22 December 2015

Panchalingeshwara Naganatheshwara Temple, Bangalore, Karnataka


“My country! In thy days of glory past, a beauteous halo circled round thy brow
And worshiped as a deity thou wast – Where is thy glory, where the reverence now?
Thy eagle pinion is chained down at last and groveling in the lowly dust art thou,
Thy minstrel hath no wreath to weave for thee, save the sad story of thy misery!
Let me dive into the depths of time and bring from out the ages that have rolled,
A few small fragments of these wrecks sublime which human eye may never more behold
And let the guerdon of my labour be, my fallen country! One kind wish for thee!”
– Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, "To India - My Native Land"


Several highly embellished, possibly fabricated medieval tales popularly claim to hide in their outlandish bosoms the intriguing beginnings and the interesting nomenclature of the glittering glimmering city of Bangalore – one such fascinating tale recounts how the mighty Hoysala sovereign Veer Ballala II (reign AD 1173-1220), frustratingly lost in the impenetrable forests encircling Bangalore, was kindheartedly offered boiled beans by a poor old woman and gratefully christened the densely-forested area as "Bendakaluru" (literally, “City of Boiled beans”), which eventually evolved into “Bengaluru”; an alternate belief goes that the city derives its name from “Bengavaluru” (“City of Guards”) since here were provided accommodations for royal bodyguards servicing Ganga Dynasty (AD 350-1000) sovereigns; yet another fairly scientific theory however credits the enormous city’s perplexing nomenclature to a possibly vegetative origin and states that it was thus named because of the overwhelming presence of the deciduous Kino trees, locally referred to as “Benga”!


Spellbinding tranquility!


Another bewitching lore enthrallingly recounts the curious construction of the formidable fortress and establishment of the finely planned city around it in AD 1537 by Hiriya Kempe Gowda I (ruled AD 1513-69), the Lord of Yelahanka principality (refer Pixelated Memories - Bangalore Fort). It is this one to which I too professed since I began exploring the magnificently ornamented monuments and eye-opening architectural heritage of Karnataka – a year later, the mesmerizing journey has come to fruitful (and unbelievably painful!) termination and it is time for me to return to Delhi beloved, but the last ancient monument I photographed and studied, painstakingly I must point out since it is miserably located in a very distant, perennially ignored corner of the otherwise shimmering city, has unquestionably defeated all the previous beliefs and folklores, notwithstanding how undeniably believable or how fiercely explicable they were, regarding Bangalore’s mysterious origins.


Challenging established notions


The gorgeously traditional Panchalingeshwara Naganatheshwara temple located in the underdeveloped, poverty-encrusted village of Chikkabegur off the Silk Board – Electronic City – Hosur highway happens to be a tiny ancient edifice superficially embellished and unremarkably drenched in myriads of brilliant hues on several occasions throughout its over 1150-year history and is encircled on all sides by multistoried, vividly painted, box-like residential apartments not any different from the millions of buildings littering Bangalore’s overpopulated landscape except that the backbreaking, undulating roads leading to this unexceptional agglomeration of ubiquitous residential spaces are so thoroughly pockmarked and crumbling to featureless oblivion that every moving object – human, vehicle and animal alike – reaches the beautiful temple complex in the all-enveloping midst of an irritating dust cloud of their own making consistently proportional to their own physical dimensions and velocity. Heralded by the enormous Begur Lake and three vividly painted, towering pyramidal gateways (“Gopuram”) displaying a mind-blowing collection of celestial guards, fearsome mythological deities and mythical anthropomorphic entities intertwined with religious pattern work and geometric and floral leitmotifs, the unbelievably simplistic, architecturally austere shrine is altogether a picture of tremendous contrast not merely to the gigantic soaring buildings colonizing Bangalore but also its own three multi-hued, artistically flamboyant, recently constructed gateways (the dexterous stonemasons as well as the traditional artists, all are Muslims – there goes the country's recently manifested and fiercely debated religious intolerance!).


The forced imposition of modernity


Said to have been constructed around AD 860 during the rule of Western Ganga Dynasty sovereign Ereganga Nitimarga I (reign AD 843-70) with further structural and religious additions commissioned by Ereyappa Ereganga Nitimarga II (reign AD 907-21), the exemplar shrine is said to be a handsome epitome of Ganga Dynasty architecture, further embellished during the rule of Rajakesarivarman Kulothunga Chola I (reign AD 1070-1122) and Raja Raja Chola II (reign AD 1146-73) with elaborate Chola Dynasty (reign 300 BC – 1279 AD) artistic and sculptural idioms including representations of "Kirtimukha" (the ferociously wide fanged, lion-like face of an all-consuming demon conceived and originated out of thin air by Lord Shiva to destroy other, mightier demons) and "Makara" (entities possessing the body of a fish, the face and tusks of an elephant, the limbs of a lion and the tail of a peacock).


Piercing the skyline


Apart from the three exquisitely painted, intricately designed gateways (one of these a sparkling golden furiously reflecting the brilliant sunshine) and the numerous subsidiary shrines dedicated to minor mythological deities and serpent divinities associated with fertility rituals and childbirth, the two identical granite shrines are widely renowned for their traditional layered architecture adorned with multi-patterned pilasters and smaller figurines of Lord Shiva (the Hindu God of death and destruction to whom these temples are dedicated) and his bull demigod mount Nandi (patron of spirituality and religious commitment). Nageshwara, Nagareshwara, Choleshwara, Kameshwara and Kamateshwara are the five forms (Panchalinga) of Lord Shiva religiously venerated here.


Ancient textures


Numerous stone epigraphs and Veergallu inscriptions (commemorating eminent soldier-warriors and efficient generals) miserably lie scattered in different stages of ruination around the historically unique shrine, expounding mythical tales from ancient Hindu epics as well as extolling the unparalleled courage and battle worthiness of military commanders and regal personal guards – one such intricately sculpted stone plaque agelessly celebrating a fierce battle fought in the year 890 between King Ereyappa Ereganga and Nolamba King Bira-Mahendra (whose fearsome elephant battalions were efficiently commandeered by his son Ayyapadeva Nolamba) notes the existence of Bengaluru ruled by a Jain feudal officer named Nagattara within the domain of the Ganga supremacy –


“Bengaluru kalaghadhol buttana setti sattam”
(“In the Battle of Bangalore, Buttana Setti died.”)


The obdurate locals stubbornly prevent conservation authorities from relocating these epigraph inscriptions to museums believing that malevolent spirits and bad fortune would accrue in the village if these are even slightly disturbed – thus the continuous exposure to the relentless ravages of ruthless nature.


History's mystery?


Thanks to the perennial construction enveloping the tiny village on all sides, one of the faces of the massive lake nearby has been transmogrified into an incredible stretch of multi-rise residential apartments and commercial buildings totally foreign to the underdeveloped, semi-rural landscape, and amidst such development the magnificent colorful shrine, inexplicably peaceful and very strongly fragrant with the aromas of incense and camphor, is an ethereal site of soothing peacefulness and serenity, tranquil enough to attract hundreds of waterbirds that contentedly frolic in the hyacinth-shrouded purple-blue waters of the immense lake opposite and noiseless enough to nearly soothe every single visitor to an undisturbed calmness and facilitate uninterrupted conversations with one’s own self especially during the commotion-free afternoon hours.


Unassuming simplicity


But Begur, originally referred to as “Behuru” (“City of Spies”) since here lived the most efficient spies prominently employed by the Ganga Dynasty sovereigns, apparently does not wish to continue being existential in a state of erstwhile skeletal glory – the immense stretch of unutilized area is rapidly giving itself to burgeoning urbanization and avaricious commercialization, modern-day shimmering glass-and-concrete buildings are rapidly piercing the contourless skyline, gigantic resort-like educational institutions such as the Manipal Institute, offering diplomas in banking, financial institutions and corporate investments, encircled by numerous mouthwatering continental cafes and delectable coffeehouses, and lastly, large gated communities enclosed by massive periphery walls and ostentatiously christened Royal Castle, Lakeview Apartments, Wellington Paradise and Regal County are mushrooming in every direction one looks to. It is unreservedly stimulating to know that despite striving to catch up in the race of globalization and urbanized development, the perennially ignored settlement continues to supply reputed historians and archaeologists with rich layers of epigraphical material instrumental in sifting through impenetrable webs of millennium-old folk history and highly embroidered tales to decisively extricate the city's curious history and unequaled identity.

P.S: The sumptuously delectable white-sauce pasta and tremendously calorie-laden chicken burgers at cafe Magic Oven, prominently located close to the intersection of the Bangalore-Hosur highway and Manipal County road, is definitely worth an irresistible detour.


Mouthwatering!


Open: All days, sunrise to sunset
Location: Chikkabegur locality, Begur village, off Bangalore-Hosur highway
Nearest Bus stop: Singhasandra, couple of kilometers from Bommanahalli
How to reach: All BMTC buses plying to Electronic City from Silk Board, Majestic (Kempegowda Bus Stand) and Koramangala stop at Singhasandra. Irregular private buses are also available from Madiwala junction. The shrine is located approximately 3 kilometers from Singhasandra past Manipal County educational campus. Walk/avail an auto to reach the same.
Entrance fees: Nil
Photography/Video charges: Nil
Time required for sightseeing: 30 min
Relevant links -
Other monuments/landmarks located in Bangalore -
  1. Pixelated Memories - Bangalore Fort
  2. Pixelated Memories - Bangalore Palace
  3. Pixelated Memories - Jama Masjid and Dargah Hazrat Bahadur Khan Shaheed
  4. Pixelated Memories - Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens
  5. Pixelated Memories - Sir Puttanachetty Town Hall
  6. Pixelated Memories - Tipu Sultan's Palace and Kote Venkataramana Temple
Suggested reading -
  1. Bangaloremirror.com - Article "Veeragallu stones will stay put in Begur" (dated May 22, 2015) by Kushala S
  2. Bangaloretourism.org - Nageshvara Temple - Begur, Bangalore
  3. Puzha.com - Sri Pancha Lingaeshwara Temple, Begur
  4. Thehindu.com - Article "A city's secrets etched in stone" (dated March 28, 2012) by Pushpa Achanta
  5. Wikipedia.org - Bangalore

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