Lakshmeshwar town in Gadag district has a distinct place in the history of Karnataka. During the reign of the Chalukyas of Badami, it was a well-known Jain religious centre. Earlier, Lakshmeshwar was known as Puligere (Tiger Pond) and various other names like Huligere, Purigere, Porigere, Purikanagar and Pulikanagar among others. There is ample evidence to show that Adikavi Pampa wrote his famous poetry in Lakshmeshwar.
King Lakshmanarasa ruled Puligere. According to historical records, it was during his time that Puligere came to be called as Lakshmeshwar and it continues to be called by that name.
There are many important temples in this historic town. The most important among them is the Someshwara temple built towards the end of 11th century. This temple with three main entrances and surrounded by high walls resembles a fort.
It has the traditional structures of a temple including a garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum), ardha mantapa (halfway hall), spacious navaranga and mukha mantapa (entrance porch). In fact, it is a splendid specimen of Chalukyan architecture. The Nandi and Shiva-Parvati idols in the temple are exquisitely sculpted.
It is said that these idols were brought by a Shiva devotee from Saurashtra and installed here. These idols are also referred to as Saurashtra Someshwara.
This temple was built during the reign of Lakshmanarasa, the ruler of Lakshmeshwara. This prominent Shiva temple is located in the Hirebana area of the town. This temple, built in Chalukyan style, comprises three garbha grihas, a navaranga in the middle and an expansive mantapa in the front.
In the sanctum sanctorum is a peetha (divine seat) in the Chalukyan style, on which is a Shivalinga. This temple is popularly known as Lakshmilinga Gudi, but why it is so called is still a mystery.
The other temples in Lakshmeshwar include the Balleshwara and the Gollaleshwara temples. Balleshwara temple is located in a highly elevated area in Basti Bana of Lakshmeshwar. The idols of Ishwara and Nandi are found in the garbha griha of the temple.
The walls outside the temple are adorned with numerous small idols. However, due to the application of lime wash on the walls of the temple, the intricacy of the sculptures is lost. There is a spacious compound in front of the temple. Though the Gollaleshwara temple is a very large temple, it is not known for its sculptural splendour. The sanctum sanctorum of this temple consists of the idols of Ishwara and Nandi.
The influence of Jainism in Laksmeshwar is exemplified by Shankha Basadi and Ananthanatha Basadi. Shankha Basadi is said to have been built even before the rule of the Chalukyas. Located in Basti Bana locality of the town, Shantinath, the 16th Jain Thirthankara, is the presiding deity of this Jain shrine. Since shankha (conch) is the symbol of Shantinath, this basadi is also known as Shankha Basadi. The idol in this Jain shrine exhibits exceptional sculptural skills of the times. It has a garbha griha (central part of the shrine for the main deity), navaranga and a spacious mukha mantapa. There is a tall deepa stambha in front of the shrine.
The high walls of the temple are adorned with stonework lattice. History tells us that Mahakavi Pampa wrote his monumental work, "Adi Purana", seated in this basadi. This basadi in now in a precarious condition. One of the prominent structural stones has cracked and calls for immediate restoration.
The other well-known basadi is the Ananthanatha basadi, located in the middle of the town. This shrine is an example of the Chalukyan style of architecture. The idol of Ananthanatha, one of the 24 Thirthankaras, is installed in the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine.
Though there are many mosques in Lakshmeshwar, the most prominent among them is the Jumma Masjid which dates back to the time of the Adil Shahi rule. According to records, the mosque was built in 1617 by one Ankush Khan.
The massive doors of the mosque are bigger than that of a fort entrance. The mosque with two tall minars and a large semicircular dome is constructed in Indo-Saracenic architectural style. There are Dravidian style chains hanging across the ceiling of the mosque.
Apart from these prominent places of worship, Lakshmeshwar is home to a number of other shrines, a dargah, Kodiyellamma temple, a gigantic idol of Suryanarayana, the Mookha Basavanna shrine and so on.
However, they have not come under the purview or protection of either the government or the departments of Archaeology and Tourism. They have also not drawn the attention of history scholars. As a result, they are not in the limelight and are in a state of negligence.
Translated by Michael Patrao