Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bankapur Fort and Peacock Sanctuary

Bankapur fort as once a strong fortress with a large and deep ditch but either allowed to go to decay or demolished on several sides. The granite ramparts and gateways on one side were in good order; the rest was out of repair. One of the fort walls runs across the back of the Nagareshwar temple and is built on it.
Bankapur is a small town in Haveri district. The earliest known reference of Bankapur is found in a Kolhapur Jain manuscript, dated 898 CE, where it is mentioned that the great city of Bankapur was named after the Chellaketan chief Bankeyaras who was a feudatory of Rashtrakuta king Amoghavarsha-I.
Bankapur peacock sanctuary situated in Bankapur village of Shiggon taluk, is just 2.5 km from the NH-4, 22 km from Haveri town towards Hubli. This sanctuary is situated on 139 acres of land which has the remains of the historic Bankapura Fort
The peacock sanctuary in Bankapura is the only second sanctuary in the country that is exclusively engaged in the conservation and breeding of peacocks. Understanding the great presence of peacocks in the region, the Government of India declared Bankapura as a peacock sanctuary on June 9, 2006. Any visitor to this sanctuary will not return without seeing a flock of peacock, our national bird, happily dancing in the sprawling sanctuary, without a care in the world.

The high mound and deep trenches of the land have provided a perfect home for these birds. According to a rough estimate, there are more than 1,000 peacocks and peahen in the sanctuary. Also, minimal human intervention has helped in the breeding of these birds. They walk royally on the four km mound and also perch on green trees.
Bankapura Peacock Sanctuary is covered with Acacia, Neem and Ficus plants. Crops such as maize, Jowar and Horse gram are grown here. Many species of medicinal plants are found here. Known for having huge numbers of peacock and additionally birds like Woodpecker, babbler, extraordinary horned owl, jaybird, green-buzzing insect eater, robin and nightjar are seen here.
The officials of the Department of Veterinary Sciences have shown great interest in the conservation of these birds, making it easy for the Forest Department to carry on with their job. According to experts, Bankapur is considered to be a safe haven for pea fowls because of its topography.
The sanctuary is located on the cattle breeding farm which was set up in 1919 after the First World War. The farm is located in 90 acres out of the total 139 acres of the sanctuary.
There are a number of other birds like wood pecker, great-horned owl, babbler, magpie, robin, green bee-eater, nightjar, spotted maina, paradise flycatcher, Indian robin, spotted dove, parakeets, kingfisher, grey hornbill, blue tailed bee eater, blacked winged kite, tailor bird etc.  The fort also houses an animal farm for breeding cattle and rabbits.
A cluster of magnificent black-faced languor’s (monkeys) was seated on a path going to a large mud-rock mound that must have constituted a part of the fort wall in ancient times. Quite separated from them was another languor chewing meditatively on a cud. A little later, it was witched by my side in a few large steps with very impressive speed. It seemed to be six feet tall and gave me a feeling that he could easily have been a proud member of any army. The languors were everywhere and we must thank the forest department for not officially making it a languor sanctuary.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Nagareshwar temple, Bankapur

Nagareshwar temple is located in the grounds of Bankapur's famous peacock sanctuary; one sees more peacocks painted on signboards than they are seen in the sanctuary. The temple base was about ten feet below the level of the ground. One had to climb down a few steps to see the temple fully.
Local refer this temple as Aravattu-kambada-gudi, meaning 60 pillared temple in Kannada, as the great hall of the temple is supposed to be supported on sixty columns. However, originally it had only fifty-two columns. Six columns were added by Muslims who converted it into a mosque. Another two are between this Mandapa and inner hall, so counting all it comes to sixty. The carvings on the pillars of Chalukyan period are rarely repetitive, some of the carvings that seemed to be unique.
 This large temple has a big mandapa which is open for entrance from three sides. This large mandapa is connected with a small hall or navaranga through a porch. Navaranga is also entered from three sides, east, south and north. Low parapet wall runs on all sides of the outer large mandapa. On this well are provided numerous mini-shirnes with Nagara tower. Above these shrines are miniature images often describing some story such as Vishnu’s Trivikrama episode. Inside the hall, runs a stone bench on all sides.
 Many of these miniature images are chiselled off by Muslim when the temple served as a mosque during the occupation of the Bijapur army. However, what remains depict the genius of the artists and their imagination. There are two beautiful arabesque windows, one on each side of the entrance of the inner hall. Both of these windows are damaged leaving only few jagged frames.
The doorway of the hall is also devoid of its various images during the Muslim rule.  I realized that the important face is the Kirttimukha’s (lion-face) with bulging eyes that appears everywhere. The word Kirttimukha means glorious face for various reasons which we won’t get into here. It is not an ordinary face of a lion, the faces usually portrayed with bulging eyes with two strands emerging from its mouth. In some interpretations this is the face of a monster swallowing its tail following Shiva's order so that it was finally left with its face.
One of the features of the temple at Bankapur is the markings on the floor of the temple which seems to have been formed by rubbing or by constant dripping of water from leaking roofs over long time. A cursory inspection of the roof shows little sign of recent leakage the local people insist that these are marks left by the Pandavas who spent their year of vanavas at Bankapur.
Though this is often said to be a Jain temple, however Henry Cousens differ with this opinion. And he seems to be correct as the inscriptions speak of donations to Shiva temple. Inscription speaks an Acharya Vimalashakti of Kalamukha lineage belonging to this temple; therefore this temple was dedicated to Shiva and was associated with Kalamukha sect. But there was a Jain temple for sure in Bankapura as inscription talks about it.
During the occupation of the Muslim king of Bijapur, this temple was converted into a mosque. However they later built another mosque inside the fort. To convert this temple for their usage, they squared off the back corners of the hall, which were originally recessed like the front. They then built up a wall upon the bench to meet the beams under the cornice, and finally inserted a Mihrab (prayer slab) within the doorway that led towards the shrine. In this process they chiseled away all the small images flaunted on the front parapet wall of the temple.
The destruction such destruction is there almost all over the temple and one has to go towards the back to find a few that has not been damaged fully so as to get an idea of how it could have been. The temple at Bankapur was evidently the "superb temple" that Adil Shah destroyed and replaced with a mosque when he took the city in 1575'. We have little idea of what this temple could have been. A Madhwa Brahmin's house has the presiding deity (Lord Narshimha) of Bankapur below the ground level to protect it from Muslim aggression during later part of the 18th century.
At the same time whatever the destruction that has taken place, the ordinary people of this country must remain one of the most creative craftsmen who can fashion images of god at will and almost in an instant. No matter how much one destroys they will come up again with the same cheer and song that come so naturally to them even if a fear of religion is thrust on them. 
If the monotheistic god of Islam or Jews brooks little tolerance for other gods, our infinite-theistic approach can brook intolerance and come out unperturbed absorbing al destruction and coming out in a new creation. That is what Bankapur teaches us. The secular snakes in could be the past and the future.
HISTORY- What is historically interesting about this for site is that it has had several levels of rulers who date back at least to the 5th century AD and to earlier times. The earliest known reference of Bankapur is found in a Kolhapur Jain manuscript, dated 898 CE, where it is mentioned that the great city of Bankapur was named after the Chellaketan chief Bankeyaras who was a feudatory of Rashtrakuta king Amoghavarsha I. The above might be true as it is evident from inscriptions that Rashtrakutas would have ruled over it.
Bankapur served as the capital of the Rashtrakuta king Indra-Vallabha as found in an inscription from Boganur in the Navalgund Taluk. Bankapur would have been an important town associated with Jainism. Inscriptions found here mention as Jain temple patronized by the ruling chiefs. Five different Jain schools were established at the town during that time as evident from inscription. Western Ganga kings are known for their patronage towards Jainism this all suggests that Bankapur was an important Jain centre during ninth-tenth century CE.
Bankapur was also famous as a Kalamukha center. Nagreshwar temple inscription talks about land grants given to a Kalamukha priest, Vimalashakti. Shakti in his name suggests that he might have belonged to the Shakti-parishad branch of Kalamukha sect. It is not strange to find Kalamukhas vestiges in Bankapur. Gadag and Haveri, both near Bankapur, were very important Kalamukha centres in the past. After the Rashtrakutas, Bankapur being situated under Panungal-500 (modern Hangal) came under the Hangal Kadamba chiefs. They ruled as the feudatory chiefs under the Western Chalukyas. After the fall of Western Chalukyas, it was ruled by Suenas and Hoysalas. After the Hoysalas, the town came under the Muslim rule before moving into the Vijayanagara kingdom.
 The third Bahmani king, Mujahid Shah (1375-78 CE), demanded Bankapur fort from the Vijayanagara king Bukka (1356-1377 CE), but the latter did not give up. In 1406, the eighth Bahmani king, Sultan Feroze Shah (1397-1422 CE), took over Bankapur from Vijayanagara king Deva Raya I (1406-1422 CE) getting about 60,000 Hindu prisoners. Deva Raya ceded for peace, giving his daughter in marriage and the Bankapur fort to the Sultan. Bankapur played a very important role in Krishna Deva Raya’s battle with Sultan of Bijapur. Krishna Deva had almost the entire south under his sway. He was anxious to secure horses for his troops. Bankapur was on the way from Goa to Vijayanagara.
In 1512 CE, Bankapur chief sent a congratulation message to Portuguese on Afonso de Albuquerque’s capture of Goa. He also asked for permission to import three-hundred horses a year. The request was granted. It was necessary for the Bankapur chief to be on cordial relationship with Portuguese so that horses can be obtained. This political settlement was very beneficial for Krishna Deva Raya.
In 1573, Ali Adil Shah of Bijapur moved against Dharwad and Bankapur. Bankapur, under his chief Velappa Ray, defended bravely the fort for one year and three months. But he had to surrender at last to Adil Shah as he did not get help from his masters. Firishtah mentions that Adil Shah destroyed a superb temple inside the fort and himself laid the first stone of a mosque which was built on temple’s foundation. In 1673, Abdul Karim Khan, of the line of the Savanur Nawabs, was appointed governor of the province of Bankapur under the patronage of Bijapur. In 1747, Nawab of Savanur made a treaty with the Marathas in which he gave up all his land keeping Bankapur, Hangal, Hubli to himself. In 1755, Savanur was besieged by French general Bussy. To save Savanur, the Nawab pledged the Bankapur fort to the Holkars. In 1776, Hyder Ali took over Bankapur and Savanur. In 1780, Tipu Sultan celebrated Muharram in Bankapur. In 1802, Bankapur was ceded to British by Peshwa. These were restored to him in 1803 in exchange of Bundelkhand.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Lakshmi Lingeshwara and Jain temples, Lakshmeshwar

Lakshmi Lingeshwara temple close to the Someshwara Temple at Lakshmeshwar is another interesting monument. As the precise date of the temple is not known on stylish grounds it has been surmised that this temple should have been built in the early part of the 10th century AD.
It is one of the largest neglected temples at Lakshmeshwar, it is a Trikuta or temple with 3 Garbhagrihas. The pillars of the Mandapa are lathe turned, round and polished. It has a Shiva linga on a pitha in the sanctum. The walls o this temple was not much interesting.  

 There are two ancient Jain temples (Sannabasadi and Shankabasadi) in the town, as well as a notable Jamma Masjid. Lakshmeshwara is also home for many smaller shrines, the Kodiyellamma temple, the Mukha Basavanna shrine, and a gigantic idol of Suryanarayana.
The Shankha basadi built in the seventh century A D is the oldest Jain shrine here. The temple received continuous patronage from the Badami Chalukya kings from Pulakesi II to Vikramaditya II. The god is referred as Sankha-Jinendra in an inscription of the Badami Chalukya king Pulakesi II (610-642 CE). The temple seems to belong to Mula Sangh monastic order of Jainism which is synonymous with Digambar Jain order in today’s parlance. Dhruvadevacharya was the main priest of the temple during the time of the Badami Chalukya king Vinayaditya (680-696 CE). He is said to belong to Mula Sangh and Deva Gana. Deva Gana is one among the four different ganas organized and defined by Acharya Arhadbali. Wikipedia mentions that Deva Gana traces their lineage from Acharya Akalanka Deva who lived in eighth century CE. However, inscriptions at Lakshmeswar take back the Deva Gana time to the last quarter seventh century CE at least.
 The present structure is the result of recent conservation and renovation. Now it is known as Neminath Basadi, conch (sankha) being Neminath’s symbol therefore it was known as Sankha Basadi in earlier days. It is entered through a big hall, in front of which a high dipa-stambha is erected. This hall seems to have been constructed during the Western Chalukya time. All around the hall is a low parapet wall, which instead of being open is closed on top with pierced window panels.
 This large hall is connected to another hall which is smaller in size. This smaller hall would be contemporaneous with the original temple. At present this is reconstructed with original material wherever possible. This hall is connected to the sanctum with an ante-chamber. Inside the sanctum is an image of Neminath, the 22nd Jain thirthankara.
 It is said that Pampa (the first Kannada writer) wrote his famed works (Adi Purana) in this basadi.  He was born in 902 CE. His father abandoned Brahmanism to adopt Jainism. Pampa became the court-poet and a minister under a prince named Ari-kesari whose court was situated at Lakshmeswar. Ari-kesari claimed to be a descendant from the early Chalukyas but was then a feudatory under the Rashtrakutas. It is here in Lakshmeswar that Pampa composed his two poems which made him eternal in the history of the Kannada literature. These two compositions were Adi Purana and  Vikramarjuna Vijaya or Pampa Bharata.
 From its earliest inceptions to the last few, Lakshmeswar was all painted in the Jain color. One of the earliest Kannada dynasties, the Badami Chalukyas, patronized several Jain temples at this site. The earliest one seems to Sankha Basadi which has an inscription dated to the reign of Pulakesi II (609-642 CE). The priesthood at that time was in the hands of the priest hailing from Deva-gana of Mula Sangh.
 Sankha Basadi received continuous patronage under the Badami Chalukyas till the time of Vikramaditya II (733-746 CE). It is also said that the sister of the Badami Chalukya king Vijayaditya constructed a Jain temple, Anesejjeya Basadi. The priests of this temple seem to hail from Surastra Gana as evident from an inscription of the Western Chalukya time. The inscription mentions nirvana of two priests by observing sallekhana.
 The Jain temples of Lakshmeswar regained the impetus under the Western Gangas.During the times of the Western Gangas, Ganga-Kandarp-Jinalaya was patronized along with Sankha-basti. Ganga-Kandarp-Jinalaya might have been constructed by Marasimha II. The priesthood was put into the charge of priests hailing from Balakara-gana of Mula Sangh. There are evidences of the presence of Sena-gana priests of Mula Sangh in Lakshmeswar. An inscription of the time of the Western Chalukya king Vikramaditya VI mentions Jain cult in Lakshmeswar where the grants were entrusted to Narendrasena belonging to Sena-gana. During the Vijayanagara times, disputes were reported between the Hindus belonging to Someswara temple and Jains belonging to various basadis.
 An inscription of the Vijayanagara period mentions a dispute over land between the Someswara temple priest Sivaramayya and Sankha-basadi priest Hemadevacharya. The dispute was settled by Mahapradhana Naganna-dandanayaka. The judgment was in favour of the Jain priest of Sankha-basadi. A little time later, another dispute is mentioned in an inscription of sixteenth century CE tells that the dispute was between the Jains headed by Samkhanacharya and Hemanacharya of the Sankha-basadi and Kalahastideva and Sivaramadeva of the temple of Dakshina-Somesvaradeva.
 Anantanatha Basadi  is a trikuta (triple celled) structure which can be assigned to the Western Chalukya period. The shikhara is constructed in the Chalukya Phamsana style. An standing image of Anantnath, fourteenth Jain tirthankar, is put in the sanctum. The other cells have Parshvanath and Jina.

 Ankush Khan, the governor under Ibrahim Adil Shah II, constructed the beautiful Jamia Masjid in 1617 A D.  The main entrance has two tall, graceful minarets.  It is also popularly called the Kali Masjid. The other mosques as well as the tomb of Malik Sadat represent grand, ornate Adil Shahi architecture.  Ankush Khan, a saintly person, was buried on the outskirts of the town at Manjalapur. 

 He had constructed a mud fort which is in ruins now. The mosque's architecture is similar to mosques in Bijapur built during Adil Shahi's rule. Also, the town is said to have been home to a Muslim saint, Shishunala Shareef Saheb, who migrated to India from Baghdad.