At first, I thought they were made of wood and finely polished. Solid mahagony. Though short of height, they were quite wide and had extensive art work done on them. Only when I touched them did I realize that these were pillars of rock so finely chiseled and polished. A real treat for art lovers. So neatly hidden in a temple situated away from the hustle-bustle of farming activity outside.
What I am talking about is the extra-ordinarily crafted pillars in the Sambulingeshwara temple in Kundugol, a remote village some 40 km from Hubli. So remote you don’t feel its existence even from 50 metres on the highway. A sharp left turn on a semi-laid road for about 2-3 km, you reach a village with few houses and suddenly the driver stops in front of a row old, short-walled houses and asks you to proceed through a narrow gap between two houses. The passage runs for about 15 feet and suddenly you are out in the front yard of the beautiful temple.
Even from there, you don’t notice anything special. A normal, low-roof temple building is what you get to see from a distance. Only as you near the temple you get to see the beautiful pillars – so many of them stacked so close to each other, you are in a dilemma which to look first.
As you come out to the entrance hall (mantapam) of the temple, you are struck with awe at the numerous pillars, each one different from the other in some respect, so beautifully holding the roof. There is a small hole in two of the pillars, and local people say milk and water used to ooze from those two holes! From where, there is no answer.
The exterior of the temple is again well adorned with exquisite art work out on panels of redstone on all sides, but these, having been exposed to the elements, have not been able to brave the weather like the pillars inside.
Oh, I forgot to mention an important piece of information – the temple is understood to have been built by Chalukyas in the 11th Century – that is right, it is more than one thousand years old! Fortunately, it has escaped the attention of subsequent rulers who had a fetish to destroy such beautiful works of art like they have done in other places.