A bright Sunday morning in September and we felt it should not be wasted on any account. This year has allowed us to seek out places in the outskirts of Bangalore and holy-moly there is so much you can explore.
This time it was to drive towards Kolar district again and visit the Ramalingeshwara temple, trek on the Avani Betta (Avani hillock), and the Koti Lingeshwara temple. We left at around 7.30 am and after an hour and 30-minute drive from Bangalore brought us to the village of Avani. Avani is a small hamlet and we did not expect such a spectacular temple to be located here.
The Ramlingeshwara complex of temples was built in the 10th century AD by the Nolamba dynasty and later renovated by the Chola dynasty. The Vijaynagar kings also had a role to play in the construction of the temple. when they further added the main Mandapam and the Rajgopuram. The temple is now declared a national heritage by the department of Archeological Survey of India.
The Ramalingeshwara shrine has a garbagriha, an antarala, and a navaranga. It is in the centre of the courtyard and is the main part of the complex. The pillars of the navaranga are ornate and have beautiful carvings. This linga was supposed to have been established by Sri Rama himself. Alongside the linga shrine is a shrine for Parvati. The same complex also houses idols of the Chola kings who had built the complex of temples. This shrine is the only one where the daily worship is performed by the priests.
A you do need to look up and see the ceilings, lest you miss the exquisite carvings that are engraved. The ceilings have engravings of the ‘ashtha dikpalakas’ or gods of the eight directions. That the Nolamba dynasty were staunch Shaivites is clear when you come to the temple. One can see the other lingas, when you circumambulate the temple. All the temples are pretty much alike with a Shivalinga, a Nandi in front of the temple, the ashthadikpalaka on the ceilings.
The sizes may differ, for instance, the Bharateshwara temple has a large Nandi. In contrast, it is not as ornate as the other temples. There is a shrine for Subrahmanyeshwara as well as Lord Ganesha in the complex. In addition there are shrines for Vali and Sugreeva and a Navagraha Mantapa.
The outer walls have ornate friezes with carvings of Ganesha, Krishna, yakshas, figures of dancing women, monkeys, lions, etc. The gopurams of all temples are built in the Dravidian style. The temple has a wall around it that resembles a fort. From the back of the temple, you can see the hillock that is called the Valmiki Betta, or Lava-Kusha Betta or popularly known as the Avani Betta.
The Sthalapurana or story behind the temple
Though not part of the original Ramayana, everyone is aware of the second exile that Sita had to undertake when she was pregnant. She is left in Valmiki’s ashram in the forest where she delivers the twin boys Lava and Kusha. Sage Valmiki raises them in the ashram and imparts whatever is required for a Kshatriya king to know. Years later, when Lord Rama undertakes the Ashwamedha Yagna, the mighty horse is supposed to have reached Avani where the young boys capture and tie the horse. The Ashwamedha Yagna is the grandest of the Vedic religious rites of ancient India, performed by a king to establish his supremacy. Rama’s army fights with Lava and Kusha to release the horse but is unsuccessful to rein in the boys. Even Lakshmana, Shatrughna and Bharata fail and Sri Rama himself comes to confront the boys. Sita has to finally intervene and tell them to release the horse, as it belongs to their father. Sage Valmiki tells Rama that since he had fought with his sons, he had to adequately repent and make amends by installing a Shiva linga, and hence the Ramalingeshwara temple came to be present. The other brothers, Lakshmana, Bharata, and Shatrughna also follow their oldest brother and installed Shiva lingas.
After the darshan at the Ramalingeshwara Temple, we made our way to the Avani Betta. Tune in for more.
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