The Kadambas were known for their own style of temple building. The dynasty was founded by Mayura Sharman or Sharma in about 4th century AD. However, the exact time is not known, though different versions are available from historians. But it was believed that Mayura was the first king of the dynasty and was the ruler during the time of Pallava King Vishnugopa of Kachipuram.
After losing to North Indian Emperor Samudragupta, Vishnugopa’s army had weakened. Mayura seized the opportunity, formed his own army and drove away the Pallavas from Kannada territory. Prior to this, Mayura, as a young Brahmin boy, went to Kanchipuram for his higher studies. It is believed that Mayura then had heated exchanges with the Pallava princes and fled the place.
On reaching Chandravalli (near Chitradurga), Mayura took shelter in a cave and founded his own dynasty. He also changed his surname to Varman, the surname of the Pallava Kshatriyas. Banavasi, near Sirsi, was their first capital and their rule extended to Gomantak or present day Goa.
Halasi or Halsi in Belgaum district was their second capital where there are some temples built by the Kadamba rulers. The Komala Narayana Temple in Devgram is quite well-known. The Hoysalas, probably impressed by the beauty of the structure, have used similar styles in the temples built by them.
Halasi was called Patalika in ancient times and the Bhoo Varaha Laxmi Narasimha Temple is one of the best examples of the Kadamba style of architecture. The 50 feet tall tower of the inner shrine or garbhagruha is very similar to the Madhukeswar temple in Banavasi built by them.
According to a legend associated with this shrine, Pandavas built this temple overnight during their exile and worshiped Lord Vishnu here. But, according to historians, it was built during the Kadamba period or 5th century AD, and inscriptions inside the temple also support this.
Inside the temple, there are two garbhagruhas facing each other. In the right one is the four feet idol of Lord Shri Vishnu in a sitting posture. The idols of Suryanarayana and Mahalaxmi are just behind the main idol. According to the temple priest, the two feet tall idol of Narasimha, on the left side of Vishnu, is swayambhu or udbhava and not sculpted by anybody.
The garbhagruha on the left side has the idol of Bhoo Varaha Swamy. Lord Vishnu's Varaha avatar, where he carries Mother Earth (or Bhoodevi) in his mouth, can be seen. The beautifully carved lotus on the ceiling goes to prove that the Kadambas patronised and developed their own art form.
Just outside the main temple are smaller temples dedicated to Ganesha, Shiva and Vitthala. One fine statue of Radha Krishna can also be seen in a smaller shrine.
Though the Archeological Survey of India is looking after this ancient structure, the temple has no funds for improvement, said Vishnu Venkatesh Paripatyadar, the temple priest.
According to him, the property that belonged to the temple was taken away by the government in 1975 and now he and his family members performed the daily puja with their own money. He also said that the temple received no help from the State Government.
Though the Archeological Department is renovating this ancient structure, the Temple Trust is badly in need of financial help from visitors. According to Mr Paripatyadar, many ministers, MPs and MLAs visited the temple and promised help but forgot their promise soon after reaching Bangalore.
Those willing to contribute can contact: Shree Bhoo Varaha Narasimha Devasthan, Khanapur, Halasi, Belgaum district - 591142; Tel: 08336-236473.