Neelagunda – The village is referred as Nirgunda in its inscriptions, L D Barnett suggests that ‘nir’ stands for water and ‘gunda’ might refer to Kannada word ‘gundi’, standing for ‘low ground’. As the village lies at the bank of Tungabhadra and there exists remains of few ancient tanks hence the name Nirgunda seems appropriate for it. The village was part of Vikkiga-70 which in turn was under Kokali-500. The numeric number against the region specifies the number of villages under its jurisdiction.
The earliest inscription found in the Bhimeshvara Temple here, dated 1087 CE, mentions land grant to five-hundred Brahmans who came from Dravidian lands. This land grant was of the village Nirgunda, present Neelagunda. Few years later, few more additional villages were also granted to the same Brahmans. As there is no foundation inscription of the Bhimeshvara Temple, hence it cannot be said with surety that the village was formed by populating that with Brahmans from other places.
However, it might be that these Brahmans were called for some specific reasons and were settled at Neelagunda. Also it can be inferred that this event would have taken place during the rule of the Chalukyas of Kalyana as the antiquity of the temple in question cannot be taken back further than their rule.
Monuments – Alexander Rea mentions three temples in the village, Bhimeshvara, Anantashyana and Lakshminarayana. The Bellary Gazetteer also mentions same temples, probably because it derives the information from Rea. L D Barnett while editing the copper plates of Vikramaditya VI in Epigraphia Indica vol XII, mentions two temples, Bhimeshvara and Anantashayana but does not mention Lakshminarayana temple.
Robert Sewell also mentions three temples, Bhimeshvara and Anantashayana, but does not mention the name of the third temple. The latest work is from Channabasappa Patil, who also mentions three temples, however instead of Anantashyana his third temple is named as Mukti-Rameshvara. The earliest inscription from the village mentions swambhu-Rameshvara which refers to this temple.
I visited only Bhimeshvara temple hence this temple is taken up in this article.
Bhimeshvar Temple – The east facing temple is constructed in tri-kuta style having three garbha-grihas (sanctums), one each on west , north and south. All three have their own antarala (vestibule) and share a common sabha-mandapa. A mukha-mandapa is attached to this sabha-mandapa. The mukha-mandapa can be entered from east, south and north however the eastern entrance is hindered due to a shrine attached to it on its east.
Western garbha-griha is square in plan and houses a Shiva-linga inside. Its doorway has Gaja-Lakshmi on its lintel and dvarpala at the jambs. The antarala doorway is profusely carved with dvarpalas at its jambs. The lintel has an exquisite representation of the Hindu Trinity, Shiva with Parvati, Ganesha, Kartikeya and Nandi are in the middle, Brahma with Sarasvati on the left and Vishnu with Lakhsmi on the right.
There are four subsidiary shrines around the western garbha-griha in the sabha-mandapa. Two are flanked on the either side of the western garbha-griha, one housing Ganesha and other Mahishasura-mardini. The other two shrines are on the southern and northern walls, one having Sapta-matrikas and the other has an image of yaksha which, probably, originally was on the shikhrara of the temple.
The central ceiling of the sabha-mandapa is executed in two overlapped lotus fashion. On its vertical panels are carved ashta-dikpalas (eight directional guardians) with their respective mounts. Few loose sculptures are strewn around this mandapa, including an image of Lakshmi-Narayana which originally was in the Lakshmi-Narayana temple.
The temple vimana has interspersed projections and recesses. The projections are decorated with shikharas of Vesara style supported on pilasters while the recesses are decorated with shikharas in Dravidian style supported on a single pilaster. Channabasappa puts this temple in the Vesara style category. However the stupa on the shikhara top is square in shape which puts its under the Nagara style.
The shikhara has many carved panels on its top depicting Brahma, Shiva and various goddesses. There are few curious sculptures as well, the one showing a man wearing a foreign robe is of interest. The niches on south, west and north facade have Narasimha, Shiva and Subramanya respectively. There are many small panels carved just above the adhishthana of the base. There are depicted Kamadeva-Rati, Rama-Hanuman and various dancers, yakshas etc.
Bellary Gazetteer mentions that this temple was never completed, the tower over the west shrine being unfinished and some of the blocks along the base being left plain. But this is not the case, the tower of the west shrine is almost complete however there is no tower on top of the other two shrines which appears left incomplete.
- On a slab set up inside the Muktesvara Temple – South Indian Inscriptions vol IX, no 141 – dated in Chalukya-Vikrama year 4, corresponding to 1079 CE – The inscription refers itself to the reign of the Chalukya king Tribhuvanamalladeva (Vikramaditya VI). It records that, while his feudatory Tribhuvanamalla-Rayapandyadeva was ruling over Nolambavadi-32000 and Kaniyakallu-300 from the nelvidu of Uluva, the Brahman Mahajanas of Nirgunda made a grant of land for the service of Mulasthana-Svayambhu-Ramesvara of Haleyahalu. The five-hundred merchants of the place made a gift of a kani per load of betel leaves. It also records that in the Chalukya-Vikrama year 61, corresponding to 1136 CE, the Totigas, Konekaras, Telligas and others made money contributions at the rate of a paga per uli and per ladder and a sotige of oil per oil-mill for the service of the god.
- Nilgunda plates of Vikramaditya VI – Epigraphia Indica vol XII – Written in Nagari characters, language is Sanskrit – dates in Chalukya-Vikrama year 12, corresponding to 1087 CE – The inscription refers to the grant of village Nirgunda and two adjacent hamlets to a number of Brahmans by the Western Chalukya (Chalukyas of Kalyana) king Vikramaditya VI made in 1123 CE in confirmation to his previous grant of the year 1087 CE. It mentions that 59 sovereigns of the Chalukya family were formerly ruling in Ayodhya and later 16 of them ruled in the South. After the temporary obstruction, their fortunes were restored by Jayasimha I, who overcame the Rashtrakuta king Indra, son of Krishna, and slew five hundred other kings. Then came his son Ranaraga, his son Pulakesin I, and his son Kirtivarman I, the conqueror of the Nalas, Kadambas and Mauryas; his younger brother Mangalisa, who captured the island of Revati and humbled the Kalchuri kings, reigning as regent during the childhood of his elder brother’s son; and then the later Satyasraya I (Pulakesin II), who conquered Harsha of Kanauj. We are then informed that next two monarch’s were Satyasraya’s son Nedamari and the latter’s son Adityavarman. From Adityavarman, the genealogy is Vikramaditya I, Yuddhamalla, Vijayaditya, Vikramaditya II, Kirtivarman II. It was Kirtivarman II when the dynasty suffered an eclipse. Then came the brother of Vikramaditya II, whose name is not given. The genealogy of this brother is given as, Kirtivarman III, Taila I, Vikramaditya III, Bhima II, Ayyana I. Ayyana I married the daughter of the Rashtrakuta king Krishna III. From her he got Vikramaditya IV, who married Bonthadevi, daughter of the Chedi king Lakshmana. From her, he got Taila II who conquered the Rashtrakuta Karkara and Ranastambha and restored the fortunes of his dynasty and married Jakabba, the daughter of the Ratta Bhammaha. His son was Satyasraya II and Dasavarman. Dasavarman was married to Bhagyavati. Their son, Vikramaditya V ruled after the death of the elder brother of his father. His younger brother was Jayasimha II (also styled as Jagadekamalla and Mallikamoda) ruled after his. His son Ahavamalla (Someshvara I) made his power felt by the kings of Malva, Chola and Kanauj. His sons were Bhuvanaikamalla (Someshvara II) and Tribhuvanamalla (Vikramaditya VI) who made the present grant. In twelfth Chalukya-Vikrama year, from his victorious camp at Kalyana, Vikramaditya VI on a petition of Palata Pandya, grant to three-hundred Brahmans coming from Dravidian lands, the village named Nirgunda situated in Vikkiga-70 forming part of territory of Kokali-500. Later, in forty-eighth Chalukya-Vikrama year, the same king from his victorious camp at Vaijayanti, on a petition of Raya Pandya, the grandson of Palata Pandya, grant the same village and likewise Krishnapallika, together with lands thereof, to the same Brahmans, five-hundred in number, for four hundred pieces of gold as alimony to be paid to the owners to these lands by the Brahmans. The bounds of the villages are mentioned. For the worship of the local god Bhimeshvara and proper maintenance of various activities related to the temple, the hamlet of Adityapallika has been granted. Then comes verses by Veda-Vyasa specifying moral duty of a king to respect the past grants from his ancestors or other kings.
- On a hero slab set up in front of the Ramalinga Temple – South Indian Inscriptions vol XI, no 188 – This inscription is dated Chalukya-Vikrama year 3, corresponding to 1106 CE – It records the death of Chava-Gavunda and Holli-Gavunda in a battle on the occasion of a campaign of Nilagunde by Chagaladevi, wife of a Mahasamanta (name lost) of Toragale.
- On the third slab set up in the courtyard of Bhimeshvara temple – South Indian Inscriptions, vol IX, no 176 – dated in Chalukya-Vikrama year 33, corresponding to 1107 CE in the reign of the Chalukya king Tribhuvanamalladeva (Vikramaditya VI) – It records the grant of some land made by a Dandanayaka (name lost) in charge of the toll-revenue, for the service of the god Viresvaradeva.
- On a slab set up in the courtyard of the Bhimeshvara Temple – South Indian Inscription, vol IX, no 181 – dated in Chalukya-Vikrama year 35, corresponding to 1110 CE, in the reign of the Chalukya king Tribhuvanamalladeva who was ruling from Kalyana – His Dandanayakas, Anantapalayya and Muddarasa who were in charge of the toll-revenue, made a gift of a portion of the tolls for the service of the god Bhimesvaradeva at Nirgunda. The record is damaged.
- On a slab set up in the court yard of the Bhimeshvara Temple – South Indian Inscriptions vol IX, no 293 – dated in the cyclic year Chitrabhanu and belongs to the reign of the Kalachuri king, Mahamandalesvara, Bhujabalachakravarti Bijjaladeva. Chitrabhanu in the reign of Bijjala was Saka 1084 corresponding to 1162 CE – The king’s feudatory, Tribhuvanamalla-Vira-Pandyadeva who had the title “lord of Kanchipura” is stated to have been ruling over Kogali-500 and Kadambalike-1000. Under Vira-Pandya’s orders Kallimayya, the Superintendent of tolls (Sunkad-adhish-thayaka) in Kogali and Kadambalike, made a grant of a fixed portion of the toll-revenue in Nirugunda, the chief town of Kogali-500, for the service of the god Bhimesvaradeva in the village.
- On the fourth slab set up in the courtyard of the Bhimeshvara temple – South Indian Inscriptions vol IX, no 340 – dated Saka 1145, corresponding to 1224 CE – It belongs to the reign of the Hoysala king Narasimhadeva (II). His father Ballala is stated to have driven out single handed the Sevana army from Soratur up to the bank of the Krishnaveni river, being mounted on his elephant. It register the gift of some village (name lost) for the service of the god Bhimesvara.
- On the fourth slab set up in the courtyard of the Bhimeshvara temple – South Indian Inscriptions vol IX, no 352 – dated in the cyclic year Kilaka, probably 1309 CE – This record, which is engraved in continuation of no 340, registers the gift of the village Talavagilahalli by the Mahamandalesvara Bijjarasa-Achchutadeva.
- On a pillar in Bhimeshvara temple – Annual Report on Epigraphy 1913-14, no 117 of 1913 – Mentions the Mahasamantadhipati Adipemmana of Mahabali-vamsa and the village Nirgunda.
- On a viragal set up in front of the Mukteshvara Temple – Annual Report on Epigraphy 1913-14, no 119 of 1913 – Records the death of Kallaganga, the Muliga of Nirgunda on the occasion of Mareyal[v]a. son of Chayandiyarasa, fought in Banavasi-nadu to rescue the cows of Nirgunda.
- On a second viragal set up in front of the same temple – Annual Report on Epigraphy, 1913-14, no 120 of 1913 – Much damaged, mentions Pallavadhirajadhiraja.
How to Reach – Neelagunda is located in Davanagere district, about 10 km from Harapanahalli and 40 km from Davanagere which is the nearest railway station.
- Abhishankar, K (1972). Bellary District Gazetteer. Karnataka Government. Bangalore.
- Konow, Sten (1982). Epigraphia Indica vol XII. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi.
- Rea, Alexander (1896). Chalukyan Architecture. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi.
- Patil, Channabasappa S (1992). Temples of Raichur and Bellary Districts. Directorate of Archaeology and Museums. Mysore.
- Patil, Channabasappa S (1997). Inscriptions of Bellary District. Directorate of Archaeology and Museums. Mysore.
- Sewell, Robert (1882). List of Antiquarian Remains in the Presidency of Madras. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi.