Bengaluru

The astronomical wonder

One of a kind: An old drawing of the temple by Thomas Daniel in 1792.   | Photo Credit: Source: British Library

It is generally believed that the Jantar Mantar in Delhi is the only good example of an astronomical observatory constructed by medieval rulers in India. But a similar structure, Gavi Gangadhareshwara temple, which is believed to have been constructed by Kempe Gowda, is also a fitting example. The Gavi Gangadhareshwara is famous for its cave temple, especially during Makar Sankranti, when the sun's rays pass through the window and touch the Shivalinga. Both scientists and scholars are engaged in a study to observe its architectural importance and astronomical significance.

This temple was formed by the natural boulders of hillocks and faces the south-west direction. The courtyard is wide and has large-sized monolithic sculptures placed in certain alignments. Shiva's symbols, the Trishula and the Damaru, are placed on the southern edge of the courtyard.

There are two large circular discs placed parallel to each other known as Suryapana and Chandrapana, with a diameter of 2 m each. Since these are circular and face the east and west, they are identified as symbols of the sun and the moon. It is believed that such discs are not found in any other temple in Karnataka or south India.

Astronomical symbols

Recently, scientists Jayanth Vyasanakere and Shyalaja of the Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium, Bangalore, studied the temple and came to the conclusion that it has astronomical significance.

According to scientists, the sun's rays pass through and reach the Sivalinga-pitha not only on Makar Sankranti (Pongal) but also on November 30 and December 1 every year. The scientists also identified the significance of the Suryapana and Chandrapana monolithic sculptures. According to their study, these were placed for astronomical observations in the medieval period. The shadow of the Dvajastamba falls on the eastern disc for 40 minutes. It is only recently that scholars discovered that the two discs have been installed in alignment to the summer solstice sunset and that explains the significance of the phenomenon on Makar Sankranti. A detailed study has been published in the Current Science Journal [vol. 95, No. 11, 2008].

Although there are no direct records about the carvings in the temple, it is strongly believed that the temple was patronised by Kempe Gowda in the 16th century. The four monolithic sculptures in the courtyard, the stone umbrella (Chatri) adjacent to the temple and a watch tower (Kavalu-Gopura) point to that fact.

Sacred place

The southern part of the Bangalore fort area originally had small hillocks. The river Vrishabhavati had its origins from these hillocks.

There is a Kannada inscription that mentions that the river originated from the foot of the Nandi image at the Bull temple. Hence, the area is said to be sacred.The Gavi Gangadhareshwara, Harihara, Skanda Anjaneya and Bull temples are all located on these hillocks.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 10:10:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/the-astronomical-wonder/article2850613.ece

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