Showing posts with label Stone circles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stone circles. 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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Udedurgam Fort, Krishnagiri - History with Mystery

'Ooria-Durgam' is one amongst the 12 forts that constituted the 'Baramahal' (the earlier name of Krishnagiri). Locating this place with the name of 'Ooria-Durgam' was quite a difficult task for us as google search engine failed to show up any results for the same. However, I came across an article which  mentioned that Ooria-Durgam was the erstwhile name of Hudedurgam, and is today being called as Udedurgam. Udedurgam is a nondescript village near Kelamangala and we reached this place without much difficulty. The fortification on the hill was quite evident and when we drove in its direction, we missed a right turn and went further. After realizing that we were heading in the wrong direction, we inquired with a passerby and tracing back as per his instructions, reached the missed turning point. On finding it inappropriate to drive, we took the available deviation and reached a dead-end, where we found an elderly person involved in his farm chores. When asked about the route to the hill of Udedurgam, he kindly replied by telling us to park our vehicle under good shade after which he volunteered to accompany us till the start of the trail from whereon the route seemed clear and the ascent quite comfortable. He was a very interesting and a joyful person, hailing from  the state of Andhra and having settled here long ago.  Since he spoke the language of Telugu, our communication with him was easier.
Udedurgam Fort, Krishnagiri
Udedurgam Fort, Krishnagiri
Pattern on the Rock
 As we started walking towards the hill, I happened to notice a structure similar to the prehistoric stone circle and Bingo! I was indeed right! It turned out to be a prehistoric cairn circle. 'Cairn Circles' are a type of megalithic burials, which were constructed using rough boulders with cairn/ urn packing at its centre. It turns out very difficult to date these structures and can be roughly assigned to a period anywhere between 2000 B.C.E to 500 B.C.E. Only a proper and systematic study can help reveal the exact or the closest date. Sighting a cairn circle only doubled our excitement as it seemed to be a perfect ' History with Mystery ' kind of an exploration. There were many hidden secrets waiting to be discovered. We continued to walk towards the hill and were welcomed by a ruined fort gateway. It was also pleasing to witness some portions of the fortification intact. The environs here had an endless vista of hills and valleys apart from its history/ pre-history. It looked like a place where every layer of history remained evident and exposed.
History with Mystery
Megalithic Stone Circle
Butter Ball
 This place may have been inhabited from a very long time back, as tools found here belong to different periods - the Neolithic, Mesolithic period and Megalithic periods. The site is perfect to carry out pre-historic studies, as it is quite evident from the environs to be a perfect place for pre-historic human  settlement. The ascent was pretty much straight forward and easy. It was a first for our youngest trek partner Ms.Diya who took it up on her own and trekked covering a decent distance. However, this was just her beginning and she proved to be a good learner! After sometime, we reached a big boulder that carried a painting of Lord Hanuman. A little further was another gateway with much of its fortification intact, after which the terrain turned flat. We passed by a small water pond and a little further from here was a damaged strucutre that looked like a room, probably constructed during the British period. We continued to explore this region and stumbled upon another intact stone circle! Simply wow! This sighting deviated us from following the original route as we spent sometime exploring this area. However, we were unable to find anything apart from a few ruins of the fort. We returned to our trail and spotted a big stepped water tank or kalyani that remained empty.
A Water Pond
Young Trekker Leading the Way
Bless Me "Lord Anjaneya"
Lovely Vista
 We continued our climb and came across the third gateway, which eventually lead to the top most tier of the fort. Atop the hill were two temples dedicated to Lords Hanuman and Shiva. While the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is at the summit, at a much lower elevation is the temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman. While the Shiva Linga seems to belong to a period much older the fort, the temple structure belongs to 15-16th century. The temples were surrounded by many water ponds which remained clean. Many broken pieces of pottery were seen fallen all over the place, probably belonging to the historic era of 15- 16th century CE.  Although not much of history is known about this place, it is very clear that the fort existed much before the 16th century. Later during  the third Mysore war, Tippu garrisoned this fort and surrendered it to the British in 1791. After the peace treaty between them, the fort was returned to Tippu. Finally, in 1799 it fell into the hands of the British and was annexed to the Madras state.
Lord Anjaneya Temple, Udedurgam
Lord Shiva Temple, Udedurgam
Panoramic View 
Om Namah Shivaya
The view from atop the hill was simply magnificent and the lovely moving clouds added the required glamour. We could spot various other forts from the hill top, some of which are Ratnagiri, Rayakottai, Anchettydurgam, Krishnagiri and many such. After having the snacks and bananas that we had carried, we spent a good amount of time at the top. The surroundings seemed to have many hidden mysteries. We spotted a cave that resembled a shelter for the prehistoric human, and hence wished to check it out. However, we could not find any trace of prehistoric humans. The place may have been  used by the soldiers who guarded the area. We then headed towards our parked our vehicle. We greeted Mr. Venkatesh, the person who had guided us in the morning and thanked him. It was lunch time and he insisted us to join them for lunch. We were hesitant initially as we had to return home and the weather was extremely hot, but later agreed to join them as we were hungry. And we were pleased for having joined them for lunch. It was one of the best lunches we have had, sitting under the canopy of tamarind trees and amidst people with big hearts, who were more than happy to feed our children and us by sharing their food. The elderly man also gave us the freshly harvested beans and tomatoes from his farm. Finally, we bade a good-bye, after thanking them. Exploring Udedurgam was an amazing experience overall. An other day, another adventure!
Cave Bunker
The Lost Wood

Forts of Krishnagiri:
1. Thattakaldurgam 
2. Krishnagiri 
3. Jagadevi 
4. Ratnagiri 
5. Balagondarayanadurga
6. Maharajakadai
7. Rayakottai 
8. Periyamalai
9. Ankushagiri 
10. Anchettydurgam
11. Thrayandurgam

1. Madras state gazetteer - Salem
2. Archaeology of Krishnagiri District 

Brahmagiri and Ashoka Siddapura

 After having an adventurous time at Jating Rameshwara we went in search of the Ashokan edicts of Ashoka Siddapura. The locals here on inquiring directed us towards another site of the same kind at Brahmagiri, which was supposedly much easier to locate than Ashoka Siddapura. (The edicts of Ashoka Siddapura  is situated in the interiors, far away the village and is not very popular as the Brahmagiri among locals). At Brahmagiri, we were greeted by the ASI care taker who volunteered cheerfully to be our guide for the afternoon. First, we visited the edicts of Brahmagiri, one amongst the best preserved and maintained Ashokan edicts in Karnataka. The symbols of the script are quite clear. He then showed us the translated meaning with the message it carried. The edict here generally speaks about peace and kindness to be shown towards all living beings.
Sign Board 
Enclosure Built To protect the Edict
Ashoka's Message of Peace
Kannada Translation of the Edict
  After carefully examining the edict, our guide took us to an ancient grave yard. Here we were able to witness a huge number of Dolmens belonging to the 2nd century BC, attributed to the Mauryan Empire. The ASI has built a compound in order to conserve these structures, few of which are intact. Though, beyond the compound limits, there are many such dolmens waiting to be preserved. Hereon, we were privileged to visit a place where accidentally, the ASI team discovered an URN burial (which is believed to be the grave of small children) as the ground had been washed away during monsoons.This discovery was accidental  and intriguing.
Dolmen with missing top slab
Intact Dolmens
Burial site outside the ASI enclosure
URN burial
We next moved on to find the edicts of Ashoka Siddapura. Our guide was kind enough to join us along  as he was much aware of its location. We had to walk about ten minutes though the fields to locate a cluster of boulders named as "Emme Thammana Gudda" on which the edicts are etched. Unfortunately, the edicts here are equally in a disturbed state as in Jating Rameshwara. They too spread the message of  peace and kindness, though the size of was comparatively smaller to Brahmagiri. Without our guide, reaching this place would have been impossible. He gave us information about the recent findings of Hindi inscriptions just behind these boulders, which probably hints us of the existence/beginning of Jainism during that period. The presence of a Jain temple in this environ also enhances this feel.
Edict of Ashoka Siddapura
Enclosure built to Protect the Edicts
View of Brahmagiri Hill from Emme Thammana Gudda
Hindi Inscriptions
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A date with Pre Historic time

One afternoon while traveling, we reached a spot which looked quite mysterious. We stopped by to peep in and have a look around. The first thing that caught our attention was a single stone standing about three feet tall. Here on, walking a little further, we found a stone circle, made of irregular stones. On spotting these two, our excitement doubled, as we waited further to see what more was in store! By now, we were almost sure that this indeed is the place where we could look for Menhirs. We were sure about this as we had read before, their presence in that particular place and its surroundings. Inspecting the surroundings, we found a Dolmenoid Cist, after which it became a confirmed site for spotting the Menhirs. Knowing that we were close to spotting them, we began wandering with curiosity this vast expanse of scattered stones, small hillocks and boulders.
Inviting Menhir
Dolmeniod cist
Displaced Cap Stone 
   We sighted a few Stone Circles, Cairn Circles and a Dolmeniod Cist. A local shepherd revealed to us that there were more than  a hundred such structures (Pandavara Gudi or Dolmenoid Cist), most of which were removed from place and the stones being used for various purposes. One of the striking features of the  Dolmenoid Cist is the huge undressed cap stone slab placed horizontally on four comparatively thin vertically standing stone slabs,  with one or more port holes. The cap stones we observed were really huge and its thickness varied from about one to two feet, and the vertical standing stones were only about three to four inches thick. We always wonder how  people, 3000 plus years ago, played with stones so easily without any help from the so called technology. We found numerous Dolmens without the cap stone, which then resembled the crude swastika (a Hindu religious symbol and Nazi emblem), while some places were scattered with only cap stones. 
Stone circle with Dolmen in the center 
Stone Circle
Cairn Circle
   Further upon interaction, he revealed finding pottery pieces under these cists and not finding any treasure. Later, he called upon two teenagers for guiding and showing us some intact Cists and Menhirs. They were more than happy to show us around. On our way, we met an elderly person, probably in his 80's, who told us that when he was boy, two Britishers  had visited this site for surveying, which went on for almost two years. Since then, only a few Government officials visited here occasionally. He showed us the biggest Cist of this area, and asked us to return tomorrow so he could clear all the over grown vegetation and we could see it clearly.  A little further, we found a slab stone with port hole.
Inside a Dolmen
Dolmen and Shepherd 
Look at the Port Hole 
  Finally we reached our destination, the Menhirs that stood tall amidst the dry vegetation. There were four Menhirs all around. Menhirs are monolithic undressed stones planted vertically into the ground, which can vary in height and structure size from small  to gigantic. Some researchers believe these to be associated with burials while a few relate them to the Solstice. Though we can get close to the reason behind placing or constructing these structures, the truth remains hidden. At a few sites in India, Menhirs with engravings, also called as Petroglyphs have been found. While we  wondered about these intriguing structures, time passed by and we had to call off our visit since it was getting dark, leaving the rest  to our imagination. We felt that there may be many hidden secrets behind these mysterious structures, that are yet to be explored and discovered.

This place is located about 60 km from Bangalore.

Other Prehistoric Sites visited :
1 Chandravalli Gardens, Chitradurga  
2 Stone circles of Varlakonda
3 Cave Paintings of Anegundi 
4 Rock Carvings of Usgalimal, Goa
5 Pandava Caves of Rivona .

1 "Kuvalahala" - A book about Places of  Interest in Kolar
2 The Megalithic Culture in South India - By B.K.Gururaja Rao
3 Wiki