Friday, February 7, 2020

The Mysterious Stone Circle of Bengaluru

'Bannerghatta' is a very popular tourist spot in Bengaluru. It is one of the most popular biological park (zoo) in India. Bannerghatta was declared as a National park in the year 1974 and is very rich in flora and fauna. One of the lesser known facts about this place is that it is also one of the earliest settlements around Bengaluru. The many artifacts found here have already made it evident that it  was occupied since the Neolithic age, which also means that people have been living here since from about the past 7000 years. This place is also home to the tribal settlement of Hakki Pikki. They still have managed to maintain their rituals and practices despite being close to one of the fastest growing metros in the World, Bengaluru. 
Mysterious Stone Circle of Bengaluru
 There are many megalithic structures found in and around Bannerghatta. One among these is the unique stone structure not found elsewhere in India. The circular stone labyrinth or popularly called the '7 tiered fort' or 'yeLu sutthina kote' (in Kannada). Although there are a few square stone labyrinths found in Tamil Nadu, the one seen here is rare. 
Ancient Labyrinth of Banneraghatta
 The 'Labyrinth' or  'Chakravyuha' or 'Padmavyuha' is a multilayered formation in the form of a 'Chakra' (circle) or 'Padma' (lotus). Such patterns have been used since the Mahabharata period. It is well known that the Kaurava's formed the Chakravyuha as an act of defense in order to defeat Abhimanyu, the son of Arjuna. Although Abhimanyu was successful in entering and breaking all the circles, he remained stuck in breaking the seventh one as he had no knowledge about the same. He thus made a valiant effort in breaking the Chakravyuha formed by the Kauravas, only to attain martyrdom after causing significant damage. 
Chakravyuha Carving (12th Century, Sri Hoysaleshwara Temple, Halebeedu)
Earliest Carving of Labyrinth belonging to Mesolithic Period (Usgalimal, Goa)
 'Labyrinth' or the'Chakravyuha' (in the language of Kannada) formed a significant part of prehistoric structures and rituals. Although the exact purpose of its construction or formation remains a mystery, a common belief of the labyrinth representing the journey of life, death and rebirth exists.   It probably symbolizes the complexity of life or the path of life and holds enormous spiritual power. The earliest documented labyrinth in India is from Usgalimal in Goa, which is in the form of an engraving on the rock bed. The Labyrinth found here is unique to India, whereas they are seen much commonly in Russia and other European countries. Sweden alone  is home to more than 300 such Labyrinths, of which more than a 100  are found in Swedish Lapland. Although such structures are commonly sighted elsewhere, they are rarely found in India. However, India has many sites that carry rock engravings and temple carvings carrying designs of the Labyrinth
Labyrinth Rock Etching (8th Century, Yadgir Fort)
Labyrinth Rock Engraving (11th Century, Pusphagiri, AP)
 Such structures were commonly built in the Eurasian countries roughly between 2000 BCE - 100 BCE. Hence we can safely assign the structure seen in Bannerghatta  also to the same period. But owing to the similarity in their design patters, it is very difficult to assess the mode of communication that existed between people separated by large geographic areas and the occurrence of similar patterns during the same period at different places is very intriguing.  The stone structure found here is located inside the forest of Bannerghatta. A walk of about 1.5 km from the hill top leads us to the mysterious structure. This structure is built of irregularly shaped rocks laid in a pattern similar to that representing a labyrinth. The centre or the end of circle comprises of a heap of stones with a small shelf like opening for worship. Even today many locals come here for offering prayers. Surprisingly, many married couples also visit here and take a walk together for longevity of their marriage and children.  Hereon, one can also visit the Suvarnamukhi, a pilgrim spot housing  temples dedicated to Lords Narasimha and Anjaneya and a thirtha/pond.
yeLu sutthina kote
I remember reading an article  about this place long ago, but was unable to trace the article or any other related to this structure. However, there is one article by the Karnataka Itihasa Academy which only mentions about this structure without any further details. Hopefully the interested ones in research field carry out a scientific study on this structure to ascertain the exact period  and probable purpose of its construction. It is a sure thing that this region is prehistoric, which is evident from the numerous dolmens and stone circles that can be sighted here and around. 


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