Fifteen kilometers from the Badami caves lies this ancient temple complex of Mahakuta, at the backdrop of two small hills. The place is also known as Mahakuteshwara or locally as Chikka Mahakuteshwara temple. after taking a graceful turn on the road, a modern-day arch welcomes you as you reach the temple parking lot. You leave your vehicle there and start walking on the cement paver blocks, anticipating the apparent characteristics of a modern era temple-like overwhelming crowd, tumulting noises, shouting vendors, beggars trying to get in your personal space, the well-known smell of rotting flowers and coconut water and never-ending lines to reach the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.
But Mahakuteshwar is one of the finest examples of ancient living temples, which has the essence of both the positive energy of the devotes and the fineness of the ancient architecture. There are several temples built in the sixth century that are standing tall, fighting with the time. Many have Nagara style, and the rest are built in Dravida style architecture.
Also known as Dakshin Kashi, it’s said that Agasti Rishi killed demons Vatapi and Illavila. They turned into the mountains, just behind this ancient temple. In the 1880s, when the excavation was going on, archeologists found one pillar lying beside the temple complex. Chalukyan King Mangalish erected this temple, says the inscription on that pillar. Being Vatapi or Badami as the capitol, brave Mangalesha expanded his territory beyond Northern Karnataka. His kingdom stretched far away, covering Gujrat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh.
Unifying south and middle India, the king attracted artists, receiving patronage under his stable regime. Among them, many of the expert architects, all over from the south and from the north, came together to construct this great temple complex. That might be why this pious temple complex has so many temples with mixed architecture styles.
Many like to portray medieval India as a land of constant disputes. They even come up with the stories of struggle between Vaishanvites and Shaivites (the devotees who pray only Vishnu and only Shiva). One thing must be mentioned here: even though Mangalesh was a Vaishanvite, he spared no expense erecting a beautiful temple dedicated to Mahadev, which stood tall, even after 1400 years.
The Mahakuta complex has three main temples, namely Mahakuteshwar, Mallikarjun, and Papanashini temple, enclosed within a thick temple wall. Among them, let’s take a look at the Mahakuteshwar temple. It’s dedicated to Mahadev and constructed in the Dravida style of architecture, with Gopura on the top. Beautiful Nandi is sitting in the Mandapa, before the main shrine. Temple has simple Mukha Mandapa, Mandapa and Sanctorum or Garbhagriha.
Shaiva doorkeepers greet you as you enter the shrine. Garbhagriha has beautiful doorframes but is now blackened due to negligence. Simple sanctum santorum has Shiva Lingam on the floor, located on Yoni Peetha. As you bow down to the Bholenath, Pujari or the temple priest blesses you, and you get out of the temple. Do not miss the outside of the temple, as outer walls are home to beautiful and handsome Lakulisha, Varaha, Trimurti, and many more tiny sculptures depicting the scenes from the Puranas, encircling all the temple.
There are many small temples built with pink granite in the Nagara style of the architecture surrounding Mahakuteshwara. Many of them are missing the deity, probably decorating the living room of some European billionaire, who must have bought it in the black market auctions. There is a small temple of Maa Annapurna, just behind the main temple.
Mahakuteshwar Temple Pushkarni
One of the main attractions is Pushkarni, which lies precisely right in the middle of this entire temple complex. This beautiful stepwell is surrounded by giant trees, with branches peeking from the top, trying to see their reflection in the clear waters below. What makes this stepwell interesting is the two shrines in it. As you get down of this ancient water source, you see a small shrine of Mahadev, erected on six feet platform, with ornate pillars and roof. Under the top, you can see an interesting Shiva Lingam, with four faces on each side, also known as Mukhalingam.
Another temple is hidden within the walls of stonewall. If the water is relatably low, you can see a tiny three feet hidden doorway going into the darkness. There lies a Shivalingam, but you will be able to see it only if you are the great devotee of Bholenath and can hold your breath for some time, not to mention setting aside the fear of water snakes. Local devotees hold their breath and take a dip in the dark underwater hidden doorway to meet Bholenath.
Pushkarni has few never-drying live streams, with bubbles coming out from the bottom. The nearby villages use water coming out of the springs for farming. Every day, kids come here after school and take a dip into this giant stepwell of freshwater. Devotees coming from all corners of Karnataka join them to have some fun. They will play games, splash water on each other, jump from the edges, and race across that broad well. The entire temple premises gets filled with laughter, happiness, and playfulness as they play together, forgetting their age, caste, gender, and social status. For that is the true magic of this place. Proximity and grace of the Bholenath can turn any cynic into one of his mischievous Shiva Ganas, who is ready to remove their footwear and enter into this magical Pushkarni.
The entire complex is a treat for the students of archaeology and Indology, who visit here to study the evolution of the Indian temples. You will find many smaller temples across the complex, built in different styles of architecture. Many other Vishnu and Shiva avatars can be found on these temple walls. Many godless shrines stand shoulder to shoulder, patiently waiting for their owner to come back from the foreign countries.
Aihole and Pattadakal have countless temples, but none of them are visited by the devotees. And hence, they feel like corpses, a lifeless body, without its soul- the devotees. Many feel gloomy by looking at those dark, humid, deserted godless buildings, the temples of the past. Mahakuteshwara temple is the best antidote for that feeling.
How to reach Mahakuteshwara temple:
🚗 By Car: Mahakuteshwara temple complex is about 12 Kilometers from Badami. Head north on highway NH367, and after 6.5 kilometers, turn right on Pattadakal road. Drive about 2 kilometers and turn right on Mahakut road. Drive three kilometers ahead, and you will reach your destination.
🚌 By Bus: Even though frequent buses are available to reach Pattadakal from Badami, you have to get down on Mahakut road and walk for 3 kilometers or wait for the private vehicle to take you to your destination.
🚂 By Train: Nearest railway station to Mahakuta temple in Badami, about 12 kilometers from Mahakuteshwara temple complex.
✈️ By Flight: Nearest airport to Mahakuteshwar temple is Belgum, about 160 kilometers away. You can get plenty of transport options like private cars or government buses to reach the temple from here.
India is the land of sages, temples, and the birthplace of four religions. But there is no scarcity of jockers in the land of Hinduism, that is, Bharat. They constantly entertain us with their idiotic theories. One of these jokes is Dravidistan or Dravida Nadu. Few morons came together and decided that few of the south Indian states have different identities based on culture, language, and religion, and they should demand a separate nation for themselves.
Even though the idea of separatism never took root in the holy land, few Kurta Pajama-wearing, Che-Periyar-loving new age wokes still dream about it. Our history has clear signs of national integration if anyone is ready to look with open eyes, without a pre-determined mindset. On our last visit to Badami, we came across a brilliant example of our national unity, shattering the illusion of this north-south divide called Mahakuteshwar Temple.