Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Belagavi chapter organizes Heritage Walk of the Belagavi Fort which houses all 4 monuments of Belagavi which are under the purview of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). These include the Fort, The Kamal Basadi, the Shiva Temple and the Safa Masjid, though the last one needs special permission to visit. It frequently happens that history is always around us but we fail to recognize its significance unless someone tells you the ‘Story’ in History.
On Saturday 18th Dec 2021, one such Heritage Walk was organized for 34 staff members, mostly young engineers of Vayavya Labs led by INTACH Belagavi coordinator Swatee Jog who is also a regular columnist for Deccan Herald on highlighting Belagavi’s rich heritage. The young engineers and professionals of Vayavya Labs showed keen interest in knowing the heritage of the Belagavi fort. Joined by their enthusiastic CEO R. K. Patil, the team was ready by 6.45 a.m. from the starting point at Bharatesh Education Trust in biting cold.
This walk brings people face to face with the rich and unique flora of Belagavi fort that includes hundreds of rain trees, Gulmohar and others with a height, canopy and girth that could put trees outside the fort to shame. This is mainly because trees here have the luxury of space, nutrients and no disturbance from almost anyone except the birds. The ramparts of the Belagavi fort are not in shape with loose stones, overgrowth of vegetation and crumbling walls. However, the one opposite Dr. Khot’s house is a perfect place to climb up and have a panoramic view of the surroundings including the moat. This moat is also unique because it is fed by the springs of the lake across the fort and has water all year long.
We began by understanding the history of Belagavi, having been ruled by several dynasties like the Satvahanas, Silahars, Kadambas, Rashtrakutas, Rattas, Mughals, Marathas, Peshwas and the British, each one leaving some imprint. A large number of temples in and around Belagavi have been constructed during the reign of the Ratta dynasty and hence look almost similar. Most of them are in the Western Chalukyan style of architecture. In the case of Belagavi fort, the temples inside were already existent when it was built. Several records mention it is a temple complex of 108 Jain temples, of which only Kamal Basadi remains one with a deity inside and the other two had none.
The ruined temple beside the commando training area is a splendid structure with imposing doors and arches, carved walls and beautiful aesthetics. The dargah inside the fort has some spectacular stained mirrors on its large walls. Everyone feels hurt looking at the Tirthankara idol, the Saptamatrikas, the Gajalaxmi, Satigalla, Veergalla and the Inscriptions strewn in the open area which was once demarcated as a museum near the PWD office. Every time I visit that place, I lament Belagavi not having a museum of its own, in spite of being so rich culturally. The open space with large Banyan trees at the turn used to house thousands of bats until a few years ago, who were displaced from the railway overbridge area (Goaves) where they had found a home where today stands the fire station. Few remain today. The team visited the Durga Devi temple and were blessed with some Prasad.
We sauntered along the footpath to see the marvelous Ramkrishna Mission Ashram and then the Kamal Basadi. Having celebrated its 816th anniversary last December, the monument is frequented by people from all over the country. Built by Bicchi Raja, the general in the court of Ratta King Kartavirya IV, the temple has the splendid idol of Bhagwan Neminath in a Padmasan posture, seated under a carved Kalpavriksha. Mythical animals adorn the wall behind the seat. The roof of the Kamal Basadi is what lends it its name, having three layers of petals, each bearing images of 24 Jinas, representing the past, present and future epochs. A Navagraha Tirthankara idol found there is one of its kind in India which studies have found to have been composed of neither stone nor metal and presumed to be a meteor.
The other temple inside the Kamal Basadi premises also does not have a presiding deity but is marvelous nonetheless, All temples here boast of inverted cobras on their corbels, something rarely found elsewhere. The Ardhsahasrakuta is another attraction today in the premises which were discovered while digging for the new NWKSRTC Bus stand. It is a rare piece that was usually created as a token of atonement and has 500 images of Jinas in standing posture (A complete sahasrakuta has 1000 images, hence Sahasra-1000)
Having asked scores of questions, clicked pictures of carved idols on the stones of the rampart, the young lot showed no sign of being tired. As usual, after a good two-hour walk covering over 4 km, and relishing the piping hot breakfast at Bharatesh Trust’s canteen, the team returned with some fond memories to cherish of a meaningful event.
If you’re part of a company / organization and wish to organize a heritage walk/tour of the sites in the vicinity of Belagavi, or are interested in being a member owing to your interest or work in this field, do contact the INTACH Belagavi chapter at [email protected] or call 7760251949 for details. INTACH Belagavi chapter has also published a book ‘Architectural Splendors of Belagavi’ written by Dr. Smita Surebankar and is available on www.mavinstore.com for sale.