Fortunately for me, my wife, who is the only licensed driver between the two of us, decided to rest near Bankapur and wax magnanimous enough to decide that the dog required walking near Nagareshwar temple in the old fort area of Bankapur. I quickly spent half an hour taking photos and later a considerable part of a week researching for the blog, During this search I came across a very lavish description from admirers of the very man who was the cause of destruction of the temples around this region. This I will give in the Epilogue.
I will also have to remind ourselves of the complete failure of our educational system, and our complete disinterest in our history when we find that there has been no real treatise on Bankapur. It is indeed a microcosm of India with all (or nearly all) of India's historical/societal conflicts/developments being mirrored in the layers of civilization that existed around Bankapur. It has histories coming down from ancient prehistoric settlements andin historical records one may see satvahana, kadamba, rashtrakuta, chalukya, hoysala, kalyani chalukya influence. Around 1138, when the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana overcame the Kadamba rulers from Banvasi, he was “… in the camp of the royal city (rajdhani) Bankapura ruling the kigdom of the world …".
The area aroun Bankapur fort is as adequately described as possible in the blogsite "Journeys across Karnataka". (http://karnatakatravel.blogspot.in/2011/08/bankapur-fort.html) The fort here has a moat around it that is nicely shown from google map in tha blog mentioned. This blog also talks of a structure that is "... supposed to be the entrance of a tunnel linking Bankapur fort and Hangal..."
What is historically interesting about this forr site is that it has had several levels of rulers who date back at least to the 5th century AD and to earlier times. One does not know when and by whom the moat was built. The last of the rulers here were Adil-Shah, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, There is thus a strong Muslim influence in Bankapur village. We reached the village around lunch time. Some nicely dressed school girls in a modernish uniform (grey burqua with a pink veil over their heads) walked cheerfully in clusters in the mild-day sun. They would not recognize our language when we asked them in English and our Kannada about the location of an old temple-ruin.
There is good coexistence of Muslim and Hindu communities in Bankapur, The central watering place for cattle has (Fig 1, left; click to expand as always and middle) a beautiful and intricately sculpture of coiled snakes. Near the watering hole. tied to the front pillar, is a huge ram (Fig 1, right). This is usually a sign of a Muslim house-hold. The left side coil of the snake image belongs to the head of the snake on the right and, naturally, the right side coil to the head on the left. Since these symbols existed before the formalization of institutionalized religion, there could be ready acceptance/indiffernce by the village community for such secular objects, It nevertheless tells of available skills for stone sculpture.
We were finally directed by their "learned" man towards the Nagareshwar temple.
The Nagareshwara temple that we finally got to was fairly deserted (Fig 3, left) except for a few school kids bunking from their classes (perhaps) and a few outsiders from nearby. The temple base was about ten feet below the level of the ground. One had to climb down a few steps to see the temple fully. The overall structure of the temple (Fig 3, middle) is similar to many others in the area around what used to be the Dharwad district of Karnataka such as that of the Siddheshwar temple in Haveri ,, the (Fig 3, right). Siddheshwar temple, Haveri. There is no sign of a largish shikara being present on the Bankapur, Nagareshwar temple, however.
I will not be able to describe the architectural details of the temple (I am still in my learning phase, mercifully). I will just try to describe first some of the immediate features that struck me. Like many other teples in the region from the Chalukya period, the outer walls of the temple have rows of miniature shikaras or temple spires on top of which are varous carved figures from mythology as well as dancers and musicians in niches between miniature pillars (see later), For a beginning, what strikes one is the missing musicians and dancers (Fig 4, left) between the miniature shikarasthat is usually seen in such temples. The missing dancers stand (?) out as black negatives (for those familiar with the old fashioned use of film rolls for photography) waiting to be printed into positives. The destruction seems to be relatively recent although some locals say it has been done in Hyder Ali's time. Such destruction is there almost all over the temple and one has to go towards the back to find a few that has not been damaged fully so as to get an idea of how it could have been (Fig 4, right).
It is difficult for those of us who have beheld the destruction not to be angry with the destroyer. At the same time one has perhaps to agree somewhat with the idea that the destruction of temples cannot be attributed solely to Muslims. It is part of the process of stamping the ruler's signature over those earlier ones he has conquered. In the same article Ernst (I am referring to Ernst only because it seems to be fair to him) would write "Muslims were not the only ones to reinvent Ellora's significance along new lines. When the Rashtrakutas conquered the Chalukyas and took over power in the Deccan in the seventh century, in addition to adding new Hindu monuments such as the Kailas temple, they converted Buddhist viharas into Hindu temples, chiseling out many Buddha images at Ellora and covering or replacing some with images of
Vishnu.". I think I will agree with this in some way. After all, I seem to think that the image of the Jain idol at Lakkundi is superimposed on an earlier Buddhist (or Bodhisatva) figure judging by the position of the remnant halo behind the idol's head (Fig 14, right).
Whatever the justification there is considerable rankling when one reads (from Ernst) ".... the temple at Bankapur ... was evidently the "superb temple" that 'All 'Adil Shah destroyed and replaced with a mosque when he took the city in 1575.'. We have little idea of what this temple could have been. A Madhwa Brahmin's house has the presiding deity (Lord Narshimha) of Bankapur below the ground level to "... protect it from Muslim aggression during later part of the 18th century".
At the same time whatever the destruction that has taken place, the ordinary people of this country (say of erstwhile Bankapur) must remain one of the most creative craftsmen who can fashion images of god at will and almost in an instant. No matter how much one destroys they will come up again with the same cheer and song that come so naturally to them even if a fear of religion is thrust on them.
If the monotheistic god of Islam or Jews brooks little tolerance for other gods, our infinite-theistic approach can brook every intolerance and come out unperturbed absorbing al destruction and coming out in a new creation. That is what Bankapur teaches us. The secular snakes in Fig 1 could be the past and the future.
I am finishing this blog on pongal or sankranti which is our new year.which we mark by our harvests. The fresh crop of bajra comes again and that is enough to celebrate. Happy pongal!
A lot requires to be done by the archaelological society of India than just exceuting reiar jobs using the ceheapest cement!