A city's secrets etched in stone
Mar 28, 2012 06:44 PM , By Pushpa Achanta
Piecing together a story: The Naganatheshwara temple at Begur, believed to be around 1,000 years old, houses old stone statues and inscriptions, including one referring to the ‘battle of Bengaluru’. Photos: Satish Badiger
Piecing together a story: The Naganatheshwara temple at Begur, believed to be around 1,000 years old, houses old stone statues and inscriptions, including one referring to the ‘battle of Bengaluru’. Photos: Satish Badiger

It was the discovery of a nondescript piece of rock that put the village of Begur on the map.

Bengaluru kaleghadhul buttana setti sattam, the inscription on the rock said; Buttana Setti (presumably a warrior) died in Bengaluru.

According to H.S. Gopal Rao, epigraphist, historian and the former general secretary of the Karnataka Itihasa Academy, the inscription refers to the battle of Bengaluru. This veeragallu or victory stone dates back to the 10th century, on which the words are in a language and script that has been identified as Kannada.

Until this inscription was discovered, it was assumed that there was no Bangalore before Kempe Gowda I.

The object was probably discovered between 1906 and 1911, when the legendary B.L. Rice, the former director of the Mysore archaeology department and compiler of Epigraphia Carnatica was in office. It now lies in the nearly 1,000-year-old Naganatheshwara temple at Begur.

A long association

“This temple was constructed around the statue of the deity Nageshwara, which was already there during the reign of Raja Raja Chola II (1146-1173 AD). The king appointed a member of our family as the main priest. We have been responsible for performing puja and other rituals since then,” says Vijay Deekshit, a priest at the temple.

He adds: “Because of marital relationships between the Gangas and Cholas, the royal insignia of both these dynasties can be found at the Naganatheshwara temple. The architecture of this place resembles that of the Shiva shrine at Gangaikonda Cholapuram (the one-time capital of the Chola rulers) almost entirely.”

Multicultural

As well known in Begur are the Jain basadis or temples. Poornima Dasharathi, writer and travel enthusiast who visited Begur during a walk organised by the Bangalore chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, says, “Although Hinduism was the main religion of the Ganga-Chola era, there seems to have been a lot of respect for Jainism. This is evident from the Jain sculptures and statues in and around the area.”

Link to spies?

Interestingly, Dr. Rao says, there is more than one Begur around Bangalore. “The name has its origins in the word ‘Behuru', which was associated with spying. This is because the Ganga dynasty employed spies to keep a watch over enemies,” he says.





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