Dolmens of Talavadi

While ascending the Talavadi hill, we spotted a Dolmen like structure on its neighboring hillock. I had marked in my mind to explore this hill after our descent. Once we were at the base of the hill, we went ahead to explore the Dolmen/megalithic site. A short climb led us to a flat portion of the hill and we walked straight to reach the Dolmen site. Yes!  It was a huge dolmen with a stone circle. But the sad part was that it remained slightly damaged, although most of its parts were in place.   The stones used for the construction of Dolmen were huge and nicely dressed, having an even surface. The size of the cap stone of this Dolmen was roughly around 6 feet by 6 feet in length and breadth with its depth/height varying between 4 to 10 inches.
Disturbed Dolmen (No.1)
There was a natural water pond nearby and while exploring this area, we found another dolmen with a stone circle. But this had been completely destroyed with just only one of its stone slabs standing, while the rest were missing. Probably the stones were removed from here by miscreants. This stone Dolmen is very much similar to the first dolmen in its dimensions, going by the sizes of the stone circle and stone slab. After finding this, we became more curious and started to investigate this small hillock for more such structures. We went on to find another stone circle that lied completely disturbed. While walking around the hill, two fully intact Dolmens in another neighboring hill caught our attention and we were intrigued to explore that too!!!
Remains of Dolmen With Stone Circle (No.2)

  We tried to figure out the way to this neighboring hill which seemed nearby, but since no direct route was present, we decided to circumvent and reach this hill. This walk was much longer than we thought as we had to cross numerous small hillocks on the way. On one such hillock, we spotted a Dolmen without stone circle. The Dolmen was in a much better shape though a bit disturbed. Except for its front stone slab, all the others laid in-situ. Probably, this never had a front slab or it has gone missing. An anthill present inside the Dolmen obstructed our view and we couldn’t see much. 
Solitary Dolmen on Hillock (No.3)
Moving on from here and after walking for a good 15 minutes, we reached a check dam. After crossing the check dam, we entered into agricultural lands walking across which we found a bigger Dolmen that had been excavated by the locals in the greed for treasure; the site however would have carried plenty of bones and pieces of pottery. Here in this land we could spot few dolmens spread across, but the land comprised of standing crops which prevented us from venturing inside for inspection. Finally after crossing all the farm lands, we found a small foot route to the hillock on which we spotted the two intact dolmens. 
Excavated Dolmen ( No.4) 
Dolmen Along With Standing Crop (No.5)
Intact Dolmen ( No. 6 &7)
Finally after exploring the area we reached the spotted that had intact dolmen giving us a fair idea of the Dolmens once stood here. One of them had porthole on the eastern stone slab and only one we had come across here with porthole. These two were also so same size we had come across this area. Though nothing remained inside these dolmens, it was good to see them intact. From here we took other route were we came across the place which looked like ancient quarry site. Little further we found the fort wall probably the first tier of the Talavadi Fort. So we completed the circumventing the hill on which we spotted the dolmen. Thus completing adventurous trek and exploration.
Talavadi Hill in the Background
Dolmen No.6 
Broken Port Holed Slab 
Our efforts in finding any documentation related this place went in vain. By looking at the style and sizes of the stones, the Dolmens can be safely assigned to a period between 1000 BCE – 300 BCE. There are two articles in the KarnatakaItihasa Academy which mentions about the presence of megalithic sites around Kootgal hill, although they fail to mention about the existence of these dolmens. We only hope that the remnants survive the test of time and human greed. Megalithic structures are mysterious and need in-depth study in order to understand their purpose, rather than superficially relating them to burial practices. Off late, a lot of research is being carried out in this direction in order to gain more clarity.
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Talavadi Fort, Ramanagar - A forgotten fort


Talavadi is a small nondescript village off Ramanagara – Magadi road. Though not much history about this place is documented, it has in store many untold stories. Last Sunday, we got a chance to trek Kootgal Betta we spotted this fort and decided to trek next week. We planned and reached Talavadi quite early in the morning to start our trek.  I was accompanied by my son Adhi and my friend Shashi Kiran. We had our breakfast in Ramanagara and reached the deviation off the Ramanagara – Magadi road. Hereon, we began our off road drive to reach the base of this hill.  We had to make a few enquiries with the locals about the directions to reach the hill base and the trek route thereon. An elderly person informed us that it would be difficult to climb this hill as the route had been engulfed by grass and other thorny vegetation, and gave us the directions vaguely. We thanked him and decided to move ahead towards the hill base. 
Challenging Climb Near Bengaluru
Talavadi Hill Fort
We had to park our vehicle at a point from where there was no motor-able road, and had to walk to until the start point of the trek. At the first look, the hill seemed small giving us a thought that it wouldn’t be much of a challenge to scale the hill. We started our search for the trek route and reached a small temple dedicated to Udbhava Anjaneya Swamy. The guardian Lord reminded us to search around for the presence of any fort or its ruins.  After taking the blessings of the Lord, we decided to move ahead and actually had to almost circumvent the hill in search of a proper route to climb. After walking for almost 15 minutes, we reached a big water pond. Just by the side of the pond, we sighted a path which seemed trek-able and hence decided to ascend from here. 
Water Pond and The Fort
Sri Udbhava Anjaneya Swamy
 The initial climb was quite easy and straight forward, and we reached a tier of the fort wall.  Here we met two boys from Bengaluru who were also there to explore the hill. As we struck a conversation with the boys, I realized that they too were in search of the right path to continue their climb. I volunteered to search the environs for any path that could be walk-able.  Meanwhile I requested the others to rest at a place in shade and went in search of the route. After exploring the surroundings for some time, I zeroed in on the most probable route that could be taken to reach the top. I called the others to join me, along with Shashi and Adhi. Shashi took charge from here leading the way. Seeing the route that was to be taken hereon, the two boys gave up the trek and left the place without informing us! The vegetation was dense with tall grass and thorny shrubs.
Wade Thru the Grass and Thorny Shrubs
The Rock Cut Steps
Kootgal Betta
We continued to crawl under the grass and thorny shrubs and finally reached a point from where we were almost sure about the path further. Shashi did a wonderful job in finding the path and we reached a spot which had big boulders on either side. We sighted much fortification on the left boulder and so decided to explore it. The boulder was very steep with rock cut steps to aid the climb and passing these 15 odd steps was one hell of an experience! We reached the top of the hill which housed a ruined mandapa kind of a structure along with a fresh water pond. The fresh water pond was filled with many beautiful white lilies.  We spent some time enjoying the sight of the water pond and its surroundings. 
Fresh Water Pond
Flying High
Mandapa and Nadadwaja
White Water Lilies
As per an inscription found near Ramanagara (EC Vol 9 Ch 16) dated 1351 CE, Talavadi was ruled by a local Palegara named Bomanna, who was a feudal king under the rule of Bukkanna Vodeyar of Vijayanagara Kingdom. Later Sri Kempe Gowda captured and strengthened this fort, which mostly served as a military outpost during his rule.  Though much of the fortification has been damaged, its remnants give a good picture of what a grand fort it was once. The formation rocks are such that they served as natural defense from the three sides and the fort was only accessible from one side. At a few places, we were able to spot horse shoe marks which are a common sight across forts built by the Kempe Gowda clan. 
Horse Shoe Marks
Cliff Hanging
The descent posed us a challenge where we had to cross the 15 steep steps and we had to literally cliff hang for some time.  The descent across the grass and thorny path too was a bit challenging as we had to overstep and pass through them. Once we were out of this, the descent was easy. As we continued our descent, we spotted something really interesting on the neighbouring hill and decided to check them out on reaching the hill base.
The Dare Devil
Full View of Talavadi Fort
Hunt Begins
 To be continued. ….
  
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Hoysala: Mallikarjuna Temple, Hirenallur, Chikmagalur

  While zipping through country roads to reach Amrithapura, which is home to one of the most beautiful Hoysala temple, we stumbled upon a milestone having a familiar name of Hirenallur. On checking our travel diary, we realized this place too housed a Hoysala temple dedicated to Lord Mallikarjuna. As we had more than one option now, we were in a dilemma and as time was ticking, we had to decide quickly.  We made a quick enquiry about the temple and decided to proceed as we heard it was a ‘not to miss’ temple. Not wasting much time, we headed towards this temple and in about ten minutes time reached this magnificent temple.
Hoysala Mallikarjuna Temple Hirenallur Tarikere Chikmagalur
Mallikarjuna Temple 
8th Century Ganga inscription 
   Hirenallur is a small village of Kadur Taluka of Chikmagalur district. The Mallikarjuna temple situated here is a very beautiful Hoysala temple lesser known to the world. There is very little information about this temple in the Internet and print media. The temple is believed to have been built initially by the Gangas during the 8th century according to an inscription recently found here. Later the Hoysala king Ballala II renovated this temple and must have added the two cells to the main cell during the end of 12th century.
Very Beautifully Decorated Shiva Linga 
Heavily Decked Central Ceiling 
Tandaveshwara on Central Ceiling 
Central Ceiling Hoysala
Complicated Craving on the Ceiling 

Lord Vishnu Ananthasayana
Lord Ananthasayana 
Lord Shiva and Parvathi
Uma Maheshwara 
   The temple is a trikuta with Shiva Linga, Keshava and Surya Deva adorning the cells. The central ceiling is a masterpiece with complicated carvings on it and overshadows the beauty of this temple. There are sculptures of Ganapathi and Sapthamatrikas in the sabhamandapa of the temple as usual. The three Shikaras of this temple are heavily decked with images of the various gods and goddesses on them. This temple has been renovated by a few keen locals with the help of Sri Dharmasthala Trust under the guidance of Dr.Veerendra Hedge.
Lord Ugra Narashima 
Shikara and Outer Wall 
Carvings on the Shikara 
Veeragallu 
    There is a big and beautiful garden around the temple.  Another small temple adjacent to this temple is dedicated to Mailara Linga, housing two beautiful idols of Mailaras. On our way back, another small beautiful temple amidst a farm caught our eye.  This one too was dedicated to Lord Shiva in the form of a Linga. 
Mailara Linga 
Shiva Temple in the Farm 


Temples of Anjaneri, Nashik, Maharashtra

Pancha Digambar Temple Complex, Anjaneri
Pancha Digambar Temple Complex, Anjaneri

I was all set to descend the hill of Anjaneri after resting for a while at the Anjani Mata temple.  The experience uphill was exhilarating and I was fully charged up. However during my descent a group of temples situated a little distance away from the village of Anjaneri caught my attention. Hence, I decided to explore these temples of Anjaneri on reaching the base, completely forgetting about the caves that I wished to explore around the lakes. There are a few cave temples and an ashram besides a lake on the rear side of the first temple. As I continued my descent and reached the trek base, I immediately ordered a plate of special Maggi noodles at a hotel owned by an elderly person. I was extremely hungry and gulped down 2 full plates of noodles. My legs were tired and I started to have second thoughts about exploring the temple complexes near the village by foot. The temple complex was located at a distance of at least 2 km from the trek base. In the meanwhile, a bunch of boys who returned to their vehicle after completing the trek offered to drop me off till the cross-road and I happily welcomed their offer.
Hot Maggi
 After thanking them, I walked across the village of Anjaneri where I could sight the ruins of many temples spread here and there. I reached a spot where I found 3 Hero stones / Sati stones. Here on, I visited the first temple complex which was in ruins. It housed a big temple of Lord Vishnu along with another smaller temple dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi.  The temples remain mostly damaged, with some restoration work being undertaken currently by the ASI. The grandeur of this temple can be felt even in its ruins. It is disheartening to witness the state of this temple today. The main temple is built as per the ‘saptharatha plan’ and houses a damaged yet beautiful panchabhuma bhumija shikhara’, which can be classified under the ‘Hemadpanti/Hemadpanthi Style of Architecture’. Hemadpant was a celebrated physician of the Dwaparayuga, who cured Vibhishana, the brother of Ravana, King of Lanka.  In return, he begged the services of some giant architects with whose help he built numerous temples and step wells in western India, and these styles were collectively classified as ‘Hemadpanti Style of Architecture’. Historically, Hemadri or Hemadpant was a minister of the 9th Devagiri Yadava King Ramachandra (1271 -1308 CE), who was also a great writer and went on to build numerous temples in this region in Hemadpanthi Style of Architecture. There are carvings of Lord Vishnu’s incarnations on the outer walls of this temple. The door frame of the garbhagriha is of Chausakha with beautiful carvings of Trimurti (Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara) along with Lord Ganesha and Goddess Lakshmi on the lintel. The garbhagriha houses a damaged murti of Lord Vishnu on a Garuda peetha. The Lakshmi temple however is much worse than the main temple and devoid of any murti.
Goddess Lakshmi Devi Temple
Lord Vishnu Mandir
Chausakha Door Frame
Lord Brahma, Vishnu & Shiva Carved on the Lintel
Rubble of Lord Vishnu Temple
Right opposite to this temple is a temple dedicated to the Jaina Tirthankara Rishabhanatha (Adinatha) which is in complete ruins.  What a sad and disturbing sight it was! The temple parts were seen spread across the area inside the fence built by the ASI, reflecting the sheer carelessness in maintaining and preserving our heritage. The murti of Lord Rishabhanatha is kept under the open sky without any shelter. From here, I moved on to the next and the biggest temple complex called as the Pancha Digambar Temple. The main temple here has been converted, currently being dedicated to Lord Shiva. This conversion may have happened in the later centuries, as a part of an effort in its restoration. Thus the main temple here is in a better shape, although not good. The ASI however is continuously and constantly working towards the temple’s repair. There are 4 small temples in this complex apart from the main temple and an open air ASI Museum, where all the artifacts found in this area are preserved. The last temple here was a small yet beautiful Jaina temple situated about a few meters away from this temple complex. This temple houses a murti of Jaina Tirthankara. All the temples here were built during the reign of the Devagiri Yadavas between 11th and 13th centuries. Thus ending my quest for this place, only ask was to walk to the main road and board a bus back to Nashik!
Jaina Tirthankara Rishabhanatha
Main Temple of Pancha Digambar Temple Complex
Inscribed Stone
Restoration Work in Progress
Jain Temple


Reference:
1. Maharashtra district Gazetteer - Nashik


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