Travel: Ramalingeshwara temple complex in Avani
Legends of Avani
The plan to reclaim life from the pandemic calls for taking road trips to places of interest not too far from the city I reside in, Bangalore, and the Avani temple complex, 30 kms ahead of Kolar town, fits the bill beautifully.
Soaked in antiquity, as the guidebooks would say, the Ramalingeshwara temple complex in the hamlet of Avani is a prime example of Dravidian architectural style and dates back to the 10th century, when the Nolamba dynasty was in power, with Avani as their capital.
The Nolambas were devoted Shaivites, and three impressive temple complexes built by them still stand, all three in Karnataka state, all three dedicated to Lord Shiva, all three a lovely display of pomp and glory of times past. These are the Kalleshwara temple in Aralaguppe, the Bhoganandeeshwara temple in Nandi village and the Ramalingeshwara temple in Avani.
Which explains why the walled courtyard here in Avani resembles the Bhoganandeeshwara temple complex at the foot of the Nandi Hills. Inside the Avani compound stands four shrines named for Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna. There are separate temples to Vali and Sugriva, Parvathi the consort of Shiva, as well as their son Ganesha, in the compound.
All the shrines have their own unique features. The moldings in the Ramalingeshwara temple have a striking display of the kirtimukha, as well as an exquisitely detailed sculpture of Ganesha. The Lakshmanalingeshwara temple houses the largest linga in the complex, as well as a small Nandi, and carved on the ceiling is an arresting frieze of Uma-Mahesvara. The pillars in the hall here, as well as in the Shatrugneshwara (believed to be the oldest of this lot) and the Bharatalingeshwara shrines, have several beautiful carvings, most of which has thankfully withstood the depredations of time.
Out in the courtyard, there stands a gleaming flagpost, as well as an ancient well which still contains potable water. And up in the coconut palms that dot the compound, sit parrots alternately cooing and screeching away.
The legends attached to this place are simply fascinating, provided you don`t ponder their probability too hard. Avani, presumably having been a seat of learning, was known as the Gaya of the south. This is where Maharishi Valmiki had his ashram. This is where Sita retreated to, after her trial by fire; where Luv and Kush were born, hence the name of the adjoining hill, which is also known as the Luva-Kusha betta, the Sita betta, the Avani betta. Atop the betta (hill) stands a temple dedicated to both Sita and Parvati. This is also the place where the Ashwamedha Yagna confrontation and subsequent battle between Ram and his brothers against his own sons, took place.
A little distance away lies a large waterbody where herons and egrets stands quietly in the shallows. We find a hero stone in the grassy knoll in the vicinity, and ironically enough, a buffalo grazing near a stone Nandi.
Avani is but a short distance away from the fabled Kolar Gold Fields but from the steady procession of vehicles that make its way to the Ramalingeshwara temples, it`s clear where the real gold mine lies, for the faithful.
This ran in THE NEW SUNDAY EXPRESS of 15 February 2011.