Kuruvathi – Kuruvathi (also referred as Kuruvatti) is a village in Bellary district of Karnataka. It is located on the bank of Tungabhadra river. The earliest rulers, known from inscriptions, were the Chalukyas of Kalyana (Western Chalukya). All of the Chalukya inscription are from the reign of Vikramaditya VI. Few inscriptions are from the Gutta kings also ruled under as the subordinate of the Chalukyas.
C Sivaramamuti mentions that the Chalukyas, who came back to power as the succeeding dynasty that ruled from Kalyani, could also boast of a great connoisseur of art and literature in Vikramaditya VI, a king who was as great a warrior as a connoisseur. The Kuruvatti temple is particularly noteworthy for its exquisite bracket figures, carved screens, polished pillars, and tiers of friezes showing rows of birds, animals, dwarfs, and figures of musicians and dancers.
J F Fleet mentions an inscription of 1068 CE, found at Balagami (Epigraphia Carnatica vol VII, Shimoga dist) tells that it was at Kuruvatti and in the Tungabhadra river that the Western Chalukya king Ahavamalla-Someshvara I “by supreme act of austerity ascended the heaven”. A reference of this is also found in the Vikramankadeva-charita of Bilhana, which mentions that the king in question, being attacked by a malignant fever for which no remedies were found to be of any avail, went to Tungabhadra, and there, after bathing and meditating on Shiva, walked into the river until its waters reached his throat, and so ended his own life.
The village would have been an important center of the Lakulisa sect. An inscription (no 2 of this article) refers to Lakulisvara-Pandita who probably was the chief priest at this place. The name suggests that he was a follower of the Lakulisa sect. This inscription refers the god as Abhinava-Someshvara. The name of the lord is probably due to the fact that the temple was constructed in commemoration of Someshvara’s self-sacrifice at this place in river Tungabhadra. The lord is referred as Ahavamalleshvara in later inscription, deriving from the title of the Western Chalukya king Someshvara.
When the region came under the Hoysalas, Kuruvatti became an important center as their rajguru, Lokabharana, made this village his abode. Many inscriptions of the Hoysala period mentions Lokabharana as the rajguru of the Hoysala king Ballala II. The chief queen of Ballala II, Padumaladevi, also made a grant at Kuruvatti to god Ahavamalleshvara. The village would have acquired quite a reputation during that period that it has been referred as Dakshina-Varanasi in one of the inscription (no 12 of this article).
Monuments – The earliest information is from Robert Sewell, who in 1882 CE mentions an old Shiva temple and a fort in the village. Next was Alexander Rea, who wrote in 1896 CE in detail about the Mallikarjuna Temple in Kuruvatti. In 1910, James Fergusson explained the architecture and other features, deriving most of his information from the works of Rea and others.
Mallikarjuna Temple – This east facing temple is consisted of a garbha-griha, an antarala, a sabha-mandapa with two mukha-mandapas on north and south and a detached Nandi-mandapa in front of the sabha-mandapa. The two mukha-mandapas on north and south are the two entrances into the temple, the third entrance is from the east. The Nandi-mandapa has the original Nandi now under a modern construction.
Garbha-griha is a square room with no decorative element inside. It enshrines a Shiva-linga resting over a large pitha. The walls of the room have been divided into two halves by inserting a horizontal slab. This slab would have used to keep ritual paraphernalia and movable images. The antarala does not have its door but instead it has a makara-torana supported on two free standing circular pillars. The niched formed by loops emerging from makaras has Shiva in middle and Brahma and Vishnu on his either sides. A similar torana is also found in Dodda-basappa temple at Dambal and Kalleshvara temple at Bagali.
Few images are kept inside this antarala. Two images of devotees, one showing a couple and one showing two ladies, an image of Bhairava and Shiva. The sabha-mandapa is supported on four massive central pillars which has square block at the base. This square block is exquisitely carved on all its four faces. There are three entrances to this sabha-mandapa, one each on south, north and east. All the entrance doorways are profusely carved.
There are three bracket figures left on the eastern entrance. The other bracket figures have been moved to various British museums during their rule. These bracket figures have been considered among the best specimen of the Hoysala period. James Fergusson writes ‘All the details are sharp and the carving so good that even at Halebid it would be difficult to prove out any individual piece showing more complete mastery over the material than the brackets representing female figures with encircling wraths on the fronts and inner sides of the capitals at the east entrance’.
There is a royal image put near one of the entrance. Many scholars have suggested that this could be the Western Chalukya king Someshvara with his two queens. As no inscription is found over it hence nothing can be said with certainty however as the temple probably was constructed in memory of this Chalukyan king so it will not be odd to carve out this image also in his memory.
The vimana has three projecting niches on its three walls. The niche on the south is empty while that on north has a mutilated image of Narasimha. The niche on the west has an image of ……….. Miniature models of temple styles are displayed all over the vimana wall across its three sides. These shrines are enveloped inside makara-toranas which are carved very delicately.
- On the wall behind the sculpture of a royal personage in the southern entrance into the Mallikarjuna temple – ARIE, 1952-52, no B 218 – dated in the Chalukya-Vikrama year 11, corresponding to 1087 CE – Damaged, records that the Urodeyas of the Brahmapuri village Kuruvatti made a gift of land for flower garden and entructed it to Abhinava Va[ji]dev.
- On a slab set up near the Kalleshvara Temple – South Indian Inscriptions vol IX, no 165 – dated in the Chalukya-Vikrama year 24, corresponding to 1099 CE – the record refers itself to the reign of the Chalukya king Tribhuvanamalladeva (Vikramaditya VI), under whom Suresvara-Panditadeva was ruling Bennevuru-12. It records the grant of land and taxes on grass, firewood, vegetables, fruits and cotton exported from and imported into the village Kuruvatti, together with a money grant, for the service of the god Abhinava-Somesvara and for feeding ascetics in the temple, made by the two-hundred Mahajanas of the village with their chief Kalidasa, in the presence of Lakulisvara-Pandita. It describes the genealogy of the Dandanayaka Kalidasa and the warlike and religious spirit of the two-hundred learned Brahmans of Kuruvatti. Kalidasa is described as a Brahman of Visvamitra-gotra and is called gotra-pavitra. Lakulisa-Pandita’s spiritual teachers are also named. The record has excellent poetical merits. It is stated to have been composed by Srikanthasuri. The engraver was Kaloja.
- On a slab set up in Mallikarjuna temple - South Indian Inscriptions vol IX, no 169 – dated in the Chalukya-Vikrama year 29, 1104 CE – It refers itself to the reign of the Chalukya king Tribhuvanamalladeva (Vikramaditya VI) and states that the Mahajanas of the agrahara of Gandaradityana-Holalu having compalined to the emperor that the Manneya Boppaya, who had captured Holalu, was plundering the village and killing even the Brahmans, the emperor sent for him, chastised him and took from him an undertaking that he and his descendants would not have a claim to the Manneya of Holalu. Boppaya did so in the presence of the people of the thirtytwo-thousand province contrining Bennevuru-12, Nirugunda, the two Hadangiles, Mangola, Bidirahalli, Hahanuru, Honnavalli, Kuruvatti and Balguli; and after drinking water at the temple of Tripurantakadeva, he set up this stone.
- On a broken slab lying near the Anjaneya temple – South Indian Inscriptions vol IX, no 290 – This consists of two parts and is much damaged. Its date is lost but it refers itself to the reign of the Chalukya king Tribhuvanamalladeva (Vikramaditya VI) and mentions his subordinate Mahamandalesvara Sankaradeva. From the second part it appears that a gift of land was made.
- On a beam in the Mallikarjuna temple – South Indian Inscriptions vol IX, no 389 – dated in Saka 1104, corresponding to 1181 CE – It states that while the Gutta king Vikramaditya (II) was ruling over Beluhuge-70 and Bennevur-12, his Pradhana, Susanga-Dannayaka, with the permission of the Mahamandalesvara Vijaya-pandyarasa, is said to have made, in the presence of bacharasa and the Mahajanas of Kuruvatti, a grant of 70 mattars of land for the service of the god Ahavamallesvara in addition to the vritti-land which had been formerly granted by Vikramaditya, the elder. Lokabharana received the gift.
- On the same beam as above – South Indian Inscriptions vol IX, no 320 – dated in Saka 1117, corresponding to 1194 CE – It refers to the reign of the Hoysala king Vira-Ballala (II) and records that while the king was in the neelevidu of Balguli, he made a gift of villages Bada and Mukkurabbe in Bennevuru-12 to Lokabharana-Munindra for repairs, offerings and etc. to the temple of Ahavamallesvara. Chandarasa of Bennevuru-12 is mentioned.
- On the same beam as above – South Indian Inscriptions vol IX, no 390 – This much multilated and dated in Saka 1117, corresponding to 1194 CE – It states that Ballala-Bhupa, probably the son-in-law of the Gutta chief Vikramaditya II, made some gift to Lokabharana-Munindra for the service of the god Ahavamallesvara.
- At the same place as above – South Indian Inscriptions vol IX, no 391 – not dated – The five hunrded svamis of Ayyavale, who are described as setting the servants of Yama in motion, as roaring with the thunderbolt in hand, as giving their enemies to Yama and as generous to the submissive, are said to have gathereed together with the Nanadesi, Settis etc., in Kuruvatti and made a gift of one paga of the hejjunka tax to Lokabharana-Munindra or the service of god Ahavamallesvara. As this Lokabharana is mentioned in above inscription no 389, the present record may also belong to the time of Viramaditya II.
- On the same beam above – South Indian Inscriptions vol IX, no 337 – This undated record refers itself to the reign of the Hoysala king Vira-ballala (II). The Mahamandalesvara Gommadeva, expert in sastra and promoter of the glory of the Yadavas, is said to have mae a gift of 36 mattars of land to the north of Haruhe in Bennevuru-12 for the repairs to the temple and the service of the god Ahavamallesvara and placed it in the charge of Lokabharana.
- On the wall of the right of the southern entrance into the Mallikarjuna temple – South Indian Inscriptions vol Ix, no 323 – dated in the 7th year of the reign of Hoysala Vira-Ballaladeva (II), probably 1197 CE – The king’s Mahapradhana Uttarakka-Heggade and Mahadeva-Dannayaka of Arasiyakere and the Heggade Jannayya are stated to have made a grant of certain cesses on looms, artisans and oil-mills raised in Kuruvatti, for the service of the god Ahavamallesvara and handed it over to rajaguru Lokabharana-gurudeva.
- On a capital of a pillar, proper right of the Mallikarjuna temple – ARIE, 1952-53, no B 216 – dated in the 15th year of the Hoysala king Vira-Ballala (II), corresponding to 1204 CE – Registers a gift of 2 ganigana-mattars of land to the god Ahumalleshvara by the mahajans eaded by the Urodeyas, etc., of the village Kureti. The gift was entrusted into the hands of rajaguru Lokabharanadeva.
- On the wall to the right of the southern entrance into the Mallikarjuna temple – South Indian Inscriptions vol IX, no 325 – dated in the 15th year of the Hoysala king Vira-Ballala (II), corresponding to 1205 CE – The Bhandari Sovarasa, who was the Mahapradhana of Padumaladevi, the chief queen of the Hoysala king, is stated to have made a grant of some land for the service of god Ahavamallesvara of Hiriya-Kuruvatti (surnamed Dakshin-Varanasi) to rajaguru Lokabharanadeva. Bhandari Sovarasa was incharge of Guttolala-nadu.
- On the capital of a pillar, proper left of the Mallikarjuna temple – ARIE, 1952-52, no B 217 – not dated – mentions the two brothers Gudayya Setti and Karna Setti and seems to record a gift of one mattar of land out of the 26 mattars to the god Ahavamalleshvara.
- On another beam in the Mallikarjuna temple – ARE, 1918-19, no 219 of 1918 – registers gift, by purchase, of land to the temple of Ahavamalleshvara by two Settis.
- Brahma image in Pennsylvania University Museum, Philadelphia – Chavundoja the architect of the temple of Trailokyamallesvara of the glorious (town) Kuruvati, the son of Gulugoja, the purifier of (his) race (gotra), the worshipper of the feet of the illustrious (teacher) Vadideva, a servant of the (religious congregation) Sarasvati-gana, the son of women other (than his wife) and the pupil of Balla(ha) made (this) image of Brahma.” (The Sarasvati-gana was a Jain sect).
How to Reach – Kuruvathi is situated in Bellary district and located about 10 km from Halavagal, 36 km from Ranebennur, 35 km from Davanagere and 30 km from Harihar.
- Abhishankar, K (1972). Bellary District Gazetteer. Karnataka Government. Bangalore.
- Cousens, Henry (1926). The Chalukyan Architecture of the Kanarese Districts. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi.
- Fergusson, James (1910). History of Indian and Eastern Architecture. John Murray. London.
- Mario Bussagali & C Sivararamamurti. 5000 years of the Art of India. Harry N Abrams, New York. ISBN 810901188
- 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.
Acknowledgment – Many images used in the article are from the lens of Shriram.