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Tuesday 5 September 2023

Annigeri – A Unique Gem of Western Chalukyan Heritage

View of Amriteshwara temple

While Tharangini and I were exploring the rich heritage of Lakkundi, our guide recommended a visit to Annigeri, which lies approximately 25 kilometers from Gadag city. Annigeri holds a special place in history as the final capital of the formidable Western Chalukyas, also known as the Kalyani Chalukyas. Their relocation to Annigeri came about due to their displacement from their former capital, Kalyani (now known as Basavakalyan in the Bidar district), following a conflict with the Kalachuris under King Bijalla-II.

Amritheshwara temple from a side profile

Therefore, no visit to Gadag can be considered complete without a detour to Annigeri, especially to witness the renowned Amriteshwara temple, the sole surviving testament to the fading era of Western Chalukyan rule. In fact, the Chalukyas had a brief reign of four years in Annigeri, spanning from 1184 to 1189 CE.

The Evolution of ornamental architecture in Tungabhadra region

Situated in close proximity to the Hubli highway, the black stone Amrutheshwara temple is an architectural marvel and an unmistakable landmark of Western Chalukyan craftsmanship.

The Western Chalukyan symbol - the demon faces of Kirthimukhas

Entry to temple, one has to pay obeisance by bending

Upon entering the temple premises, visitors encounter a boundary wall that encircles the outer area. At the entrance, a low stone platform serves as a barrier, requiring visitors to stoop slightly in reverence before proceeding to pay homage to the presiding deity.

To gain deeper insights into the temple's history and architecture, the temple priest and a few local residents eagerly share forgotten details of this monument, which dates back to 1050 CE.

Carvings of dancers, goddesses on the outer walls

What makes this temple truly unique is its portrayal of the evolution of ornamental architecture in the Tungabhadra region, a style distinctly attributed to the Western Chalukyas.

Temple is supported by 76 pillars, some simple, some ornate

The Amrutheshwara temple boasts the distinction of being the first temple constructed from black soapstone. In their distinctive fashion, the Chalukyas not only pioneered lathe-turned pillars but also employed soapstone as the primary building material for the temple's structure.

Some pillars on the outside have beautifully carved female figures

The temple's roof is supported by approximately 76 pillars, some of which feature exquisitely carved female figures in their lower halves. Unlike other Chalukyan temples, the pillars within this temple lack intricate carvings, with some showing signs of wear and tear, while others have been meticulously restored.

Inscription in Kannada giving details about the temple construction

One distinctive feature setting this temple apart from others in Karnataka is its separate entry and exit points.

The temple having a distinctive boundary and a separate entry and exit to the temple

How to Reach Annigeri:

Annigeri town is conveniently located near the Gadag-Hubli national highway-63, a mere 25 kilometers from Gadag and approximately 35 kilometers from Hubli. The Amrutheshwara temple is situated in Annigeri, Navalgund taluk, Dharwad district, Karnataka.

Stay tuned for more details on the remarkable carvings of the Western Chalukyas in the second part of our journey.

Location map:

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