Balligave boasts of a very rich cultural and archaeological heritage. A major reason behind this would be the patronage it received at the helm of various dynasties ruling this region . Though the fate of kingdoms changed hands many times, but Balligavi kept its repute throughout. At one point of time, there were about forty five different temples adorning this royal city. Of these, thirty were associated with Shiva, three with Vishnu, seven to Jain, two Buddha and one to Aditya.
New temples were added at regular intervals into the town. New settlements were also created around the temples. An inscription from the Kalachuri period mentions that Kesiraja built a temple for Kesava in a specially built township, Vira-Kesavapura. The township was constructed to the south of Balligavi. The temple was said to be an abode filled with beauty and a joy to the sight. Unfortunately, this temple does survive the toll of times.
Balligavi provided support and habitation for all the major communities of the time, Hindu, Buddhist and Jain. The rulers of the land supported all these with much or less the same fervor. There are inscriptions giving us instances where the same person at one instance provided grants to some Hindu temple, and at the other instance provided habitation for all communities.
As per an inscription, Chamunda-rayarasa, through his agent Nagavarma, provided the habitation for four main religions, Shaiva, Vaishnava, Jain and Munigana (Buddhist) in eleventh century CE. Balligave is a radiant example of communal harmony where various sects cohabited and flourished altogether.
From its inscriptions, we came to know that there were five mathas, seven Brahmapuris and three agraharas at Balligavi. The five mathas, includes Berundesvara temple, Pancha-linga temple, Tripurantaka temple, Mulasthana temple and Kodiya matha attached to the Kedaresvara temple. Among these, the Kedaresvara temple emerges as the most prominent temple enjoying support and royal patronage. Kedaresvara temple was the abode of the Dakshina-Kedara or the southern Kedara when compared to the Kedara mountain in north India.
Balligavi was also a famous and vibrant Kalamukha center. This Kalamukha center is referred as Kalamukhi Brahmachari-sthana in its inscriptions. Kedaresvara temple was the epicenter of this movement. The Kalamukha priests of this temple claimed the inheritance from the Muvara-koneya-samtati of the Parvatavali of Sakti-parshe (Sakti-parishad).
Kedarsakti-pandita would probably be the first priest of the temple, whose time may be put to early eleventh century CE. Srikantha, was a disciple of Kedarsakti-pandita and succeeded him. Somesvara-pandita, a disciple of Srikantha, succeeded the latter.
The Kalamukha center at Balligavi controlled the other Kalamukha centers in Karnataka, at least five of these are known. These were the Brahmesvara temple at Ablur, the Mallikarjuna temple at Hale-Nidnegila, the Trikutesvara temple at Gadag, the Nagaresvara temple at Sudi and Kotisvara temple at Devasthana-Hakkalu near Kubatur.
Cultural heritage of Balligavi would be incomplete without Allama Prabhu who adorned this village around the twelfth century. He was born to a temple performer and grew up in the village. After the death of his wife, he went insane only to be recovered after meeting his guru, Animisha.
Allama Prabhu, with Akka Mahadevi and Basava constitute the Trinity of Veerashavias. There are places near Balligavi known as Animishaiyanakoppalu, Giggaiyanachauki and Ekadanta Ramaiyanagudda, named after the Veerashaiva teachers Animishaiya, Goggaiya and Ekantada Ramaiya.
With the advent of Veerashaivism, the Kalamukha sect slowly got aligned with the new movement. With very few differences in their ideologies, I believe there would not be much friction. Archaeological survey report of Mysore for the year 1911 mentions that there were six Veerashiava mathas in the village. There were Hosa matha, Aridre matha, Virakta matha, Kallu matha, Kashi matha and Samayachara matha. Several of them were in ruins at that time. In the Virakta Matha was shown the gaddige or tomb of the well-known Veerashaiva teacher, Prabhudeva or Allama Prabhu.
Powered with continuous attention and patronage pouring from the royalties, Balligavi emerged as a well-to-do merchant community. Balligavi’s merchant community was very rich and supported religious activities. This community was engaged in trades with many far regions and kingdom, to mention a few, Chera, Chola, Pandya, Maleya, Magadha, Kausala, Saurastra, Dhanushtra, Kurumbha, Kamboja, Gaula, Lala, Barvvara, Parasa, Nepala, Ekapada, Lambakarnna, Stri-rajya and Gholamukha.
These catalytic conditions gave birth to a new tradition of sculptural art which blossomed in the hands of the artist guilds at Balligavi. Coming from this guild, the most famous was Dasoja and his son Chavana who migrated to Belur with Shantala, the chief queen of the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhan. Dasoja was the crest jewel of Saravatigana. Some other important artists from this town were Mavoja, Chavundoja, Somoja, Barmoja, Kalloja Chattayya, Mammatoja.
An inscription at Balligavi mentions two sculptors, Bavana and Ravana, who were from Gaurisa Dasa community. Acharyas of the Kodiya-matha were said to be their religious teachers. It is told that these two, in order to clear an aspersion on their own race of the sculptors, set up an image of the god Kusuvesvara and presented that to Gautama-deva, attached to the god Kedaresvara.