In memory of valiant lives

tablets of importance

In memory of valiant lives

Memorial stones are installed in honour of people who sacrificed their lives for social causes. There are different types of memorial stones, but the most common are Hero Stones (Veeragallu) and Masti Stones (Masti Kallu). Hero Stones are erected in memory of heroes who died in the battlefield while defending kings, border, cattle, or women in distress. Memorial stones erected in memory of women who invited death by self-immolation after hearing the death of the husband are called Masti Stones and Veera Masti Stones.

Many historians have regarded memorial stones as invaluable cultural and social relics of the past. Detailed study of these stones throws light on ideals and practices of our ancestors.

As per details available on the website of Karnataka Itihasa Academy, memorial stones are unique to Karnataka. Some of them can also be found in the border districts of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, areas that were part of the dynasties ruling Karnataka. But the largest concentration of memorial stones can be found only in the State, particularly in the districts of Kolar, Shivamogga, Tumakuru, Bengaluru and Mysuru.

In a sad state

Let us take a look at the memorial stones in the royal city of Mysuru. If you walk through the narrow bylanes of Veeranagere, situated in the heart of old Mysore, you will get the feel of a heritage site. The Mahadevamma Temple complex located here has a large number of Hero Stones and Masti Stones erected. Veeranagere is the only location in Mysuru city, where such a large concentration of memorial stones can be found. Sadly, this is the same site where the memorial stones are meted out the worst treatment, not befitting to the fame of this historical city.

Around 30 stones are erected by the side of the Temple, but are coated with white paint, destroying their original antique beauty. Many more are dumped in the corner along with stinking garbage and debris, showing utter disregard to the warriors in whose memory these sculptures were carved. A heavy-vehicle garage has come up in one portion of this historical site, said to be leased out from the temple administration, and is adding to the woes.

In fact, many beautiful sculptures stand as mere demarcation boundary separators here. Notable among them is a life-sized memorial stone, which is lying in the garage. Generally, Hero Stones depict Shiva but this unique stone has Vaishnava images. Mahadeva, a resident of the area, tells me that there were around 170 Hero Stones in this site earlier. One of the most fascinating revelations comes from a mechanic at the garage. He says that during levelling, they encountered big boulders which leads me to believe that a colony of sculptors, who specialised in carving memorial stones, lived here once.

Heritage structures

Ramadas Reddy, history professor at Government Degree College in Kuvempunagar, who has done extensive work on memorial stones says, “Very old memorial stones were buried during the renovation of the Temple complex. These stones belong to various periods like Gangas, Hoysalas and Mysore Wodeyars. The variety and beauty one can see in memorial stones in this part are hard to find in any other place. Depending on the kind of sacrifices made, these stones may be classified as Ooralivu (in honour of people who died while defending their village), Gadi kalaga (who died while defending the territories), Go Grahana (who died while defending cattle), Penbuyyal (protecting women) and so on.”

Bogadi is another historical site in Mysuru, where you can find some more significant memorial stones. What was once a traditional agricultural hamlet, Bogadi is now the most sought-after residential area, with the Ring Road running right through it. This huge surge of growth has left its damaging imprints on the historical aspects of the area. Ramadas strongly feels that Bogadi is a pre-historical site and has identified at least a dozen memorial stones near Upparige Basaveshwara Temple alone. Few stones were in fact restored at the complex of the temple during a recent renovation drive, but suffer now due to poor maintenance. Many more are scattered across the fields nearby. Many of them are Okkai Shilpa, which are essentially Veera Masti Stones having the mural of a woman with the right hand pointing towards heaven. 

“Locals are unaware of the heritage value of these memorial stones. Unless they are safeguarded, they will disappear soon or will be used for some mundane masonry application,” warns Ramadas. He is instrumental in discovering a rare memorial stone on the other side of the Ring Road recently. Located outside a private poultry farm, this Hero Stone is in memory of a warrior who died while hunting a tiger. Even this stone is precariously located by the side of the road, prone to be damaged by the vehicular traffic any time. According to Ramadas, Bogadi also has a 3000-year-old pre-historic Dolmen cyst burial site of Megalithic culture, which is the first site of this culture identified in Mysuru.

Elsewhere in Mysuru, memorial stones can be found lying neglected in areas like Kyathamarana Halli, Udayagiri and K C Layout. It is time we took into consideration the heritage value of these historical artefacts and made efforts to preserve them for posterity. If nothing, the Hero Stones can all be shifted to a safe site, where there are no dangers of destruction. Both the government and the civil society should act towards protecting these heritage structures.

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