The lost town of Arasibidi

The lost town of Arasibidi

Women’s education and empowerment have been the norm and practice in Karnataka since ancient times. One of the bright periods for women was during the rule of Kalyana Chalukyas when women progressed in many fields like civic administration. 

One of the able rulers of this dynasty was Vikramaditya VI, who gave many important roles to women, particularly his wives. Among them was Queen Jakaladevi from Ingunigi. While she was an ardent follower of Jainism, King Vikramaditya VI was a staunch Shaivite. Though the king wanted her to become a Shaivite, this changed when a trader presented him with a beautiful statue of Mahu Manikya, a Jain saint. The king was taken in by its beauty and gave it to Queen Jakaladevi. She installed the statue in her village so that ordinary people could be inspired by it. 

This incident made the king realise that his queens could help him in the administration of the kingdom. Each of the queens had a small part of the kingdom under her care and administration. Queen Jakaladevi set up a town called Arasibidi about 40 km east of the present day Badami.

Arasibidi soon became an important market town besides being the administrative capital of the area. True to her faith, the queen had two Jain basadis constructed in the town: Kumbaranagudi and Suligudi. Besides these, there were at least two Hindu temples built, of which there is no trace today. Both the basadis are located on a slope almost opposite to each other, across a road. The one at the lower side of the road is Kumbaranagudi and the one at a slight elevation is Suligudi. 

Kumbaranagudi is a trikutachala or a temple with three garbhagrihas. All three have sukanasis and are connected by a navaranga. The entrance to the main garbhagriha is through a beautiful door. One enters the basadi through a 12-pillared porch which has a space for seating. Suligudi is an ekakutachala with a sukanasi and navaranga. Again, there is an entrance porch with seats. This basadi has some nice carvings, which are now damaged due to age and weather. Here, one can also see beautifully carved jaali-type of windows that add to the charm of the structure.

The two basadis that are in ruins are the only traces of this once flourishing town. The interiors of these two basadis have been dug up by fortune hunters. The idols inside both the shrines are also missing. Overgrown with bushes, the two basadis have become home for bats. 

While there is a half-broken stone inscription in old Kannada script inside Suligudi, we can find another inscription some half a kilometre away in the middle of the jungle. Almost right next to this inscription is a well, where even now one can see water. Our guide said that the water was sweet. Close by one could see traces of a foundation, perhaps that of a house or a boundary wall. That this place needs a detailed study, perhaps excavation, to understand the history, cannot be overruled.