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.

2 comments:

R Niranjan Das said...

Nice to know about this temple. Such a gorgeous one with magnificent sculptures.

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