Begur is not far from Bangalore city, but was not exactly Bangalore historically. Yet ,it turns out to be the place where the oldest inscription to name our city was found. And no, it has no story about the boiled beans. There never was a boiled bean , except in old wives tales.
Bengaluru was Vangalur in the inscriptions .And, it would seem, not some great place either, compared to Begur's own importance ! Bengaluru was just a place where some soldier, Buttana Setti by name, had died in battle. (The Begur Inscriptions are secure in The Bangalore Museum) .
Not much is known about the Western Gangas, though they ruled for long. But they have left us some nice religious monuments, among them , The Naganatheshwara ( or Nageshwara) in Begur, which has later evolved into Panchalingeshwara with added shrines.
One doesn't expect a shrine of such great antiquity and architectural style to pop up suddenly in a busy semi rural market street. At first, its disorienting. But once one enters the colourful modern Gopuram ( under construction ) one is transported in time. Age is unmistakably reflected in those stones.
The two oldest shrines were commissioned by the Western Ganga kings, Nitimarga I (843 - 870 ) and Nitimarga II( 907 - 921 ) . The others are of later Chozha origin. The oldest, Nageshwara temple , has some sculptures noted for their antiquity : the two armed Ganesha, Mahishamardini, Bhairava and , on the ceiling, the Ashtadikpalas arranged around Umamaheshwara. there are three more such dikpala panels in the complex, in different halls. The creeper designs on the dooerjambs have been painted over, leaving no details to show. The vimanas are dravida shaili , with sparse statuary. But there is a running frieze of Bootha ganas and animals engaged in various activities, just under the eaves. Sadly, these seem to have been covered with plaster in the past, which too is deterorating, causing the figures to become indistinct , their features worn out.
Some Veeragallus ( Hero Stones) found in the province are kept in the compound, perhaps awaiting better accomodation. The monolithic Dhwaja Sthamba with relief work of vrishabha at the base is noble looking .
Though an enchanting monument, the ancient double towered shrine is quite modest in size. Bangalore Museum houses a set of lifesized Saptamatrikas , found in the Begur temple. For such huge figures to fit in, there must have been larger pavilions too in the past, no trace of any mega sized structures now..... . But one has to be content that at least what remains is being well taken care of . It is a living temple, with poojas and festivals taking place with the usual pageantry. The Gangas would be happy .
|Shiva, at the pinnacle|
|Makaras above the ledge|
|Surya of different vintages|
|Some of the Ashtadikpalas|
|A line of inscription|
|Very ancient two armed Ganesha|
|Two happy creatures !|