The Reign of Grandeur
Andhra Pradesh is an illustration of the diverse styles of temple building in the Indian subcontinent. The Chalukyan, Dravidian, Nagara and the Orissa idiom are seen in the construction of temples in this southern state. Among the various dynasties that ruled over this region, the Eastern Chalukyas who ruled over Coastal Andhra had a lion's share in shaping the destiny of the temples of East Godavari.
The temples of East Godavari owe their grandeur to the contribution of Eastern Chalukyas who were well known for their typical Dravidian style of art and architecture. Bikkavolu which is home to several important temples of the Eastern Chalukya period is a fine example of this style of architecture. Legend has it that, Biccavolu, which in the days of yore was known as Birudankinavolu, was named after its ruler King Gunaga Vijayaditya III who belonged to the Turupu Chalakya Vamsam. During their reign, these temples received great royal patronage.
Bikkavolu, located in the East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, stands witness to a group of six fine temples. Three temples located on the outskirts of the Bikkavolu village form the early group, with cognate architectural features and the other temples located within the village belong to a later group and they all are very prominent with great Silpakala nypunyam (sculpting skills).
SRI GOLINGESWARA SWAMY TEMPLE
Biccavolu contains about six temples built by Eastern Chalukyas out of which, the temple of Lord Golingeshwara is the biggest. This is one of the beautiful temples built during those times. It has a wealth of iconographic material, as all around it, and a beautiful Shivalingam and 33 lines Shasanam on the door jambs. The striking Garbha Gudi(sanctum sanctorum), the Antaralas (passages), the Mukha Mandapams (main hall) and other Mandapams adds to the beauty of the temple. As you enter the temple, there is a Mandapam that leads you to Mukha Mandapam. The Mandapam has a small shrine to its southern entrance. The Mukha Mandapam walls are decorated with pilasters (ornamental and structural columns) and screens and it houses three small shrines. In the Mukha Mandapam, there are two masterpieces- one is the figure of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi in the form of Alingana Chandra Sekhara Murthy and the other is that of Lord Ganesha in a seated posture. There is a narrow passage between the Mukha Mandapam and another Mandapam. As you go further you enter the Antarala of the temple, which is a bit narrow and
devoid of any decoration. This Antarala leads you to the Garbha Gudi (sanctum sanctorum) of Golingeshwara Swamy Temple. The idol in the sanctum sanctorum is a Shiva Lingam made of black granite. The walls of the sanctum sanctorum are decorated with Kostas that has sculptures, recesses and projections with pilasters. The Kostas are surmounted by Makaratoranams . The pillars on the wall have simple brackets capitals. Above the capital is a row of dwarfs and just above it there is a Kapota adorned with Simhalalata gables. Beyond this, there is a row of superb carvings in series. The Vimana (temple tower) above the Garbha Gudi contains a row of pillars and row of beams that ends at its base. Above this you can find twelve beam heads, two steps and a narrow Gala. Above the Gala is a Nagara Shikharam with a gable on each side. Above this, is a striking Kalasham placed in a double lotus. All in all, this temple takes you back in times when the temple was at the peak of glory. Truly grand isn’t it!!
SHIVA TEMPLE 1
This temple of Lord Shiva is situated on the out skirts of Biccavolu village. It has the typical Eastern Chalukyan looks with similar features as seen in their temples but the temple is more famous for its Shiva Lingam and the architecture. It features similar central niches on the three sides and also has a very good sculpture of Makara and other figurines on it. One such prominent feature here in this temple is the Nataraja sculpture dancing in the Chatura pose. This temple has resemblance of the Orissan style of sculpture because it follows the Lakulisas style of sculpting.
SHIVA TEMPLE 2
This is another large temple of Lord Shiva in the village fields which is famous for its architecture. The temple architecture reflects the Dravidian style with a blend of South Indian tradition especially, the Pallavan architecture which has been the main source of inspiration even for the Pattadakal group and the famous Rashtrakuta monument at Ellora. The very sight of Vimana (tower over Grabha Gudi) bears a resemblance to Pallava type of construction. Most of the niches, sculptures and figurines, that you get to see in typical Eastern Chalukyan temples, are missing here except for the carving of the Dwarapalakas on the door-jambs and Goddess Lakshmi on the lintel. Probably, they could not stand the ravages of time. Still, some of the carvings like the Dwarapalakas on the door-jambs and of Goddess Lakshmi on the lintel that are clearly seen, reminds you of the glorious workmanship of that era.
SHIVA TEMPLE 3
This is another of the temples of Lord Shiva built by the Eastern Chalukyas in the fields of Biccavolu village. The sculptures, iconographic the motifs and the figurines in this temple make this one of the best temples to visit. The sculptures of Gods like Mithuna, Surya and Vishnu are among the excellent workmanship. The latter two images resemble the one in Golingeshwara Swami Temple. One distinctive feature in the architecture of this temple is the images of Ganga and Yamuna- the two River Goddesses, on either sides of the doorway of this temple. To preserve the rich grandeur of these silent testaments of bygone era, the Archaeological Survey of India has undertaken the maintenance of this temple.
SRI RAJARAJA TEMPLE
This is another temple of Lord Shiva where the Lord takes the form of Sri Raja Rajeshwara Swamy. There are there niches on all the three sides, one devoted to Lord Ganesha, the second one to Lord Karthikeya on peacock and the third to Goddess Mahishasuramardini. There is also a beautiful Shiva Lingam with the deity of Sri Rajarajeshwari Devi.
SRI GANESHA TEMPLE
Sri Ganesha Temple at Biccavolu is a highly revered shrine and one of the beautiful stone temples of the Eastern Chalukyas, built during the 9th - 10th centuries. It enshrines a beautiful monolithic stone sculpture of Lord Ganesh as the presiding deity. The height of Lord Ganesha is 11ft, the biggest in the history of Eastern Chalukyan Sculpture attracting hundreds and thousands of devotees day by day. Till the time of Ganesha Vijaditya, this idol had a single pair of arms but during the course of time an additional pair of arm was introduced.
SRI CHANDRASEKHARA SWAMY
In Sri Chandra Sekhara Swamy Temple Lord Shiva is depicted as Chandra Sekhara Swamy and Goddess Parvathi as Balatripurasundari Devi. The temple is fully decorated with beautiful idols, sculptures and carvings all around on all four sides. There is a great fusion of the makara element in the kudu character which is different from the ones from the Karnatakan or Tamilian lands.