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Why Hindus and Jains Should Visit Lakkundi in Karnataka – Famous for Astounding Jain and Hindu Temples – Step Wells

Lakkundi, a serene hamlet on the Hubli-Hospet highway (NH-63) in Karnataka, lies just 12 km southeast of Gadag town and around 100 km west of the renowned tourist destination Hampi. This quaint village astonishes visitors with its remarkable temples crafted from soapstone. Lakkundi, also historically known as Lokkigundi or Lokkugundi, is home to as many as 20 exquisite temples, numerous stepwells, and a significant number of inscriptions. This historic town boasts magnificent temples, both Jain and Hindu, showcasing the architectural brilliance of our ancestors. Immerse yourself in the intricate details and stepwells brimming with water, testaments to both artistic expression and scientific ingenuity.

History of Lakkundi

Lakkundi's rich history is chronicled in various inscriptions from the Kalyani Chalukya or Western Chalukya period, around 973 CE. The Kalyani Chalukyas, whose capital was Kalyani (modern-day Basavakalyan), rose to prominence after the decline of the Rashtrakuta Empire in 972 CE. In 1191 CE, Hoysala King Veera Ballala II took control of Lakkundi, making it his capital. The royal mint during the Chalukya period was located here, indicating the town's historical significance.

Temples of Lakkundi

Lakkundi's temples, primarily built from greenish-blue chloritic schist (soapstone), epitomize the Vesara style of architecture—a blend of Nagara and Dravidian styles. The 11th and 12th centuries marked the zenith of Lakkundi's temple art, featuring intricate Kirtimukha sculptures and elaborate ornamentation.

Brahma Jinalaya Temple

Constructed in 1007 CE, the Brahma Jinalaya Temple is the oldest in Lakkundi. It comprises a garbhagriha (sanctum), an antarala (antechamber), a closed navaranga mandapa (hall), and an open pillared mukha mandapam with a sloped roof. The two-tiered Dravida vimana with a sukanasi (ornamented feature over the entrance) crowns the sanctum. The temple's deity, Neminatha, a Jain Tirthankara, is depicted in a kayotsarga posture.

Nanneshwara Temple

The Nanneshwara Temple stands on a raised platform (jagati) and shares structural similarities with the Brahma Jinalaya Temple. It features decorated door jambs, pilastered exterior walls, and devakosthas (niches resembling small temples) adorned with a prominent Kirtimukha motif.

Kashi Vishveshwara and Sun Temple

This double shrine temple (dvikuta) features two sanctums facing each other on a raised platform. The eastern shrine, dedicated to Kashi Vishveshwara, houses a three-foot Shiva lingam, while the opposite shrine is dedicated to Surya, the Sun god. Noteworthy sculptures on the walls depict scenes from Hindu mythology, including Shiva slaying Gajasura and Ravana lifting Mount Kailash.

Naganatha Temple

The Naganatha Temple's sanctum houses a Shiva lingam and a pedestal depicting a snake with seven hoods. The temple's exterior is adorned with pilasters and devakosthas, consistent with Lakkundi's architectural style.

Manikeshwara Temple

A 12th-century Trikutachala style temple, Manikeshwara features three shrines arranged around a central hall. The bell-shaped pillars and jaali (perforated stone work) on either side of the door enhance its architectural beauty. 

The nearby Muskukina Bavi stepwell, dating back to the 11th century, is another attraction with flights of steps on three sides leading to the water.

Other Significant Temples

Other notable temples in Lakkundi include the Virupaksha and Mallikarjuna Temples, each showcasing the intricate craftsmanship and historical significance of the region.

Lakkundi's temples are not only architectural marvels but also a testament to the region's rich cultural and religious history. The blend of Hindu and Jain heritage, exemplified through the exquisite temple structures and inscriptions, makes Lakkundi a must-visit for both Hindus and Jains. Visitors can immerse themselves in the serene beauty and historical grandeur of this hidden gem in Karnataka.