Showing posts with label Karnataka. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Karnataka. Show all posts

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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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 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 of 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 valour 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 symbolising 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 top most row – Depicts the king seated with his 5 wives accompanied by an attender, 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 depicting drummers in an army procession, the middle row depicting 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 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 about his valour, 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 totally 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 till date, measuring about 10 feet in height. It was setup by Bachappa’s eldest son Bukkanna. He also visited 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 bottom- Bachappa (?) riding a horse, a person carrying probably water, 4 blessing hands of the 4 wives of Bachappa.
2nd row from bottom – A lady warrior seated on an elephant, Bachappa (?) riding a horse, Bachappa being carried in a palanquin with an attender holding an umbrella.
3rd row from bottom – Chauri bearing Apsaras carrying Bachappa and his 4 wives to heaven accompanied by female attenders 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 division of property of Aruvanahalli probably among the sons of Bachiyappa – Kempanna and Bukkanna. There is an inscription in the neighbouring village of Hagalahalli which 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 in the surrounding areas devoid of any inscriptions, thus making it difficult to ascertain to whom it belongs to 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
Memorial stone of dogs or guards with dogs – pretty unique and fascinating to see the dog leash with collar as depicted here.
Memorial Stone of Guards With Dogs
Buried hero stone with only the top most row visible – depicting the garlanding of two heroes by divine priest in front of Lord Shiva gudi with Nandi mandapa.
Buried hero with stone only the top most row visible – depicting the garlanding of two heroes accompanied by a female, by 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 war hero seen with his two wives.
Hero stone (6853) - unique hero stone depicting the self-immolation of a hero for the betterment of arecanut farms.
Veeragudi - dedicated to war hero seen with his wife.

Buried Hero stone - only 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 thread ceremony to Peepal tree (similar event is described in 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- bottom most row depicts a blessing hand with a horse (wonder what the horse signifies), 2nd row from bottom- hero killing a tiger , 3rd row from bottom - 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 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, shivalinga 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 among the last three hero stones is believed to have an inscription depicting the death of a hero named Sabeyoja under the 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 is 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