Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bhoo Varaha Laxmi Narsinha Temple ,Halasi : A Photo Feature

The Bhoo Varaha Laxmi Narsinha temple is situated in the village of Halasi, near Khanapur, Dist Belgaum,Karnataka.

In the ancient times Halasi was one of the power centres of the Kadamba dynasty (besides Banvasi,Hangal and Goa) which ruled parts of North Karnataka, Konkan,North Canara and Goa. The Kadambas were vassals of the Chalukyas and later the Rashtrakutas , but were considered powerful and prosperous in their own right. The dynasty in itself was started by one Mayurasharma in around 345 AD.

The Kadambas constructed several Hindu and Jain temples in their kingdom and the Bhoo Varaha temple is one such from the many they constructed in and around Halasi. The Kadambas developed their own temple style and many of its facets were used by the other dynasties in the bordering regions.

As per inscriptions , the Bhoo Varaha temple was constructed by Shivachitta in the fifth century. Later additions were made by the subsequent kings including installation of the idol of Lord Narsinha (the half lion half man dashavatara of Lord Vishnu)by Matayogi in 1169 AD.

The main temple has a distinctly kadamba style pyramidical shikhara (vimana) which is plain, layered and having a teethlike (ribbed) segmentation which goes on decreasing in as it goes on the ascent akin . There is a pot like finial (kalasha) atop the pinnacle. Just below the finial is a figurine of a God in a seated posture on a carved plate, probably Lord Vishnu , to whom this temple is dedicated.

There is again a Vishnu figurine (with Godess Laxmi sitting on Lord Vishnus lap and painted in bright colours) carved on a dormer like opening (on the entablature). The entablature (made from lime and clay) dosent gel with the basic stone structure and seems to be a latter addition.

The plan of the temple appears rectangular and is composed of two garbhagrihas (sanctums) divided by the sabhamandapa. 

There is a verandah on either side of the main structure and is covered by a slanted stone roof and supported by solid columns. The temple has a exterior cirum-ambulatory for the pupose of a ritual 'pradakshina' (a walk around the sanctum with folded hands).

The sabhamandapa (artha manatapa) has doorways facing each other.As one enters the sabhamandapa, one sees a circular plate with a Kurma (Vishnu in his dashavatar form as a tortoise) sculpture based on it , as one finds in many temples.

The ceiling appeared to be woooden and brightly coloured ( again a latter addition ).
One of the 'gabharas' (sanctum) has a fairly tall idol of Lord Vishnu and also one of Godess Laxmi. The opposite gabhara houses the idol of Bhoo Varaha (again a Vishnu dashavatar in the form of a boar/Varaha carrying mother Earth /Bhoo devi).

pic:motif work on the pillar: malasthana and the mala

The sabhamandapa has huge pillars beautifully carved with motifs.

The rear wall of the temple has a niched window (Gavaksha/aedicule) with sculpted pilasters and houses an Lord Ganesha idol.

Outside the temple one finds the Tulsi Vrindavans facing the doorways. 

The entire temple complex is surrounded by a stone wall which encloses the temple structure (besides a kunda/water tank and a well) and opens to arched exit/entrances in four directions.

The wall has coloured clay sculptures of saints and deities in its various niched sections.

There is also a exquisitely carved Suryanarayana idol in one corner besides several smaller idols of 

Lord Ganesha,Serpent gods,Shiva lingas etc.

The temple complex also houses two minor temples, one dedicated to Radhe Krishna (Vishnu Laxmi) and the other to Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha and Lord Vithala (Vishnu).

One has to climb down stairs to access the Shiva temple which is based in a excavated ground depression a few feet below ground level . It has a Shiva linga in the sanctum with Ganesha and Vithala idols inside wall niches around the doorway.

The Radhekrishna temple is made on a stone foundation and houses a exquisitely carved idol of Lord Krishna (also a Vishnu dashavatar) with his consort Radha sitting on is lap. 

Both the temples have elaborately carved motifs on the walls, pillars and pilasters.

The temple set has been beautified by a well maintained green lawn having a cemented pathway leading one around the temples.

One also comes across a few beautifull wooden rathas (chariots) used in holy processions during festivals.

Just a few meters away from the Bhoo Varaha temple are a couple of ruined temples. One is beyond repair and the other is heading in that direction.

But the second one is interesting because it contains several sculpted stone slabs depicting mythological stories.

The temple lacks a ceiling and the pillars are exposed in the open.

There is a defaced Nandi idol facing the sanctum, which houses a Shiva Linga.

Halasi as one notices is a village steeped in history , where several inscriptions, copper plates (which gave an idea of the Kadambas and their contemporaries ) were discovered. The village is also home to several other ancient temple ruins.The other temples (e.g one at Ramteerth) are located just a few kilometers away and can be accessed within a days time.

Text and Photographs : Abhijit Rajadhyaksha


  1. wonderful write up. i was told that the priests at halasi varaha temple are from srivaishnava (Ramanuja cult). is it true? i am just curious to know about how ramanuja followers have reached a place where normally followers of madhwa/shaiva/nimbarka cults are seen.

  2. Thank you Nandana fr yr kind words. To be honest I reached Halsi on a sleepy afternoon and the priests themselves were having their quiet siesta. So, couldnt raise querries. But will make it a point to ask them , the next time around. Maybe I can sneak in a snap of the interiors as well (missed it as the garbhagriha was locked).

  3. No. they are not srivaishnavites. Strangely they are Shaiva Brahmins. One Parupatyagar is the pries who are the priests from generations. This family had received grants from the Kadambas of Goa as revealed from inscriptional evidences

  4. Hey...come on friends! There is no rule that only Vaishnavas or Shrivaishnavas should perform pooja or rituals in a Vishnu Temple, for God's sake! Smarta or Shaiva brahmins believe in Maha vishnu as well! In fact Shri Shankaracharya was the one who wrote many scripts on all the 3 ways of "Cults" under Sanatana Dharma, i.e., Shaiva, Vaishnava & Shaakta! He has written about Shiva, vishnu and Devi also!
    In Dakshina Kannada & Uttara kannada district there are so many Shiva temples which are traditionally taken care by ShivaLLy Madhva Brahmins! So, let us come out of shells and wear off these Vaishnava, shaiva spectacles!!!