In search of Brahmagiri

In search of Brahmagiri

 This is about my search for Brahmagiri. I take the lone train from Bangalore to Chitradurga. The stop right before Chitradurga is Amruthapura and the early morning sky there is brilliant. I must go back there and spend some time over there. The name encouraged me, because Amrutha means ‘Not Dead’ or then nectar that Devas (gods) drink to stay immortal.

The train stops just for a few minutes at Chitradurga, so you have to leap off the train quickly. No one on the train had heard of Brahmagiri and could give me directions. The station master had never heard of it either. The autodriver took me to the a hotel for Rs 30 , and the hotel gave me a decent room. A Rs 1000  for two days and one night stay, and about Rs 25 for breakfast. Good – but the hotel had never heard of Brahmagiri!
I started walking towards the city bus-stop and looking for boards. I found a board that said (in Kannada) research foundation for ancient Karnataka history – but it was not yet open at 8.00 am. Some women passers-by encouraged me to knock on the door of the home attached to the office. I did just that and a very nice woman living there, called the professor, and told me that Brahmagiri was near the Asoka silashasana, near a place called Haangal, off Bellary Road.
 After lots more asking around and walking for nearly an hour, I located a private bus stand, that had buses going to Hangal, Ramapura and Bellary. And there was a bus at 9.30 am.

After a dusty wait, I got into the bus and bought a Rs 40 ticket to Hangal. The ride was about 2-2.5 hours. I hopped off at Hangal. No one knew Brahmagiri, but they knew Asoka silashasana and told me to take a bus to Ramapura and hop off at the Asoka Siddapura Gate. This was another Rs eight of a very picteresque ride. I leapt off at that stop, where I was told I would find autos.
An auto did come by shortly and it was filled with about 15 people. A half-hour rattle (4 km) through a beautiful countryside, I reached Asoka Siddapura

What I learned there
While I was taking pictures, a local farmer introduced me to S T Rajasimha, of the Archaeological Society of India.

He first took me to see the burial ground of Mauryan times. Then he took me to the Brahmagiri excavation site and showed me the pottery pieces and the polished stone pieces. A nice farmer there gave me fresh groundnuts straight out of the ground and other fresh, delicious seeds to eat.
Then we went to see the Asoka silashasana. That means the Rock Edict of Asoka. At that time the place was called Isila Patna. The Sanskrit word – Sila was pronounced as Isila in Prakrit, the language used by Asoka in the edict. So the place name must have been Sila Patnam (sila – rock, patnam – town). It is very likely that Samrat (Emperor) Asoka knew Sanskrit.

But he wanted his edict to be read and understood by the common people. So he used the Prakrit language and the Brahmi script. In his edicts in the north west of India, he used a different script. This also implied that in his time there were common people who could at least read what was chiselled on the rock.

References to Brahmagiri
In his book A history of South India, K A Nilakantha Sastri, said that the Brahmagiri site, near Ashoka Siddapura, “is remarkable for its culture continuity extending from the polished stone axe culture to early historic cultures.”  He also said that there were two phases of the stone axe culture here (known from a study of the pottery found here)., and that the authors of this culture knew how to use Neolithic celts, microliths, and how to work copper and bronze.  The French Institute of Pondicherry, has published a Historical atlas of South India. If we superimpose the maps of the Stone Age, the New Stone Age and the Iron (Megalithic Age), we can see that Bellary had a continuous human civilization from 500,000 years ago.
N Kameswara Rao of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, has published a research paper in which he said that the megalithic stone circles at Brahmagiri, which have been dated at 900 BC show clear astronomical orientation.
The geometrical properties of the circle indicate the sunrise and the full moon rise at the time of solar and lunar solsitices and equinoxes. “The megalithic people were aware of the 18.61 period of the moon's solstice, in addition to keeping track of the sidereal day, the seasons and the year.”

The edict
In the edict he calls himself Devanam Piyadasi which in Sanskrit is Devanam Priya Dasa – the favourite servant of the Devas. Somewhere between Asoka’s time and the British rule, people forgot how to read the Brahmi script.

Magical rock, thought locals
The local people thought that the rock was a magic rock with magical writings on it. Such ‘magical objects’ are sometimes called Yantras. Today, the word, Yantra means machine to educated people.
The people thought that if they drank water used to wash the rock, they would be cured of diseases. When Benjamin L Rice, a British Archaeologist saw this rock, he recognised it for what it was. He built an enclosure around it. Interestingly, Asoka used the word Jambudwipa to refer to India in the edict.
By this time, it was around 3.30 pm, and I had no time or energy left, to climb up the Brahmagiri hill or to go around the village of Siddhapura.
I hope to go again on a different day and then I can tell you that story…. I hoped to find some clues to Brahma, but what I found were some clues to Samrat Asoka, a great ancient Indian.

There is a historian called Mallya who argues that Devanam Priya Darshi is not the same as Samrat Asoka. At this point, I don’t know.