Travel : A trip to Brahmagiri, Chitradurga (Asoka Siddhapura)

The Motive: (Why I made the trip).

1. In the Valmiki Ramayana, Ravana refers to Brahma as his paternal great grandfather. Ravana’s father Visrava used to live near Nasik (Panchavati). That is where Surphanakha (Ravana’s sister) chanced upon Sri Rama, Lakshmana and Sita Devi.  In all the Puranas, Brahma is described as the creator and all the Brahmans (and others) are descended from him. There are not many places associated with Brahma, and I wanted to see if this Brahmagiri was ‘The one’!

2. A reputed Indian historian (1892-1975) called K.A. Nilakantha Sastri, wrote a great book called “ A history of South India”. In that, he said that the Brahmagiri site, in Mysore State, “is remarkable for its culture continuity extending from the polished stone axe culture to early historic cultures.”  He also said that there were 2 phases of the stone axe culture here (known from a study of the pottery found here)., and that the authors of this culture knew how to use Neolithic celts, microliths, and how to work copper and bronze.

3. The French Institute of Pondicherry, has published a “Historical atlas of South India”. I found the following three pictures there, which show that the region around Bellary, has had a continuous civilization for 500,000 years.

The last picture is of the board that the Dept. of Tourism, Karnataka, put up at the site.

The Trip: How I finally got there!

 

I booked a return train ticket from Bangalore to Chitradurga, on the internet using irctc.co.in. There is only one train from Bangalore to CTA (Chitradurga), and it does not have an AC compartment. So I had a rather smelly ride. The train leaves Bangalore around 10 am and reaches CTA around 5 am.

The stop right before Chitradurga is Amruthapura and the early morning sky there is brilliant. I must go back there and spend some time over there. The name encouraged me, because Amrutha means ‘Not Dead’ or it is the Nectar that Devas drink to stay immortal.

The train stops just for a few minutes at CTA, so you have to leap off the train quickly. No one on the train had heard of Brahmagiri and could give me directions. The station master had never heard of it either. The autodriver took me to the Aiswarya Fort Hotel for 30 rupees, and the hotel gave me a decent room. A 1000 Rs for 2 days and one night stay, and about Rs. 25 for breakfast. Good – but the hotel had never heard of Brahmagiri!

I started walking towards the city bus-stop and looking for boards. I found a board that said (in Kannada) research foundation for ancient Karnataka history – but it was not yet open at 8.00 am. Some lady passers-by encouraged me to knock on the door of the home attached to the office. I did just that and a very nice lady living there, called the professor, and told me that Brahmagiri was near the Asoka Silasasana, near a place called Haangal, off Bellary Road. (And to think that I LIVE near bellary road in Bangalore!) (Professor’s contact: Dr. Prahlad N.B. 9342310854)

After lots more asking around and walking for nearly an hour, I located a private bus stand, that had buses going to Hangal, Ramapura and Bellary.! yay! And there was a bus at 9.30 am.

After a dusty wait, I got into the bus (which parks in a different slot from the one marked for it), and asked for a ticket to Hangal. That ticket cost Rs 40. And the ride was about 2-2.5 hours. I hopped off at Hangal. No one knew Brahmagiri, but they knew AsokaSilaSasana and told me to take a bus to Ramapura and hop off at the Asoka Siddapura Gate. This was another 8 Rs of a very picteresque ride. I leapt off at that stop, where I was told I would find autos – but there was nothing.

I found a nice old man, dressed in white, who said he was a farmer. He was also waiting for an auto, so we waited together. An auto did come by shortly and it was FILLED with about 15 people, and they added the two of us and a few more in. Don’t ask me how! They were kind enough to organize a sitting place for me, on the burning metal at the back of the auto.

After a pleasurable, half-hour rattle (4 km) through a beautiful countryside, I reached Asoka Siddapura! Oh Happy Day!

asokasiddapura

What I learned there:

While I was taking pictures, my old farmer friend, found and introduced to me, Sri S.T. Rajasimha, of the Archeological Society of India. (Contact: 9448020179, 08198267531). Since I am protected by that Special God who takes care of fools and small children, I found this person, just as he was about to leave the site. And for my sake he dropped his other plans to show me around. However, if you are an intelligent adult, you should call him ahead of time and make your plans.

Sri Rajasimha, called Swami, out of respect, by the locals, for he is a Brahmin, first took me to see the burial ground of Mauryan Times. Then he took me to the Brahmagiri Excavation site and showed me the pottery pieces and the polished stone pieces. A nice farmer there gave me fresh groundnuts straight out of the ground and other fresh, delicious seeds to eat. Now I am spoiled for life, since I know, I will never get such fresh and delicious nuts in Bangalore. Sigh!

 

Then we went to see the Asoka Sila Sasana. That means the Rock Edict of Asoka. At that time the place was called Isila Patna. You know how the Sanskrit word Stri is pronounced as Istri in Hindi? In the same way, the Sanskrit word – Sila was pronounced as Isila in Prakrit, the language used by Asoka in the edict. So the place name must have been Sila Patnam (sila – rock, patnam – town). It is very likely that Samrat (Emperor) Asoka knew Sanskrit. But he wanted his edict to be read and understood by the common people. So he used the Prakrut language and the Brahmi script. In his edicts in the north west of India, he used a different script. This also implied that in his time there were common people who could at least read what was chiselled on the rock.

Brahmagiri

Brahmagiri

In the edict he calls himself Devanam Piyadasi which in Sanskrit is Devanam Priya Dasa – the favorite servant of the Devas. See how close Prakrut was to Sanskrit? By Asoka’s time, the Devas, were thought to be purely divine, with some human weaknesses. However, our reasoning is that the Devas were probably human, with some divine qualities.

Asoka Sila Sasana

Somewhere between Asoka’s time and the British rule, people forgot how to read the Brahmi Script. The local people thought that the rock was a magic rock with magical writings on it. Such ‘magical objects’ are sometimes called Yantras. Today, the word, Yantra means machine to educated people. The people thought that if they drank water used to wash the rock, they would be cured of diseases. When Benjamin L. Rice, a British Archaeologist saw this rock, he recognised it for what it was. He built an enclosure around it. Here is a picture that shows it meaning, in English. I want you to notice that Asoka used the word Jambudwipa to refer to India.

Translation of Asoka's Rock Edict

By this time, it was around 3.30 pm, and I had no time or energy left, to climb up the Brahmagiri hill or to go around the village of Siddhapura. I hope to go again on a different day and then I can tell you that story…. I hoped to find some clues to Brahma, but what I found were some clues to Samrat Asoka, a great ancient Indian. There is a historian called Mallya who argues that Devanam Priya Darshi is not the same as Samrat Asoka. At this point, I don’t know.

For more pictures click here.

Brahmi Script

Archeological Society of India – Brahmagiri Excavation This links you to the ASI web-site., but unluckily there are no pictures here and some of the words are hard. You might need your teachers’ help to read it.

http://adsabs.harvard.edu/full/1993BASI…21…67R This link takes you to the astronomical significance of the megalithic circles by Kameswara Rao, Institute of astrophysics.

http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~tcrndfu/articles/Brahmagiri%20and%20Beyond/BB1.pdf

The Brahmagiri excavation site and the Bellary Archaeological Project

Sanskrit literature indicates that The Ancient Deccan Civilization of Kishkinda is at least as old as Sri Rama. Not only did the Vanara King Sugriva and his minister Hanuman help Rama to recover Sita, but also the Vanara heroes Mainda and Dwivida fought Balarama, Sri Krishna’s brother.

We have two reasons to believe that the Vanaras were people and not monkeys. One is in the British records of the gazette of Bellary district, which is very near modern day Hampi, or Kishkinda of earlier times, the then collector has noted that the forest people of that area call themselves the Vanara people, and used Monkey as a symbol in their totem pole and flag. This vanara totem is in the Bellary District Gazetteer. The second is that Valmiki records that when the people of Ayodhya saw the Vanaras at the time of Sri Rama’s coronation, none of them had tails. The engineer of the Rama Sethu, Nala was a Vanara, a Bellary man. Valmiki clearly details the flora and fauna of Kishkinda.

For those of us who are looking for archaeological evidence of the Vanara Culture prior to 3000 BC, we see that they had pottery, ground axes, ceramics, animal herding and cultivation, rock art, rock music and ashmounds. “The Bellary District Archaeological Project, undertaken in 2002, focused its efforts in particular on the Sanganakallu-Kupgal cluster of hills and sites. It also involved exploration and analysis of other sites in Bellary District, Karnataka and beyond.  The Sanganakallu-Kupgal cluster of archaeological sites has been known since at least the 19th century, and early reports refer to it as ‘Peacock Hill’.  We refer to the cluster of sites as the ‘Sanganakallu-Kupgal archaeological heritage area’, due to the remarkable concentration of archaeological sites found in the area of these two villages (Sanganakallu and Kupgal).  The area appears to have been particularly important during the Neolithic period, when settlement was focused on the granitic hills themselves… The archeobotanical evidence raises the likelihood that South India was an independent centre of plant domestication in the middle Holocene, perhaps ca. 5000 years ago…Archaeologists have rediscovered a huge rock art site in southern India where ancient people used boulders to make musical sounds in rituals. The Kupgal Hill site includes rocks with unusual depressions that were designed to be struck with the purpose of making loud, musical ringing tones.”

Close to Bellary, in Chitradurga district is the Brahmagiri excavation site. In his book “ A history of South India”, K.A. Nilakantha Sastri, said that the Brahmagiri site, near Ashoka Siddapura, “is remarkable for its culture continuity extending from the polished stone axe culture to early historic cultures.”  He also said that there were 2 phases of the stone axe culture here (known from a study of the pottery found here)., and that the authors of this culture knew how to use Neolithic celts, microliths, and how to work copper and bronze.

The French Institute of Pondicherry, has published a “Historical atlas of South India”. If we superimpose the maps of the Stone Age, the New Stone Age and the Iron (Megalithic Age), we can see that Bellary had a continuous human civilization from 500,000 years ago.

N. Kameswara Rao of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore, has published a research paper in which he said that the megalithic stone circles at Brahmagiri, which have been dated at 900 BC show clear astronomical orientation. The geometrical properties of the circle indicate the sunrise and the full moon rise at the time of solar and lunar solsitices and equinoxes. “The megalithic people were aware of the 18.61 period of the moon’s solstice, in addition to keeping track of the sidereal day, the seasons and the year”.

A visit to the Brahmagiri Excavation site allowed me to see the pottery pieces, the polished stone pieces, the Mauryan Burial Tombs, and Asoka’s Sila Sasana (rock-edict). Somewhere between Asoka’s time and the British rule, people forgot how to read the Brahmi Script. The local people thought that the rock was a magic rock with magical writings on it. Such ‘magical objects’ are sometimes called Yantras. It is said that the people thought that if they drank water used to wash the rock, they would be cured of diseases. When Benjamin L. Rice, a British Archaeologist saw this rock, he recognised it for what it was. He built an enclosure around it. At that time the place was called Isila Patnam. It is interesting that that Asoka used the word Jambudwipa to refer to India.

To visit Brahmagiri, you need to get of at the Ashoka Siddhapura Gate bus stop on the way to Rampura from Chitradurga and then take a bus or shared auto to Asoka Siddhapura stop. The rock edict is maintained by the Archaeological Society of India and it may be worth giving them a call before planning your trip.

Authorship and Copyright Notice: All Rights Reserved: Satya Sarada Kandula

 

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