Last Updated on January 4, 2022 by asoulwindow
Aghoresvara temple Ikkeri: Best kept secret of Karnataka
Aghoresvara temple of Ikkeri: Offbeat Karnataka
Aghoresvara temple located in Ikkeri, near Shivamogga and Sagar is an offbeat Hindu temple to visit in Karnataka. It is devoted to Shiv Bhagwan, the most supreme of all deities from the Hindu pantheon. I had long wanted to visit the ancient Dravidian temple for its architecture, erotic carvings and remoteness. India being the mother of civilizations on Earth is a land of ancient temples and many hidden gems.
I remember while visiting Australia and Dubai, I had to struggle to find something ancient. While in India, at every step, you will stumble upon something so old hiding behind the bushes carelessly. I mean the spoon in Indian kitchens can be sometimes older than the Parliament building of America.
Aghoresvara temple in Ikkeri is no exception.I had not even heard of it in spite of traveling extensively across India since 2008. Aghoresvara templeis a top placeto see near Sagara and Shivamogga in Karnataka. It is also a free thing to do in Karnataka as there is no entry fees in this medieval temple. There are many such places of interest near Shivmogga.
I was unceremoniously dropped by the bus conductor at a small road leading to the Aghoresvara temple in Ikkeri. Adjusting my backpack, I walked, unsure if I am on the right track. As I walked down the quaint little street, I slowed down to admire the cute little houses and their manicured gardens.
I wish I could stay in one of them, I told myself as I kept walking. There was no signboard which indicated that the road led to Aghoresvara temple, Ikkeri. I trusted the bus conductor. Ikkeri in Kannada stands for two streets. So, this must be it!
Soon the old-fashioned houses vanished, replaced by a huge pond. The pond was surrounded by a dense canopy of trees. A half-submerged ancient pillar like structure, complete with carvings jutted out of the pond, indicating the presence of a temple. Exposed to the elements and claimed by the water weeds, the pillar still stood tall.
Even the water failed to erode it or disintegrate it. Such was the craftsmanship of ancient Indians. Soon, an ASI signboard mentioning Aghoresvara temple, Ikkeri shot up my pace. There it was! A massive temple with very few people. Welcome to the Incredible India! The land of hidden treasures!
I could see the temple even from a far distance as I approached it hurriedly. It looked grand even from a distance and I could not wait. Happy to see that Aghoresvara temple was taken care of by Archaeological Survey of India, I was impressed with the way this lesser-known Hindu temple in the middle of nowhere, was well maintained.
Clean and devoid of even a modicum of commercialisation, the set up of the temple made it stand apart. “This is exactly like how it must have been in 16th century”, I thought. The only sign of Un-Indian modernity were the parked cars, cell phones and men wearing pants and shirts.
History of Ikkeri
The original Ikkeri was grand in scale, the walls of which extended over a large area and had 3 concentric enclosures. In my thoughts I conjure up a lost era! The large Fort that this area once was had huge palace made up of timber and mud. Needless to say, it was embellished with exquisite carvings and false gilding. Unfortunately, all of it has been lost barring the Aghoresvara temple, which stands as a testimony to a world none of us have seen.
Under the rule of early Kings of the vast Vijayanagar empire of South India, Ikkeri rose to prominence as an independent Kingdom, the capital of which was at the near-by Keladi.
I visited the Rameswaram temple at Keladi right after visiting Aghoresvara temple of Ikkeri. In fact, Ikkeri Keladi temples are often spoken of in the same breath.
While Chaudappa Nayaka (1499 C.E. to 1544 C.E.) ruled the land, The capital was moved from Keladi to Ikkeri, however to be reduced to the status of nominal capital.
Much of this history unfolded between 1560 to 1640 C.E.
Interesting facts: Who invaded Bidnaur?
Did you know that the capital was later shifted to Bednur Nagara located 84 kilometres away from Shimoga. Known as Bidnaur, Bidnur or Bidanoor in the 16th century, it was the last capital of the Keladi Kings.
Unfortunately, Islamic invader Hyder Ali, attacked and captures the Shivappa Nayaka fort of Nagara. He later renamed it as Hydernagar after his own name. Supported by local farmers and villagers, the Nagar revolt against the Mysore kingdom occurred in the year 1830.
Places worth visiting in Nagara are Shivappa Nayaka Palace, Shivappa Nayaka fort, ancient Neelakenteteshwara Mandir, Gudde Venkataramana Swamy temple and Devaganga tank. The famous Kollur Mookambika temple, which is located just 40 kilometers away, can also be visited.
You will find many such interesting information on A Soul Window – the Top Travel Blog from India. A Soul Window has also been ranked as No.1 travel blog of India.
Architecture of Aghoresvara temple
Architecture styles of South Indian Temples vary from Chola to Dravidin to Pallava style. Belonging to the times of Nayakas of Keladi, the Aghoresvara temple is a classic example of the Nayaka style of architecture.
The North-South oriented temple which can be traced back to 16th century, is built entirely of the sturdy granite. It is a huge structure with many shrines located next to each other. Each stone speaks volumes of the brilliance of medieval Indian architects.
The architecture of Aghoresvara temple is very unique. It is a curious mix of various architectural styes prevalent in the 16th century South India. You can see a mix of elements from the Vijayanagar architecture styles, the Hoysala style and the Karnata Dravida style from later Chalukya dynasty. The decorative doorways on the east, west and north are worth a dekko. I also noticed many hues of the temple. It ranged from a deep red to beige to dark green.
Offbeat place in Karnataka
This unexplored temple of Karnataka is a must visit! I always make sure that I visit and write about such lesser-known places. Going off the beaten track helps me discover places like Aghoresvara temple, which I never knew existed.
Unheard of places like Aghoresvara temple of Ikkeri are never found in old school traditional travel guide books. I hope this detailed travel guide inspires you to visit Aghoresvara temple. This is in fact the most comprehensive travel guide written on Aghoresvara temple of Ikkeri.
Carvings on Aghoresvara temple
Some of the best features of Aghoresvara temple includecarvings on the walls, ceilings and the pillars.
These included old Kannada inscriptions, erotic figures, dwarpals aka gatekeepers, Hindu Gods and Goddesses, dancing girls, common people, animals such as elephants, lions, and temple reliefs. My favourite were the sculptures of bizzare animals which were hybrids of humans with animals.
The stone carving of two huge lizards facing each other on one of the walls amused me. A Scorpio accompany them. I mean it is normal but bizzare for a carving in a temple! I have never seen a lizard carved on a temple wall. As per the folklore, if and when the lizards cross the lines dividing them and are able to touch each other, the world will meet its inevitable end. It lacks the finesse of other carvings and might have been a later whimsical addition.
I was amazed at the perfection with which these sculptures were carved out. Some of these have been carved out on the surface itself, including the floor. Do notice the Yali pillars too. Craning the neck to admire the decorated ceilings is also recommended.
Despite centuries of being exposed to the elements viz the rain, wind and sun, the carvings and sculptures have not eroded and neither destroyed by Islamic invaders, which were common in those times. Perhaps, no one wanted to take the trouble to cause harm to a remote hamlet. Even the color of the temple remains intact to this date.
Striking features of Aghoresvara temple
Like with most Hindu temples, the plan of Aghoresvara temple comprises of a Garbhagriha, an Ardhamandapa and a huge Mukhamandapa. The Mukhamandapa has an entire pavilion devoted to the Nandi bull, the vahana/savari or mount of Shiv Bhagwan.The temple with the lofty roof is a must visit for its brilliant architectural and historical importance.
Carving on floor
An unusual carving on the floor in front of the temple caught my attention. Turned out, it depicted the effigies of the three Keladi chiefs doing obeisance to the Gods.
The names of each chief are inscribed respectively, which is how we know about its history. The manacled and fettered Huchcha (supreme) Somasekhara piqued my curiosity to know more about him.
Talaprastara inscription, which has elements of music are also located on the floor of the temple. It is curious that why it was not carved on a wall of this historic destination! Secrets of Aghoresvara temple are many!
Soul Window Observations
This is testimony to the fact that Sashtang Pranam or dandavat pranam has its root in Hinduism.
Even Muslims also prostrate but Islam came in to world much later. Hinduism or Sanatan Dharm, being the oldest religion of the world, has set many standard practices across the globe. In fact, during the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra in Tibet, I saw Bon devotees perform Sashtang Pranam or dandavat pranam in reverence to the Kailash Parbat.
We all know that Buddhism was created from Hinduism. Do read the blogs about my road trip to Mount Kailash via Nepal.
Inside the Garbhagriha, exists the 32 seated female figures known as Shakti Peeth on a large pedestal. The metal image of 30, two handed Aghoresvarais also noteworthy.The Garbhagriha is a large area, occupying almost ¾ of the entire temple precincts. I paused at each sculpture, trying to understand it because of lack of local guide.
The colossal pedestal of the Garbhagriha is made with massive stones.
The most notable feature of Ardhamandapa of Aghoresvara temple is the idol of small translucent Nandi bull, carved from white spar. It is located in the Sukhanasi.
I notice beautifully carved sculptures of Shri Ganesh and Kartikeya ji, sons of Shiv ji on the right and Bhairava ji and Mahishamardini on the left side of the door. These intricate carvings, located in the niches, flank the either side of the Ardhamantapa doorway.
Interesting facts: Ikkeri coins, the mint of which was reduced, were known as pagodas and fanams.
As I stepped on the balustraded stairs, I noticed the 3 ornamented doorways on the walls of the Mukhamandapa of Aghoresvara Temple, Ikkeri. The caparisoned elephants flank the main entrance in the North. Standing on rows of exquisitely carved pillars, the front Mukhamandapa is a sight to behold. The huge Shikhara, built in the Dravidian style sits over the sanctum. Just as I was absorbed in the temple walk, a precocious squirrel played hide and seek near the double pilaster turrets on the walls of the sanctum.
With all the time I had, I walked more and slowly and discovered around 20 perforated windows that embellish the walls. Their ornamental arches interspersed with figure sculptures stood out!
The couchant Nandi bull, as is common with Hindu shrines, faces the temple. The huge but gentle Nandi bull, allowed her sacred premise to become a playground for unruly kids. Wearing a large bell and jewellery around its neck, it sits pretty on a raised pedestal. The door of the Nandi Pavilion is decorated with various human and animal figures flanking either side of the doorless entrance. I bent over and notice the details of the lions on the pillars. Located in the south direction, it is accessed by taking a decorative yali balustraded steps. It is a must see place!
I noticed the unusual (for South India) arch of the temple. Turns out, the arches of Nandimandapa were a fusion of the striking Indo Islamic architecture. Since it was 16th century India, so I was not surprised. Clearly, the Islamic chieftains, besides invading India, had started invading the architecture of Hindu temples too.
Located towards the west of Nandimandapa, a shrine dedicated to Maa Parvati beckons me. I noticed that though it is constructed on the same lines as the main temple, it is rather simple. Even with fewer sculptures and dimensions, the Parvati mandir is a shining reminder of the glorious past of India.
Excursions: Places to visit near Aghoresvara temple
You can visit many places located near Aghoreswara temple in Ikkeri. These sightseeing places make for excellent weekend trips from Bangalore. It is a good idea to make Shimoga or Shivmogga as your base like I did. Shimoga has the best hotels and connectivity by bus and railway in this region.
- Koodli for ancient temples
- Mattur: The Sanskrit Village
- Rameswaram Temple at Keladi
- Jog falls: I visited the famous Jog falls along with Ikkeri Keladi.
- Varadhamula: This is where the source of Varadha river exists. You can visit the temple devoted to Shiv Bhagwan, a tank and a step well.
How to reach Aghoreswara temple in Ikkeri
Aghoresvara temple in Ikkeri is located in the Sagara taluk, close to Shivmogga aka Shimoga in Karnataka. It makes for a very fulfilling and easy weekend getaway from Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka. Bangalore is located just 353 kilometers away from Aghoresvara temple in Ikkeri.
Bus: I had reached Aghoresvara temple in Ikkeri from a bus ride which started from Shivamogga. I had taken a bus from Shivamogga to Sagara. I stopped at Sagara for a Mendu Vada and Idli lunch and too connecting bus to Aghoresvara temple in Ikkeri.
The Government run public bus had dropped me at a road in Ikkeri from where Aghoresvara temple was just a few minutes of walk away. While returning, I came at the same spot and found a bus to the nearby Rameshwara temple in Keladi. I prefer KSRTC buses over private run buses as they are more punctual and costs less.
Train: The nearest railway station from Aghoresvara temple in Ikkeri is located at Sagar Jambagaru Railway Station. Sagara junction is connected to many cities in Karnataka and India. Auto rickshaws and buses are available near Sagara railway junction. Shivamogga railway station is another option but it is slightly far away from Sagara.
Air: You can take a flight to the nearest Mangalore International Airport. From the airport, direct taxi for Aghoresvara temple of Ikkeri can be booked. Buses to Sagara are also available from Mangalore.
ATM in Ikkeri
There are not many ATMs in Ikkeri as it is a small village. Even Sagara also not has many ATMs. It is a good idea to withdraw money in Shivamogga which has many more ATMs.
Solo Trip Tips for Ikkeri
I visited Aghoresvara temple of Ikkeri as a solo male traveller from India. It was very easy for me to travel here as a solo traveller.
Backpacking Budget Travel Tips for Ikkeri
Aghoresvara temple of Ikkeri is free to visit. The only money I spent here was on bus tickets (which were cheaper than a mug of coffee) and low-cost local vegetarian and vegan lunch.
Luxury travel Tips for Ikkeri
If you want to travel in luxury and comfort, then you can hire a cab straight to Aghoresvara temple of Ikkeri from your destination. Do not expect luxurious hotels and restaurants in Ikkeri or Sagara. I had stayed in a luxury hotel in Shivamogga and dined in luxury restaurant there because it was my base.
Is Aghoresvara temple safe to visit?
Yes, Aghoresvara temple is very safe to visit. In case you are a solo budget traveller like me, then try to visit early morning or afternoon and return much before dark as you can get stuck due to non-availability of public transport.
Conclusion: Why visit Aghoresvara temple?
Standing tall as one of the few vestiges of the Keladi empire, Aghoresvara temple is a must visit place in Karnataka. This detailed travel blog explains all that you wanted to know about the mysterious Aghoresvara temple of Ikkeri.
My practical advice is to club historical places like Shimoga, Ikkeri, Keladi and even Jog Falls on a single trip. These temples make for a memorable weekend destination from Banaglore.
The view from my Soul Window is an ode to medieval Hindu history!
Pin this blog to plan for a later read!
Related Blogs on Karnataka
I have written comprehensive travel blogs on destinations such as Badami, Pattadakal and Aihole. I am sure you will be interested in reading all the below mentioned blogs. Also share with your friends and family so that everyone can learn about the rich Hindu history, culture and wildlife!
Pls check below related blogs
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- Rameshwara temple in Keladi
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Top Travel Blogger from India