BENGALURU: On the rocky hillock of Basavangudi stands a temple Dodda Basavana Gudi, set in serene and verdant grounds, and it is as old as Bengaluru.
Built by Kempegowda I, the founder of the city, it is dedicated to Hindu demigod Nandi, a devotee and vahana of Shiva. Arun Prasad, independent historian and researcher, says, “Kempegowda I who founded Bengaluru by erecting mud forts in 1537 built many temples around the township and Bull Temple is a prominent one among them.
He probably would have chosen the rocky hillock in the village which was then called Sunkenalli. The bull is so huge that it was even visible from the fort area.”
The Bull Temple Road and the neighbourhood Basavangudi, Basava meaning Nandi and Gudi meaning temple, were named after this temple. The locality was developed in the 1890s.
The temple can be reached by climbing a few uneven steps from the left side of Dodda Ganapathi Temple at the foot of the hill. “There are eight temples in the locality but the Dodda Basava and Dodda Ganapathy are the most prominent ones. Dodda Ganapathi Temple was also built during the Kempegowda’s time,” says Manjunath Rao, executive officer, Dodda Ganapathy and Group of Temples.
According to the book Temple Heritage of Karnataka by the Department of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments, Government of Karnataka, Kempegowda built the temple to house the imposing monolithic Basava that once stood in the open field and also made several grants for its worship and maintenance.
One of the Largest in India
Carved on one stone, this monolithic structure of the bull is third largest in India, the first two being at Chamundi Hills in Mysuru and Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh.
The Basava, meaning Nandi, in Bengaluru, is as high as 15 feet and as long as 20 feet. There is a stone inscription in Kannada dated to 17th Century at the pedestal of the bull that reads the river Vrishabhavathi originated from there.
Arun Prasad adds, “It could be true if you look at the landscape and river mapping. There was also a lake behind the temple which dried up a few decades ago.”
According to the book, even now on the last Monday of the Karthika masa, water oozes on the right leg of the sacred bull confirming the claim made by the inscription.
The landscape of the temple is different from the other temples. It has rocky boulders surrounding the temple. Arun says, “On one of the boulders there are carved out niches that are used for lighting oil lamps during the festivals and occasions.”
The book states that spacious Prakaram, a kalyani at the rear, an attractive monolithic Dwajasthamba in front of the temple with fine relief work on all the four sides, an imposing Raja Gopura and a tall Mahadvara are some of the noteworthy features of the temple. The Garbhagriha with eight stone pillars houses a huge carved monolithic Basava in a crounching position.
A narrow circumambulatory path surrounds the image of Basava with a small Linga in an insignificant cell at the back, stressing the prominence of the sacred bull. A wooden beam across the neck portion of Basava facilitates conducting anointments and has at its centre, a beautifully carved Uma Maheswara, Tumbura Narada and Nandi. “The gopura was built in front of the temple during the early 20th century with Vijayanagara architecture features,” says Arun Prasad. In the garden next to the structure, stands the famous Bugle Rock, its silhouette resembling that of a watch tower.
The temple premises also played a significant role during the Mysore War III. Arun says, “Under the leadership of Khammar-ud-din, the Mysore army laid strategic plans in the premises before launching attacks on the British army.”
The temple is popular for its annual two-day Kadalekai Parishe (groundnut fair) held in November. Legend has it that the main cultivation of the village community was groundnuts. Raghavendra says that it is believed a bull would wander around the fields in the night destroying the crops. “The villagers prayed to Basava to end this invasion and, in return, promised to offer their first crop of the year to him,” he says. “They found an udhbhavamurti of Basava and as it kept growing rapidly, they nailed an iron pegs on its head, now called a Trishul.” Shivaratri and Basava Jayanthi also draw a high number of people every year.