Dec 27, 2014

Ambiger temple complex, Aihole

December 16, 2011
Ambiger temple complex is a stones throw from Durga Gudi complex, in fact its right across the street. The name Ambiger is derived from the Kannada word Ambiga ~ boat man. Ambigaru is the plural of Ambiga. Aihole being situated on the right bank of river Malaprabha seems to have had significant boating activity. This temple complex is one of the least visited spots of Aihole.. probably because the temples are plain and simple in design. A board at the complex entrance gives out basic information of these temples:
One larger (of the three temples in this complex) temple has Nagara Shikhara and it has a sanctum and Mantapa and there are two entrances to the right and left of the Mantapa. The inner ceiling of the Mantapa ha a lotus engraved. The door frame of the sanctum is highly embellished. The temple stands on an elevated platform and appears to be a X century creation. The second temple is an ordinary structure, but there is a broken image of Surya or Vishnu, very beautiful, and two female figures. There is a third west-facing shrine which is an ordinary one. As the Ambiger community (boatsmen) stayed near it, the complex has secured this name.

Of three two temples are at a lower level. As you see they are pretty plain from a distance. Somehow I've not taken any close-up shots of sculptures of these temples.

As seen from the opposite side/

The smaller temple is almost like a box with a small doorway.

The third temple at a higher level.

Even now if you look outside the complex walls, you can find a upturned coracle or a boat during off season. That's an indication of presence boatsmen community to this day.

Dec 20, 2014

scale model Moreyara Mane of Hire Benkal

Few weeks after our visit to the megalithic site of Hire Benakal, this clay model was made by Malatesh C N. On the hills of Hire Benakal are four tomb sites; three sites have small structures covering cist graves and one site has massive structures made of trapezoidal and circular slabs. Structures are as small as 3' going right up to 10'. Many of the tombs had port holes on one of the sides.

Locals call them Moreyara Mane ~ dwarfish people's houses. These structures are believed to be created more than 2000 years ago. However, I feel they could be much older, probably 3500 to 4000 years. Close to the tombs is a hemispherical stone a meter in diameter positioned atop a rock, easily visible from a distance. This rock is called kettle drum rock. Its called so not just because of its shape but also because it produces a booming sound when struck with a wooden staff. Locals say that the sound can be heard as far as a kilometer away. Amazing!

Here's one of the pictures from the main article - Moreyara Mane - the megalithic tombs of Hirebenakal. Malatesh the model maker is standing holding a water bottle.

Hire Benakal is one of the best preserved prehistoric sites of India and it happens to be in Karnataka, Among several prehistoric sites of Karnataka two other sites can be considered major sites, probably older than Hire Benakal are sites at Aihole and Rajan Kollur.


Dec 13, 2014

Jogikal Kote

Jogikal Kote was an accidental discovery, it happened while I was scanning the area for Palayyana Kote. The fort got into the itinerary for December 2013.. I was trying to cover some places in Davangere, Chitradurga and Bellary districts.

December 21, 2013
We left Dharwad by 5 AM, reached Ujjaini via Gadag, Mundargi and Kottur. Enroute we went across river Tungabhadra, not much water but we could see lot of water birds, four or five big varieties. We had a brief stop at Ujjaini Matha. During the stop while inquiring about Palayyana Kote, I happened to hear about another fort called Bairidevara Kote a hill fort. Though Bairidevara hill was a short climb I chose to take pictures of the fort from distance because of time constraint. Next we moved on towards Palayyana Kote.. reaching the base of the hill by vehicle was not possible, and the distance was bit too much to cover by foot. Again I took pictures from a distance. Next was Jogikal Gudda.. though it was past 1 PM we decided to explore the hill first and then have lunch.

Jogikal is a small village next to a rocky hillock of the same name. The name Jogikal can be split into Jogi and Kallu. Jogi means Yogi, I think. It is possible that a Shiva Yogi stayed on the rock hill hence the name. Going by the look of the hill it seems like a prehistoric site. So, here we are at the fort entrance.. we walked about a kilometer through the village streets to reach this spot.

The fort entrance has been renovated recently.. looks like this is an important shrine in this region. This bastion is besides the fort entrance.

To the other side is a steep face and more bastions.

We climb up to a high point.. fort entrance, the crumbling bastion and the village below.

This bastion is probably the highest one. Looks like it was built between 600 to 1000 years ago. It might have been used to store food and weapons.

Another bastion in the background, that  could be the far end of the fort. All bastions give a commanding view of the neighbouring plains and hills.

This bastion proves that ancient people were always in synch with Nature. When they had the ability to break and move rocks, this boulder could have been broken but builders chose to leave it intact and made it part of the structure. Wonderful creation!

These two boulders might have been one centuries ago. Note the chequered cracks on the right boulder.

The shrine; its a group of several temples.

This place has been recently tidied up and painted, probably a fair was held days or weeks ago.

To the right of this bastion is a small gateway, an exit to the outer fort.

The gateway.

The bastion as seen from the outer fort. Note the row of slits for firing arrows or guns.

We are the far end of the fort, probably the southern tip. Accessing the fort from these slopes is not easy.

Kote Kere ~ fort's water tank. Paddy is the main crop in this region. Paddy had been harvested and village folks were busy running the stalks through portable machines to separate the grains from the stalks.

Being a rock hill, it will have its share of natural shelters. Here's one we could see easily. There could be many more we missed.

I went into the shelter.. there's a window to the other side of the hill.

Beautiful. A valley down there. With good rain fall this place will be a wonderful sight. To the left a small flat surface can be seen.. It looks like a good sentry point. The spot could also be a good spot for a yogi to meditate.

I loved the place, as much as its name.. J o g i k a l. I wish I had more time to explore in detail.. we might have found a rock painting or a petroglyph hidden some where.. Well, time to leave, our tummies were growling.

Jogikal is a kilometer from the main road. We came back to the main road, found a shady spot with lot of clean rocks and settled down for home made lunch.. jolada rotti, chatni, sprouts, cucumber, carrot, tomato and curd. Our next destination was Kumati to see the prehistoric anthropomorphic statues.

Jogikal Kote Coordinates: 14°58'1"N   76°27'6"E

Dec 10, 2014

Palayyana Kote

Palayyana Kote was unknown until read about it in a Kannada book about forts of Bellary district authored by Shri. D M Kotresh. The book lists out major and minor forts with their detailed history. From the book I also heard about few more new names.

December 21, 2013
Our tour of historical places of Davangere started with Ujjaini Peeta, followed by a distant view of Bairidevara Kote. After a twenty minute drive (in rural roads) we are near Palayyana Kote, looking at the hill from the road and trying to figure out the way to reach its base. We drove upto a small village and inquired if there was any road leading to the base of the hill. Yes, there is but its not fit for a car. That road is for carts, tractors and trucks. See the Jaali-Gida jungle close to the base of the hill.. I bet the ground there will be littered with thorns. We decided to see the fort from the village.. this is the western face of the hill.

Its not really a long climb but the terrain can be challenging and under the blazing Sun it would be difficult climb. The fort is mostly in ruins, walls crumbling away. However it's condition is better than that of Bairidevara Kote.

Bird's eye-view of Palayyana Kote. The structure is intact in this view. Its a small fort with 6 bastions connected by rampart walls. Maximum length is about 70m and 45m at its widest point. Within the walls are dividing walls for security. It's difficult to tell where the entrance is.

Google Maps/Wikimapia screen-shot
Unlike Bairidevara Kote, Palayyana Kote does not have protective walls on hill slopes.

On the neighbouring hill is a smaller fort like structure. A local man told us its known as Basavanadurga, I think.. I'm not sure. This could be a protective unit for Palayyana Kote. Like other forts in this region, these forts could be built by Nayakas controlled by Uchchangidurga or Chitradurga.

If we had time I would have made it to the top. Hope the day comes.

A sketch of the roads and approximate locations of the forts with reference to Ujjaini.

Palayyana Kote Coordinates: 14°45'57"N   76°20'49"E

According to Shri. D M Kotresh's book there are 26 forts in Bellary district. Taluq wise break up is given below:
Bellary - 2 
Hadagli - 3
Hagaribommanahalli - 3
Hosapete - 6
Kudligi - 5
Sandur - 3
Shirguppa - 4

Dec 6, 2014

Bairidevara Kote

December 21, 2013
This fort was an discovered while making inquiries at Ujjaini Matha for Palayyana Kote. People told me about another fort which can be seen on the way to Palayyana Kote.. that's nice, another fort got added to the list. About 4.5 kms north-east of Ujjaini Peetha, we turned right into a dirt track. Though the fort was visible from distance we wanted to find a easy place to climb it.. we drove about a kilometer and stopped. The fort was a fifteen minute climb and it was close to noon. I decided to take pictures from the base itself..

As you see the western face of the hillock, its a long and narrow rock formation. The fort sits right at the summit and spread over on the slopes also. This fort must have been built by the Nayakas.. probably connected to the largest fort in this region- Uchchangidurga.

The fort could be a simple structure consisting of walls. Probably there's a temple within those walls. Walls on the slopes can be seen.. everything is crumbling here. Towards the bottom right corner is a temple (look for two green pillars) partly hidden by a tree.

The central bastion.. probably the Nishan Burj ~ flag bastion.

A crumbling bastion sits at the end of the summit.

Having covered the fort we decide to move on to Palayyana Kote; back to SH 45 we went further North and turned right again after 3 kms or so. As we drove we could seen the eastern face of Bairidevara Gudda. Unlike the western face, the eastern face is quite steep. From this side the fort seems to be in better condition. Within the walls are two large structures.

We drove little further.. the entire length of the fort hill is seen.

Further down the road..

Wish I had the time to go up there. Hope the day comes. We move on towards Palayyana Kote..

Bairidevara Kote Coordinates: 14°45'9"N   76°18'59"E

Dec 3, 2014

Shrimad Ujjaini Sadharma Simhasana Mahasamsthana

December 21, 2014
Ujjaini is one of the Panchapeethas along with Baalehonnur, Kashi, Kedar and Srishaila. Vishwabandhu Marulasiddeshwara (also known as Maralusidda), contemporary of Basaveshwara, is the founder of Shrimad Ujjaini Sadharma Simhasana Mahasamsthana. The temple within this Matha complex is believed to be the Aikyasthala of Sri Marulasiddeshwara. Maralusidda had worked with Basaveshwara for the good of the society during the Kalyana revolution in 12th Century.

Shrimad Ujjaini Sadharma Simhasana Mahasamsthana

The temple structure looks puffed out, as though the stone has become soft. This is because of the unique tradition of Ujjaini- Shikara Thailabhisheka. The temple's Shikhara is believed to have all existing gods and goddesses of Hinduism. Once a year, during the annual fair pilgrims are allowed to offer oil to the Shikhara i.e. oil is poured in gallons. Due to this tradition, over the centuries stone has absorbed oil and probably turned soft.

Marulasidda Gudi
The floor was also oily :( and the temple caretakers had tried their best to wash off as much as oil as possible.

 This Gopura is believed to be the rear entrance of the Matha even though it looks like the main entrance.

A mantapa, pair of Deepastambhas between the Gopura and Maralusiddeshwara temple entrance. Almost every part of the temple premises is oily.

The temple interior; its turned pillars are beautiful. As you see temple flooring has a modern touch.

 The Garbhagudi and the deity.

Well I was not comfortable walking on the oily floor, wanted to go out as soon as possible. To see more pictures of Ujjaini Matha and fair visit the article on mahiti by Rakesh.

Our next destination were nearby forts- Bairidevara Kote and Palayyana Kote.

Nov 29, 2014

ancient temple of Hebballi

In North Karnataka there are several places which are believed to have 101 temples and wells. The first place I heard about was Lakkundi, then came Laxmeshwar and Hebballi. Hebballi is 20+ kms from Dharwad. I wanted to check out if such a small village really had 101 temples..

August 28, 2011
On the way back from Thirlapur, we stopped at Hebballi. It was rainy season, village streets were slushy and messy. At the village square we made inquiries for ancient temples and were directed to this temple seen below. I did not note of the name of the temple.. but its a temple dedicated to Shiva Linga. The temple is definitely ancient, situated on the village outskirts. Note the Indo-Islamic arch of the entrance. Also the row of merlon like formation on the top.

The ancient gateway still stand while the surrounding wall has gone missing. Design of the pillars is similar to that of temples of Bankapur, Hangal, Haveri, etc.

View of the deity in Garbhagudi- a Shiva Linga. Absence of flowers doesn't mean ritual are no performed. The poojari has chosen to perform a simple ritual.. wash the deity with water and apply Vibhuti.

A strong looking Basavanna seated before his Lord.

Note the mesh like sculptures flanking the Garbhagudi doorway.

A slab with Kannada inscription.. wonder why it was smeared with lime :( Note the window mesh on the right, the design is commonly seen in Badami Chalukyan temples.

Close to the road was another inscription lying neglected. Some vandals have damaged the beautiful monument. Wonder if our people will ever realize the value of our heritage!

A small mob had gathered.. curious to know why strangers were taking pictures of their village temple. Extreme right is my cousin Vidya and next her is a friend Manju.

Folks said that Hebballi did have 101 temples and wells long time back but now most of lost with time. There was one good temple in the fields but reaching the place in wet conditions would be difficult. We decided to make it during dry weather. One of the boys asked to check out an ancient Matha inside the village. We negotiated the narrow streets and managed to reach the Matha. It had thick and tall walls like a fort. As we stepped into the Matha we were greeted by some ancient wood work.. sadly the place has not tidy, barres and stuff were heaped. Also, some youngsters were erecting a pendal for celebrating Ganesha festival. I skipped taking pictures.

Hope to come back some day and locate the temple in the fields and find out how many of the 101 are surviving to this day.