At the foothills of the great Kalikadevi temple at Pavagadh Gujarat, there is a sprawling peaceful lake dotted with temples displaying the splendor of rural Gujarat. On the way to Champaner this picturesque landscape produces one of the finest architectures both Islamic and Hindu.
Driving down during the monsoon time can indeed change the mood of the land such that it almost feels like divinity descended on earth in a chariot of mist. And here among rocky hillsides strewn with huge boulders lie one of India's most ancient temples now in ruins - Lakulisa temple. This temple dates back to the 10th century though the cult of Lakulisa existed well into the 1 cen.A.D and has been mentioned the Mahabharata. This delapidated temple holds the iconography of Lord Shiva thought it houses Lakulisa within its walls. Among its very rare and fine sculptures one can see Dakshinamurthy Shiva, Ganesha and Gajantaka Shiva. Most of the upper half of the temple has fallen off and merged with the surrounding boulders leaving standing walls with intricate sculptures to show the original spendor of this great cult icon.
Lakulisa was the founder of Pashupata Shaivism which was one of the oldest and prominent Shaivite schools that existed in the early 1 cen A.D, though dating it is still uncertain. Lakulisa's school of Pashupata Shaivism originated at Kayavarohan in Gujarat and extended to Payar in Kashmir and Orissa in the east. It later spread far and wide and penetrated into Tamil Nadu in the 7th to 14th cen A.D.
Lakulisa's images are found all over India indicating that his cult was very well established. The Pashupatas were ascetics and were followers of the Bhakti movement. Lakulisa was almost considered an incarnate of Lord Shiva during his time. He is represented as a saint, teacher, yogi, and a man of divinity, very similar to the Buddha when it came to depiction in scupture. His teachings are codified in the Lakulisa Siddhanta, while in his images he is represented in Dharmachakrapravartana mudra with a Lakuta (stick) in one arm. His main desciples were Kausika, Gargya, Mitraka and Rusta.
Among may such temples and images, Lakulisa can be found in person in the ruined Bhairava temple on the banks of the Gangua river near Bhubaneswar where he is depicted as a four armed Lakulisa with the Jatamukuta and snake, very similar in appearance to Shiva Dakshinamurthy. Alternatively he is also found in the Orissa State Museum at Bhubaneswar.
What was this cult all about? Kaundinya in one of his commentaries on the Pashupata Sutras says that Lord Shiva taking the form of a Brahman as an incarnate at Kayavatarana, went on foot to ujjain and taught his doctrine to Bhagavat Kushika. The Pashupata doctrine was revealed by Lakulisa, the last of the 28 incarnations of Shiva. The worship of Shiva included strange practices which involved bathing in sand and holy ash thrice a day and living in isolation. I would suspect its quite close to our current day Nagas. What ever their practices and whether it conformed to the society at large, this once popular cult lost its dynamic presence and ceased to exist till today in its original known form.
What remains is a ruined temple dedicated to the last incarnate of Lord Shiva - Lakulisa, along the road to Champaner.
References: Religious Beliefs and Practices of North India During the Early Mediaeval by Vibhuti Bhushan Mishra