Ishvara Temple, Arasikere

Ishvara Temple in Arasikere, Hassan district, Karnataka, dates to c. 1220 CE rule of Hoysala Empire. Arasikere (lit "Queens tank"; 'Arasi' means "queen" or "princess" and 'kere' means "tank" in the Kannada language) is located 60 km north the historic city of Mysore and 41 km north of Hassan city. The temple, which is dedicated to Hindu God Shiva, though modest in size and figure sculpture, is considered the most complex in architecture among surviving Hoysala monuments because of its ground plan: a 16-pointed star shaped mantapa (hall), in addition to an asymmetrical star shaped shrine, whose star points are of three different types.

The temple, which faces east like all Hoysala constructions, uses soapstone as basic building material and is a ekakuta shrine (single shrine or cella) with two mantapas, one open and one closed. All three units are connected to form a unity. The sanctum (garbhagriha) enshrines a linga, the universal symbol of God Shiva. The mantapa is where the devotees gather. The closed mantapa does not have any windows. The ceiling in the closed mantapa is divided into nine compartments or "bays" by the four lathe turned pillars that support the ceiling. The unusual stellate design of the open mantapa is a deviation from the "staggered square" - a standard in Hoysala constructions, and offers no opening for devotees to enter the temple. The entrance is through a "bay" between the two mantapas.

The shrine has a tower (superstructure or Sikhara) which is intact, though the finial (Kalasha) is a recent replacement. The vestibule, which connects the shrine to the closed mantapa has its own tower called Sukanasi. The term "nose" is sometimes used to describe this tower because it is a low protrusion of the main tower (tower over the shrine). On this "nose" is an image of a bull (Nandi), which may be a more recent addition.

The outer wall of the vestibule shares the same decoration as the outer wall of the shrine, but is inconspicuous because it forms a short continuation between the wall of the shrine and that of closed mantapa. The outer wall of the shrine is stellate, but the star points are not identical, rather they form three different kinds of star points, making the design complicated and unusual. The lower half of the outer wall of the shrine and the outer wall of the closed mantapa share the same architectural articulation. The open hall, with its 16-pointed star plan is most unusual design built by Hoysala architects. The central ceiling in the closed mantapa and the vestibule are decorated elaborately.

Both the interior and exterior of the temple shows interesting workmanship. The elegantly decorated ceilings, the domical ceiling of the open mantapa, the sculptures of Dwarapalakas (door keepers) in the closed mantapa (also called navaranga), the wall panel images numbering 120 (on pilasters between aedicules - miniature towers) carved on the outer walls are noteworthy.

Ishvara Temple, Arasikere is 41 km from Hassan and 176 km from Bangalore.

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