Kolar has more than mere gold, rocky boulders, and frequent outbursts of anger and turbulence to offer. Its landscape is dotted with monuments in the form of temples, mosques and churches ranging from most ancient to modern and most magnificent to very mediocre. The epigraphy records take the history of the town to pre-Christian era when it was called ‘Kuvala-pura, the capital of the Ganga dynasty, The Gangas ruled large parts of southern Karnataka till about 10th century. For a century or two it had passed under the rule of Cholas from whom the Hoysalas took Kolar and proudly called themselves ‘lords of Kuvalala’. In their zeal for re-establishing a pan Hindu empire the Vijayanagar rulers had conquered regions in Kolar and beyond. Subsequently Kolar changed hands from the Marathas to the English and then to the Mysore kings. To the list of the above rulers who contributed to the architectural heritage, can be added the Sugutur chiefs and those of Morasu community.
Since then the town has developed chaotically but around some impressive monuments. The most outstanding among these monuments are the Kolaramma and the Somesvara temples. Both being protected monuments, have fortunately remained free from indiscriminate painting and thick coating of white wash. They are in a fairly good state of preservation. A closer study of the temple rituals on the other hand raise certain issues concerning socio-religious beliefs and practices currently prevailing in the local area. This is particularly true of Kolaramma temple.Much older of the two monuments Kolaramma is believed to have been built by Rajendra Chola around 1040 A.D. Numerous Tamil inscriptions testify to the Chola occupation of Kolar around this time. The temple is an ordinary structure built in the Dravidian style having a richly carved doorway. It is believed that the Mahadvara and Mukha-mantapa lay buried under earth with only a few portions visible. At that time the Deputy Commissioner got the earth removed as part of the relief work during the late distress and the inscribed stones around the temple were brought to light. The Mysore Archeological report gives details of these unearthed inscribed slabs. Most of them are in fragments and contain Chola inscriptions in Tamil.
According to the Mysore District Gazetteer the deity in the sanctum was Mahishamardini known popularly as Kolaramma. This had replaced the original image of Kolaramma as it was mutilated due to medieval vandalism. For some strange reason the image in the sanctum appears to have been disturbed once again and at some point of time in the recent past Kolaramma image was replaced by Saptamatrika figures. The Kolaramma has been shifted to one side. It is not clear as to which Agamic injunctions allowed such a spiritual transposition. No known shilpa or Vastu texts mention installing of Saptamatrikas in the sanctum. The priest however has this in defense of such measures. Being a malevolent deity any one experiencing her direct gaze are prone to calamities. Hence to protect the devotees from her direct gaze she is shifted to a side. The devotees can still have her darshan through a mirror placed in the opposite corner. The Mysore Archeological report mentions another stone image, about 6 feet high, as Kapalabhairavi, which, people call Mukanancharamma, owing to its nose having been broken off by the Mohammedans at some former time. According to some, this is the real image of Kolaramma, which, owing to its mutilation was removed from its place. It is also learnt that Ummaji Pandit who was a contemporary of Dalavay Devarajaiah of Mysore restored the Mahadvara of the Kolaramma temple. A few records show that during the time of Tipu Sultan the Saptamatrikas and a few other images were removed by Ummaji Pandit and his ancestors to the temple at Teruhalli for greater safety, as the Mohammedans had carried away all the ornaments together with the Utsava-Murti (image taken out in processions) and Simha –Vahana (lion chariot) made in silver.
A scorpion of immense proportion is carved on the garbha griha wall above the Saptamatrikas. This leads to another intriguing question as to whether the original deity was Mahishamardhini or Bhairavi as iconographic texts prescribe scorpion as an attribute of the latter not the former who is associated with lion. Strangely enough scorpion’s power does not seem to be confined to garbha griha alone. It continues to generate fear outside the sanctum as well. A pit near the sub shrine to the left of the sanctum is identified as the habitat of the scorpions. Overlooking this pit as if keeping watch over this is the image of original Kolaramma. In subsequent period the image gained reputation as the goddess of scorpions. It is said that 5th lunar day of the bright fortnight of Vishaka, every year a scorpion emerges from the pit below and stays near the deity and disappears! Devotees throng to offer silver replicas of the scorpion to this goddess to placate her. In or out of garbha griha in whatever form she is conceived Kolaramma seems to dominate the psyche of the devotees and continue to have gained spiritual edge over the other deities around.
As for another group of Saptamatrikas rendered in stucco, stated to be placed in the navaranga is conspicuously absent. Priest is not even aware that such a group existed Slightly away from the scorpions and the malevolent gaze of Kolaramma is Somesvara lording over a vast walled courtyard. The temple dedicated to Lord Somesvara is yet another good specimen of Dravidian architecture. The Mahadvara is a fine structure with an ornamental doorway and ceiling. The pillars of the Mukha-mantapa are also well executed. Each pillar is carved intricately with themes based on epics and historical events. Numbering sixty-four they are symmetrically aligned in vertical and horizontal formations. All along the basement are carved elephants indulging in varied acts of frolicking, marching, fighting and skipping over the linga and other objects represented to break the monotony of the frieze. Enshrined in the sanctum is Somesvara in the form of a linga measuring about 2-˝ ft high and 1 foot in diameter. The sanctum and the navaranga appear to be of earlier times.
Counteracting this atmosphere of simplicity and austerity are the immense gopura over the Mahadvara, Mukha-mantapa and Kalyana mantapa built at the back on to the right of the temple. The Kalyana mantapa is built of black stone unlike other parts of the temple, which are built of granite. The lofty gopura seems to be of some antiquity dating back to the Hoysala period but has unfortunately lost its top portion.
Altogether these elements present a breathtaking view with prancing and rearing mythical horses with riders happily riding away to nowhere and dancers, lovers, gods and goddesses forming an ethereal presence all over. All praise for the sculptors of Vijayanagar who have glorified Someshwara with skill and imagination, par excellence. Yet strangely the temple does not posses any inscriptions.
Most outstanding example of plastic art in the Kolaramma temple is the slab depicting a battle scene, now placed on the front platform of the entrance. It is a Viragal (heroic stone) probably belonging to Ganga period measuring 41/2 feet. The slab is covered with relief work of horses, elephants, soldiers, celestial nymphs and celestial cars. The upper portion of the slab is vacant probably the space reserved for inscription, which for some unknown reason was not engraved. The atmosphere is surcharged; one can almost hear the clashing of swords of the soldiers, galloping of the horses, the agony of the dying heroes, the anguish, and turmoil portrayed realistically and with great effectiveness. In the centre of the slab there is a big standing figure of a man with a curious dagger and a shield. Behind him are three attendants, one holding and umbrella and two holding the insignia of royalty. These fit in symmetrically well in the space. Opposite to these figures is a king riding an elephant with a number of horsemen behind. The other slabs in the temple seem to contain only one standing human figure. The priest while describing the battle is lost in oblivion. The turbulence of the medieval times seems to affect him deeply. However he comes out of his stupor, smiles and says hiding shame and hurt that Kolar of today is no better, slightest provocation is enough to spark off violence and destruction.