Sunday, October 12, 2014

Kopeshwar Shiva Temple - A Hidden Gem in Khidrapur : October 2O14

I had neither heard of the place called Khidrapur which is about 17 kms from Narsoba Wadi via Kurundwad nor the name of Kopeswhar temple located there. In fact, I was contemplating to skip visiting Kopeswhar temple in case we got delayed. It was around 4.3O p.m. when we completed our visit to Narsoba Wadi. So we could make it to Kopeswhar temple before dusk. Somehow, I was under the impression that this temple could be one of many general Shiva temples located around this part of Maharashtra which have a sizeable population of Lingayats who are worshipers of Lord Shiva. We reached the gate of Kopeswhar temple around 5.OO p.m. As soon as I entered the temple complex, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this stone temple was a hidden gem of an architectural marvel blended with superb carvings and sculptures.  It has intricate stone carvings of deities, elephant statues, and other secular things all over the places.  Since I have a keen interest in temple architecture and stone carvings, I cursed myself for not doing my home work to know about this temple before the visit. Had I done that, I would have earmarked sufficient time for this temple to see it in greater details.
The temple is said to have been constructed sometime during 7th century AD under the reign of Chalukya kings. Due to frequent skirmishes between Chalukyas and the neighbouring kings, the temple was abandoned. It was renovated during the reigns of Silhara kings Gandaraditya,  Vijyaditya and Bhoj between 11th and  12th century AD. The work of renovations continued during the succeeding dynasty of Devgiri Yadavas. The temple architecture closely resembles that of temples of Belur and Halebeedu. During the Deccan campaign of Mughal King Aurangzeb, much of the temple sculptures were damaged. One can note that none of the sculptures of elephants has trunk as they were damaged by the troops of Aurangzeb and Deccan Sultans. Fortunately, most of the sculptures on the higher levels of outer walls of the temple are not damaged.

I have visited many Shiva temples but Kopeshwar is an unique Shiva temple. First, this may probably be the only Shiva temple where the devotees get to see first Lord Vishnu as Dhopeshwar in ling form before one can have darshan of  Shivling of Kopeshwar facing the north direction. And both are worshiped in the same sanctum sanctorum. Second, it is a convention in all Shiva temples to first take the darshan of Nandi. But this Shiva temple does not have a Nandi. There is a mythological reason for it which I will come later. Lastly, the temple has a Swarga Mandap with a circular part of the ceiling open to the sky. Swarga Mandap is an ante room before one enters the Sabha Mandap and the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.

There is a mythological story behind this temple. Daksha did not like his youngest daughter Sati marrying Lord Shiva. When Dakhsa conducted a Yagna, he did not invite Shiva and Sati. She came to her parental house on Shiva’s Nandi and confronted her father. Dakhsa insulted her in front of the guests. Unable to bear any further insults, Sati jumped in the fire of Yagna and immolated herself. When Lord Shiva came to know about it, he became very furious (Kop). He punished Daksha by severing his head. Later Lord Vishnu specified Shiva upon which he restored Daksha’s head but with a goat. The furious Shiva was brought to Khidrapur temple by Lord Vishnu to calm him down. Hence the temple got the name as Kopeshwar (Furious Ishwar).  This explains as to why Lord Vishnu is in the temple in the form of a ling along with Shivling. Nandi is not in this temple as Sati took a ride over the Nandi while visiting her parental house. 
48 pillared Swarg Mandap of Kopeshwar temple, Khidrapur. It has three gates facing east, north and south. This one is the north facing gate. The fourth gate is attached to Sabha Mandap.

Close up of the carved stone pillars of Swarg Mandap.

This temple is in four parts, all interconnected through vestibules. As soon as one enters from the gate, the first structure in front of us is called Swarga Mandap (Heavenly Hall) which is in the round shape. I have visited many temples of archaeological importance in South India. But the architecture of Swarga mandap is unique. This mandap is constructed with the support of 48 well carved rounded stone pillars which are placed in three circles. The first circle has 12 pillars, the second circle has 16 pillars and the third circle has 12 pillars. The last circle of 8 pillars are placed  on the 4 gates to Swarga Mandap. Each of the totals of 48 pillars has been carved in different shapes -   round, square, hexagon and octagon.

Another unique feature of Swarga Mandap is that a part of the circular ceiling in the middle with a radius of 13 feet is open to the sky. Exactly below the open ceiling is a round flat stone in single piece with a radius of 13 feet, same as that of open ceiling. The guide told me that this was the place where the yagnas and havans were performed and the open ceiling facilitated the discharge of smoke emanating from these rituals. One can note the carving of groove at the edge of the round stone. I have a different take on this matter. I feel that this round stone of measuring the same radius was meant to the placed above the open ceiling after some intricate carvings. It is quite possible that due to some problems, technical or otherwise, the round stone was left on the ground. It is also quite possible that after leaving a part of the ceiling in circular shape open to the sky, it was felt that watching the sky through the circular open ceiling gave a heavenly feeling. And it is a fact even today. When we saw the sky through the open ceiling standing on the circular stone on the ground, we also got the same feeling. I was visualising as to how one would feel when the the moon is seen from this open ceiling on a full moon day in the night.
The open top of Sabha Mandap  with supported by 12 intricately carved stone pillars. The stone ceilings are carved with miniature temple all over the circular frame.

 The open ceiling with a diameter of 13 feet There is also a raised circular stone of the same diameter exactly below the open ceiling.
The to of the 12 stone pillars of Swarg Mandap have 12 Gods or mythological characters. This one is Yama sitting on his Buffalo.
The second part of the temple is its Sabha Mandap which is in a rectangular shape. In keeping with this shape, the pillars are also lined up in three rectangular rows. In the first row, there are 12 pillars, in the second row, there are 2O pillars. The last row of pillars is more or less merged with the walls of Sabha Mandap. The totals of 6O pillars of Sabha Mandap are all in rectangular shape having intricate carvings depicting  stories from Mahabharat, Ramayan, panchratna, flowers, trees  and some other aspects of social life of that period. The Sabha Mandap has four doors.  One each of the doors is attached to Swarga Mandap and Sanctum Sanctorum and the remaining two which are main doors, are located on the north and south sides.
Both Sabha Mandap and the temple have the stoned carved elephants probably symbolising the strength of the base. One can observe here that trunks of the elehants are missing. They were destroyed by Khyder Khan, a commander of Adilshah army.

This picture shows the  middle and top layers of the north east side of the outer wall of Sabha Mandap. 
Various deities and secular sculptures on the second layer of the outer wall of Sabha Mandap.
Kopeshar temple seen from the southern side. Note the Shikara (dome) of the temple which does not match with the architecture of the temple. The shikara may have been hastily constructed much later.
The trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh on the  eastern outer wall of Sabha Mandap.
One of six jharokas of Sabha Mandap.
Since we had reached the temple complex in the late evening, it was dark inside the Sabha Mandap. So I could not take the pictures of the structure of Sabha Mandap in general. However, with the use of flash, I took some close up of carvings on the pillars. By the time, I came out of the south door of Sabha Mandap, it was already dusk. At the side of this door, there is inscriptions on a stone written in Sanskrit which suggests that the temple was renovated sometime during 1214-15 AD. Our guide told us that there were more inscriptions available but written in old Kannada language.
Dwarpal at the entrance to Sabha Mandap.
Intricate stone carvings on one of the inner pillars of Sabha Mandap. It looks like an emblem of rulers of a dynasty.
One of the 16 Kirti Mukhs on the inside pillars of  Sabha Mandap.
Intricate  carvings probably based on some mythological story on one of the inner pillars of Sabha Mandap.
Kodhandrama on one of the inner pillars of Sabha Mandap.
Shape of the inner pillars of Sabha Mandap with intricate carvings.
The third and fourth parts of the temple are Antaral (Vestibule)  and Sanctum Sanctorum. There was a pitched darkness in both these parts. Only an oil lamp in Sanctum Sanctorum gave us something to see inside it which I have already described in the third paragraph of the blog. This is a live temple having regular pujas with a whole time priest. On Mondays and Shivratri day, the temple gets crowded as devotees from the neighbouring villages from Maharashtra and Karnataka pour in.
Goddess Kali on one of the inner pillars of Sabha Mandap.
This carvings on one of the inner pillars  of Sabha Mandap is based on Panchtantra story of a tortoise wishing to fly with the help of two birds to his side.
Carvings based on one of Panchtantra stories involving friendship between a mythological animal and the monkey. Here monkey plucks the sweet berry for mythological animal.
Carvings on a single stone of Sapt-Ashth Matrika or 7- 8 Goddesses  located on the southern side door of Sabha Mandap.
Sculpture of Lord Ganesh on the southern side of Sabha Mandap.
Sculpture of Harihar on the southern side of Sabha Mandap. One can note the trishul on the left hand and a mash on the right hand.
There are reasons to believe that even though the construction of Kopeshwar temple started sometime in 7th century AD, the work remained incomplete under various dynasties of rulers. The architecture of the shikara of the temple does not go well with the overall architecture of the temple and its mandaps. It is possible that the construction of shikara of the temple was completed much later than 12th centruy AD when temple was under rennovation. Even works on the two side doors of Sabha Mandap looked somewhat incomplete or hastily completed. Probably the frequent wars between neighbouring kings affected the construction of the temple.
This  stone sculpture on the southern side of Sabha Mandap seems to be that of some foreign national.
Sculptures of Arab and  Chinese nationals on the south west side of the Sabha Mandap.
A lady in the middle of her letter writing.
A lady on her last lap of letter writing.
A lady with high heel footwears, in the pose of stretching (in Hindi the word angadayi gives a better meaning).
 A lady in dancing pose.
We left the temple complex around 6.3O p.m. when it was not possible to minutely see the temple carvings and sculptures. Those who are interested in temple architecture and the history, Kopeshwar temple is a  ‘must visit ’  place. For the enthusiasits of photography, it is better to plan the visit in early  morning or early evening for better photography.
Siddhivinayak Temple, Jaysinghpur in the night.
Shri Ram Temple, Chafal located off NH.4 between Karad and Satara. On the left of Ram temple is a structure which leads to a underground cave where Shri Samarth Ramdas Swami used to meditate. The inlet o the underground is so narrow that we could not muster courage to go through it.
We drove back to our hotel not before visiting a newly constructed Siddhivinayak Temple with a modern architecture near Jaysinghpur. I liked the concept of sanctum sanctorum of this temple wherein Lord Ganesh is standing on the top of the earth in the middle while the circular ceiling depicts the universe. The temple complex has a big lawn where devotees can rest in the evening and night.
Next day, we commenced our homeward journey with a brief halt at Chafal for visiting Ram Temple patronised by Shri Samarth Ramdas Swami.



KS said...

SK, great post! Insightful writing and as usual nice pics to go with it. After reading this I can say your truly a "connoisseur" ... btw: I checked the definition of that word to be sure it is appropriate; "a person who is especially competent to pass critical judgments in an art, particularly one of the fine arts, or in matters of taste: a connoisseur of modern art" :)

Ulhas Arolkar said...

Well articulated and informed article! Thanks for the information in such nice manner. I have visited this place twice and very much fascinated by the architectural marvel ...
Ulhas Arolkar

Purnima Phadke said...

simply great! i can't wait , i must visit this wonderful place as early as possible. thanks for the detail info

Anil Patil said...


Thanks.On 24th August I have planned trip to Sangali,Kolhapur,Karnataka,Goa and Kokan.After going through your blog I have decided to visit this place.I will love to photograph using my all skills.
Thanks again.

Suhas Kadam said...

Thank U Sir...Great pictures. I on 4th October visited the Marvelous " must see" temple by each Indian. Visit timings same to U. Also taken pictures...very average quality if compared to U.I have 2nd trip of the temple during reading ur blog/post.
Dr. Suhas Kadam.Gynecologist.