BALLIGAVI- An important seat of learning

By- U.B.Githa

Balligavi the ancient name for today’s Belgami or Belagavi is situated 72 Kms from Shimoga and 12Kms from Shikaripur, the taluk Head Quarters. It was a very ancient capital (anadirajadhani). It was a very important seat of learning with hub of cultural activity. Balli in Kannada means Creeper or Vine. There is a legend that connects this place to the demon king Bali. On account of its religious importance it was called Dakshina Kedareswara and having the same importance as Uttara Kedareswara as informed by the 76 year old priest. Also in the days of yore, traveling was undertaken on foot. Everyone was not fortunate to travel to the important pilgrimage place of Kedareswara of the North hence this temple is believed to have served the same purpose, as did its northern counterpart. Interestingly the priest informed that, he who had lost his sight regained the same, which he attributes to the grace of the deity he worships.

This place was the seat of five Mathas, three Puras (i.e. extensions), seven Brahmapuris, five Vidyapeethas and many many temples. The mathas belonged to the devotees of Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, Jaina and Buddha indicating the diversity prevailing. Of these the Kodi or Kodiyamatha was well known and had the patronage of the Hoysala Kings. It also was the Kedareswara Matha of the Kalamukhas, a sect of learned Shaiva priests who were associated with tatntric practices. Records indicate there was a University here. The backyards of many houses were once the sites of temples, and the owners by their flights of fancy have put the temple stones to various uses.

There is a beautiful shrine, on the left side of the road. One is very likely to miss this temple, as it is situated at a lower level and hence not visible from the road. Since there is a Ratha parked on the right side of the road, just opposite, it is indicative of a temple. Today in this temple puja is offered. This shrine was attached/formed a part of the Kodimatha.It was earlier on the banks of a lake, with no trace of this now. The lake was known as Padmakere. The temple is exposed to damage because of the road in front of it, as it comes at an angle. Though not a match to the Belur-Halebid temples it has its own charm, and probably the oldest specimen of Chalukya-Hoysala architecture in the state, as per the My sore Archaeological reports. It is fairly preserved by the ASI.

The temple is of the Chalukyan Hoysala transitional type on a stellate platform. It is a Trikutachala (3 celled) facing east. The three cells have towers over them with projections in front bearing the Hoysala insignia, which seem to be of a later addition. The Northern crest has however fallen down. The Western Kirtimukha is perhaps the grandest of the three. The West cell garbhagriha has a low peetha with a medium sized round-headed lingam resting on it. This is of the 7th-8th C, whereas the outer additions of the garbhagriha are of the 12th C. In the South cell also there is a lingam. Vishnu image is seen in the North cell. The doorway of the west cell has a perforated screen with the lintel bearing a fine group of deities with Shiva standing in the centre attended by Brahma, Vishnu, Ganesha, and Shanmukha, and makaras with Varuna and his consort seated. Attached to the navaranga without any partition wall is a fine mantapa supported by two rows of elegantly executed pillars with a veranda all around having entrances on the three sides. The outer row of pillars is 16 sided whereas the inner ring has round lathe turned pillars with bell moulding, whose beauty is still intact. The Jagati or parapet about five and half feet high skirts the front mantapa, with turrets. The ceilings are flat and divided into squares with finely carved lotus in them. The central ceiling has Tandaveswara surrounded by eight dikpalakas. Facing the east is a Nandi, which unfortunately spoils the frontal view. The outer walls are intricately decorated with figures of women having elaborate jewellery, which could be a fashion statement in the near future.

There used to be a Bharundeswara pillar (Garuda Kambha) that has been removed and shifted to a place nearby the ruins of the panchalinga temple.
In the government of Karnataka gazetteer it is mentioned that this is the birthplace of Allama Prabhu, a poet saint of the 12th C, and hence there is the Veerashaiva influence. Also mentioned is that Akkamahadevi came as the daughter in law to this place. The consort of the the very popular Hoysala king Vishnuvardhan, queen Shantala and the sculptors of Belur temple are the natives of Belagavi. Nearby are the ruins of a Buddhist Vihara.Adjacent to the shrine is the ASI museum that is maintained well. Efforts have been made to collect stray sculptures of ruined basadis, Viharas and temples and are preserved in the museum. However some of the exhibits are placed outside the museum due to lack of space.


U.B.Githa is a Postgraduate in Botany from Andhra University, with two decades stint in the banking sector. Her love for a better comprehension of Indian culture was chanellised to completing a Post Gradute Diploma course in Indology from Bangalore University in 2003.Wanting to share her love of the country’s heritage, has prompted to the contribution of more than a dozen articles/features in leading newspapers of Karnataka.She gives guest lectures at Rotary clubs, schools etc.Being a research associate of M H Krishna Institute of Indology, Bangalore, she was a privileged member of the team headed by Dr.S.Nagaraju, renowed indologist that recorded and documented the socio religion interface and its relevance to contemporary times at the recently concluded Simhastha (Kumbha Mela-2004).






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