Balligave, (baLLigAve)(ಬಳ್ಳಿಗಾವೆ) also known as beLagAmi is a small village at a distance of about two kilometers from Shiralakoppa in Shivamogga district was one of the most celebrated cities in Karnataka for a number of centuries. This village is situated in the proximity of Banavasi. It was a focal point of religion, trade, education, art and architecture.

As usual Balligave is associated with two mythological situations. Firstly, the emperor Bali seems to have ruled from this place. It was then known as Balipura. Later Pandavas visited this place and they are credited with the installation of the idols at the Panchalingeshvara temple.

These legends apart, most of our conclusions are based on more than 120 inscriptions found here. The inscriptions are much more reliable and they throw a lot of light on the history of Balligavie which was known by different names such as valligrAme, baLLigAme, vaLLirgAme and bali rAjadhAni.

Even though the town was in existence during the seventh century itself it came in to prominence during the regime of Kalyani Chalukyas and Kalachuryas. The city reached its zenith in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. It was ruled by kundamarasa, vikramaditya-vi and able cheiftains appointed by the king Bijjala at various points of time. The city received generous donations from these emperors and many temples were built. However itinerant confrontations with the kings belonging to Hoysala dynasty resulted in gradual decay. Not much remains today to exhibit and preserve. But there are irrefutable inscriptional evidences to re construct the past.

To begin with, Balligave has seen a confluence of religions such as Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism and Tantric Shaivism. Temples dedicated to Veetaraaga Buddha, Taraa Bhagavathi, Jaina temples (Basadi) and a number of temples housing Shiva and Vishnu existed simultaneously in Balligavi. This speaks of a high degree of religious harmony. ‘Kodi Matha’ (kODi maTa) which stands next to the Kedareshvara temple even to this day was a very powerful sect of Kalamukha Shaivas (kALAmuKa) which happens to be a tantric sect. It was a renowned educational centre and various branches of knowledge both of the worldly variety and the spiritual variety were taught here. The knowledge banks of different religions were explored in an objective manner. It was a nodal center for artistic activities also. It provided food for the travelers from remote corners of India and it had a hospital which catered to the ailing.

The trade activities of the powerful merchants of the Badami Chalukya dynasty were shifted to Balligave from Aihole. These traders with their pan Indian and oceanic contacts were rich enough to maintain these activities.

Even though some ruins and relics of Balligave point to Shathavahana and Kadamba styles of architecture, hey days of this city coincides with the reign of Kalyani Chalukyas and its aftermath. Consequently that style is predominant. A number of inscriptions mention a galaxy of temples built in Balligave such as Trilokeshvara, Nandikeshvara, Kusumeshvara, Malleshvara, Veera Keshava, NArasimha, Ashtopavasi Bhatarara Basadi, Golapayyana Basadi and Jayantiprabha Bauddhavihara. None of them have stayed to show case their glory.

However three temples that have survived the ravages of time and vandalism are Tripurantaka, Panchalinga and Kedareshvara. All the three of them have rich architectural wealth to display.

Tripurantaka temple built in 1070 A.D. is note worthy because of its sculptural beauty. It has two ‘Sanctum Sanctorums’ (Garbhagudis) one of them houses Shiva and the second is the abode of Keshava. Both these gods have their own retinue carved with intricate details. More interestingly, the out side walls of this temple have beautiful panels depicting the stories of Panchatantra. Familiar stories with tortoises, swans and foxes as their protagonists have come to life in these stone panels. This importance given to secular themes is unique.

Only the Garbhagudi and Sukanasi of the Panchalinga temple are remaining today. Rest of the temple is reconstructed. Many icons from this place are now displayed in Bangalore and Shivamogga. However the grand statues of Vaikuntha Narayana, Kumara and Mahishasuramardini have remained.

Believed to be made out of soap stone, Kedareshvara Temple is a fine example of Hoysala style of temple architecture. The carved ceilings of the temple are supported by finely polished pillars. The magnificent idol of Nandivahana in its lying posture is very elegant. This is a Trikutachala temple with three garbhagudis. It consists of three shrines arranged around a large open hall. Two of these shrines contain lingas, one of which represents Brahma, the other Shiva. The third shrine houses a statue of Vishnu. The temple is beautifully decorated, the ceiling depicts Shiva and Dikpalas whilst serpents adorn the screens. There is a view showing two of the shrines of the temple, with the sculpture of the Hoysala king slaying the lion visible on the exterior of the left-hand tower. Balligave has a few more temples in ruined condition.

Balligave is believed to be the place of birth of Allamaprabhu the great Veerashaiva saint, poet and mystic. Shantalaa the dancer queen of the Hoysla king Vishnuvardhana was born with the blessings of Lord Dharmaeshvara in Balligave.



1. New Page 5

2. The Temple of Muktesvara - Content

3. ASI Interpretation Centres

4. Deccan Herald - Banavasis pride




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