The evolution of the art of architecture of Temple construction and designing of idols in India during the early centuries of the CE were influenced and shared by various older religions of India like Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.
Buddhists were said to be the pioneers in building religious structures in India. King Ashoka (ca.273-236 BC) several commissioned construction of Buddhist monasteries, known as Viharas. A number of large cave monasteries, meditation halls and temples were dug out of basalts especially in Maharastra. Most of these were built along the Maharastra coastline. These were used as monasteries as well as lodgings for domestic and foreign travelers and merchants who visited nearby ports for trade. Later meditation halls known as Chaitya were added to the Vihara complexes. Those structures that preserved relics of Buddha were called Stupa. The globular super structures of the Stupas appear to have been influenced by the shape of granaries.
Apisidal: The type of temple architecture initially developed was based on the Buddhist Chaitya shrines consisted of a plan with a rectangular entrance and a circular rear. It has been described as Apisidal or horse shoe shape. The early Hindu temples adapted this style of architecture in temples. It is also sometimes called ‘gajaprasta’ or 'elephant back' design. This appears to have been influenced by the shape of early Buddhist cave temples.
Mahalingeswara temples at Brahmavara, Hejamadi, Kota,Bantra, and Puttur. Udupi Ananteswara temple at Udupi, Karinjeswara temple at Karinja, represent this type of U shaped or horse-shoe sectional plan.
Other temple plans have been developed on Square and on Rectangular planar sections.
Nagara and Dravida
The temple architecture in India developed along two lines: Nagara and Dravida. The Nagara style of temple architecture initially evolved in the northern India, was characterized by development of domes on the main temples. Whereas in the Dravida style, developed initially in ancient Tamilnadu, the pyramidal dome known as Gopura (gopuram) was placed on the entrance gate of the temple.
Subsequent experiments in temple construction involved a fusion of Nagara and Dravida styles known as Vesara style of architecture.
The oldest known temple in Karavali dedicated to Lord Shiva at Shambukallu,Udyavara,Udupi taluk.(Front view)
The Karavali temples like the native old style tiled houses characteristically have pyramidal sloping roofs covered with stone slabs, copper sheets or tiles. Possibly the earlier versions had similar styled wooden roofs in the past that were replaced by weathering proof stone slabs in the course of time. Narasimhamurthy (2000) proposed that this style be designated as Karavali style of architecture.
However, earlier workers like Havel have noted influence of Nepali architecture on the Karavali shrines and houses.
It is generally observed that most of the old temples were devoted to the worship of Lord Shiva in various forms such as Mahalingesvara, Umamahesvara, Anantesvara etc. This is also true in the case of temples in the Karavali. The early phase of Shiva worship was followed by the worship of Ganesha, Durga Parameswari and Krishna I general.
However, it seems that in the post Vedic phase Skanda was the first God to be worshipped. The worship of Skanda or Devasenani was popular during the period of Chandrgupta Maurya and mentioned in the Artha Shastra of Kautilya (ca.250-300 BC). It is said Gautama Buddha saw idols of Skanda during his childhood.
Murungu and Murugan
Skanda is popular in southern India under the names of Kumara and Murugan. It has been suggested that the name Murugan has been derived from the Murungu the African God of Kenya. It is possible that immigrants from Africa brought the concept of God Murungu to southern India where the youthful God was designated Murugan.
The Skanda worship was strong during the Satavahana(2nd to 4th Century CE) and Kadamba period(4th to 6th Century CE) and as pointed by noted historian Sham.Ba.Joshi. The name Mayura is symbolic of Kumara worship. There are several villages in Dakshina Kannada that bear the name Kanda or the Skanda, such as Kandavara, apart from numerous places of worship of Subramanya. It appears that Kanda-Subramanya worship was dominant in Karavali during the Kadamba period. Most of the ancient Skanda temples built of mud and wood may have been destroyed due to onslaught of weathering and erosion.
The Kanda-Subramanya worship subsequently in the due course of history in Karavali was amalgamated with Naga worship.It is probable that the synthesis of Naga-Subramanya represents fusion of two cultural streams, representing two different worship ideologies(Naga and Subramanya) in the ancient Karavali society.
An Apisidal or Horse-shoe shaped Shiva temple (renovated)at Shambukall,Udyavara,Udupi district.(Back view)
Oldest temple in Dakshina Kannada & Udupi
The total number of temples in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts exceeds 1600. A compilation of the temples of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts, edited by Murulidhara Upadhya Hiriadaka and P N Narasimaha Murthy has been published (2000)by the management of Sri Janardhana and Mahakali temples of Amabalapadi, Udupi. Dr. Narasimhamurthy (2000) summarises that the Udyavara Shambukalllu temple and Vaddarse Mahalingeswara temple, both in Udupi taluk and district are the two oldest. The Vaddarse temple carries a seventh century CE inscription of King Alupendra I.
Narasimhamurthy (2000) states that the horse shoe shaped Shiva temple on Shambu kallu hillock of Udyavara, Udupi taluk, estimated to have been built originally during 4th to 5th Century CE, (now in renovated condition) is probably the oldest known temple in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts.The temple is built, without additional foundation, directly on a large elliptical dome of gray granite locally called Shambukallu.
The other by-product of the above data is that Udyavara near Udupi was one of the early centres of culture and power.Udyavara, incidentally means 'the ground of the rising Sun'.
Dr Padur Gururaja Bhat
Dr P.Gururaja Bhat (1924-1978) was a pioneer in the systematic study of temples of Karavali region. He analytically studied numerous temples and the idols therein and has written some 233 research papers relating to the history of temples distributed in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts. His books ‘Antiquities of South Kanara’ (1969) and ‘Studies in Tuluva History and Culture’ (1975) richly deserve to be reprinted now for the benefit of aficionados of the cultural evolution of the Karavali.
Murudhara Upadhya Hiriadaka (2000). Samapadakeeya. In: Dakshina Kannadada Devalayagalu.[Kannada].(Editors: Murulidhara Upadhya Hiriadaka and P N Narasimaha Murthy). Published by Sri Janardhana-Mahakali temple, Amabalapadi,Udupi. p.436., pp.31-60
Narasimhamurthy,P.N.(2000) ‘Prastavane’. In: Dakshina Kannadada Devalayagalu.[Kannada].(Editors: Murulidhara Upadhya Hiriadaka and P N Narasimaha Murthy). Published by Sri Janardhana-Mahakali temple, Amabalapadi, Udupi.p.436.,pp.61-84.
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