Hassan Lakshmi Devi Temple




The Lakshmi Devi temple is located in Doddagaddavalli, a village in Hassan District of Karnataka state, India. It is located 16 km from the district capital Hassan and lies on the Hassan city – Belur highway. The Lakshmi Devi temple, was built by the Hoysala Empire King Vishnuvardhana in 1114 C.E.
The Lakshmi Devi Temple is one of the earliest known temples built in the Hoysala style. The building material is Chloritic schist, more commonly known as soapstone. The temple does not stand on a jagati (platform), a feature which became popular in later Hoysala temples. The temple was commissioned by a merchant called Kullahana Rahuta and his wife Sahaja Devi. The temple is a unique chatuskuta construction (four shrines and towers) built inside a 7-foot-tall (2.1 m) stone wall enclosure with the entrance through a porch whose roof is supported by circular lathe-turned pillars. Three of the vimanas (shrines) have a common square mantapa (hall) with nine “bays” or compartments. The fourth vimana is connected to the mantapa via an oblong extension consisting of two “bays”. The extension has two lateral entrances into the temple. All the vimanas have their original tower (superstructure) intact. The towers are in Kadamba nagara style. Each vimana has a vestibule connecting it to the central mantapa. On top of the vestibule is its own tower called sukanasi (or “nose” because it looks like low extension of the main tower over the shrine). The sukanasi is a tier lower than the main tower over the shrine. All the four sukanasi are intact and so are the kalasha (decorative water pot like structure) on top of the main towers. The Hoysala emblem (the sculpture of a legendary warrior “Sala” fighting a lion) is mounted atop one of the Sukanasi. Of the four towers, three are undecorated and they look stepped pyramidal with a pile of dented horizontal mouldings with the kalasa on top. The fourth tower is very well decorated (which is typical of Hoysala designs) and this is the tower of the main shrine that houses the Lakshmi Devi image.
The mantapa is open and square. The reason for the square plan is the presence of shrines on all four sides of the mantapa with no side open for “staggering”. There is a separate fifth shrine of Bhairava, an avatar of the Hindu god Shiva. The shrine is complete with its own vimana and tower with a kalasa on top, a sukanasi with a Hoysala emblem on it. Another unusual feature of the temple is the existence of four more minor shrines at each corner of the temple complex with two sides of each shrine attached to the courtyard wall. Each of these minor shrines has its own tower, kalasa and Hoysala emblem. In all, the temple complex has nine towers which is unusual for a Hoysala temple.

According to art critic Gerard Foekema, overall the temple has the “older style”, where there is only one eaves running round the temple where the main towers meet the wall of the shrine. At the base of the wall of the shrines are five moldings, a standard in the “old style” of Hoysala architecture; between the moldings and the eaves, the usual panels of Hoysala sculptures depicting Hindu gods, goddesses and their attendants is however missing. Instead, the entire space is taken up by decorative miniature towers on pilasters (called Aedicula). The ceiling of the main hall is supported by eighteen lathe-turned pillars. Inside the main hall, there are two sculptures of large demonic living corpses called betala. The main shrine facing east has a 3-foot-tall (0.91 m) image of the goddess Lakshmi with an attendant on either side. The image holds a conch in the upper right hand, a chakra (discuss) in the upper left, a rosary in the lower right and a mace in the lower left. In the shrines facing north, south and west respectively are the images of Kali (a form of Durga), the god Vishnu, and Boothanatha Linga (the universal symbol of the god Shiva). A sculpture of Tandaveswara (dancing Shiva) exists in the circular panel at the center of the ceiling of the mantapa. Other important sculptures are those of Gajalakshmi (form of Lakshmi with elephants on either side), Tandaveshwara and Yoganarasimha (avatars of Vishnu) found on the doorway of the temple.

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