Introduction – Harihar is a town situated in Davangere district of Karnataka. The earliest reference of Harihar appears in a copper-plate grant, as mentioned by B L Rice, issued by Chandravamshi Pandava king Janamejaya, son of Parikshit. This grant is dated in the 89 year of the Yudhishthira era or 3012 BCE. The king was stated to be ruling at Kishkindha and made a grant in the presence of lord Harihara, on the same spot where his great-grandfather Yudhishthira had rested on the banks of Tungabhadra. Rice might not have seen the grant himself, probably, that’s why he did not comment on its paleography. It is very obvious that this grant is spurious.
The earliest historical reference comes from a Chalukya grant of Vinayaditya, where mention of Hareshpura is found. Shrinivas V Padigar identifies Hareshpura with Harihar. As the place was known as Hareshpura (Hari + Isha + Pura) during the Chalukyan times hence the legend and, probably, the temple was older than Vinayaditya’s time. In later Vijayanagara inscriptions, this town is mentioned to be located in Uchchangi-venthe in Pandya-nadu. Uchchangi-venthe is the present Uchchangidurga, which was the capital of the Pandya rulers who ruled here after defeating the Chalukyas. Because of their occupation, the region was known as Pandya-nadu.
B L Rice narrates a tradition about an asura (demon), named Guhasura, who had his capital at Harihar, at the bank of Tungabhadra. His kingdom was so big that its eastern gate was at Uchchangi-durga, the southern at Govinahalu, the western at Mudanur and the northern at Airani. By performing severe penance, he got a boon from Brahma that he could not be killed by Vishnu or Shiva in their individual capacity. This made him almost invincible.
To put an end of all his cruelties, Shiva and Vishnu took a combined form, Harihara, combining half-Vishnu and half-Shiva characteristics. The descent of Harihara happened at Kudalur, at the confluence of Tungabhdra and Haridra rivers, where there are some impressions on the rock which local people point out as the footprints of Lord Harihara. On the request from the dying demon, the place was named Guharanya kshetra.
An inscription dated 1224 CE (Epigraphia Carnatica vol XI, Dg 25) narrates, “Some saying that beside Hari there is no god on earth, and some saying that there is no god beside Hara on the earth; in order to remove the doubt of mankind, was assumed with glory in Kudaluu the one form of Harihara, may he with affection preserve us”.
The earliest historical occupation of this town appears to be of the Kadambas. After the defeat of the Kadambas in the hands of the Pallavas, the place would have been under their regent till it was taken back by the Chalukyas. Pandya, claiming their Yadava ancestry, defeated the Chalukyas in the middle of twelfth century CE. But their rule did not last for long as the Hoysalas wrestled it from the Pandyas.
After the fall of the Hoysalas, Vijayanagara took over this region and granted it to Nayakas to govern. After the fall of Vijayanagara empire, this place was passed to the Tarikere chiefs, who erected a fort here. From them it was passed on to the Nawab of Savanur and he granted this to Shir Khan as a jagir. During the occupation of the Muslims, the temple was intact except its roof which was utilized to build a mosque. Later, Harihar is sold to the chiefs of Bednur and from them to the Marathas. Haider Ali wrestled it from the Marathas in 1763 CE.
Monuments – The town is famous and known from Harihareshvara temple which is the main attraction here. There are many other monuments of later period in the town.
Harihareshvara Temple – Harihar was an early Harihara worship center as the earliest historical reference of the place is of the Chalukyan period . This is also the opinion of Shrinivas V Padigar. There is no foundation inscription found in the temple. Statements from various historians about the renovation and construction is given below.
- Henry Cousens mentions that the temple was built by Polava, a minister of Hoysala king Narasimha II, in 1224 CE.
- Adam Hardy (referring to Epigraphia Carnatica vol XI, Dg 25) mentions that the temple was rebuilt by Poladeva-dandanayaka, an officer of Hoysala king Narasimha II in 1124 CE. The same inscription and same reference is put to 1224 CE by Shrinivas V Padigar. If the record is of the reign of king Narasimha II then 1224 CE appears most probable as 1124 will be too early for this king.
- R Gopal (referring to Mysore Archaeology Report 1937, mentions that the Hoysala king Narasimha II made a grant to this temple.
- Shrinivas V Padigar mentions that the temple underwent extensive renovation under the patronage of Somanatha-dandanayaka, a general of the Hoysala king Narasimha III, who also built the Keshava temple at Somanathapur.
It is very probable that the original temple was of very small proportions, and the present complex which we see today was built in the Hoysala period. The temple faces east and has a garbha-griha, antarala, mandapa and maha-mandapa.
Maha-mandapa is supported on 58 pillars and has five openings, two each on north and south and one on east. This is not a closed mandapa but an open one with its wall rising to half height and the remaining space is left open for air to pass through. On the top of these half-walls, a stone is placed in slanted position appearing like a back-rest of a seat. This kind of open-mandapa style is observed at many temples of Chalukya and Hoysala period.
The central block of Maha-mandapa ceiling is split into nine parts using four cross-beams. Eights portions of it are occupied with ashta-dikpalas (eight directional regents) riding over their respective mounts. The ninth and central part had a Harihara image which was later removed and placed in shrine at the backside of the temple. Mandapa, which is connected to the Maha-mandapa on the east, is supported on four central pillars and has an opening at north and south.
The main image of lord Harihara, in garbha-griha, is badly mutilated as all the original arms are lost. Padigar mentions that in post-Hoysala period, new hands have been added together with all attributes. A stone screen is placed to cover up his lower portion as it is lost. The most striking feature of the icon which helps date its original portions is the presence of a single-beaded necklace and absence of yajnopavita. Padigar dates this image to fifth-sixth century CE.
The tower of the temple is lost.
Inscriptions: There are many Hoysala inscriptions found at Harihar. These all inscriptions are detailed in Epigraphia Carnatica vol XI (original series), however I am unable to procure this volume hence not able to provide details of these here. I will update the article once I have this volume at hand.
- Harihar plates of Vinayaditya – No 82, Inscriptions of the Chalukyas of Badami – Language Sanskrit, script Early Kannada – dated Saka 616 (694-95 CE) – The purpose of the record was to register the grant of the village Kirukagamasi in Edevolal-vishaya in Vanavasi-mandala to Ishanasharma of Vatsya-gotra who was the son of Marasharma and grandson of Shrisharma, who had performed the Soma sacrifice. The donee was an adept in Vedas and Vedangas. The grant was given at the request of illustrious Aluvaraja when the king Vinayaditya was in his victorious camp at Karanjapatra in the neighborhood of Hareshpura. Given also were cultivated and uncultivated fields on the west of village Pergamasi. In the connection with the boundaries of these fields are mentioned certain villages, viz., Pulivutu near Sirigodu, Karvasurigola, Perbutu, Algire, Algola, Nittakala, Nerilgire, Kurupakere and Arakatta. The record was written by mahasandhivigrahika Sri-Ramapunyavallabha.
- Stone inscription – No 116 of Pali, Sanskrit and Old Canarese Inscriptions – language Kannada, script Kannada – mentions Western Chalukya king Tailapa-Trailokyamalla (Nurmadi-Taila) and his feudatory, the great chieftain Vira-Pandyadeva
- Stone inscription – No 117 of Pali, Sanskrit and Old Canarese Inscriptions – language Kannada, script Kannada – mentions the chieftain Vira-Pandyadeva and Vijaya-Pandyadeva
- Stone inscription – No 118 of Pali, Sanskrit and Old Canarese Inscriptions – language Kannada, script Kannada – dated Saka 1093 (1171 CE) – mentions the great chieftain Vira-Pandyadeva and his leader of the forces Vijaya-Permadi
- Stone inscription – No 119 of Pali, Sanskrit and Old Canarese Inscriptions – language Kannada, script Kannada – mentions the Western Chalukya king Jagad-ekamalla, and the Kalchuri king Bijjala and the great chieftain Vijaya-Pandyadeva
- Stone inscription – No 120 of Pali, Sanskrit and Old Canarese Inscriptions – language Kannada, script Kannada – mentions Western Chalukya king Tailapa-Trilokyamalla and the Kalchuri king Bijjala
- Stone inscription – No 121 of Pali, Sanskrit and Old Canarese Inscriptions – language Kannada, script Kannada – mentions the Kalchuri king Bijjana-Tribhuvanamalla
- Stone inscription – No 122 of Pali, Sanskrit and Old Canarese Inscriptions – language Kannada, script Kannada – mentions the Kalchuri king Sankama and his leaders of forces, Barma and Kavanayya
- Stone inscription – No 123 of Pali, Sanskrit and Old Canarese Inscriptions – language Kannada and Sanskrit, script Kannada – dated Saka 1145 (1223 CE) – mentions the Hoysala king Narasimha II and his leader of forces Polava
- Stone inscription – No 124 of Pali, Sanskrit and Old Canarese Inscriptions – language Kannada and Sanskrit, script Kannada – mentions the Hoysala king Narasimha II or III and his leader of forces Soma
- On the doorway of the south entrance of Harihareshvara temple – No 90, Mysore Archaeology Review 1912 – dated 1244 CE – records a grant made by Immadi Chaladanka Adimalla-setti for the supply of garlands of flowers and tulasi for god Harihara during the reign of the Hoysala king Someshvara
- Copy of a copper-plate record in the possession of the sanuboga of the village – Vijayanagara Inscriptions vol 2 – language Sanskrit & Kannada, script Kannada – dated Saka year 1183 (1262 CE) – King Harihar having originally granted the village Sankaripura in Harihara-sime of Uchchangi-venthe, under Kotturu-chavadi to the mahajanas for reciting Vedas and Shashtras in the temple allotted 2 out of 60 vrittis to Lingarasa, son of Ramadeva of Vishvamitra-gotra, Ashvalayana-sutra and Rik-shakha who had been enjoying lands assigned to him as a hebara-yajamanike from earlier times – the record is too early for king Harihara and obviously spurious
- Stone inscription on the right side of the shrine of goddess Lakshmi – No 125 of Pali, Sanskrit and Old Canarese Inscriptions – language Kannada, script Kannada – dated Saka 1199 (1277 CE) – mentions the Yadava king Ramachandra and his feudatory chief Saluva-Tikkamadeva
- Copper-plate belonging to shanubhoga Ramakrishnaiah – Vijayanagara Inscriptions vol 2 – language Sanskrit & Kannada, script Nagari – dated Saka year 1276 (1354 CE) – King Bukkaraya I granted the village Mittaligana-katte which he had ordered Mittaligolla to build, in the middle of Hariharadevapura in Uchchangi-venthe belonging to Kotturu-chavadi to Ramanna-joyisa, son of Madhava-joyisa, the daivajna of Hariharadevapura belonging to Kashyapa-gotra, Bodhayana-sutra and Yajus-shakha
- On a stone to the east of Harihareshvara temple – Vijayanagara Inscriptions vol 2 – language Sanskrit & Kannada, script Kannada – dated Saka 1301 (1379 CE) – Mudda-dandanayaka, foremost of the ministers of king Harihara II established the agrahara Mudda-dandanayakapura, otherwise called Chikkahadade in Kotturu-janapada belonging to Uchchani-durga and having divided it into 36 vrittis made over 12 vrittis to god Harihara and distributed the remaining 24 among as many number of Brahmans, whose name with gotras and sutras are recounted. Dharanoja wrote the record. An appendix added at the end states that the king raised the vrittis to 37 and granted the last one to Shridhara-bhatta of rik-shakha and Vashishtha-gotra.
- Fragmentary stone pillar in the backyard of the house of Venkataraja – Vijayanagara Inscriptions vol 2 – language Kannada, script Kannada – dated to 1387 CE – seems to register a royal gift of paddy, oil, betel leaves etc. for amritapadi services to the goddess Ekanathadevi of Kundalipura (i.e. Harihara) on festive days like mahanavami. The record was written by Dharanoja. As the engraver is same as of previos inscription so this record also might be of the reign of king Harihara II
- On a stone to the south of the Harihareshvara temple – Vijayanagara Inscriptions vol 2 – language Sanskrit & Kannada, script Kannada – dated Saka 1332 (1410 CE) – this record describes a deed of settlements. The mahajanas of Harihara-kshetra, having at their own expense built a dam to the river Haridra within the boundary of god Harihara and dug a canal through the god’s land to Harihara, the king Pratipa Devaraya I granted two parts of all the lands irrigated by the said canal for god Harihara and the third part was gifted to those mahajanas who got built the canal. The land for the mahajanas was divided into 111 vrittis and distributed among several Brahmans. A copper-plate grant concerning this was given by the king. The present record seems to be the copy of the same. The maintenance of the canal will be taken care by the donee and the temple. The later portion, in Sanskrit, records that Jagannatha, the minister, son of Mangaraja, with the permission of the king through his amatya Nagapa, entrusted the work of the construction of the dam on Haridra to his son Bullapa who carried it out to the satisfaction of the mahajanas
- On the second stone to the south of the Harihareshvara temple – Vijayanagara Inscriptions vol 2 – language Kannada, script Kannada – dated Saka 1346 (1424 CE) – The strong dam on the river Haridra earlier built by Bullapa, at the instance of the king and mahapradhana Nagana-dannayaka having breached, this Bullarasa met Chama-nripala, the army commander, son of Boppadeva and persuaded him to get it repaired. He having agreed to bear the cost of repair, the dam was reconstructed by Bullarasa. The record was engraved by Dharanoja, son of Machideva.
- On the third stone to the south of Harihareshvara temple – Vijayanagara Inscriptions vol 2 – language Kannada, script Kannada – dated Saka 1452 (1530 CE) – Records the grant of the village Bullapura surnamed Achyutarayapura, situated in Harihara-sime which had been bestowed upon the amaranavakatna of the doner Narayanadeva, son of Timmarasa of the treasury of gold, belonging to Vashishtha-gotra, Aslayana-sutra. Two shared of the village were granted for the offerings to god Harihara and third share was gifted to Vishvesharadhya, son of Ramachandradhya of Harihara, belonging to Gautama-gotra and Ashvalayana-sutra. Harihara-sime is situated in Uchchangi-venthe of Pandya-nadu belonging to Kotturu-chavadi.
- On the fourth stone to the south of Harihareshvara temple – Vijayanagara Inscriptions vol 2 – language Kannada, script Kannada – dated Saka 1453 (1531 CE) – Records the grant of two villages Beluvadi and Gamganarasi situated in Harihara-sime of Uchchangi-venthe, in Pandya-nadu for offerings to god Harihara, on tenure by Avasarada Dikshita, son of Annajideva of Gargya-gotra, Apstambha-sutra and Yajus-shakha, in order that merit may accrue to Avasarada Demarasa. It also records grant of 5 kulas of lanes to Taya Simmana’s son Savita-bhatta by the same person. One kula of land in Beluvadi village was also granted to Kariya Tippoja, son of goldsmith Kasale Vira Viroja, who wrote this inscription. Harihara-sime had been bestowed upon the donor for chieftaincy by the king Achyutaraya ruling from Vidyanagari.
- On another stone at the same place – Vijayanagara Inscriptions vol 2 – language Kannada, script Kannada – dated 1522 CE – Fragmentary and worn out inscription recording the construction of temple of Demesvara to the north of Harihara temple by Chandrashekharaya, with the permission of king Achyutaraya, in the name of his father-in-law, Avasarada Devarasayya and made some gifts for offerings and feeding of Brahmans.
- On the fifth stone to the south of Harihareshvara temple – Vijayanagara Inscriptions vol 2 – language Sanskrit, script Kannada – dated Saka 1460 (1538 CE) – Under directions from Achyuta, Mallapanna, Akkappa, who had obtained authority over agraharas and temples, and the Brahman residents of the Harihara village Kundavada in Uchchangi-venthe, of Pandya-nadu, renaming it Achyutaraya Mallpura, for the, afternoon offerings of god Harihara and for the feeding of the Brahmans in the satra. The gift was made at the instance of king Achyutadeva, and for his merit and prosperity. The record was composed by Mallanaradhya, eulogized as vidwan, sone of Timmanaradhya, of Vadhola-gotra and Yajus-shakha born in Kotishanaya.
- On the sixth stone to the south of Harihareshvara temple – Vijayanagara Inscriptions vol 2 – language Kannada and Sanskrit, script Kannada – dated Saka 1461 (1539 CE) – records the creation of an endowment called Anandanidhi by king Achyutadeva for making grants to Brahmans.
- On another stone at Harihareshvara temple – Vijayanagara Inscriptions vol 2 – language Kannada, script Kannada – dated Saka 1477 (1554 CE) – Hadapada Krishnappa-nayaka made a gift of the village Beluvadi for the afternoon service and a silver tray for offering a sweet dish (atirasa), at the time of ekanta, to god Prasanna Harihara of Kudaluru in order that merit may accrue to his parents, Baiyappa-nayaka and Kondamma. The donor was a chief of Beluru under king Sadasivadeva. A supplement refers to the grant of a village for a charity resthouse of hariharadeva, probably by Danappa, son of Kamarasa.
- On another stone at Harihareshvara temple – Vijayanagara Inscriptions vol 2 – language Kannada, script Kannada – dated Saka 1482 (1561 CE) – registers a gift of the village Kadaji in Bilichodu-sime, for offering ghee in the feeding house of the temple of Harihara, free from imposts like sunkha, talavarike, maniha etc., hadapada Krishnappa-nayaka, the chief of Beluru, for the merit of his parents, Baiyappa-nayaka and Kondamma.
- On another stone at Harihareshvara temple – Vijayanagara Inscriptions vol 2 – language Kannada and Sanskrit, script Kannada – dated Saka 1483 (1562 CE) – Records the grant of village Gamganarasi as sarvamanya to god Prasanna Harihara-deva, by Marhasahaya-nayaka, son of Kalappa-nayaka of Veluru who was the agent of Krishnappa-nayaka, son of Baiyappa-nayaka, for the merit of Krishnappa-nayaka. The gift was made for conducting the car festival of the goddesses Mahalakshmi and Paravati as also the god. The gift village was redeemed and renovated by of Surappaiyya, son of Charupurala Kondamaraja, for the conduct of the festival with the consent of Margasahaya-nayaka.
Food and Accommodation – Harihar does not offer any luxury option however it has many small and mid-budget hotels. The town has many small time eateries and restaurants. I stayed at the Grasim guest house, I would recommend it if you can get it.
How to Reach – Harihar is located 14 km from Davangere and about 275 km from Bangalore. Harihar has a railway station which has connections from Bangalore. As it is located on NH4 (Pune-Bangalore) so it is well connected from major towns via bus services. Bangalore is the nearest airport. Harihar also has an airport however it is only for private chartered planes.
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