The glory of the Hoysalas comes alive in the historic remains of a bygone age which have endured the travails of time at Angadi in Mudigere. Maybe to remind us of the charm of royalty, of battles which changed the course of generations and of great kings who set new standards of valour and sacrifice. In an age of democracy, the great leveller, such deeds may not find many takers but for those who love to delve into history, into the magical world of the Hoysala rulers, this obscure village with its broken shrines and intricate carvings is sure to offer a more than ordinary experience. M.B. Girish explores the world of the Hoysalas.
The word Angadi means a market, a shop. And while that may be true of what this little village in Mudigere taluk, Chikkamagaluru represents today, several hundred years ago, this is where the founder of the Hoysala dynasty began his journey to greatness. Once known as Shashakapura, and dating back to 1,000 AD, the Hoysalas, its most famed ruler being, Vishnuvardhana, ruled over most of south India.
To get to Angadi, one must take a narrow road from Jannapura on Belur-Mudigere road and cross a bridge across the Hemavathy. Marking the entrance to the village and the spot where Sala, the founder of the dynasty earned his name - and that of his dynasty by killing a tiger - is an arch, ravaged by time, the emblem of the Hoysala dynasty still visible. The story of Sala’s rise to greatness begins a little distance from the arch, along a path to a hillock where an ancient temple, Adi Shakthi Vasantha Parameshwari Prasanna Temple, still stands.
The sanctum sanctorum (Photo: DC)
Believed to be more than 1,000 years old, “its inscriptions points to the fact the Shashakapura and its temples existed prior to Hoysala rule,” says Prof Umanath, head of department of History, SDM College, Ujire, who authored “Hoysala Rajavamshada Ugamasthana Shashakapura: Ondu Adhyayana,” a book tracing the roots of Hoysalas. Two ageing Sampige trees adorn the path, flanked by two massive stone pillars that are still used for an utsav murthy to carry deities on festive occasions.
Dattatreya, a priest at the temple for the last 17 years believes it was here, at a nearby ashram run by the Jain pontiff Sudattacharya, centuries ago, that Sala won the confidence of the pontiff. Narrating a tale handed down through the generations by word of mouth, Dattatreya recounts how, sensing danger from a tiger in the vicinity, Sudattacharya instructed Sala, “Poy Sala” (Strike Sala) to slay the tiger.
“Poy Sala” later transformed to “Hoy Sala” and the incident gave rise to a dynasty that came to be called the “Hoysalas”. Sala’s act gave Suddattacharya the confidence that Sala would be able to lead the people and the region which was then under the sovereign rule of Chalukyas of Kalyani who ruled from present Basavakalyan in Bidar.
As Hoysala rulers gained in strength and waged battles that expanded their territory, the rulers moved base from Shashakapara to Belur, 30 km away, where they built a fort. Years later, the kingdom's centre of gravity moved again to Dwarasamudra, now known as Halebeedu. With capital shifting away, Shashakapura lost its importance. It robbed it of its historical fame and its name, as it gradually became no more than a marketplace, the Angadi.
The only reminders of its brief moment in history lie in the deities that the Hoysala rulers revered – the Vasanatha Parameshwari Prasanna deity and the Chennakeshava and Mallikarjuna deities, located on another hillock close by to the Vasanatha Parameshwari temple. Both Chennakeshava and Mallikarjun temples at Angadi were early models, the villagers say of what the Hoysala Kings would go on to build - the famous Chennakeshava and Hoysaleshwara temples at Belur and Halebeedu respectively.
Mr Umanath differs with that view, pointing to Angadi's simplicity, the shrines built on small platforms while Belur and Halebeedu temples are grand examples of Hoysala architecture with intricate designs on temple walls and erected on vast platforms. The early Hoysala shrines, neglected and fallen into ruin would have remained if it hadn't been for coffee planter D B Subbegowda, who headed Hoysala Moolasamsthana Srikshetra Angadi Jirnodhara Prathisthana Trust, that initiated restoration works at Angadi.
“I was a Land Tribunal member and had a good rapport with officials concerned. Luckily some of them later served in Muzrai department when restoration works were initiated. Through them, I was successful in getting some restoration works done,” says Mr Subbegowda.His initiative also helped to set up a tourist information centre and drinking water arrangements. The aratis are back, pujas are being offered, and the once dilapidated Chennakeshava and Patala Veerabhadra temples located next to each other on a hillock and restored by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), have a new lease of life.
Two Jain basadis have been refurbished by Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara Dharmothana Trust but is not open for public. Mallikarjun temple is the sole standout, waiting for a do-gooder to resurrect it. There may still be hope. A few residents from Angadi and its surrounding villages have formed a Trust, the Hoysala Moolasamsthana Srikhestra Angadi.
Trust president A.S. Nagraj says that blueprint for restoration of Vasantha Parameshwari Temple is ready and they plan to raise Rs 5 crore to develop the village and the temples. Paddy farmers and coffee plantation owners who make up the 2,000 odd people of Angadi, who hark back to a different time, know that the stones have a story to tell. Stories of Karnataka's glory days. But only, if the tourism department and the time traveller can find their way to this forgotten birthplace of the Hoysalas.
Pujas, aratis back The aratis are back, pujas are being offered, and the once dilapidated Chennakeshava and Patala Veerabhadra temples located next to each other on a hillock and restored by Archaeological Survey of India, have a new lease of life. Two Jain basadis have been refurbished by Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheshwara Dharmothana Trust but is not open for public. Mallikarjun temple is the sole standout, waiting for a do-gooder to resurrect it. There may still be hope. A few residents from Angadi and its surrounding villages have formed a Trust, the Hoysala Moolasamsthana Srikhestra Angadi.