the cradle of Jainism, Hinduism and Islam, the three major religions that flourished in Karnataka and shaped its history, and these structures stand as a testament to the co-existence of cultures. Lakshmeshwar is about 550 km away from Bengaluru and is connected by road.
This article was published in Spectrum, Deccan Herald on 6th October, 2015. DH Article