Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Legacy of Kirttiraya and his Family - Aruvanahalli

Aruvanahalli, a small village in Madduru taluk, today lost in oblivion was once a very prosperous town under the local chieftain family of Badavara. Kirttiraya of the Badavara Family ruled this region after having it granted by the great Hoysala king Viraballaladeva III. The same has been documented in an inscription here dated 18th October 1316 C.E. which records the grant of elephants, various villages including Aruhalli (erstwhile name), and water tanks. For 250 odd years at least, as per the inscriptions found here, Aruvanahalli was an important center and received a lot of royal patronage from the Hoysala and Vijayanagara Kings. The memorial stones of this family and their people are unique and significant, which rightfully should have given this village a prominent place in the history of Karnataka.
Inscription mentioning Donation by Hoysala King Viraballaladeva (1316 CE)
There are 2 inscriptions found here belonging to the Viraballaladeva period and one dated 1341 CE in theVeeragudi' or temples built in the memory of the hero.  Though the latter inscription is completely worn out with nothing much being recognizable, an assumption can be made that the veeragudi is dedicated to King Kirttiraya. This veeragudi is located right next to what is identified as Kirttiraya’s yard, where the main inscription of Viraballaladeva is present along with a Shiva Linga. Veeragudi comprises 3 vertical stone slabs with a top horizontal covering slab.
Though the central standing slab has been damaged on its left, its panels are clearly visible for identification.
1st  and 2nd rows from bottom -   Depicts the valor of King Kirttiraya and his army in a battle.
3rd row from the bottom - Depicts his 5 wives; 2 Chauri bearing apsaras carrying the king to heaven; and blessing hands symbolizing self-immolation. As the panel remains broken, our assumption is that there would have been 5 blessing hands originally instead of 3, representing his 5 wives.
4th row or the topmost row – Depicts the king seated with his 5 wives accompanied by an attendee, praying to Lord Shiva. The panel remains partially damaged.  
The left vertical slab carries an inscription while the right slab has 3 panels –the bottom row depicts drummers in an army procession, the middle row depicts a man who seems to be playing a musical instrument while the rest of the army is seen following him and the top row depicting the king gearing up for the war with the help of his queen. This panel remains partly damaged.  
Kritiraya's Veeragudi
Worn out Inscription (1341 CE)
 Another inscription dated 1345 CE here states about the donation of land by the sons of Kirttiraya namely Pachyapa (Bachiyappa/Bachappa), Dayanna (Devappa), and Nagappa (Nagarasa). This helps us confirm that King Kirttiraya died before 1345 CE. Bachappa was a very powerful and strong chieftain of Aruvanahalli as recorded in an inscription dated 1358 CE here. The inscription also mentions his valor, noble deeds, and construction activities undertaken. A town named Bachapattana was also built in his name.
Land Donation Inscription (1358 CE)
Inside Kirttiraya’s yard is another pillar carrying an inscription in the memory of his son and daughter-in-law, Devappa and Baichakka installed by his eldest son Bachappa in 1362 CE. The reason for their death however is not recorded.
Pillar Inscription (1362 CE)
Memorial Stone of Devappa & Baichakka
There is another Veeragallu with an inscription of 1369 CE which speaks about Nagarasa, the second son of Kirttiraya, and his three wives – Baichakka, Bayidevi, and Madara Gaudi. But neither the inscription nor the panels give any details about the cause of his death.
Memorial stone of Nagarasa and his Wives (1369 CE)
Another interesting inscription besides Kirttiraya’s yard records the division of the property inherited among the surviving sons of Kirttiraya – Hiriya Bachiyappa and Chikka Bachiyappa from Bachiyappa, the eldest son of Kirttiraya. The reason for this division is not known. The letter for the same was signed by both and handed over to Bachiyappa in the presence of various witnesses and Goudas/leaders of the villages under Aruvanahalli. The same was also recorded in the inscription and later installed. This incident took place in the year 1374 CE and it can be inferred that King Kirttiraya had a total of five sons.  
Property Division Inscription (1374 CE)
The grandest Veeragudi here and probably anywhere else also is dedicated to Bachappa or Bachiyappa or Bachiraja. This is the tallest Veeragudi we have seen to date, measuring about 10 feet in height. It was set up by Bachappa’s eldest son Bukkanna. He also visited the Virupaksha temple of Hampi on the banks of river Tungabhadra to perform his father’s last rites. This incident took place in 1381 CE.
The central standing slab of the Veeragudi has 4 panels -
1st row from the bottom- Bachappa (?) riding a horse, a person carrying probably water, 4 blessing hands of the 4 wives of Bachappa.
2nd row from the bottom – A lady warrior seated on an elephant, Bachappa (?) riding a horse, Bachappa being carried in a palanquin with an attendee holding an umbrella.
3rd row from the bottom – Chauri bearing Apsaras carrying Bachappa and his 4 wives to heaven accompanied by female attendees seated on elephants.
4th row from bottom – Bachappa being garlanded by the divine priest in heaven in the presence of his 4 wives and musicians playing music in front of Lord Shiva gudi with a Nandi mandapa.
The right vertical slab carries an inscription, apart from the two rows of seated females (probably wives of Kempanna, son of Bachappa) and the left slab at its bottom has 5 blessing hands. 
Tallest Veeragudi of Bachiyappa (Even our Vehicle is Dwarfed in front of it)
Bachiyappa & His Wives
Inscription Regarding this Memorial (1381)
5 Blessing Hands
An inscription in front of Patalamma Devi temple dated 1388 CE  speaks about the division of property of Aruvanahalli probably among the sons of Bachiyappa – Kempanna and Bukkanna. There is an inscription in the neighboring village of Hagalahalli that speaks about receiving land from the chieftain of this village since they couldn’t repay the loan in time. This inscription gives details of the sons of Bachiyappa as Bukkanna (eldest son), Kirttideva, Kempanna, and Chavudappa. Death of Kempanna is inscribed under the inscription of Bachiyappa though it is incomplete to ascertain the date of his death.
Property Division Inscription (1388 CE)
The last inscription found here is on the Tulasi Brindhavana dated 1569 CE, describing the construction of the same by Badikola Bhatta Mahadeva, son of Mayideva and the punya gained due to its construction is shared by his wife and mother in equal parts. 

Tulasi Brindhavana Built By Bhatta Mahadeva
Inscription Regarding its Construction (1569 CE)
There are many interesting hero stones/ memorial stones spread across the surrounding areas devoid of any inscriptions, thus making it difficult to ascertain to whom it belongs and the exact period of installation. However, we can safely assign them to the same period as the above-described inscriptions and hero stones.
Memorial Stones of Aruvanahalli
The memorial stone of dogs or guards with dogs – pretty unique and fascinating to see the dog leash with the collar as depicted here.
Memorial Stone of Guards With Dogs
Buried hero stone with only the topmost row visible – depicting the garlanding of two heroes by the divine priest in front of Lord Shiva gudi with Nandi mandapa.
Buried hero with stone only the topmost row visible – depicting the garlanding of two heroes accompanied by a female, by the divine priest in front of Lord Shiva Gudi with Nandi mandapa.
Buried Veeragudi (6845) with only two top rows visible – depicting the hero with his wife in the central standing slab.
Hero stone (6852 - dedicated to a war hero seen with his two wives.
Hero stone (6853) - unique hero stone depicting the self-immolation of a hero for the betterment of areca nut farms.
Veeragudi - dedicated to a war hero seen with his wife.

Buried Hero stone - only the top two rows are visible – depicting the war hero with his wife.
Buried Veeragudi  - bottom part remains buried – depicting the war hero with his wife.
Memorial Stone (?)- not sure what it depicts- seems like the depiction of a man performing a thread ceremony to a Peepal tree (a similar event is described in the Bachiyappa inscription).

Hero stone - Hero died in the war with his two wives.
Memorial Stone - not sure what it depicts – Man depicted with a whip and woman holding a kamandalam.

Hero stone  – 2 panels – depicting the war hero with his three wives.

Yantra stone
Hero stone - 4 panels- bottommost row depicts a blessing hand with a horse (wonder what the horse signifies), 2nd row from the bottom- hero killing a tiger, 3rd row from the bottom - a hero with his two wives seated with folded hands, top most row -Lords Ganapathi, Nandi and Shiva Linga in a Gudi.
Hero Stone  - 3 panels - blessing hand - Death during the war - Hero and his wife praying to Lord Shiva in Kailasa, Lord Ganapathi depicted on top.
Buried Hero stone  - 2 panels visible - Blessing hand - Hero and his wife
Buried Hero stone  - 2 panels visible - Hero and his wife
Buried Hero stone - 3 panels visible - 2 blessing hands- Hero and his 2 wives, Shiva linga on top.
 Fallen Veeragudi
Damaged Veeragudi  - Central slab damaged - Left standing slab depicting the hero with his wife and war scenes; Right standing slab depicting war scenes.

Fallen Veeragudi (6962) – completely fallen. One of the last three hero stones is believed to have an inscription depicting the death of a hero named Sabeyoja under King Kempanna Vodeya (son of Bachiyappa) installed by his father-in-law Jayisoja. He died in a war fought between Alur and Aruvanahalli in the year 1380 CE.

It was quite an interesting place having temples dedicated to Anjaneya Swamy and Goddess Patalamma. The noble deeds of Bachiyappa stand silently; waiting for that day when his glory will be spread across the region he ruled and developed. The Badavara family of Kirttiraya served under various kings of the Hoysala and Vijayanagara period.

1. Ephigraphia Carnatica - Volume 3 (1905) & Volume 7 (1979 revised)
2. Facebook Post of Thomas Alexander

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