Monday 20 May 2013

The twin towns that supplied lotus to the Royal household of Chalukyas

One of the best known twin cities in India are Hyderabad and Secundrabad in Andhra Pradesh. Similarly, in Karnataka, the twin cities of Gadag and Betagiri are equally well-known.
However, there is a twin town which dates back to the times of the Chalukyas of Kalyana and it is not popularly known outside its location. Though this historic twin town  is in Karnataka, few know about it and fewer have visited it. 
The twin town supplied large quantity of lotus flowers to the Chalukyas and their royal household. This is the little known twin town of Umapura-Laheshwara which is located in  Basavakalyan taluk of Bidar district. They are home to perhaps some of the most beautiful and exquisite temples belonging to the Chalukyas.
It was the Chalukyas of Kalyan (These Chalukyas are different from the Chalukyas of Badami and the Chalukyas of Gujarat though they are all related.) who built several temples here when they ruled from Kalyan or Basavakalyan which was their capital.
It was Someshwara, the first, who made Kalyan, the capital and it reached its zenith under his son, Vikramaditya. He ruled from 1076 for fifty years and during his time, he constructed temples here, in Kalyan and even in Kanchi which he conquered in his war against the Cholas.  
During the time of  the Chalukyas, the town of  Umapura was a thriving centre of art, architecture and religion. It had scores of temples and it was then known as Uma Maheshwara.
The Chalukyas held this town in great esteem as it supplied lotus flowers to the Royal palace. The town had hundreds of ponds, tanks and small water bodies where lotus grew in abundance. The lotus flowers were carefully plucked and sent in elaborately decorated baskets to the Royal palace where they were used for religious and social occasions.
There are records to suggest that Uma Maheshwara was also the centre of flower trade and lotus was widely cultivated and marketed. Several craters and ponds were exclusively set aisde to grow lotus.
The Chalukya Emperors constructed many temples but only a few of them-Neelakantha, Mahadeva, Parvathi and Ganapathi-survived. Infact, even these temples were on the verge of collapse and in a sorry state.
The Archaeology Survey of India (ASI) dismantled the temples and reconstructed them, brick by brick, bringing back the glory of a bygone era. A majority of the temples in Uma Maheswara were built by Vikramaditya, the sixth.
One of the most outstanding temples here is that of  Mahadeva which has some unique characteristics. It is built in the shape of a chariot and it has three mukha mantapas. There are sculptures on the walls of the temple, including those of gods, goddesses, dancers. Nearby is the Parvathi temple, with the deity of Uma-Maheshwara. It is this temple that lent its name to the town.  The Neelakantheshwara temple too is beautiful though in ruins.
The Neelakantheshwara temple is famous for its legendary well. Locals and the priest will tell you to take a look at the waters of the big well so that you can see the reflection of a huge Ganesha.
The Ganesha is installed across the well and it is eight feet in height and five feet in width. The idol is placed between two 12 feet-high pillars. It is this Ganesha that you can see reflected in a well.
The pillars adjoining the Ganesha are a superb example of  Chalukyas workmanship. Shake them and you can hear the sounds of temple bells.
A little away, or rather a kilometer away from here is the Padmavathi Kere. There is a small temple dedicated to Padmavathi atop a small hillock. Locals say there was a Jain Basadi at the place before it was converted into a temple for Padmavathi.
To the south of Umapura is the small village of  Raiwad. This is the place where Bicchala of Bijjala the ruler of Kalachuri dynasty, had his palace. Stones from the huge palace were transported by the Chalukyas to Basavakalyan where they built a fort, which exists to this day.
Incidentally, the renowned saint, Basaveshwara or Basavanna, started his career as an accountant in the service of Bijjala.
The twin towns are easily approachable from Basavakalyan which itself has several monuments of note, including the fort and temples.

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