There is something about a railway track that makes you want to stop midway through your journey. We were driving down through some nondescript villages near Hassan when we were distracted by a never-ending track that cut through the fields and seemed to head nowhere. Our destination however was a village called Koravanagala, located 12 kms from Hassan and we were looking for the three ancient Hoysala temples built by three brothers who had apparently competed with each other to build the most beautiful monument. There are many Hoysala temples near Hassan and the Hoysala temple in Koravangala was one of the oldest built over 1000 years ago.
As we resumed our journey, we looked across the yellow-green fields and saw the distant outline of a temple. A dry lake was scattered with a few sculptures around. And there stood a Dvikuta monument, with two shrines facing each other. Soon, we were mobbed with kids who were busy playing marbles inside the compound. The 12th-century Hoysala temple in Koravangala, dedicated to Shiva was called Buceswara, built by a chieftain, Bucci during the reign of king Veera Ballalla 11 . The kids called out to the local guide who told us that the temple was built after Bucci , on behalf of the Hoysalas, won a war against the Cholas, even though he had lost his sons in the battle.
However, the inscriptions in the temple say that Bucci and his two brothers vied with each other to build the most beautiful Shiva temple in Koravangala , within a span of 15 years. And while Bucci’s Buceswara survived the test of time, the temples built by his older brothers, Govinda and Naka are today in ruins.
Walking around Buceswara temple with a huge caravan of kids behind us, we saw some of the most interesting sculptures ever built on a Hoysala temple. A food chain, for instance, showed animals feeding on the other. The Hoysala crest, depicting the Sala legend stood on top and we were told that the kalasa was original.
As we entered the shrine, the kids brought a torch and in the dim light, we saw the cells containing a Shiva Linga and a cult figure of Surya placed opposite each other. A lone Bhairava stood quietly among other sculptures, while a revolving Nandi was placed in front of the Linga.
While we marveled at the workmanship, guides have a way of weaving a story out of any sculpture. So, he insisted that we make a wish and if the stone slab holding the Nandi moved smoothly, he added that our wish would indeed come true.
We left the Buccaneswara temple and headed towards the ruins of the other two monuments. The pillars and sculptures looked exquisite, even though they were covered by the dense growth of shrubs, with cows and pigs feeding on them.
We returned to Bucci’s temple and sat quietly, lost in our thoughts. A lone boy who was engrossed in his marbles gave us company until his friends came looking for him. We do not know for how long we sat there, but the sound of a distant train interrupted our reverie and we resumed our journey.