When I reached the village of Bannikoppa from Gadag, there were clouds in the sky, but no rain. I was there to visit the famous Mahadeva Temple of Itagi, which is 9 km from Bannikoppa. This temple has been praised as ‘the emperor among temples’. It was built in the year 1112 CE by Mahadeva, a commander in the army of the Western Chalukya king Vikramaditya VI.
Mahadeva Temple is an excellent example of Western Chalukyan art and speaks volumes about the skills of the artisans in those days. This well-executed architectural and cultural masterpiece is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is protected as a national monument by the Archaeological Survey of India.
This temple’s beauty can be described as the next best after the temple in Belur. The entrance of the temple has ornate pillars and domical ceilings facing east. The 64 pillars are lathe-turned and have artistic carvings. The closed mantapa leads to another open mantapa, which has many decorated pillars. The sanctum, which has a linga, is surrounded by 13 minor shrines, each with its own linga. There are other two shrines which are dedicated to the parents of the Mahadeva commander, Murthinarayana & Chandraleswari. It is said that the temple is older than the ruins of Hampi, and also inspired the construction of Belur temple. There’s a pond in front of the temple, which the locals call ‘Shivathirtha’. The temple complex also has a beautiful garden. With so much beauty, Itagi is definitely worth a visit.