The Shardotsav Mahila Society is celebrating its 50th year in 202-2021. Coinciding with the golden jubilee year, the organizers have planned a slew of events that celebrates the spirit of the women’s collective that has shaped the lives of Belagavi’s women all these years in more ways than one.
So when Prof. Madhuri Shanbhag and Kirti Doddanavar approached INTACH Belagavi chapter to conduct a heritage walk of the Belagavi fort, it was a welcome suggestion. Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has being organizing heritage walks and tours of places in Belagavi and its vicinity for many years now. It so happens that history is always around us but we fail to recognize its significance unless someone tells you the ‘Story’ in the History.
The Society meticulously planned the dates, time, route and the arrangements. 60 women enrolled for the walk within a couple of days of its announcement. Today, I was pleasantly surprised to see almost all of them present at Bharatesh Education Trust at 6.00 in the chilly weather.
Their enthusiasm was infectious. Clad in their walk-wear and sporting sports shoes, these women of all ages appeared like bubbly teenagers eager to know more about the heritage of Belagavi.
We began by understanding the history of Belagavi, having been ruled by several dynasties like the Satvahanas, Silahars, Kadambas, Rashtrakutas, Rattas, Mughals, Marathas 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 case of Belagavi fort, the temples inside were already existent when it was built. Several records mention of it being a temple complex of 108 Jain temples, of which only Kamal Basadi remains one with a deity inside and the other two having none.
The ramparts of the Belagavi fort are not in shape with loose stones 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. The ruined temple besides the commando training area is a splendid structure with imposing doors and arches, carved walls and beautiful aesthetics.
One cannot but miss the girth and height of the trees inside the fort area, which, just like elsewhere in camp and vaccine depot, have grown large owing to the luxury of space and nutrients. The dargah inside the fort has some spectacular stained mirrors on its large walls. Everyone feels hurt looking at the artifacts 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.
We sauntered along the footpath to see the marvelous Ramkrishna Mission Ashram and then the Kamal Basadi. Having celebrated its 816th anniversary this 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.
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 its corbels, something rarely found elsewhere. The Ardhsahasrakuta is another attraction today in the premises.
Having asked scores of questions, clicked pictures of carved idols on the stones of the rampart, the women showed no sign of being tired. As usual, after a good two hour walk covering over 4 kms, and relishing the piping hot breakfast at Bharatesh Trust’s canteen, the women returned with some fond memories to cherish of a meaningful event.
If you (including corporates) 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.