Saturday 9 February 2013

The Lenkarus of Bachihalli

Several centuries ago, it housed a huge Brahmin colony and, therefore, came to be known as Agrahara. Today, it is a small and sleepy village called as Bachihalli in Krishnarajpet taluk of Mandya district.
There is nothing extraordinary about the village. It is a human settlement as any other. There are a few temples and inscriptions. So what, you might ask. Such temples are there in almost every village in India.
On inscriptions, you might turn around and say that there are a “dime to a dozen” and what is so special about them. Yes, I would like to bring to light some lesser known facets of history that are buried in these inscriptions.
But first let me tell you about the village.
This is just six kilometres north-east of Krishnarajepet. The village and even the taluk are famous for pillar inscriptions-history that is written on pillars. These pillars may either form part of temples or stand in isolation.
The pillars tell a tale and those of Bachihalli have a special tale to relate. Many of the pillars have beautiful sculptures on them. They are an outstanding example of the Garuda tradition that was prevalent in the Hoysala period.
The Hoysala Emperors ruled over large parts of south India with their capital at Dwarasamudra in present day Hassan district. Some of the finest examples of Hoysala art and architecture can be found at Belur, Halebidu, Somanathapura and other places.
The Hoysala Emperors introduced a unique system of bodyguards called Garudas. These Garudas were exclusively devoted to guarding the Emperor and other members of the Royal family.
These Garudas enjoyed high position and they were totally dedicated to the cause of protecting the Emperor. They did not hesitate to even sacrifice their lives.
The Garudas would have slipped away into the realms of history but for these pillar inscriptions. The pillars at  Bachihalli stand mute testimony to the role of these magnificent warriors. Yes, they were primarily warriors who acted as the elite bodyguards.
Bachihalli has several such pillars and it was in ancient times a part of Kabbahu Nadu.
The first mention of the village as Bachiyahalli in an inscription dated 1244 A.D and as Bacheyahalli in 1251 A.D and 1291
The village is an epigraphists’ delight as eight Hoysala inscriptions have been reported from here.
Apart from the Hoysala inscriptions, the Huniseshwara
temple is a typical Hoysala structure with a garbhagrtha, antarala, navaranaga and a mukhamantapa.
The temple is on an elevated place located at the centre of the
village and houses a Linga in its garbhagriha and Nandi in its antarala The main entrance of the temple and the central ceiling in the navaranga are attractively carved. The garbhagriha has a Dravidian shikhara.
On the outer wall of the navaranga, are sculptures of devakoshtas. There are three entrances to the mukhamantapa with steps.
There is a hero stone to the left of the temple. Near by are five
other hero stones in the form of memorial sculptures of heroes who died during different skirmishes or wars.
To the south of the Huniseshwara temple, there are three inscribed pillars of about fifteen feet height. These pillars were constructed  during the reign of Hoysala kings Ballala I and Narasimha III (1100 A.D.-1291A.D) in memory of the heroes or Garudas who
self immolated by sacrificing their lives for the welfare of the Hoysala kingdom and Hoysala kings.
These pillars poignantly depict the valour of seven generations of Garudas, belonging to Mugila sect of the Bananju family of Bachihalli in Kabbahu Nadu.
The carvings on these pillars represent Garuda Nayakas with their
queens and servants (Lenka-Lenkiti) travelling on an elephant to embrace the Garuda with utmost enthusiasm.
If you are an epigraphist or a person interested in the history of Hoysalas, then you are sure to find these pillars interesting. Some of the inscriptions refer to the Garudas killed on battlefield, trying to protect their Kings.
What is astonishing is that the inscription of  1256 AD deals exclusively with only one family and its sacrifices through generations. I am not sure of any other such epigraph anywhere else, at least, in Karnataka.
This unique pillar gives you the heartrending tale of Garudas commencing from Yereyanga to Someshwara. History says the Mugilu family were initially merchants. They ruled over Kabbahu Nadu before they took up arms in the Hoysala Army.    
By then, they had taken up the task of protecting this Agrahara and other surrounding villages in present day Krishnarajapet taluk. The Hoysalas let them be and inducted them in their Army.
The Mugilus then developed a  highly efficient and almost fool-proof system of protecting the villages and ensuring the safety of people. Subsequently, they began working as bodyguards to the Hoysala royal family.
They became so fiercely loyal to their employers that they preferred death to defeat and disgrace. They were so unquestionably loyal that when they died while on duty, their family and friends too died along with them-a “samuhika sati papampare” (collective sacrifice of lives involving family and relatives) unheard of anywhere in mediaeval India.
Even the wives of  these valiant men at arms sacrificed their lives at the altar of their husband’s funeral pyre.
The importance of the 1256 AD pillar is that it records for posterity the sacrifice of  the genealogy of all those bodyguards from the Mugila family: Gandanarayana Setty and his wife Nayaki Maravve, Hoysala Setty and his wife Nayaki Machavve, Koreyanayaka and Maravve, Shivaneyanayaka, Lakkeyanayaka and his wife Gangadevi, and Kanneyanayaka.
Over a period of time, these bodyguards also came to be called as Lenkaru, They were classified by villagers as war leaders who perpetuated the family tradition of  a class of Kannadigas who sacrificed their lives for their masters. It is these people who were allowed by the Hoysalas to administer the Kabbahu Nadu comprising Krishnarajapet and surrounding areas.  A few inscriptions here testify to this fact.
Therefore, the Garuda Kambas or Sthambas found here are better known as Garudahovudu and dedicated to the life and sacrifice of Lenkarus.
By the way, the village is all not history. The Shiva, Channakeshava and Bore Deva temples in the village all are Hoysala temples. They have been renovated. There are temples for  Bachalamma, Maramma, Mahalakshmi, Ningamma,  Sanideva and others. They are all recent in construction and are of no historical relevance.
There is a big ancient tank near the village. It is very picturesque.
Bachihalli is six kms away from Krishnarajepet which is well-cponnecetd by road from both Mandya and Mysore


  1. Can you help me with the location of this place in Google Maps? Not able to spot it.

    1. Well, I am not sure about google maps. But you will get the direction at Wikimapia. IF you are looking at directions, here are some facts. Take the road to Sunklapura Gate and on the 12th KM, you get the small village of Agrahara Bachalli. It is in KR Pet taluk of Mandya. Its population was just a little over 2000. It is home to numerous Hoysala temples, including the famous Huniseshwara Temple which has been renovated with help from Dharmastala Manjunatha Trust. The nearest railway station is Mandya. There are plenty of buses from Mandya and KR Pet. In July this year, a BSF jawan who lost his life in anti-insurgency operations was given a State burial here. I hope these acts help.