Thursday, 11 June 2015

Anegundi – The Case of Lathe Turned Pillars at Huchhappayaa Matt

After enjoying the view of Tungabhadra river crossing at Talvar Ghatta, you walk a few yards to Huchhappayya Matt. Huchhappayaa Matt is easily the most ornate of structures here in Anegundi. A matt or matha is similar to a monastery or an ashram. Vijaynagar sculpture is mostly characterized by the relief carvings on the pillars but the matt has more. 
Huchhappayya Matt at Anegundi Karnataka
The structure looks like the many mantapas you have seen here. But it soon gets interesting. The structure with a rectangular plan and plain pillars is two storeyed just like Talvar Ghatta. In the centre, the structure rises upto the first floor with a small mantapa on top. There are several nandis placed on a platform. They do not appear in-situ and were probably brought from different temples.

Looking up, you can see the four beam members forming the hollow on the top ornamented quite richly. It is not the usual Vijaynagar sculpture – the sculpture is fine and detailed. There are dancing figures of women – are they performing Dandiya? There are more male and female dancers while some play instruments. Then there are hunting scenes – you can see a prey hanging by its legs being carried on a pole. Battle scenes have warriors riding horses and foot soldiers carrying shields. You go through your Hampi photos – yes these beams are unusual and special.

The Lathe Turned Pillars

The surprise waits on the rear side. Here on the eastern side a colonnade has been erected, possibly at a later date, with surprise, lathe turned pillars. The pillars seem to be built of soapstone. These pillars look out of place among the standard plain granite Hampi pillars. Such lathe cut pillars are a feature of Chalukya, Hoysala and Kakatiya temples that you have seen in places like Lakkundi, Belur and Warangal, but never in Hampi or Anegundi. Hazaar Rama Temple in Hampi has black granite or soapstone pillars but they are not lathe cut. This is quite a mystery. Was there an earlier Chalukyan temple in the vicinity and these seven pillars harvested from it?
Talvar Ghatta, Collapsed Bridge and Tungabhadra River can be seen

View from road going to Anegundi Village
Before Bukka and Harihar moved south from Anegundi and across Tungabhadra to establish Vijaynagar Empire in Hampi, Anegundi was the regional power centre of earlier dynasties like Hoysalas, Chalukyas and Satavahanas. So it is possible that Anegundi had some earlier temples and these pillars were repurposed and used here. However in your several visits to Hampi, you don’t remember seeing any remnants of Chalukya / Hoysalas temples or soapstone / schist construction. Did Hampi too had some Chalukyan era temples which were brought down? This is highly unlikely. So while the Royal Enclosure of Hampi was totally razed by the combined armies of Deccan Sultanates, the temples like Hazaar Ram, Krishna, Virupaksh, Vitthal, Raghunath barely look blemished. Such Chalukyan temples probably existed north of Tungabhadra only in Anegundi.

Lets do Dandiya
Coming back to the beam with women doing Dandiya or Raas Lila; is it possible that the beam too is from a Chalukyan temple? Chalukyas later moved to Gujarat becoming Solankis - same Solankis who built the incredible vavs across Gujarat. And is this how dandiya dance migrated to Gujarat? Possibilities are endless and exciting.

Though the deity is missing, it could have been a Shiv temple since several nandis are seen and also because Huchhappayya means Shiv. It is also possible that the temple is named after Huchhappayya, a sage who meditated here. The setting and the missing deity gives it more plausibility. Also, since the structure uses recycled temple parts - had it been a temple or gudi, the structure would not have used repurposed pillars.
A guru surrounded by devotees, depicted in a wall painting at Anegondi, January 1801. ‘Painting on the Roof of the Jungum Mutt at Anagoondy.’ Latin verse below picture
Composite animal figures depicted in wall paintings at Anegondi, January 1801
Column in the math at Anegondi. January 1801. ‘Elevation of a Pillar in the Jungum Mutt at Anagoondy - All Sketches Courtesy British Library Online Gallery
Okay, there is another surprise now. While going through the online gallery of British Library you come across sketches made of ceiling paintings at this matt. Paintings on the ceiling! Now you again scour through your photos but you are just not able to discern any colour. The  description of one of the sketch says – “The Uchappaya Matha, a dilapidated two-storeyed structure to the south of the village, is of interest for the fragments of Vijayanagara paintings preserved on the ceiling beams. The major part of the paintings, though, no longer exist. This drawing depicts some of the figures from these paintings. In 'A survey of Painting in the Deccan' of 1937, Stella Kramrisch wrote, "The paintings on the ceiling of the Uchayappa Matha at Anegundi to-day present a black and white effect with some red lines of the preliminary drawing left. The colours have disappeared but for an eight petalled lotus with a yellow centre, surrounded by red, on a blue ground in a niche of the wall. Traces of the same colours are preserved in the spandrils and between the pilasters of the wall. Such a fresh blast of colour must be surmised also in the paintings of the ceiling, constructed of large stone slabs. These are covered with a thin white plaster. The entire ceiling, it seems, of the pillared Matha had been painted...In the Anegundi paintings, which can not be prior to the third quarter of the sixteenth century, the figures to a considerable extent adhere in body and movement to classical coinage. They have powerful limbs and vehement gestures...The faces however are almost always in profile or front view. Their firm outline conveys mediaeval rigour...".” Amazing isn’t it!
So with time the paintings are gone. You don’t remember any other Vijaynagar structure with paintings. This matha is full of surprises.
Amazing Anegundi

The matha has one of the best settings on both sides of the river. The temple enclosure sits in the middle of sylvan surroundings – lush paddy fields, swaying coconut trees and the boulders forming the backdrop. You can spend an entire afternoon here all alone. This is a piece of heaven. Anegundi and Hampi are blessed with far too many pieces of heaven. And this is just the beginning of their discovery.
Getting There: Anegundi is about 15 kms south east of Gangavathi taluk of Koppal district in Central Karnataka. Or take a boat or coracle ride from Hampi side just beyond Vitthal Temple

Related Anegundi Links:

Anegundi – Journey into Kishkindha, the Monkey Kingdom


  1. An interesting piece of investigative historical writing…..from where did lathe pillars turn up? What about Dandiya? Did it travel from south to west or is there another mystery waiting to be solved? Deeply intrigued I like this new style of writing. Carry on Mr. Holmes!

    1. Hi Aparna,

      Yes its such a surprise to see remnants of earlier temples in Anegundi while Hampi, from my experience, doesnt have any. Its possibly Hoysala or Chalukya temple. Again dandiya has such delicious possibilites - did it really move upwards to Gujarat along with the Chalukyas or every state had their own versions? Thanks as always for your motivation. History does gets interesting when such mysteries are thrown in.


  2. Excellent write up accompanied by equally superb exposures and composions

    1. Thanks Sir!

      Your appreciation is always inspiring. Do come visit this part of the world. I usually do not write dates of visits but do mention the season. Also the seasons can be gauged from the photos.

      Thanks again for reading and for your comments.


  3. But you could also always mention the date and time when you visited the site.