Hirebenakal - The land of the dead


            Hirebenekal is a small village located in Koppal district, off the Gangavathi - Gadag Highway. The hills of Hirebenekal are considered to be the most significant amongst the pre-historic sites in India. I was much excited to explore this place. One early morning, I left my room in Bellary and boarded a bus to Gangavathi town. Gangavathi at that time was decked with paddy fields, getting ready for harvest. As there were no direct buses to Hirebenekal, I took the bus that dropped me off closest to Hirebenekal and further hired a passenger auto to Hirebenekal. The village of Hirebenekal is located about a kilometer away from the highway. It is surrounded by a hill range that stands as a testimony to the pre-historic period.
Hirebenakal Information Broad
            My first task was to look out for a guide / local person who would help me go around this site and give the necessary information.  I found out about the care taker of this site but unfortunately could not get him. I was directed to the hill base to find him but in vain. Luckily, I was greeted by informative boards giving details about this place and its pre-historic culture.  I was glad to see the direction boards to the site.
About Megalithic Culture
Crocodile Painting
Rugged Terrain
  Moving as per the directions, somehow I lost track and climbed the wrong hill. After climbing and not finding any directions thereon, I decided to get down this hill from the opposite direction. During my descent, my eyes fell on one of the boulders that looked like it carried paintings.  A closer look confirmed the same and I was amazed to witness crocodile paintings on the boulder.  I was also quite surprised as this place is located away from any kind of water bodies. I continued my descent only to realize I’d lost my way again! Upon investigation the surroundings, a direction board caught my eye and I only wondered how one could miss this. Within no time I reached a big boulder with paintings, amongst which the paintings of people standing in a row and dancing was quite interesting. I spent quite some time here admiring the technology of creating paints that have survived tens of thousands of years of sun and rain, whereas paints of today may only manage to survive a few..
 
Rock Art 
People in Line
Dancing People

Cave painting
 
Dolmen Site 

            As time was ticking and the day getting warmer, I had to hurriedly reach the cluster of boulders upon which was the Kettle's Drum, another wonder of the pre-historic times. The boulder when tapped emits a sound made by the drum. Here on, I reached a pre-historic grave yard, which housed dolmens of various types, sizes, and shapes. It took me a lot of time to explore this area in depth. Lastly, I moved on to the site of the quarry and a pond.  It was time was to return and complete the quest for the day only to begin a more exciting one the next day!
Quarry and Pond
 
 

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Rock art at Usgalimal

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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Chalukyan Temples, Sedam Gulbarga

  Sedam is a taluk located in Gulbarga district. On a quest to explore northern Karnataka, I reached Sedam   in search of  historical temples. Sedam was earlier called as Sedimbapura.It houses many temples and Jinalayas. I stopped by a bakery to keep my backpack and inquired about the directions to the various temples. The first temple I visited was the "Kottala Basaveshwara" temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, which  has been completed renovated. A small Jain temple is also located in this temple complex. Being disappointed after seeing a completely renovated temple, I went in search of  Bananti Kambha (Pregnant Lady's Pillar).
Bananti Kambha
Manikeshvara Temple
    Bananti Kambha is a huge tall stone pillar, but I could not find out why and what is story behind this pillar being called so. This pillar is located  in the Manikeshvara temple complex. This temple is again being renovated but its nice to see that original look of the temple is being maintained. My next stop was a small tea shop where I met the care taker of the Panchalingeshwara Temple, who more than eager to show me the temple , a short walk from the tea shop we reached the most beautiful temple of the town. Two beautiful dwarapalas (door keeper) welcomed me into this temple complex, since I had no idea about this temple was surprised to see such beautiful temple, exceptional stone work of Rastrakutas and Chalukayas. This temple complex house five Shiva linga in five Grabhagrihas, out of which two where housed in the main temple, rest three housed in single celled temples in the complex.

Welcome to Panchalingeshwara Temple
Life Size Dwarapalas
Hair Do of Lady Dwarapala
Hair Do of Lady Dwarapala
Lord Tandeshvara on the Lintel
Gajalakshmi on Lintel
   The most striking features of this temple complex were the live sized Shaiva Dwarapalas and the two lady dwarapalas, though sadly one of them has been vandalized. I could only imagine how wonderful it looked originally. The ceilings mostly resembled the Rashtrakuta style.

Shiva Linga
Main Shiva Linga
 
 
Lord Tandeshvara in the Center of the Ceiling
 
Typical Rashtrakuta Ceiling
Nandi
Lord Ganesha
    Though the caretaker had no much information about the temple, he definitely fulfilled his job of maintaining the temple. Thus ending my quest for historical temples of Sedam, which only left me wondering of how many such temples were/are there in India. The North Karnataka Quest continues in search of many such wonderful places.