BENGALURU: Did you know that the first time ‘Bangalore’ was used for this city, the name was carved on a stone that dates back to 99AD? This, and other fascinating facts about the city can be learnt at Inscription Stones of Bangalore, a first-of-its-kind exhibition being held at the Karnataka government museum on Kasturba Road from November 14-19, where 29 stones will be displayed.
This citizen-driven initiative is being spearheaded by history buff Udaya Kumar, who spent four months trying to find the 150 inscription stones the city once had, as recorded in a book by historian Benjamin Lewis Rice about a 100 years back.
‘Only 25 of 150 inscriptions left’
“Every event or occasion in history, be it the construction of a temple or a war, was carved on stones, and that’s how we have deduced 7 0per cent of our history. They are authentic records of history, not based on heresay,” says Kumar, adding that unfortunately, out of the 150 inscriptions, only 25 are left today due to rampant urbanization and commercialization.
Over the years, these stones have come under private property, and the lack of understanding by the general public on what they mean, as they are written in old Kannada, Tamil or Telugu, and are not exactly appealing, has led to their destruction.
“These carving can be found anywhere - under a tree, on temple property, in someone’s home. For example, the Krishnarajapuram Sripurusha Inscription (dating back to 750 AD, the oldest stone) was inside a temple and was painted in red and white stripes - typical temple colours. Fallen leaves and other garbage was swept up against the stone and burnt. Years of exposure to fire caused the stone to split into pieces. When someone noticed writing on the stone, they alerted the media, which is when museum authorities retrieved it. Luckily, the part that was written on was intact and that’s how we were able to deduce that this was the oldest piece,” says Kumar.
Connecting people to city’s history
Kumar says that the theme of the exhibition is to help people understand how the history brought alive through these stones connects to you and me.“Each of these stones denote the history of the specific spot they are at, and to retain the history of place, we must preserve these stones. Through this exhibition, we’re trying to create awareness and ensure that these pieces survive for another 1,000 years to come.”
Part of Children’s Day celebrations, Kumar says that when he takes kids to see these stones, they are a lot ore open and concerned about preserving the stones. “Children have so many questions to ask and they’re genuinely interested in knowing more. In fact, they even cleaned up the surroundings around a stone.”
The exhibition will see a mixture of posters and stones - which are already housed there. Posters of some of important stones will have QR codes, which when scanned, will lead viewers to a 3D digital models and also a map showing you the exact location. A TV screen will also project important relevant information.
Must-see inscriptions for visitors
Kumar lists a few inscriptions that visitors should look out for
Nagtaras ‘Bengaluru Kalaga’ Inscription Stone Poster
The first known use of the name ‘Bengaluru’ is found on this inscription stone from 900AD. A 3D digital model has been prepared of this inscription. It was found in Begur at the Nagareshwara Temple. Thousands of people go here without realising the relevance of the stone, says Kumar.
Krishnarajapuram Sripurusha Inscription
This is the oldest existing Kannada inscription in the Bengaluru region. It was shifted to the museum about a year ago from a temple in Krishnarajapuram.
This is a 14th Century inscription stone. It is extremely special because it speaks of a solar eclipse on August 8,1431, when the then King of the Vijayanagar Empire donated that piece of land for the building of the Virupakshapura village, and interestingly, it is still called by the same name. Virupakshapura is a small layout in Kodigalli, which translates to ‘grant’ or ‘gift’, again related to its history. Now, the stone can be found on a busy, congested road, with most of it lying underground.
Begur Nagatara Veerakalu
This is an exquisitely carved inscription stone housed at the museum. The Veerakalu has carvings depict the battle scene where king Nagatara died while fighting. The Ganga period writing on the stone is clearly visible, and with a little effort, children can read the langauge from 900AD too. The photograph of the stone was taken by Henry Dickinson in 1865.