Western Chalukya Architecture - Temple Deities

Temple Deities

See also: Western Chalukya temples

The Western Chalukyan kings Shaivas (worshippers of the Hindu god Shiva) dedicated most of their temples to that God. They were however tolerant of the Vaishnava or Jain faiths and dedicated some temples to Vishnu and the Jain tirthankaras respectively. There are some cases where temples originally dedicated to one deity were converted to suit another faith. In such cases, the original presiding deity can sometimes still be identified by salient clues. While these temples shared the same basic plan and architectural sensibilities, they differed in some details, such as the visibility and pride of place they afforded the different deities.

As with all Indian temples, the deity in the sanctum was the most conspicuous indicator of the temple's dedication. The sanctum (Garbhagriha or cella) of a Shaiva temple would contain a Shiva linga, the universal symbol of the deity. An image of Gaja Lakshmi (consort of the Hindu god Vishnu) or an image of Vishnu riding on Garuda, or even just the Garuda, signifies a Vaishnava temple. Gaja Lakshmi, however, on account of her importance to the Kannada-speaking regions, is found on the lintel of the entrance to the mantapa (pillared hall) in all temples irrespective of faith. The carving on the projecting lintel on the doorway to the sanctum has the image of a linga or sometimes of Ganapati (Ganesha), the son of Shiva in the case of Shaiva temples or of a seated or upright Jain saint (Tirthankar) in the case of Jain temples.

The great arched niche at the base of the superstructure (Sikhara or tower) also contains an image indicative of the dedicators' sect or faith. Above the lintel, in a deep and richly wrought architrave can be found images of the Hindu trimurti (the Hindu triad of deities) Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu beneath arched rolls of arabesque. Shiva or Vishnu occupies the centre depending on the sect the temple was dedicated to.

Occasionally, Ganapati and his brother Kartikeya (Kumara, Subramanya) or the saktis, the female counterparts, can be found at either end of this carving. Carvings of the river Goddesses Ganga and Yamuna are found at either end of the foot of the doorway to the shrine in early temples.

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