When one thinks of the Hoysala Kingdom, it is Belur and Halebid that first come to mind and hence it is these places that are high on the tourist’s itinerary. But, the true essence of the Hoysala kingdom lies in its lesser known jewels. Such a jewel is the Lakshmi Devi temple at Doddagaddavalli village that is located about 16 kilometres from Hassan and enroute to Belur.
This is a 12th century temple built by the Hoysalas during the rule of King Vishnuvardhana. In spite of it being one of the oldest Hoysala temples, it has withstood the vagaries of time very well and stands in pristine condition. The entire temple area can be spotted from the road that leads to Doddagaddavalli from the Hassan-Belur road.
This long distance view of the temple is spectacular as one can see the temple vimanas glimmering in the sun against the surrounding dense green vegetation and near a large water body. This water body is a pond that is situated to the back of the temple. This pond also adds a new dimension to this temple from a picturesque locale standpoint.
According to the legends, this temple is said to have been built in 1114 A.D. by a merchant called Kullahana Rahuta, a merchant or high officer in the Hoysala court. And this was for his wife Sahaja Devi. It is one of the earliest known temples built in Hoysala style and is built with Chloritic schist or Soapstone.
It was a dark and cloudy monsoon day when I was here recently. The soapstone did not get a chance to gleam in the sunshine, but stood plainly in the dark and grey weather. But it was the surrounding lake and the greenery that caught my eye first. Then, came the series of long granite steps along the outer wall of the temple compound. It is these steps that separate the temple compound from the lake. One can get to see the high vimanas of the temple from this place.
The entire temple area comes under the purview of the Archaeological Society of India who have maintained it very well. In terms of current functioning, prayers are still being offered daily to the temple deity, though the temple is open only during designated time slots. But, in case, you are interested in exploring this temple and are unable to make it during the allotted time slot, then you can reach out to the temple priest who stays in the house that is just opposite the main entrance of the temple. Generally, the temple priest is very kind and often offers to open the temple doors for tourists and devotees alike.
Inside the temple inner sanctum, one can see the following deities. The main shrine facing east has a 3 foot tall image of goddess Lakshmi with an attendant on either side. In her four hands, the image holds a conch in the upper right hand, a chakra (discus) in the upper left, a rosary in the lower right and a mace in the lower left.
In the shrines facing north, west and south are the idols of Kali, Vishnu and Boothanatha Linga (the universal symbol of Shiva). A sculpture of Tandaveswara (dancing Shiva) exists in the circular panel at the centre of the ceiling of the mantapa. Other important sculptures are those of Gajalakshmi (form of Lakshmi), Tandaveswara and Yoganarasimha (form of Vishnu) found on the doorway of the temple.
Overall, the temple has the older Hoysala style where there is only one eaves running through the temple wherein the main towers meet the wall of the shrine. On the whole, the temple complex has nine towers, which is unusual for a Hoysala Temple. Another unusual feature of the temple is the existence of four more 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.
The temple compound may not be very big, but each bit of it has a lot of culture and history to offer to the interested traveller. The lake side of the temple also offers a different view of the temple. One can walk along the lake banks and see a long range shot of the entire temple campus.
The Lakshmi devi temple at Doddagaddavalli village is truly one of Hoysala’s lesser known jewels and for its stature and importance, it is far unrepresented in the tourism map of Karnataka. This also offers a pleasant deviation from the crowded touristy attractions. Personally, I like this temple a lot, especially for its location, its excellent current state and its rich culture and history. I would definitely recommend this temple to all those who are interested in visiting the Hoysala Empire. If you are interested in planning your vacation, then visit Playa de Las Americas on holiday.
How to reach Doddagaddavalli village from Hassan town?
From Hassan, head towards Belur. Take the Bangalore – Mangalore road that runs right through the middle of Hassan town. Head towards the Mangalore direction (i.e. towards West from the town centre). As you come out of the town (after SDM Ayurveda college on your right), a junction appears with the Belur road on your right. The traffic thins out suddenly as you get to this road. This is the State Highway 57 (SH57).
After about 10 kms from Hassan, drive slowly and keep watching to the left of the road for directions to Doddagaddavally. Turn left at the place where you see a Karnataka tourism map hoarding or a picture of the Lakshmidevi temple of Doddagaddavalli. Take this small road to the left of this hoarding. This road takes you to the Doddagaddavalli village square after about 3 km of winding through some rocky outcrops. Even before reaching the village square, you should be able to spot a large lake to your left.On the bank of the lake, you can spot the protruding towers of the temple. However, you need to cross the village to reach the temple gate. Ask for directions in the village. They would point you the path through some narrow village lanes.