Sculptures from Ganga period found at Someshwara temple

Workers relaying the flooring in the courtyard find blackstone idols believed to be about 1,200 years old
Last Updated 13 January 2022, 17:14 IST

Workers repairing the courtyard at the Someshwara temple in Halasuru stumbled on sculptures believed to date back to the 8th century.

Historians are excited about the discovery, and believe a close study of the sculpture will help them understand more about the temple.

Dr S K Aruni, deputy director of Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), who was on the site during the excavation, says, “Almost 80% of a big sculpture is damaged but the face and shoulder are intact. Carved out of black stone, it is similar to sculptures extensively found in Begur, near Silk Board. Looking at this, we could say that the temple is at least 1,200 years old.”

Halasuru got its name from the jackfruit trees in the area. When the British set up a cantonment in the 18th century, its name got anglicised to Ulsoor. Halasuru was earlier a major trade route and a Shaiva settlement.

Aruni says the statue must be preserved for historians to gain more insights into the Ganga period (5th to 10th CE). The black stone it is carved from was found abundantly in and around Bengaluru. Temples dating back at least 10 centuries are found in and around Nandi Hills, and Jakkur, and a Hoysala style temple was found at Chikkajala. Stylistic elements of the sculptures are used to date them, and trace the extent of various kingdoms.

The Someshwara temple is currently being documented by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). Meera Iyer, convenor of INTACH and a part of the documentation team, is thrilled with the discovery. “It could give us a peek at the early origins of the temple site,” she told Metrolife.

The broken sculpture is likely to be a goddess — Chamundi or Bhairavi or Mahishasuramardini, she says.

“It bears a strong resemblance to some statues currently in the government museum on Kasturba Road. The style suggests that the sculpture dates back to the 9th or 10th century. It indicates the antiquity of the Someshwara temple as a sacred site,” says Meera.

The garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) is from the Chola period, and is believed to have been built in the 11th century or so.

The temple was expanded and additions were made during Kempegowda’s rule in the 16th century. “The Kamakshi shrine is said to have been built by the Wodeyars,” she says.

The INTACH team is working on architectural documentation. “We are putting together drawings and taking measurements of the temple. We are stitching together photos which will help us study whether there was any pattern to the

For instance, there are panels of dancers with a panel of lions at the bottom. Does this have any resemblance to the temples in Hampi?”

Epigraphist says…

Eminent historian and epigraphist H S Gopala Rao confirms the style dates back to the Ganga era between the 7th and 9th centuries. “The exact dating can be done by the archaeological department,” he says.

Temple renovation

The flooring of the Someshwara temple is being replaced with anti-skid granite tiles. Workers found the statue when they were digging to remove the existing flooring. “Many elderly devotees visiting the temple were slipping. So we thought we should change the flooring,” says N S Sandhya, executive officer, Someshwara Group of Temples. Donors are funding the repairs, estimated to cost Rs 35 lakh. “The temple committee met recently and decided to immerse the sculptures that were broken,” she told Metrolife.

(Published 13 January 2022, 17:02 IST)

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