Between 1001 and 1500 CE, Karnataka, Western Chalukyas

Bankapur – Lost Rashtrakuta Capital

Introduction – Bankapur is a small town in Haveri district. The earliest known reference of Bankapur is found in a Kolhapur Jain manuscript, dated 898 CE, where it is mentioned that the great city of Bankapur was named after the Chellaketan chief Bankeyaras who was a feudatory of Rashtrakuta king Amoghavarsha I.

The above might be true as it is evident from inscriptions that Rashtrakutas would have ruled over it. Bankapur served as the capital of the Rashtrakuta king Indra-Vallabha as found in an inscription from Boganur in the Navalgund Taluk.

This Indra-Vallabha can easily be identified as the Rastrakuta prince Indra IV, grandson of Krishna III, on account of his well-known association with the town.  Bankapur was a seat of reputed Jain teachers and Indra IV being a devout follower of the faith must have had great attraction for it.

As the Rashtrakutas ceased to wield political power by 973 CE, Indra IV could not have ruled in reality.  He was, however, crowned to the Rashtrakuta throne about 973 CE by his maternal uncle Marasimha II of the Western Ganga family (Epigraphia Carnatika, Vol II, no 59).  Claiming himself to be the master of the Rashtrakuta kingdom, Indra IV appears to have settled at Bankapur until his death in 982 CE. In this manner, this town came to be known as the capital of Indra-Vallabha.

Bankapur would have been an important town associated with Jainism. Inscriptions found here mention as Jain temple patronized by the ruling chiefs. Five different Jain schools were established at the town during that time as evident from inscription (no 2 of this article).

Western Ganga kings are known for their patronage towards Jainism. A Sravana Bela Gola inscription (Epigraphia Indica, vol V, no 18) mentions that the Western Ganga king Marasimha II (963-975 CE) accomplished samadhi in the presence of Ajitasena-bhattaraka at Bankapur. This all suggests that Bankapur was an important Jain center during ninth-tenth century CE.

Bankapur was also famous as a Kalamukha center. Nagreshwar temple inscription (no 5 of the article) talks about land grants given to a Kalamukha priest, Vimalashakti. Shakti in his name suggests that he might have belonged to the Shakti-parishad branch of Kalamukha sect.

It is not strange to find Kalamukhas vestiges in Bankapur. Gadag and Haveri, both near Bankapur, were very important Kalamukha centers in the past.

After the Rashtrakutas, Bankapur being situated under Panungal-500 (modern Hangal) came under the Hangal Kadamba chiefs. They ruled as the feudatory chiefs under the Western Chalukyas. After the fall of Western Chalukyas, it was ruled by Suenas and Hoysalas. After the Hoysalas, the town came under the Muslim rule before moving into the Vijayanagara kingdom.

The third Bahmani king, Mujahid Shah (1375-78 CE), demanded Bankapur fort from the Vijayanagara king Bukka (1356-1377 CE), but the latter did not give up. In 1406, the eighth Bahmani king, Sultan Feroze Shah (1397-1422 CE), took over Bankapur from Vijayanagara king Deva Raya I (1406-1422 CE) getting about 60,000 Hindu prisoners. Deva Raya ceded for peace, giving his daughter in marriage and the Bankapur fort to the Sultan.

Bankapur played a very important role in Krishna Deva Raya’s battle with Sultan of Bijapur. Krishna Deva had almost all of the south under his sway. He was anxious to secure horses for his troops. Bankapur was on the way from Goa to Vijayanagara.

In 1512 CE, Bankapur chief sent a congratulation message to Portuguese on Afonso de Albuquerque’s capture of Goa. He also asked for permission to import three-hundred horses a year. The request was granted. It was necessary for the Bankapur chief to be on cordial relationship with Portuguese so that horses can be obtained. This political settlement was very beneficial for Krishna Deva Raya.

In 1573, Ali Adil Shah of Bijapur moved against Dharwad and Bankapur. Bankapur, under his chief Velappa Ray, defended bravely the fort for one year and three months. But he had to surrender at last to Adil Shah as he did not get help from his masters. Firishtah mentions that Adil Shah destroyed a superb temple inside the fort and himself laid the first stone of a mosque which was built on temple’s foundation.

In 1673, Abdul Karim Khan, of the line of the Savanur Nawabs, was appointed governor of the province of Bankapur under the patronage of Bijapur. In 1747, Nawab of Savanur made a treaty with the Marathas in which he gave up all his land keeping Bankapur, Hangal, Hubli to himself. In 1755, Savanur was besieged by French general Bussy. To save Savanur, the Nawab pledged the Bankapur fort to the Holkars.

In 1776, Hyder Ali took over Bankapur and Savanur. In 1780, Tipu Sultan celebrated Muharram in Bankapur. In 1802, Bankapur was ceded to British by Peshwa. These were restored to him in 1803 in exchange of Bundelkhand.

Monuments – Bombay Gazatteer mentions two temples in the town and a ruined fort. The two temples were a Jain Basadi and a Shaivite shrine. The Jain Basadi is known as Rangasvami Nagareshvar shrine or Aravattukambhada-basti (sixty-column temple). The Shaivite shirne was known as Siddheshvar temple which is not of much antiquity.

Nagareshwar Temple

Nagareshwar Temple – Local refer this temple as Aravattu-kambada-gudi, meaning 60 pillared temple in Kannada, as the great hall of the temple is supposed to be supported on sixty columns. However, originally it had only fifty-two columns. Six columns were added by Muslims who converted it into a mosque. Another two are between this mandapa and inner hall, so counting all it comes to sixty.

Main Entrance from East

This large temple has a big mandapa which is open for entrance from three sides. This large mandapa is connected with a small hall or navaranga through a porch. Navaranga is also entered from three sides, east, south and north.

Trivikrama episode

Low parapet wall runs on all sides of the outer large mandapa. On this well are provided numerous mini-shirnes with Nagara tower. Above these shrines are miniature images often describing some story such as Vishnu’s Trivikrama episode. Inside the hall, runs a stone bench on all sides.

Chiseled off images

Many of these miniature images are chiseled off by Muslim when the temple served as a mosque during the occupation of the Bijapur army. However, what remains depict the genius of the artists and their imagination.

Mandapa

There are two beautiful arabesque windows, one on each side of the entrance of the inner hall. Both of these windows are damaged leaving only few jagged frames. The doorway of the hall is also devoid of its various images during the Muslim rule.

Arabesque Windows

Though this is often said to be a Jain temple, however Henry Cousens differ with this opinion. And he seems to be correct as the inscriptions speak of donations to Shiva temple. Inscription no 5 of this article speaks an Acharya Vimalashakti of Kalamukha lineage belonging to this temple, therefore this temple was dedicated to Shiva and was associated with Kalamukha sect.

Mandapa Pillar

But there was a Jain temple for sure in Bankapura as inscription talks about it.  Inscription no 2 mentions that a grant of land was made to a Jain temple by Harikesaridev, the Kadamba chief of Hangal. Was this the temple which was destroyed by Adil Shah as mentioned by Firishtah.

During the occupation of the Muslim king of Bijapur, this temple was converted into a mosque. However they later built an another mosque inside the fort. To convert this temple for their usage, they squared off the back corners of the hall, which were originally recessed like the front. They then built up a wall upon the bench to meet the beams under the cornice, and finally inserted a mihrab (prayer slab) within the doorway that led towards the shrine. In this process they chiseled away all the small images flaunted on the front parapet wall of the temple.

Fort – Bombay Gazetteer mentions that in 1826 a committee of inspection described Bankapur fort as once a strong fortress with a large and deep ditch, but either allowed to go to decay or demolished on several sides. The granite ramparts and gateways on one side were in good order, the rest was out of repair. One of the fort walls runs across the back of the Nagareshwar temple and is built on it.

Inscriptions:

  1. Stone set up in front of the Government farm office – No 39, South Indian Inscriptions vol XVIII – This fragmentary inscriptions is dated  in Saka 915, corresponding to 993 CE. It mentions Sobhnarasa as governing Banavasi-desa and the division of Two Six hundreds.  This Sobhanarasa is probably the same as the feudatory of Taila II and Irivabedanga Satyarasya of the Western Chalukya family of Kalyana.
  2. Against a wall to the right of the east entrance of the fort – Bombay Gazetteer – The inscription is dated Saka 977, corresponding to 1056 CE. It refers to the reign of Western Chalukya king Gangapermanandi Vikrakadityadev, son of Trailokyamalladeva, who was ruling Gangavadi-96000, Banavasi-12000. The great chieftain Harikesaridev, the glory of the Kadamba family of Mayurvarma, was governing Banavasi-12000 under the king. A grant of land is made to the Jain temple by Harikesaridev and his wife, Lachchaladevi.
  3. Slab lying in front of the Government Farm Office – No 66, South Indian Inscriptions vol XVIII – This inscription, referring itself to the reign of the Western Chalukya king Trailokyamalladeva (Somesvara I), is dated in Saka 984, corresponding to 1062 CE. It records a grant of money and certain taxes to the attendants (padamula parivara) (of the temple of Indresvara) made by padevala Birayya, pergade Alimayya, pergade Sridharayya and others, with the permission of Mahamandalesvara Toyiladeva of the Kadamba family when they were camping at Payitthana.  It is stated that pergade Chavundayya of Indresvarapura and others were called to that place at the time of making the gift.  Padevala Birayya is described as Kadamba-rajya samuddharana. Toyiladeva is stated to be the governor of Banavasi-12000 and Panungal-500.  Varunasivapanditadeva, the rajaguru of Bhuvanaikamalla was in charge of twelve (panneradu) bada, the property of the temple of Indresvaradeva of Bankapura.
  4. Hero-stone in Survey No. 2 of Ankada-khana, hamlet of Bankapur – South Indian Inscriptions, vol XVIII, no 97 – This inscription referring itself to the reign of Tribhuvanamalladeva (Vikramaditya VI) and is dated in the Chalukya-Vikrama year 13, corresponding to 1090 CE – It commemorates the death of a hero named Marasimga-nayaka in fight at the capital town of Bankapura.  Mahamandalesvara Kaliyamarasa is stated to be governing Panungal-500.  He bears the epithet Chandaladeviya-gandhavarana.
  5. Right pillar at the entrance into the central shrine of the Nagaresvaradeva temple – South Indian Inscriptions, vol XVIII, no 99 – This inscription is dated in the reign (year not specified) of Tribhuvanamalladeva (Vikramaditya VI), corresponding to 1093 CE based upon tithi provided – It states that Dandanayaka Dakarasa made a grant of some taxes for burning a perpetual lamp to god Nagaresvara.  The gift was entrusted to Chandrabhushanadeva the acharya of the temple.  It is also stated that the donor authorized heggade Mahadevana to collect the sada and bannige taxes.
  6. Left pillar at the entrance into the central shrine of the Nagaresvara temple – South Indian Inscriptions, vol XVIII, no 122 – This inscription referring itself to the reing of Tribhuvanamalladeva (Vikramaditya VI) and is dated in the Chalukya-Vikrama year 45, corresponding to 1122 CE – It records the grant of land made by Holli-gavunda and others for the feeding of ascetics in the temple of Nagaresvaradeva at Bankapura.  The gift was entrusted to Chandrabhushana-panditadeva, the acharya of the temple.  The king’s subordinate Tailadeva is mentioned.
  7. Right pillar at the entrance into the central shrine of the Nagaresvaradeva temple – No 139, South Indian Inscriptions vol XVIII – This inscription is dated in the 12th year of the reign of the Western Chalukya king Bhulokamalladeva (Somesvara III), corresponding to 1137 CE. It records a grant of land made by Basava-gaunda and others to the god Nagaresvaradeva of Bankapura.  The gift was entrusted to Chandrabhushana-Pandita, the acharya of the temple. Another grant for offerings to the same god made after washing the feet of the same acharya by Bamma-gavunda of Bankapura, is also recorded.  This grant was also made in the same year.
  8. Slab lying in front of the Government Farm Office – No 290, South Indian Inscriptions vol XVIII – This inscription referring itself to the reign of Mahamandalesvara Kirtideva is dated in the 2nd regnal year, corresponding to 1178 CE. Kirtideva belongs to Hangal Kadamba line and was a feudatory king under the Western Chalukyas. It registers the gift of the village Gavundavali in Panumgal-500, as sthala-vritti to Vimala[sakti] of the Kalamukha lineage.  The gift was made by the king for the worship and the feeding of ascetics, education and other charitable purposes, in the temple of Nagaresvardadeva.  The donee is highly praised.
  9. Slab lying in front of the Government Farm Office – No 291, South Indian Inscriptions vol XVIII – This inscription is not dated and refers itself to the reign of Mahamandalesra, Kirtideva, of Hangal Kadamba line. On the ground of paleography and the fact that Kaladevi of the present record is mentioned in the previous inscription (No. 290) of Kirtideva II, Kirtideva of this inscription may be identified with Kirtideva II. It records a gift of tax on gardens (tonta-sumka) made by the king, Kaladadevi and Mahapradhana Kumara-Mallarasa at the request of Malliyana-Dandanayaka, the Sunhavergade of Panumgal-500.  The gift was made to the temple of Indresvaradeva at the capital town of Bamkapura and was entrusted to Sivasakti-Pandita, son of Somaravula Pandita.
  10. Stone built into the left wall of the southern entrance into the central shrine of the Nagaresvara temple – No 360, South Indian Inscriptions vol XVIII – This record contains two verses in praise of a hero called Ramana-Singana.  The characters belong to about 12th century CE.
  11. Stone built into the left wall of the southern entrance into the central shrine of the Nagaresvara temple – No 292, South Indian Inscriptions vol XVIII – This inscription belonging to the reign of a Hangal Kadamba king stops abruptly after giving a portion of the prasasti of the dynasty.
  12. Pillar set up in the Government Cattle Breeding farm – No 277, South Indian Inscriptions vol XVIII – This incomplete inscription refers itself to the reign of the Vijayanagara king Harihara II (1377–1404 CE).  It states that Harihara became king after the death of Bukka.  Further it contains a description of Madhava-mantri, a minister of Harihara and the governor of Male region.  Harihara or Hariyanna son of Kampa-nripa who was a subordinate of Madhava-mantri is praised.
  13. Stone leaning against the front wall of the temple of Basavanna at Sahazar, a suburb of Bankapur – No 416, South Indian Inscriptions vol XVIII – This damaged inscription is dated in Saka 1399 (expired), corresponding to 1476 CE. It states that [Babali]-Nayakitti, wife of Immadi Singe-Nayaka and daughter of Bhimisettiya-Mayanna and Sitamma built a well for the merit of her daughter Demarasi, who died an unnatural death. The major portion of the record which is damaged extols the merit, in Sanskrit, of making a gift of water (udaka-dana).
  14. Ruined mosque in the fort, above the central mihrab – Topographical List of Arabian Persian and Urdu Inscriptions – belongs to Adil Shahi king Ibrahim II, language Persian, dated to Hizri year 1011, corresponding to 1602 CE. Records construction of the mosque
  15. Stone set up against the front wall of the Dasaji-matha – No 434, South Indian Inscriptions vol XVIII – This record is dated in Saka 1565, corresponding to 1643 CE. It states that on account of certain fines imposed on the peasants (Okkalu-makkalu) of the Bhadrapura, they vacated the village.  Consequently the village became deserted and so Desayi Bullappa, the gauda of Bhadrapura brought them back and rehabilitated them.  For this act, he was granted a gift of land by the king.

 

How to Reach – Bankapur is a town in Shiggaon taluk in Haveri district of Karnataka. It is 22 km far from Haveri town and 25 km from Hangal. It lies just 2.5 km inside from NH4 (Pune-Bangalore Highway).

References:

  1. Burgess, J (1885). Lists of the Antiquarian Remains in the Bombay Presidency. Government Central Press. Bombay.
  2. Campbell, J M (1884). Gazetteer of Bombay Presidency vol 22: Dharwar. Government Central Press. Bombay.
  3. Cousens, Henry (1926).The Chalukyan Architecture of the Kanarese Districts. Archaeological Survey of India. New Delhi.
  4. Sewell, Robert (1900). A Forgotten Empire (Vijayanagar). Asian Education Services. New Delhi. ISBN 8120601254
  5. Singh, Ram Bhushan Prasad (1975). Jainism in Early Medieval Karnataka. Motilal Banarasidass. New Delhi. ISBN 9788120833234