Dec 28, 2013

Belgavi Kote ~ Belgaum Fort

Belgaum fort, one of the oldest forts of Karnataka was originally built in 1204 CE by Jaya Raya (also called Bichi Raja) an ally of the Ratta Dynasty. The fort is strategically located on the edge of Western Ghats. The fort has high and thick walls surounded completely by a large moat. Close to the fort is a large pond called Kote Kere ~ fort's lake, perhaps it was an important source of water for residents of the fort. Within the fort are Hindu and Jain temples dating back to Hoysala period and  also a mosque and dargah dating to Adil Shahi time. Also within the fort is Ramakrishna Ashram. Belgaum fort is associated with two great leaders of India; Swami Vivekananda had stayed at Ramakrishna Ashram in the year 1892 and Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned here during the freedom struggle. Currently the fort houses civilian dwellings, a school, government offices, military offices, a monastery and places of worship.

October 5, 2013
It was 6 AM when we reached Belgaum, the city was wet after a overnight rain. By 6-15 we entered the fort through the western entrance.

No doors to be found, just an open gateway.

Here's a rough plan of the fort showing the location of few places of interest.

A road goes around the fort, touching most of the perimeter. We drove along, checking the fort wall, however overgrown vegetation obscured the view of the walls. We stopped at one of the bastions which was fairly well preserved.

The wall was solid, it was built to withstand cannon fire pounding. The bastion was 20' in diameter with 6' high slotted wall along the edge,

This bastion was designed to be used in both dry  and wet weather.

 Notice the sheltered sentry points with artistic windows.

Behind the bastion was a platform with a approach ramp. This is an indication that cannons were stationed here.

We drove along the wall but most parts were out of reach because of vegetation. Perhaps, a visit during dry weather would be ideal. Anyway, we drove towards the center of the fort to check out the ancient temple. The temple is well protected, in fact the gates and doors are always locked. Unfortunately there's no signage; no clue as to when or who built this temple.

Its my guess this temple belongs to Hoysala time. At least one face of the temple has been repaired recently perhaps, 50 or 60 years ago.

We drive back towards the main entrance; this road splits into two and forms a loop along the perimeter. In the background is an ancient gateway with a modern board proclaiming it as 'Guest House'.

Distant view of the gateway complex. The arched gateway is a long passage, on the left is a temple dedicated to Durga Devi. The temple is maintained by military men, hence it is named as Military Durga Devi Mandir. Photography is banned in there. All that decoration is due to Dasara celebration.

On the side is a small stairway to the fort wall and the gateway complex. This wall on the right is the front most part of the gateway complex. Two sets of solid wooden doors reinforced with steel strips and studs can still be seen. The enclosure between the two gateways would have been used to trap enemy forces.

That's the outer gateway of the main entrance.

 View of the moat.. deep and wide. We'll have to imagine how it might have looked five hundred years ago.. a discouraging sight to enemy forces.
These two pictures are from my earlier posts.

Ramakrishna Ashram
Polished pillars of Kamala Basadi
Belaum fort coordinates: 15°51'29"N   74°31'27"E

Dec 21, 2013

Open-air museum at Police Campus, Dharwad

I discovered this museum July 2013. First I had seen only the sculptures embedded into the compound wall besides the road. Mid October I happened to notice one of the statues beyond the wall, in the open ground. That's when I discovered a bunch of sculptures in the ground. Two of them were fixed into the fountain pool wall. I guess these were collected by a high ranking police officer during British rule.

This arch marks the entrance to police quarters colony. On the right hand side of the road is a collection of ancient sculptures embedded into a wall.

Perhaps these are remains of a Chalukyan temple. The style and design of some pieces are similar to sculptures at Nagareshwara temple at Bankapur and Shambulingeshwara temple at Kundagol.

scale model of a Shikhara
pieces used to form the backrest of Sukhanasi
scale models of columns and Rekha Nagari Shikhara

pair of Keerthimukha
pair of Hoysala style lions flank a row of Shikhara
Saptamatrika and Ganapati
Jaina Theerthankara sheltered by a seven headed serpent

4' tall Vishnu
crown seems incompleete
rear side of Vishnu's statue
lathe turned pillars with square base

temple model mounted on a pedestal

peacock motif on a lathe turned pillar
a pillar with Kannada inscription
Kannada inscription
decorated fountain pond
A short distance from here is Prashantadhama ~ Durga Devi temple complex of police head quarters and Varakavi Da Ra Bendre's favorite spot Sadanakere.


Dec 14, 2013

Prehistoric Petroglyphs of Kappagallu - part II

We are approximately half way up the hill. At the edge of the dyke are two large rocks with hundreds of drawings on them. Unfortunately these rocks were not reachable, I had to use telephoto lens to shoot them.

Zooming in: Groups of dancing human figures dominate the rock. One of the chain of human has close to 40 individual human figures. Then there are variety of animals- elephant, tiger, buffalo, crane, peacock, and bull. The prominent one being the elephant with long tusks, close it are two men, they seem to be tending the beast. Also there's one drawing similar to the bull-axe wheel see earlier (see previous post).

Panning down: Here we another chain of human figures, a group dance scene. There are two east-facing bulls and a tall man wielding a spear.

We kept climbing up, Rama Dasa wanted to show us a temple dedicated to a god named Pitlappa. Our guide slides down a rock realizing that he wasn't going the right way. Many rocks have flat faces.. this is one of the characteristic of this rock. Rama Dasa says natural blasting happens due to Sun's heat.

On these rock there's more of cattle again; a west-facing bull with very long and straight horns. The lower rock has a very beautiful buffalo with curved horns.

The rust colored rock on the right- a well built man with a long spear. The man is sexually aroused. Surrounding the big man are smaller human figures engaged in different activities. One of them is standing with a hand on waist, head titled and the other hand on his head.

Here we have an interesting drawing, probably a hunting scene. A running human figure wielding a spear, it seems like a female figure chasing a small animal. Besides the hunting scene, we have a standing human figure and a simple four-spoke whee.

Another interesting scene here- dressed blocks stacked neatly. This is proof these rocks break off with flat surfaces.

Now we have one of the important petroglyphs on this hill. A large bull with forked horns, a peacock and a man. I remember seeing this petroglyph in one of the research papers published by a western archeologist.

Close by is another musical rock. The series of white patches are spots to hit to produce a tone. Malatesh is trying to play a tune. The neighboring stone has a Swatika on it.

Rama Dasa explaining the significance of the drawing. These rocks here also have scenes of group sex by human beings. I think bull is a sign of good health and fertility.

On this diamond face is a line drawing of a man and two women engaged in sexual activity. This position involves usage of a specially designed belt worn by a man which will help women to cling on to the man. This shows that prehistoric humans had experimented different positions of copulation.

The dyke's elevation is higher than Peacock hill's elevation. One day I want to come back to explore that peak..
This is Pitlappa temple.. a small natural shelter with no deity. Local folks worship at the shrine during some festival.

Close by is a larger than life human figure and a serpent. The man's features are clear. Also there are several pair of feet.

An upper view of the tall rock with animal pictures. Earlier we had seen these rocks from below.

The tiger is very clear. Below the tiger is a Shiva Liga and Basavanna - this is a recent addition, etched over ancient peacocks. Notice the difference in color of Basavanna and other figures. Just below the Basavanna is a buffalo with curved horns, the horns converge to form a circle.

The bird looks like recent addition. The buffalo looks more like a wild bison.

Drawings on the rocks depict sexual activity by human figures. Notice the character with a large head and a blown up male organ. That drawing seems recent.

Rama Dasa can find his way on this heap of rocks. He's been exploring Hiregudda since his school days, he knows the locations of all major petroglyphs here. In fact he has been a guide to eminent archaeologists from India and abroad. He has a natural interest and vast knowledge about ancient Indian culture, astronomy and astrology. He says that studying and understanding prehistoric culture is very challenging. He believes in questioning every theory, even the ones put forth by experts in archaeology - his policy is not to accept anything without inquiring.

It's time to head back, we have a long descent ahead of us. Very close to the base of this hill, just outside the fencing are two grey-white patches- one is a mound while the other is flat - they are prehistoric ash mounds. While one mound is preserved (though partially damaged) the other one is destroyed, field owners have demolished the mound, destroying a prehistoric monument forever.

In the plains below - once a prehistoric settlement - are several monuments such as Beerappa rock shelter and Rakshi Gundu.

We descend by taking a different path, we had not passed this rock formation while ascending. Note how the rock has broken into pieces yet standing as though its one piece.

Veerabhadra trying to find a way down. We had spent some time here when Rama Dasa spoke about the bull and peacock above. In the middle level is a large elephant. These drawings are should be viewed from a distance, if you get too close to them you see a mass of lines with no sense.

Here we see a deer with antlers on the left, a man standing behind it. Behind the antlers is an object that seems like bow and arrow. The arrow-head is over sized.

Veerabhadra is calculating chances of climbing down a sheer face and he did take that route while the rest of us took a much safer route.

The excursion left us tired. We decided to abandon the next plan - exploring stone implements factory. However we had plans of checking out the ash mound and Beerappa rock shelter.

March 7th remains an important day for me because I go an opportunity to see three types of prehistoric artifacts- stone implements, petroglyphs and ash mound. I wish to come back and spend an entire day exploring this hill, an abode of our ancestors.