Keladi Rameshwara Temple: Secrets revealed

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Last Updated on April 2, 2022 by asoulwindow

Keladi Rameshwara Temple

Karnataka has many offbeat places, some of which include Rameshwara Temple in Keladi and Agoreshwar temple in Ikkeri, both in Karnataka. I visited quaint Keladi one evening after admiring the erotic arts on the walls of the Ikkeri temple.

Located just 8 kilometers away from the Sagar town in Shivmogga or Shimoga district, the present sleepy village of Keladi was once the epicenter of the once powerful Keladi Kingdom, ruled by Keladi Nayakas or Keladi rulers.

I am explaining some lesser-known facts about this hidden gem of Karnataka in this comprehensive blog. This exhaustive and information packed travelogue answers all you wanted to know about Keladi. This detailed travel guide on best places to visit in Keladi covers all the points of attractions.

Where is Keladi Rameshwara Temple located?

It is a commonly asked question. As I walked towards the magnificent Rameshwara Temple in Keladi, I noticed the huge lake and soothing greenery that surrounded the ancient temple. Just as the peaceful village life was growing on me, I slowed down my pace and enjoyed the slow-moving sceneries here.

Rameshwara Temple in Keladi is located just 8 hours away from Sagara taluk near Jog falls. Which district is Keladi? Both Keladi and Jog falls are located in Shivmogga or Shimoga district of Karnataka in South India. It is protected by ASI or the Archaeological Survey of India.

Who built Keladi Rameshwara Temple?

The Rameshwara Temple in Keladi was commissioned by the Nayaka ruler known as Chowdappa Nayaka in the year 1500 C.E. His name is also spelt as Chavadappa Nayak.

Who were the Nayakas?

The visit to Rameshwaram Temple Keladi and the nearby museum introduced me to the lifestyle and times of the small town of Keladi under the reign of Nayak rulers, a feudatory of the powerful Vijayanagara Empire.

The Nayakas who once belonged to the Vijayanagar empire separated from them and ruled independently in Ikkeri and Keladi after the latter met its inevitable downfall. I also visited the offbeat Aghoreshwara Temple in Ikkeri to have a better understanding of the Nayaka rulers who are not as famous as say, Chola, Pallava or Chera, Hoyasala or Chalukya dynasties of the prosperous South India.

Who was the founder of Keladi dynasty?

It is a frequently asked question. Chowdappa Nayaka (1499–1530), who is also known as Chaudappa Nayaka or Chauda Gowda belonged to a village near Keladi named as Pallibailu. His parents who were farmers were Basavappa and Basavamambe.

History of Keladi

Keladi is an unusual place to see in Karnataka. It also has an unusual history. Keladi became independently ruled region from the Vijayanagar empire around 1500 C.E. Headed by a chieftain, Keladi prospered and stayed safe until Muslim invader Hyder Ali plundered and took over the reign in the middle of 18th century C.E.

Did you know that the women of Keladi exercised power and commanded immense respect? The Keladi lineage can be traced back to two mighty Queens who were the original leaders of the dynasty that ruled here. Keladi was the place where this dynasty originated and flourished. In fact, Keladi was the first capital of the Keladi Nayakas.

However, the kingdom started to weaken after 14 years due to which Ikkeri was made its new capital under the reign of Chandrappa Nayaka (1499 to 1544 C.E.)

I visited both Aghoreswara Temple in Ikkeri and Rameshwaram Temple in Keladi on same day as they are located very close to each other.

Ikkeri was successfully run as the new capital of the dynasty for around 100 years until its downfall. The capital was later again relocated in the year 1639 C.E. to Bidnaur under the rule of Virabhadra Nayaka (1629 to 1645 C.E.) and also to Koule Durga.

Architecture of Rameshwaram Temple

The medium sized Rameshwara Temple was built from greenish grey schist. This 16th century temple which has an East West Orientation, has a small Garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum along with its own Pradakshina.

Also known as temple of Rameswara, it also boasts of a Mahamandapa (Navagraha) as well as a Mukhamandapa. I noticed relief sculptures and the figures of Hindu deities from Shaivite tradition on the eastern and western ends of the Mahamandapa.

Gardens flank the either side of the pathway on the austere main entrance. As I walked inside the manicured lawns of the Rameshwara Temple, I noticed the simple façade of the temple. It looked ordinary (yet elegant) from outside, like any other ancient house in rural Karnataka, where people still live. What it hides inside left me agape mouthed! It sure is a top place to see with family and kids.

Balcony of Rameshwaram Temple

As soon as I entered the unguarded balcony of the temple at the main entrance, the spectacular wood carvings rivetted me. The brick tiled roof of balcony or pavilions was supported with beautiful wooden pillars which, to my astonishment, have survived the elements. Rain, sun, wind, the works! In fact, this area receives a lot of rainfall which explains why wood carvings are found in both temple as well as the nearby Government run museum.

Also Read: In search of Cobra Snake in rainforests of Agumbe

Also notable is the Dhwajastambha, located in the courtyard area. Chiseled and engraved on all 4 sides, it stood out! I notice a female figure wearing what looked like a North Indian vastra or costume. It is debatable if this figure is that of Queen Chenamma, who once reigned over Keladi.

This figure also shows the mingling of cultures and lifestyles in the 16th century India. I even saw a sculpture of Chinese man on a pillar in Lepakshi Temple which I also wrote about. And not to forget Greek faces on Sanchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh.

I took a while to admire the flower patterns on wood before entering the massive courtyard complex.

Inside the Rameshwaram Temple

As soon as I entered the expansive courtyard, I realized it was like stepping on to a different world. Plethora of carvings on stone and wood vied for my attention even as the sun rays enhanced their beauty by played artistic patterns of light and shadow on the weathered walls and floor. These are some of the main sightseeing attractions of Keladi.

I noticed that the impressive Rameshwara Temple in Keladi was built in the typical Hoysala-Dravidian and Nayaka style of architecture. It has 3 separate shrines dedicated to God Rameshwara, Parvati ji and Veerbhadra ji, the fierce form of Shiv Bhagwan. I have also visited the world famous Veerbhadra Temple in Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh, (also in South India) the architecture of which is beyond brilliant.

Rameshwar Temple

Rameshwar Temple is the top place to see in Keladi. I noticed an idol of holy Nandi bull facing the Shivlinga in the Rameshwar Temple. Also watch out for the sculpture of Lord Rameswara in Yogasana. 

It is interesting to note that both Virabhadra temple and Rameswara Temple have a common Mukhamandapa and Jagati. The temple is enclosed by the local tile roofed cloister and is supported with sturdy wooden pillars.

You can also notice the carvings of Hindu God Hanuman ji and Garuda, in the low relief of the walls of the Garbhagriha. Above the eave (Kapota) you can see carved images of Lord Virabhadra, Tandavsvara, Mohini and Bhairav

A striking and unique characteristic of the temple is the stone tower depicting images of bulls rising above the Garbhagriha. Figures of Ganesh Bhagwan and Mahishasura Mardhini in the niches are good specimens of Vijayanagar provincial style of architecture. The ceilings of the Mandapa also deserves accolades for its amazing carvings of lotus flowers.

Parvati Temple

Parvati Temple, on the other hand is rich in wooden carvings on the pillars as well as the ceilings. Exquisite wooden carvings done on deep red sandal wood and stone and other unique such architectural features of this medieval Hindu temple took my breath away. It is a must-visit place in Keladi.

Veerabhadra temple

The most beautiful carvings of animal figures can be seen on the walls, ceilings and pillars of the Veerabhadra temple. Built in typical Vijayanagar fashion, I noticed many known and imaginary hybrids if animal such as goat face on a human torso. The figures of lions, horses, parrots and other animal and birds are noteworthy here.

Navagraha, Gandaberunda and Nagamandala figures are located right here. I also noticed a sculpture of Varaha, the third avatar of Vishnu bhagwan. Also spelt as Virabhadra temple, it has a projected porch. This is a must-see place of Keladi.

Islamic Influence on Architecture

I also noticed many geometric patterns that adorn the walls and ceiling panels. Hindu temples, especially in South India are devoid of geometric designs. It is more of an Islamic feature. 16th century was the time when Islamic invaders were attacking India from all sides.

It was a traumatic time for India and as a result of which culture, food habits and even architecture styles of both Hindus and Muslims started to merge and give birth to new culture.

Wooden Carvings at Rameshwara Temple Keladi

I crane my neck to admire the superlative carvings done on the wooden ceiling of the Parvati temple. I noticed that the best part of these carvings was that, the beautiful lotus flower patterns were well crafted on pure wood, which is unusual as most of the carvings I saw in ancient Hindu temples, whether it is North India or South India, are done on stone.

What’s more? None of these carved flowers are same. Even the components of each lotus flower are carved intricately and differently. My head never fails to bow at the beyond brilliant craftsmanship of ancient Hindus.

The reddish or dark brown wooden pillars located here were richly carved as well. These are made with a single piece of wood.

Wooden Chariot or Ratha

Occurrence of Ratha or a chariot is a common recurring theme in the ancient Sanatan Dharm or Hinduism. Whether it is the colossal Rath Yatra of Puri in Odisha or Ratha of Arjun in Hindu epic Mahabharat, you will find its mention in one form or another throughout India. Rameshwaram Temple in Keladi is no exception! I also saw a modern depiction of Rath from Mahabharat in the lawns near Murudeswara Temple, also in Karnataka. Not to forget the mind-blowing stone sculpture of Rath I saw in Hampi in Karnataka. It is also displayed on the new INR 50 Indian currency note.

It is not possible that you will not notice the colossal wooden Rath exhibited in an enclosure in the Rameshwaram Temple in Keladi. Heavily carved, I noticed the figures of Ganesh bhagwan, Shiv ji and their vahanas/savari or carriers. Also notable are the figures of elephants with one head conjoined with two bodies sculpted on the Rath.

It is possible that much like Rath Yatra of Puri, this Rath with massive wheels must have been used for similar processions when the deities were taken out on special occasions such as Hindu festivals.

Rare Sculptures of Rameshwaram Temple Keladi

I noticed, much to my amazement that many of the sculptures present in Rameshwaram Temple of Keladi were nowhere to be seen in other South Indian Hindu Temples I visited weather it was Chennakeshava Temple in Belur or ruins of the great Hampi.  Even the local guide will confirm that you will see these carvings no-where else in Karnataka or South India for that matter.

For example, the statue of Navagraha or Gods of nine planets which are worshipped by Hindus and Nagamandala, the serpent God stood out in the heavily carved temple. I was impressed to see that every inch of wood and stone of the Rameshwaram Temple was deftly carved, often with huge life-size figures of Gods and Goddesses from the Hindu pantheon.

It is a Shaivite temple, which means a Shiva temple. This is why, most of the deities belong to Shaivite sect and family. This is why you will see many figures of Shivlinga, Ganesh ji and the Nagas.  Ashtadurga with Ganesh ji deserves special mention.

Other things I saw was a carelessly lying old palki or palanquin, a mossy well, and a place for the holy Tulsi (basil) plant in the courtyard.

Did you know that I also saw the ancient version of the emblem of Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation right on the walls of the Veerbhadra temple located in Rameshwaram Temple, Keladi. I saw the carving of the two headed mythical bird called as Gandaberunda in Karnataka. While it held one lion each in both beaks, its claws were tightly holding elephants. Of course, the size of Gandaberunda bird is shown more than that of the lions and elephants. It symbolizes strength and power! This unique sculpture is located on the ceiling of the Virbhadra Temple.

Mahastambha or the grand pillar is another notable feature of the Rameshwaram Temple in Keladi. As I ventured inside this green grey maze of brilliantly carved pillars, I gasped at the breathtaking carvings of Ganesh ji and Rani Chenamma paying respect to him along with her consorts on a 24 feet tall stone pillar, adorned by floral patterns. I noticed that someone, perhaps the pujari/priest had offered fresh marigold flowers at the feet of Ganesh ji.

What caught my attention was a unique statue of Daksha Prajapati with the head of a goat and a body of human. I had never seen his carving ever before. And have you seen a carved figure of Vastu Purush ever?

One of the carvings depicted Vastu Purush, the God of structures. Vastu Shastra, which is followed by crores of Hindus, is the Indian equivalent of the Chinese Feng Shui. It is the ancient science of architecture with roots in the magical land of India. Other carvings show rituals practiced in those times.

Soul Window Observations

Women in India were powerful in those times as was seen on some carvings. I saw sculptures of many female warriors, sitting atop horses, waging a fierce battle. These panels are called as Veergals or the ‘brave’s glory’.

Similar war scenes and dancing poses, carvings of Shiv Parvati ji with Nandi bull, several pillars showing the mythical Yeli or Yali (A combination of cat, lion, elephant and serpent) and men beating drums which looked like damru of Shiv ji, transported me to a bygone era. Many more such carvings can also be seen in the temple complex. Just keep your eyes peeled and ask around!

Keladi Museum and Historical Research Bureau

I also visited the Government run Keladi Museum and Historical Research Bureau which is located right opposite the Rameshwaram Temple of Keladi. Before I entered, I was warned of not taking any pictures and videos of any historical items inside the museum which is housed in 2-3 modest room with very basic upkeep. I personally felt the little known Keladi is unexplored Karnataka at its best!

The simplicity of the place belies its historical significance. This small museum is a great repository of ancient artefacts, unique exhibits and belongings of the great Nayaka rulers of Keladi empire. I particularly loved the palm leaf manuscripts which I had also seen in the homes of Raghurajpur in Odisha. I could not help but admire the below exhibits of the Keladi Museum:

  • Antiques,
  • Paintings,
  • Brass Items,
  • Textile items,
  • Household items,
  • Ruined sculptures,
  • Copper Inscriptions,
  • Old utensils and cutleries,
  • Engravings on Palm leaves,
  • Clothes worn in those times,
  • Well-preserved ancient coins,
  • Manuscripts and even handwritten letters.
  • Old weapons such as amours, shields and swords
  • Idols from Chalukya and Hoysala period (16th to 18th century)

Despite not being as well-known as say, the Shore temple in Tamilnadu or Jagannath Puri in Odisha, the offbeat Keladi Museum and Historical Research Bureau near Rameswaram Temple in Keladi is worth a visit.

Despite the small size of the museum, the collection of ancient items is pretty impressive.

You can also see that even in those days, binary system was present and practiced. Many of these historical displays have also been donated by private donors. You must visit this museum for the most comprehensive information on the times and lives of the illustrious Nayaka rulers and the mighty Keladi dynasty.

Since it is located just stone’s throw away from Rameshwaram Temple, you can simply walk up to here after visiting the ancient Hindu temple. I hope the museum that preserves the precious relics from past is upgraded for posterity.

Entrance Fees

Temple is free to visit on all days. Yes, there is no entry fee. Told you, there are many free things to do in this region. I also took a free walking tour in the village and temple.  

Timings of Museum

Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 19:00 p.m.

Address of Museum

Keladi, Karnataka- 577430

Free Village Walk in Keladi

Keladi is located in a beautiful village of Karnataka. I took a free self-guided walk around the village and explored the rural lifestyle at its most authentic. Expect to see kids playing cricket, women doing chores, cattle returning to their homes, beautiful homes built in traditional eco friendly style.

You can even try to talk to a local person for an immersive travel experience. There are not many places of interest in Keladi, but it is still worth a visit. The village around Keladi is picturesque and quaint.

Vegan and Vegetarian Food in Keladi

I didn’t see any local restaurants in Keladi as it is located in a remote village. Having said that, I had delicious South Indian vegetarian and vegan food in nearby places such as Shivamogga, Jog falls and Sagara. Binge eat some tasty dosa, idly, sambhar, vada, dry snacks etc.

Is it safe to visit Keladi?

I visited Keladi alone in evening. Despite being stuck, waiting for public transport in a remote village, I felt very safe in Keladi as a solo, male Indian budget traveler.

Souvenirs Shopping Guide to Keladi

There are no Souvenirs Shops in Keladi. You can do shopping in Shivamogga, the nearest big town.

ATM in Keladi

I didn’t see any ATMs in keladi as it is located in a small village. Shimoga has many ATMs. Sagara also has few ATMs. This is why, do carry some cash in Keladi.

Photography Tips for Keladi

Luckily, tourists are allowed to take pictures inside the Keladi Rameshwara Temple. However, clicking pictures inside the museum is not permitted.

Hire local tourist guide

I did not see any local guide here. But if you ask the people sitting in temple, they will be able to help you with some information and help you find some hidden gems. Keladi anyways is one of the top offbeat places in Karnataka.

Languages spoken in Keladi

Kannada is the main language of Keladi. Some people also understand English and Hindi and other South Indian languages. One drawback is that much of the explanation and signboards in the museum are not in English but in local South Indian language, which I failed to decipher.

Toilet facility in Keladi

There are not many toilets in Keladi. Ask around in case you are looking for a loo break.

Backpacking Budget Travel Tips for Keladi

I had visited Keladi as a backpacker on a low budget. The only money I spent in Keladi was on museum ticket and bus fare, which was also very low. The Rameshwara Temple and village was anyways, free to visit. Keladi is one of the most inexpensive and pocket-friendly places I have visited in Karnataka.

Solo Trip Tips for Keladi

I visited Keladi as a male, solo Indian traveller. It was very easy for me to visit Keladi as a solo traveller from India.

Luxury travel Tips for Keladi

If you want to visit Keladi in luxury, then let me warn you that Keladi has no luxury facilities. You can find luxury hotels and restaurants in Shivamogga. You can also hire a car from Shimoga if public transport is not your thing!

Excursions: Places near Keladi

Below are the top places to visit near Rameshwaram Temple, Keladi

  • Sagara
  • Jog falls
  • Shivamogga
  • Sringeri Mutt
  • Mattur: The Sanskrit Village
  • Coffee Museum in Dasarahalli
  • Aghoreshwara Temple of Ikkeri
  • Murudeshwar Temple and Bhukailasa Cave Museum in Murdeshwar
  • Kamalapura Archaeological Museum in Kamalapura on Daroji-Kamlapura Road

Best Time to visit Keladi?

Winter is the best time to visit Keladi.

Winter

I had visited Keladi in the second week of September. The weather was perfect in September. Expect good weather and low temperatures in Keladi also in the months of October, November, December and January.

Summer

April, May and June are the hottest months in Keladi.

Monsoon

It rains a lot in June, July and August. But you can still visit Keladi with an umbrella if it is raining. The major attractions or Keladi are anyways located indoors.

Duration of Visit

How many days to spend in Keladi?What can I do in 1 day in Keladi? I had spent only 1-2 hours in Keladi. There is not much to do in Keladi except for visiting the Rameshwara Temple, Museum and taking the free village walk. Half day is enough time to visit this unheard-of place in offbeat Karnataka.

Local Transport for sightseeing in Keladi

There are not many public transports running in Keladi because it is a very small village. The bus is however available with poor frequency at walking distance from the Rameshwara Temple.

How to reach Rameshwaram temple in Keladi

Both Rameshwaram temple in Keladi and Aghoreshwara temple in Ikkeri make for an easy and quick weekend getaway from Bangalore. Both can be visited over a weekend from Bangalore. I visited both temple on same day and Jog falls the next day. I changed several local public buses from Shimoga, Sagara and Ikkeri to reach Keladi.

Read more blogs on A Soul Window for more such useful information on travel. A Soul Window is the Top Indian Travel Blog as well as the No.1 travel blog of India.

Conclusion: Why visit Keladi

Is the historic destination of Keladi worth visiting? Keladi is an unexplored place in Karnataka, far away from the crowd of tourists. The unique Rameshwara Temple of Keladi is worth a visit, thanks to its unusual architecture and history. This lesser-known place is not to be missed. My practical advice is that if you love visiting places that are off the beaten track, then do plan the Keladi Trip soon.

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