Showing posts with label Cave Paintings. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cave Paintings. Show all posts

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Kurugodu, Bellary - Fort, Prehistoric Paintings and Ancient Temples

Kurugodu, Bellary - Fort, Prehistoric Paintings and Ancient temples
A Panoramic View of Kurugodu Fort, Town and Hills
Though traveling to Kurugodu was fairly regular when I was in Bellary, we could never manage to make enough time for exploring this place. The 'Hill Fort of 'Kurugodu' has always been inviting and many of our travel and historical books speak in volumes about it. The level of eagerness to explore Kurugodu reached its highest at one point and culminated with us planning a road trip to Bellary during the holidays of Deepavali, last year. Trust us! This place undoubtedly exceeded our expectations. Our previous day was quite exciting, with the highlight of the day being the prehistoric anthropomorphic sites of Kumathi and Hulikunte. This day, we planned to explore the prehistoric sites of Sanganakallu and Kuppagallu and in anticipation of a really hot day, we started quite early and reached Sanganakallu. As Mr. Ramadasa, our guide for the day who knew every stone of Sanganakallu was held up with other work and promised to meet us the next day, we decided to go ahead to the next place on our list, Kurugodu.
Shiva Mandapa, Kurugodu Fort
A Bird's Eye View of Shiva Mandapa 
History of Kurugodu and Kurugodu Fort: Kurugodu is believed to have been a part of the Kishkindha kingdom ruled by the monkey brothers Vali and Sugreeva during the Treta Yuga (period when Lord Rama ruled the earth). Later in the Dwapara Yuga, this place became the capital of the Kuntala kingdom ruled by the great king Chandrahasa. The town of Kurugodu, surrounded by many small hillocks, proved an ideal environment for the then prehistoric settlement. There is ample evidence given by archaeologists in the form of artifacts to prove that this site was once occupied by prehistoric men. A few cave paintings found here can be traced back to the Bronze Age, with the others belonging to the Iron Age. Though there are no records of Kurugodu's association with the Mauryan empire, findings from the Ashokan edicts at Nittur and Udegola which are in close proximity to Kurugodu confirm that Kurugodu was once under the rule of the Mauryan kingdom. An inscription found here dated to around 2nd century AD confirms that this place was also under the rule of the Satavahanas between 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Subsequently, it came under the control of the Badami Chalukyas after which it gave rise to one of the lesser know dynasty, the Sindhs of Kurugodu. The Sindhs ruled Kurugodu from 7th century till the end of the 12th century, with their descendants seen living even now at Kurugodu. King Ariballi Dagra established the Kurugodu Sindh Kingdom followed by Udayaditya, Chokarasa, Rachamalla I (the most successful king of this dynasty), Rachamalla II and Veerakalidevarasi. The fort of Kurugodu was built by the Sindh kings way back in the 10th century and was later improved by the Vijayanagara Kings. This fort is four tiered, with its bottom most tier of fortification encircling the entire town of Kurugodu and its surrounding hillocks. At a later stage, Hyder Ali captured this fort and post the death of Tippu Sultan, it was left abandoned.
Kurugodu Fort
Kurugodu Fort Walls
Bird's Eye View of Hale Kurugodu
Tungabhadra canal
Tungabhadra Canal Traversing Across Paddy Fields
Kurugodu Fort
Kurugodu Fort
Having been to Kurugodu many times and hence being familiar with its surroundings, we easily found a decent place to park our vehicle and reached the base of the hill. Hereon, two men volunteered to accompany us and guide us along. They informed us about the presence of two routes, one laid with proper steps and the other with a rough path through thorny shrubs, which turned slippery at times. For us, taking the the tougher route was quite an obvious choice. The climb was slightly difficult, though a short one and we reached the first tier of fortification from where there were two diversions, one leading to the Shiva mandapa and the second to the next level of fortification. Reaching Shiva mandapa was quite tricky. It is a small mandapa housing a beautiful Shiva Linga, installed by the Sindh kings who were staunch followers of Veerashaiva dharma. The climb from here towards the second tier was quite easy. There is a temple dedicated to Lord Anjaneya with an inscription carved on stone, of the Vijayanagara Kings. From the top of this hill, we were able to spot many temples on the other side of Kurugodu, and upon inquiring, our guide informed us about Hale Kurugodu or Old Kurugodu, which was once a prosperous town under the Sindhs, but now is in ruins and shambles. They gave us all the details of the temples there. We explored the remains of the fort, most of which were still intact. There are many interesting balancing rocks here. Our descent was quick and we asked our guides if they were also interested in showing us around Hale Kurugodu. Their response was negative and they also went on to advise us not to explore that side of the place as it had turned into a drunkards den and would be unsafe. We thanked our guide and bade them good bye. We stopped by a small shop to buy some snacks and prepare food for our little one. We bought a few fruits here for which Kurugodu is known for. Kurugodu and its surroundings are well known for the excellent quality of Pomegranate, Fig and Papaya they grow, most of which are exported.
Kurugodu Fort
Balancing Rock inside Kurugodu Fort
An Inscription Outside Lord Anjaneya Temple 
Lord anjaneya inside Kurugodu Fort
Lord Anjaneya
Balancing Act by Rocks
Kurugodu Fort
Lord Anjaneya Temple and Fort Walls
Lord Shiva, Kurugodu Fort
Lord Shiva
We decided to explore the temples which we saw from atop the hill and proceeded further. We found ruins of many temples here and a little further on a rock we spotted some red colored paintings. We parked our vehicle to investigate the place and to our surprise, they were indeed prehistoric paintings. We were able to identify the paintings of hyena, bulls, people and many other worn out paintings. So excited we were! It seemed for a second like it was our own discovery! We explored more around this area with an expectation of finding other paintings, but no luck. There was a person working nearby this site and on inquiring him about the presence of any other such paintings around, he looked blank and admitted of being totally unaware about them. HeyI requested him to come along to the rock where we saw the paintings to know if he could recollect having seen similar paintings elsewhere, but his answer was negative. He went on to confess that he never knew about these paintings and its significance, but will keep in mind the same from now on. He suggested us to see a cave temple with some carvings of kings a little further. We thanked him and carried on with our explorations.
Prehistoric Rock Shelter, Hale Kurugodu
Prehistoric Rock Shelter, Hale Kurugodu
Prehistoric Cup-marks , Bellary
Prehistoric Cup-marks 
Prehistoric cave painting, Kurugodu, Bellary
Painting Depicting Hyena 
Prehistoric cave painting, Kurugodu, Bellary
Unidentifiable Cave Paintings
 To be continued….. 

Related Posts:
Rock Carvings of Usgalimal

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Gudekote, Bellary - Cave Paintings, Fort and Bear Sanctuary

Gudekote Fort
Exploring Gudekote Fort with our Young Trekker
'Gudekote' is a small town situated on the Bellary/Ballari - Kudligi State Highway. As usual, having passed by this place many a time, we had an urge to visit here but never got a chance to do so. Finally during the last year Dasara holidays, we managed to plan a visit to this place. It was quite hectic and we started the day by exploring the Fort at Ramadurga, Shree Ramalingeshwara Cave Temple, Nayakanahatti Temple and the Prehistoric Sites of Kumathi and Hulikunte. We reached Gudekote around 4.15 pm and were contemplating whether or not to climb the hill fort as this place has been declared as a bear sanctuary. We inquired at a few places and found it safe to climb the hill and decided to give it a shot. We parked our vehicle and walked towards the hill in pursuit of another exciting adventure.
Gudekote, Bellary, Karnataka
Four of the Five Hills surrounding Gudekote as viewed from the Doregala Hill
Birdseye View of Gudekote
Bird's Eye View of Gudekote
History of Gudekote and Fort: Gudekote is derived from two Kannada words, 'Gudi' meaning  Temple and 'Kote' meaning Fort. Hence, Gudekote literally means a Temple-Fort. There are 5 hills surrounding the town of Gudekote namely, the Doregala Gudda, Someshwara Gudda, Agasara Gudda, Harijana Keri Gudda and Karadi Gudda. Gudekote was occupied since the Neolithic period, and many prehistoric artifacts have been discovered by researchers here. Later this place is said to have been under the rule of the Mauryan dynasty, based on the Ashokan edicts found at Brahmagiri, Ashoka Siddapura and Jatinga Rameshwara. It then came under the rule of the Satavahanas, the Kadambas, Badami Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Kalyana Chalukyas, Hoysalas and the Palegars (chieftains) of Hosamaledurga. Subsequently, the Gudekote Palegars under the patronage of Vijayanagara Kings ruled this place between 1506 AD and 1757 AD and gave a tough fight to the Bahmani dynasty. King Gundala Nayaka established the Gudekote Palegar Kingdom, followed by Bommatharaja, Chinnayaraja, Immadi Rajjappanayaka, Jatingi Raja, Ramappanayaka, and Shivappa Nayak. The Gudekote Palegars improved the mud fort here by replacing it with a strong stone fort during the 16th century. This place was captured by Hyder Ali and later went fell into the hands of the British with the defeat of Tippu Sultan, who had control over this place till 1947 which later was added to the then state of  Mysore.
Gudekote Fort Trek
The Initial Climb
The Young Trekker Growing out of Shadows
After a short climb, we reached a site that seemed like a prehistoric settlement or rather would have been a perfect place to have one! The cave paintings here only confirmed that this site indeed was a prehistoric settlement. Though most of the cave paintings have been vandalized by modern graffiti, we were able to identify a few, with most of the remains seeming no less than a puzzle! The paintings were similar to the ones at  Jatinga Rameshwara and Anegundi, and hence must have belonged to the same period. We spent quite a good time here trying to decipher these paintings, as it always arouses the sense of creativity, imagination and humor in us. Deciphering paintings has always been a fun activity and hence we enjoy it. After a while, we proceeded further.
Prehistoric paintings Gudekote
Cave Paintings
Prehistoric rock shelter Gudekote Bellary
Cave Paintings and The Rock Shelter
Gudekote, Forts of Karnataka
Gudekote Fort
We were greeted by the first tier of the fortification which opens into a flat land, perfect to have a settlement. There were remains of a few buildings and also a stepped well. On exploring the area, we found another building structure of a much later stage, probably built by the British. This place seemed like a storage place for food, being devoid of any doors. We found a unique carving on a rock further, resembling that of a soldier with a spear in hand, and with very assertive and alert eyes! We continued our climb further only to realize that there was no clear path hereon, except a few ruins spread here and there. We settled here for a few minutes while the sun was setting behind us and after sometime started our descent. We reached the village and went straight to explore the Tangalli Mahal built in Indo-Islamic style by the Palegars  and  enjoyed the cool breeze there. This must have been a grand two storey structure which sadly today is in shambles. The hills and forests around Gudekote have been declared as a 'Sloth Bear Sanctuary', according to a notification of 2013 and second only such wildlife sanctuary after the Daroji Bear Sanctuary near Hampi of Bellary district.  This however, is yet to be opened for visitors and is considered to be larger than Daroji.
Gudekote fort entrance
2nd Fort Gateway of Gudekote
Stepped Well Inside Gudekote Fort
Dried Stepped Well Inside Gudekote Fort
Stepped Well, Gudekote, Bellary, Karnataka
Another Dried Stepped Well
Carving, Gudkeote fort, Bellary, Karnataka
Unique Carving
Gudekote, Forts of India
Ruins Inside Gudekote Fort
Store house, Gudekote Fort, Bellary, Karnataka
Store House Probably Built by the British
We also remember seeing a few rock paintings on the Gudekote - Bellary road during our other travels. Being very curious each time we saw them, we decided to check out what was in store this time and reached that spot, which falls inside the limits of a Bear Sanctuary. There were a few unique cave paintings under rock-shelters which were quite difficult to decipher. The sunset was an indication to end the day's adventure. It was a great day, one of those where we explored 2 forts, a beautiful cave temple, a popular local pilgrim center and 3 prehistoric sites. Hereon, we drove towards Bellary for our next adventure.
Tangalli Mahal, Gudekote, Bellary
Tangalli Mahal
Gudekote Bear Sanctuary Karnataka
Prehistoric Rock Shelter With Paintings
How to reach Gudekote: Located on the Bellary - Kudligi road, it is about 60 km from Bellary and 30 km from Kudligi. 
Accommodation: There are no options available for accommodation in Gudekote. One can stay at Kudligi which has limited options, however the best would be to find a stay in Bellary overnight. Our usual place of halt is Hotel Ashoka Residency with an affordable budget.
Places to Visit Around Gudekote: Sandur, Kudligi, Kotturu, Ujjaini, BrahmagiriAshoka Siddapura, Jatinga Rameshwara, Sanganakallu, Bellary, Hampi, Nayakanahatti, Kumathi, Hulikunte and many such.

1. Book on "Ballari Jilleya KotegaLu" By Dr.M.Kotresh
2. Journeys Across Karnataka

Related Posts:
1. Channarayana Durga Fort
2. Ambajidurga Fort
3. Kavaledurga Fort 
4. Rock Engraving of Usgalimal 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Most Important Prehistoric Sites of India: Sanganakallu and Kappagallu, Bellary

Dolerite Dyke, Sanganakallu
Dolerite Dyke, Sanganakallu
'Sanganakallu' and 'Kappagallu' are important prehistoric sites located about 5 km from the district of Bellary. The prehistoric sites are spread across these two villages and surrounding areas, covering more than a 1000 acres. These sites are considered to be the earliest human settlements in South India and hold a very important position in the prehistoric studies of South India. They are of keen interest to any archaeologist who is studying prehistory, since these are a few sites which have been under settlement for a very long time covering different phases of the prehistoric period. Sanganakallu and Kappagallu have been inhabited since the Mesolithic period and would have been in full glory during the Neolithic period, and continued also into the Iron age. The excavations here have yielded many clues regarding their agricultural practices here, majorly millet cultivation. The Birappa Rock Shelter here has been dated to the Mesolithic period, and continuing till the Iron age. Radiocarbon dating of Birappa Rock Shelter has given the indication of dates as far back as 9000 BC (11000 years back). This site was first discovered by William Fraser in 1872 AD, although the first extensive study of the site was carried out by B. Subbarao in 1946. This site was further studied by Z.D.Ansari and M.S.Nagarajarao in 1965 who established the fact that these sites were associated with the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Megalithic periods. However, the most extensive and advanced study of this site was carried out in 2002 by Dr.Boivin and Ravi Korishettar. Sadly, these sites today lie in a state of neglect and distress.
Hiregudda, Sangankallu
Hiregudda, Sanganakallu
During our last Dasara holidays, we had a chance to visit this site. We reached Sanganakallu village in search of Sri Ramadasa who knows every rock of this hill. With the help of the villagers, we found his house and on requesting him to guide us through, he informed about his busy schedule that day and told us to come the next day. We agreed and set out the next day morning to pick him up and prompt to his words, he was ready waiting for us. The hill complex is about a km from this village and as we reached, we found a good shady place to park our vehicle and began our adventure for the day. Sri Ramadasa is one who has dedicated his entire life exploring this site and understanding them. It is always good to go around with a learned guide while exploring such sites in order to get a good insight and a complete picture of them. Sri Ramadasa describes the names of the hills as Hiregudda, Sudalamattigudda, Sadashivagudda, Choudammagudda and Sannarachammagudda. He drew a map of these hills in our book to explain the location and the horse shape formed by these hills, which was quite interesting! We finally began our journey of exploring this wonderful site.
Kappagallu Ash mounds
Destroyed Ash mound
Ramadasa explains that the government had proposed plans of developing this site into a tourist attraction and its proximity to the district of Bellary would be an added advantage. Some work related to this project underwent, which finally was halted permanently due to various unknown reasons. The sad state of affairs across the country and our greed takes over the need. The day this site develops as a premium tourist spot in Karnataka, the entire quarry lobby here will be under threat. This is the primary reason why this project did not take off. Though the quarrying has considerably reduced, significant damage has already been done, which is quite evident. It is sad that such sites across our country are dying in neglect without any kind of protection or any intent to protect. People like Ramadasa are the only guardians of such sites, who have ensured that whatever little left is protected and shared to the outer world. The Government should always involve the locals in improving such sites. The locals must be educated regarding the significance of such sites by conducting various  programs and holding discussions with them. Locals are the key to protecting such large sites and the government should rightly ensure that they promote these sites as tourist attractions.
Musical Rocks, Sanganakallu and Kappagallu
Musical Rocks, Sanganakallu
As Sanganakallu and Kappagallu are two villages separated by the Hiregudda hill range, this site has been named differently by various archaeologists depending upon the approach used. The villages together were one of the earliest settlements in South India, which overlapped with the mature Harappan civilization. There are many interesting sites in and around these places such as the Peacock Hill, Dolerite Dyke Petroglyphs, Hiregudda Stone Tool Factory, Kappagallu Ash Mounds, Birappa Painted Rock Shelter, Village Site, Stone Circles and other Megaliths.
Natural Blasting of Rocks
Natural Blasting of Rocks
We began our ascent to this hill only to be stopped by an exposed soil profile showing us the formation of different soil layers, due to the continuous settlements here. Our guide showed us various rock weapons such as the axes, spears, pounding stones and some weights which were in use back then. A short climb from here brought us to a site which had the maximum number of petroglyphs or rock carvings. The Ghante rock, translated as the Bell-rock welcomes us to this fascinating world of Petroglyphs. On this rock are 2 carvings, that of a bell and the other of a bull. Our guide explained that the bull depicted here is quite similar to the Gangiyeddu's cattle decoration (a beautiful cloth tied to the hump of the bull).
Kupgal Petroglyphs
Ghante Rock
The carving of a big bull welcomed us to this site and from thereon, almost every other rock we saw had petroglyphs or rock carvings on them! The carvings of bulls in various sizes and shapes clearly dominated the others. Our guide went on to explain that these probably indicated the direction towards the temple of Lord Basavanna and were aligned accordingly. The first of the baffling carvings here was that of a 3 horned bull.
Pre historic Bull Carvings
Bulls Everywhere
Three Horned bull carving Sanganakallu
Three Horned Bull
 One of the different and interesting carvings here was that of a water bird, probably a crane with a circle carved behind it, signifying a water body. Sri Ramadasa told us about the existence of a lake previously in the direction of the birds beak, which was probably being depicted in this diagram. This reminded us of an interesting article we had read, titled 'Prehistoric men drew maps'. It may have been the early stage of depicting directions/maps through drawings that enabled any new person from the other tribe/places who visited or settled here to navigate more easily. This is only proof to the vision of our ancestors as maps were invented only about 5000 years ago, which was much later.
Anicent Rock carvings, Karnataka
Carving of Waterbird
Panchayat Stone/ Court Hall - We reached a site which as per our guide was a meeting hall or court, where the leader of the tribe met the visitor and gave judgement in case of any dispute. The  terrain here was flat, which could easily accommodate about 20 to 25 people and also housed a huge slab which served as the leader's seat.
Pre historic Court Hall
Panchayat/ Court Hall
Bull-Axe Wheel - The next intriguing carving here was that of a bull-axe wheel consisting of 5 bulls, which may have been the representation of a calendar that helped people prepare their lands just before the onset of monsoons. On closer observation, one can identify the axe carved in the shape of bulls legs and five such interlinked bulls forming a wheel in combination.
Bull axe wheel Carving, Sanganakallu
Bull Axe Wheel Carving
Long Horned Sambar Deer -  The next etching that caught our eyes was the beautiful depiction of a Long Horned Sambar Deer, which probably roamed here freely back then. It is disheartening that this animal is currently listed as vulnerable under the IUCN Red List. Though the climb became a lot more difficult hereon due to the rocky terrain, the sight of such carvings kept us engaged.
Long Honrned Sambar Deer
Carving of Long Horned Sambar Deer
Earliest Rock Musicians - The people of various settlements occupying this site made musical instruments out of the rocks found here. They made grooves of such kind on the rocks that when struck emitted different musical notes. Such musical instruments have also been found at other similar sites such as the kettle's drum at Hirebenakal and the drum at Mosalayyana Gudda at Hampi. Such musical rock instruments must have been an inspiration in the construction of many musical pillars that form a part of temples.
Prehistoric Rock music, Sanganakallu
A Prehistoric Rock Music Instruments
Other carvings sighted were that of a Barasingha, a few aroused men and erotic scenes.
Rock carvings of Erotics scenes
Carvings of Barasingha, a Few Aroused Men and Erotic Scenes
And Lo! Finally, we witnessed the most beautiful and unique of all carvings of this site. Of all the carvings here, this carving of a big three horned bull  stands out, with each of its horn resembling a trident/trishula. Our guide named this carving as the Nandikeshvara Kamasutra Panel, since it also included the depiction of a few erotic scenes. A peacock carving is also seen here along with the carving of an elephant.
Rock Carvings, Sanganakallu
Wow What a Scene !
Nandikeshvara Kamasutra Panel
Nandikeshvara Kamasutra Panel

Carving of a Leader along with his Disciples.
Guide for Sanganakallu
 Our Guide Sri Ramadasa and in the Background is a Carving of Leader along with his Disciples  
A rock with carvings of foot and hand impressions.
Carvings of Hand and Foot Impressions
A Maduve (Marriage) yantra is carved here, which is still followed by the locals during their marriage ceremonies.
Maduve Yantra
Maduve Yantra
This could probably be the earliest reference to goddess Lajja Gauri, the goddess of fertility. We were able to spot two such carvings here, one very elaborately carved with a lot of details and the other which was much simpler. These carvings are pretty much similar to the carvings found in Usgalimal of Goa .
Earliest Carving of Lajja Gauri
Carving of Lajja Gauri
Hereon, our guide took us to the Pitlappa temple where people continue to worship even today, especially during the festival of Nagara Panchami. A small opening between the rocks forms this simple temple and is probably one of the earliest temple, devoid of any murti as of today. We are not sure whether any murti was installed here initially.
Pitlappa Temple, Sanganakallu
Pitlappa Temple, Sanganakallu
Pre-historic Scribble Pad -  This probably seems like one's to-do list or scribbling their ideas when struck to their minds so as to remember them later. There are a lot of carvings here that are simply out of this world. We spent maximum time here deciphering these carvings.
Prehistoric Scribble Pad, Sangankallu
Prehistoric Scribble Pad, Sanganakallu
Carving of a 6 Bull-Axe Wheel
Carving of a pack of dogs.
Carving of a Pack of Dogs
As the weather was too hot to continue further exploration, we gave up the plan of visiting the stone factory. We descended down and headed straight towards the ash mound here. This ash mound is one of the 4 ash mounds surviving today, though partially disturbed. To know more about it, do check our post on Kudatini Ash Mound.
Kappagallu Ash Mounds
Kappagallu Ash Mounds
We went further and explored the Birappa Rock Shelter located close by the village of Kappagallu. Some of the paintings here can be dated to 9000 BC (Mesolithic period). Lastly, we spent sometime playing in the cold waters of river Tungabhadra flowing in a canal nearby the village of Kappagallu. What an amazing end it was to our journey! We later dropped Mr. Ramadasa to his house and thanked him for taking us around and explaining each and every rock in detail during this wonderful and informative tour.
Cave Paintings, Birappa Rock Shelter
Cave Paintings, Birappa Rock Shelter

1. Wikipedia
2. Megalithic
3. Journeys Across Karnataka

1. Chandravalli Cave Pre-historic Site
2. Dolmen Circles of Doddamalathe 
3. Prehistoric Anthropomorphic Statues of Kumathi