Spectrum: Where the past lingers

This quaint village lies a few kilometres from the southern frontier of Bengaluru. Its crammed narrow lanes are lined with dull buildings and are overshadowed by the surrounding high-rise apartments and urban townships of the city. Today, the existence of Begur has become inconsequential but history narrates a contrasting tale.

It seems like the ancient structures remaining here have stood the test of time to unveil Begur’s glorious past. Reliable sources obtained from the local Panchalingeshwara Temple validate that the legacy of this region dates back to more than a millennium.  

Cultural hub 

Back in the day, Begur was a prominent place because it was an important centre for Vedic learning. The inscriptions found in the temple complex have revealed the first existing reference to a place called ‘Bengaluru’ over 1,100 years ago, long before Kempegowda had founded the city, about 500 years ago.  

This revelation opens a new chapter in the history of Bengaluru. Furthermore, the stone idols of Jain tirthankaras discovered here indicate the presence of Jain settlements in the area. Not too far away from the temple dwells another age-old edifice, the Begur Fort, which although not in a good shape, does depict the legends of a bygone era.

The idea of visiting a millennium old temple was immensely fascinating. As we approached closer, we could see the main gopuram of the temple elegantly towering on the banks of the serene Begur lake. We also witnessed the proceedings of an extensive renovation with the plan of erecting four gopurams in four directions and along with a 10-foot-high stone wall encircling the temple. The three gopurams were in their finishing stages and one was yet to be initiated.  

On entering the main temple complex, a single glance showed that the ordeals of time had not dulled its charm at all. This simple yet elegant architecture sculpted in granite pulls you in instantly. The coarse finishing of the sculptures and carvings on the walls render a primordial attribute to the temple that hauls you back in time.

This temple is also called Naganatheshwara Temple. The main deity is Lord Shiva, portrayed in the form of a linga. The name Panchalingeshwara is because there are five lingas that are ensconced in five shrines – Shri Nagareshwara Swamy, Shri Parvathi Nageshwara Swami, Shri Kali Kamateshwara Swamy, Shri Choleshwara Swamy and Shri Karneshwara Swamy.  The oldest two were built in the ninth century during the Western Ganga dynasty era and the remaining shrines were added later during the rule of the Cholas. The other deities include Goddess Parvati, Lord Ganesha and Nandi. It is Lord Shiva’s mount and is seen facing the deity and guarding the entrances to all five shrines. In the shrines, the ceilings are quite low and they are supported by several broad stone pillars on which there are artistic carvings of the deities. On the ceilings, one can spot figures of the ashtadikpalakas. Daily pujas are held in the temple and special rituals are pursued during Shivaratri and Karthika Somavaras.

Carved ruins

Another striking feature here is the unearthing of several hero stones in the vicinity of the temple. Hero stones, for the most part, depict a war and commemorate the war heroes. Some of them even have written inscriptions.

We saw these sculpts lying around across the area, but then it was consoling to see new mounts being made for them to be displayed in an orderly manner. The most significant among the hero stones is the one which endorses that the city Bengaluru existed since the ninth century. This along with many other hero stones had been moved from Begur to the city museum.

The Begur Fort is another structure of importance in the village. What can be seen today are merely the abandoned remnants of what is said to be an ancient fort. The site has also become a garbage dump for the locals. We noted that unlike a conventional fort, this one is not erected on a hill or a mountain. There are two small temples inside the fort. The priest of the Shiva temple said that the temple is around 800 years old and the fort may be older than that. According to him, the fort was somewhat octagonal in shape and had stone walls, but the locals have stolen the stones leaving behind the mud parts upon which dense foliage and weeds thrive, while the walls are crumbling down. 

He also expressed concern that with Bengaluru surpassing its confines the site may be devoured by builders and then Begur fort may soon be lost and forgotten in the tunnels of time unless substantial measures are undertaken by the authorities to conserve it.  

Unfortunately, one cannot help but sulk over its current dismal state. But, it’s about time we safeguard our heritage sites and promote tourism.

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Spectrum: Where the past lingers

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