The Ancient Mahamaya Temple At Kuknoor

Kuknoor, a small town in the state of Karnataka, bears a legendary symbol of Indian medieval history dominated by the Chalukya and Rashtrakuta dynasties. Renowned for the presence of famous Hindu temples of the 6th and the 13th centuries, the town illustrates a rich cultural heritage and tradition. The Mahamaya Temple in Kuknoor symbolizes the ancient depiction of history twined within the heart of the town.

The Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas considered Kuknoor as their city of fortification. To ensure the safety and security of the kingdom, they built temples powerful to protect themselves from evil. It is a belief in the Hindu religion that if a temple is faced in the southern direction then the strength and power are multiplied. The Mahamaya temple is also significant in facing southwards, portraying a symbol of might and supremacy.

026 Mahamaya
Photo of ‘026 Mahamaya’ by Anandajoti Bhikkhu under CC BY 2.0

The Myths and Beliefs

Several ancient and legendary stories and beliefs are associated with the Mahamaya temple. A certain sector of historians and religious groups believe that a temple of Goddess Kali is concealed below the temple complex.  The reason for which the temple is devoted to Goddess Kali. Three deities of the Goddess are placed inside the temple – Mahakali, Mahamaya and Kshetrapala.

The epic Mahabharata mentions the temple in its scriptures. King Chandrahasa, the ruler of the Kuntala kingdom, played a significant role in the tales of the epic. He joined Arjuna and Lord Krishna to successfully perform the Aswamedha Yagna conducted by Yudhishtir. He had bestowed enormous amounts of wealth and soldiers to Arjuna and Lord Krishna as his contribution to the Yagna. It is said that he used to visit the temple of Mahamaya to seek blessings from the Goddess. He was an ardent devotee of Goddess Kali and offered his prayers and devotion to the temple.

How to reach the temple?

The nearest airport is Hubballi in Bangalore. The nearest railway station is Bagalkot. Private and public buses are available in abundance from Bangalore, Koppal, and Hubli. You can also hire a cab and ride your own vehicle from the nearby cities in Karnataka.

The Temple Architecture

The temple presents a simplistic look with minimal sculptural carvings or designs. The ornamentation is modest mostly depicting a pleasant colour. The walls are high hoisting the dome shaped structure of the temple. Each deity resides in separate rooms inside the center of the temple. The gates of the rooms are kept locked and opened only during the scheduled timings of the temple. Devotees mainly can be seen early in the morning when the priests perform the daily worship and in the evenings when the aarti is performed.

The Three supreme deities

The presence of the three deities within the temple signifies the intense energy and force governing it. Mahamaya is the aggressive form of Goddess Durga. During the battle between Lord Indra and the demon king Mahishasur, the god sought the support of Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva, and Lord Brahma. The three supreme Gods created Mahamaya with their powers who fought against Mahishasur and defected him.

Mahakali is an incarnation of Mahamaya. It is said that she emerged from the body of Lord Vishnu to protect the world from the demons Kaitabha and Madhu. There are several stories of Mahakali defeating the demons who attacked her and intensified her anger.

Kshetrapala known as Bhairava, is the deity of Lord Shiva. It is a ritual to hand over the keys of the temple to Kshetrapala after the daily prayers. He is considered as the custodian of the temple, who guards and controls the entire area. Considered to be the guardian deity, Bhairava is offered prayers at the end of each festival held in the temple.

Though the temple showcases a modest look unlike many of the prominent temples of India, yet the history and belied hidden inside it allures many worshippers. The devotees of Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva consider the temple as a sacred one, protecting the world from the evil spirits. The divine power of the deities allures many to offer their prayers in front of the supreme power of the Gods.

Ancient old temples in India like the Mahamaya temple must be preserved and renovated significantly to protect the historical significance and religious sentiments of the people. The myths and beliefs revolving around the temple are a strong attracting force for the devotees to appear before the Gods and worship them. The world needs the blessings and strength of Goddess Kali to ward off the evil and bring peace and harmony. Hence it is significant as well as important to conserve the temple. This will enable the temple being added to the bucket list of tourists visiting the state of Karnataka. The fame of the temple will spread throughout India and will surely entice hundreds of visitors every year. People enthusiastic in historical sites and people with religious beliefs will surely visit the temple and be enriched by the power encapsulated in it.

Featured Photo of ‘Kuknoor-idols’ by Shivakumar Patil under CC0 1.0

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