Did you know the Kannada inscriptions unearthed from Bangalore, tells the erstwhile story of the city? The story that we are totally unaware of?
Well, many of the historical records found were not written on paper but are inscribed on stone, but on inscriptions. These Inscriptions date back thousands of years and speak of the reign of kings, mythology, astrology, the development of languages, the evolution of society etc.
Finding these stones is not easy but that hasn’t been enough to stop Uday Kumar and Vinay Kumar from searching for them. Till date, they have found close to 30 stones inscribed with various messages that speak of Bengaluru’s forgotten history.
Tracing Kannada Inscriptions of Bangalore – The Beginning of Their Journey
The search for Kannada inscriptions began with Uday Kumar’s attempts of tracing the roots of his neighborhood, Rajajinagar. He had been told of a village by the name of Kethmaranahalli where a stone inscription could be found that proved the existence of a lake.
However, this search was not fruitful and the stone could not be found. In early 2017, he attended a talk by astrophysicist Dr. Shylaja BS. She is a former director of Bengaluru’s JN Planetarium and spoke of how stone inscriptions were used to record celestial events.
This talk increased Uday’s interest in locating these Kannada inscriptions. At the time he also came across a book by a former director of the Mysore Archaeological Department, BL Rice- Epigraphia Carnatica.
The book documents 9000 inscriptions found in the old Mysore region. These inscriptions were found on old copper plates and lithic surfaces. When Uday told his cycling buddy, Vinay Kumar about this search he found a partner. The two friends decided to find the stones mentioned in the book and document what had remained of them.
Kannada Inscriptions in Bangalore – Finding the Stones
Though the book mentioned the location of the inscriptions, finding them has not been easy. The book was written in 1894 and since then Bengaluru and the areas surrounding it have gone through a sea of changes. In some area, names have changed and people no longer recognize the old names. In others, landmarks that were used to mark the location of the stone have vanished.
Real estate development has been another obstacle in their way. In some cases, they have even been confused with treasure hunters and locals have mistrusted them in the fear of losing their land. And then, of course, the stones have weathered with time and inscriptions that may have been clear a century ago are harder to recognize today.
It is only through patience and perseverance that the two friends have succeeded in finding almost 30 of the 150 Kannada inscriptions mentioned in the book.
About 100 of these stones are believed to have been destroyed in the past 15 years. To get around their obstacles, the duo has spent considerable time speaking to the oldest inhabitants of areas mentioned in the book.
In the process, they learned a number of interesting stories about the region. Often the villagers would talk of old lakes, trees, and temples where they remembered seeing an inscription stone. These served as hints in finding the current location of the stone.
Once a stone was found, they photographed it and cleaned it with soap and water. Reflectance Transformation Imaging and other water and light techniques and flour tracings were then used to make the inscription clearer. With the help of google maps, they could also record the exact location of the stones.
History of Kannada Inscriptions – What Do the Stones Say?
Some of the stones date back to 750CE. The Kannada inscriptions on them put light on governance practices of the time, trade, and commerce, land grants, linguistic plurality etc. Some stones also mention astronomical events such as solar eclipses. The stones also help explain how the area developed over time.
Kannada is the dominant language found on most inscriptions. The stone inscriptions found in KR Puram and Dasarahalli are probably the oldest examples of Kannada inscriptions found in Bengaluru. The script in these inscriptions is similar to the Halmidi inscription that is 300 years older. Thus, it helps plot a timeline for the development of the Kannada language.
Tamil and Telegu are a close second. The use of these languages showcases their use and development and gives an insight into the dynasties that ruled at the time. For example, stone belonging to the Chola periods or the Hoysala periods have Tamil inscriptions while Telugu is the dominant language for stones belonging to the Vijayanagar Empire.
A Few Noteworthy Stones
Jakkur Stone Inscription – Hoysala Period 1342 CE
This Kannada inscription describes how a local chieftain gifted Jakkur to Allala, the village accountant as a tax exemption. An inscription of a symbol of the sun and moon signify that this proclamation holds good for eternity.
Allasandra Stone Inscription- Vijayanagara kingdom
This inscription speaks of how Sadashivaraya the village of Allalasandra was granted to God Allalanatha of Jakkur. The terms mentioned in the inscription say that complete ownership was handed over with all rights to the property. This is proof of how advanced the legal system was in those days.
Kodigehalli Stone Inscription – 1431 CE
This stone inscription records how Virupakshapura was gifted to the Someshwara temple at Shivanasamudra. Today, Shivanasamudra is known as Hesaraghatta. The gift was given on August 8, 1431 during a solar eclipse in honor of King Devaraya’s long life and prosperity.
This is the earliest mention of Shivanasamudra and helps date the region back to 1430CE. It may also explain how the area Kodigehalli got its name as kodige means ‘grant’ in Kannada. The solar eclipse mentioned on this stone is also of importance to astronomers.
In November 2017, Vinay Kumar and Uday Kumar partnered with the Archaeology Department to organize an exhibition titled ‘Inscription Stones of Bengaluru’ at Bengaluru’s Venkatappa Art Gallery. The main aim of the exhibition was to document these Kannada inscription stones and make people aware of their importance.
Posters were made about 25 stones with pictures, a translation of their inscriptions and their history. Each poster also had QR codes which were linked to the stone’s actual location on Google Maps and a 3D model of the stone. To commemorate the exhibition, the Indian Postal service also made a special postal cancellation. This is a special marking on a postal stamp that prevents its reuse.
Following the exhibition, a contest was organized for college students to design a shelter for the stones. UNESCO also documented the project in the form of two videos in English and Spanish. These may later be translated into Hindi and Kannada as well.
The exhibition has also made people more aware of the stones and has helped them take on the responsibility of taking care of them. For example, locals in Jakkur and Allalsandra moved the stones in that area to a safer location once they realized their importance.