Lost somewhere amidst the chaos of Bangalore's IT corridor is a village called Begur which gives the city a bit of its history. As we drive through this ancient village that dates back to the 6th Century reign of the Gangas, we see rampant construction everywhere, threatening to erase its cultural ethos. We are in search of an old inscription, which historians believe records one of the very first mentions of the place Bengaluru — way back in 900 AD.
As I enter the main street of the village, driving past the lake, I see the locals gathered in front of the 1,000-year-old Panchalingeshwara temple. A bright yellow chariot is getting ready for a temple festival. The flower-sellers are doing brisk business as devotees throng the old temple, built during the Ganga and Chola dynasties. The oldest of the shrines is the Nageswara temple and the remaining four, Nagareshvara, Karneshvara, Choleshvara and Kalikamateshvara, were added later.
We walk around the temple compound and find several veerakal, or hero stones, scattered around — some depicting scenes from chieftain Nagattara's life and death. I learn from Girish, the head priest, that one of them which documents the chieftain's death is now in the Bangalore museum.
A violent context
I look for the inscription that refers to Bangalore and find it lying in the open along with some broken hero stones. The reference to the city, however, is in a violent context. Meera Iyer from INTACH, Bangalore explains, “It speaks of the Battle of Bengaluru fought around 900 AD which resulted in the death of Nagattara's son Buttana-setti.” She also tells me about another inscription found near the fort that speaks of Nagattara's daughter who fasted to death through the Jain ritual called sallekhana.
I look for some majestic citadels, but find the remnants of an old fort in some crumbled mud walls. A stone entrance with some pillars that serve as an “adda” for the villagers, while the children play cricket inside. Two old temples, a well and some more inscriptions and carvings contrast with the high-rise constructions coming up around the village.
We walk a bit more and realise that the connection between Begur and Bangalore seem to be lost in the wake of modernisation that seem to rob not just Begur's but even Bangalore's identity and heritage.