Kadiyali Mahishamardini Temple of Udupi is one of the oldest temples in the district of South Kanara and has a history of more than 1200 years. According to the famed archaeologist, Late Dr. P. Gururaja Bhatt, this Temple is as ancient as Sri Ananteshwara Temple of Udupi, established early as in the 7th Century and is thus more ancient than the Lord Sri Krishna Temple. He based this opinion on the style of sculpture of the Vigraha (statue) of Kadiyali Mahishamardini, which resembles the style of Chalukyas of Badami.The unique features of the statue are as follows The statue of Mahishamardini is in a standing posture. She has four arms. In Her upper right hand, She holds the Prayaga Chakra (the discus) and in Her upper left hand, the Shanka (conch shell). She is piercing the head of Mahishaasura, the buffalo shaped demon, who has fallen at Her feet, with the Trishul (Trident) held in Her lower right hand. She is pulling the tail of Mahishaasura with Her lower left hand. This emphatically portrays the helplessness of the Demon whose abdomen is bulging due to the pressure exerted by the pulling of his tail.
The bearing of the Goddess in the standing posture, Her facial expression and the casual way of Her holding the weapons shows that it is but a child’s play for Her to vanquish evil. This is a sculpture of unique beauty, devoid of any ornamental trappings. One falls under Her divine spell the moment they lay eyes on Her.
Kadiyali part of Udupi or Shivalli in the district of South Kanara, has claimed to be regarded as one of the most ancient and reputed centres of Shakti worship in Karnataka. This claim for recognition is not based on the magnificence of any architectural execution in this area, for a historian or archaeologist will have hardly anything to be seized with spectacular physical expression. An ordinary stone structure of the medium size with slanting roofs covered by thick granite slabs, very characteristic of the Western Coast, particularly of the Kanara Districts and Kerala, is the abode of Goddess Durga. This edifice is ascribable to circa 10th century A. D.
In the sanctum sanctorum is installed the Mulasthana deity, the Mahishamardini form of Durga. The real greatness of the monument lies in the iconographic significance of the sculpture. Undoubtedly, this image is an early type of this class of Durga representation. It is assignable to circa 6th century A. D. Nearly two feet in height, Devi is carved out of black hard but smooth stone. The trident is held almost in the vertical position, the head of Mahisha being pierced by the end of the trident Karanda Mukuta is seen mounted by a lotus, which is rarely seen in figures later than the 8th century A. D. This is an indication of Divine Power. The loin cloth is shown just in the form of a modest underwear. The Kati-sutra presents the features of a belt. The beaded necklace and the ribbon-like ananta clearly testify to the antiquity of the image. There is the clear depiction of severity on the face, perhaps born out of the determination to vanquish Mahisha, the demon.