Ancient temple; bustling junction
History: That’s Madivala in Bangalore. The temple is said to be a Chola period structure, making it one among Bangalore’s oldest. The earliest record dates to 1247 AD and refers to lands donated ”below the big tank of Vengalur” by a resident of ‘Veppur’ (Begur), writes Meera Iyer
For Bangaloreans, ‘Silk Board’ is probably synonymous with ‘traffic jam’.
Non-Bangaloreans perhaps conjure up images of silk when they hear these words. Almost certainly, an 800-year-old temple is not what you would associate with that bustling junction… which makes the Someshwara temple one of IT city’s best kept secrets.
The temple is in old Madivala, a place where shops and houses open out onto narrow lanes that twist this way and that, and where children still play cricket in the bylanes. And while traffic-induced chaos reigns supreme at the Silk Board junction, peace and quiet hold sway at the Someswhara temple a mere kilometre away.
The stone temple is said to be a Chola period temple, making it one among Bangalore’s oldest. And there is ample proof of its antiquity. Large portions of its outer walls are covered with inscriptions in Tamil and Grantha (an old script used to write Sanskrit) characters, attesting to the temple’s age. The earliest record dates to 1247 AD and refers to lands donated “below the big tank of Vengalur” by a resident of ‘Veppur’ (modern-day Begur). Other inscriptions seem to have followed in quick succession, recording grants made during the reigns of Hoysala king Ballala III and Chola king Rajendra. One record, from 1365, mentions a land grant at Tamaraikkirai (meaning ‘the banks of the lotus pond’ in Tamil). Epigraphy expert H S Gopala Rao, Secretary of the Karnataka Itihasa Academy, points out that this is the old name for what we today know as Tavarekere.
Apart from its obvious age, the Madivala area may have much else to boast about. Gopala Rao mentions how inscriptions have been found elsewhere in Bangalore which suggest that the illustrious Krishnadevaraya, the most famous king of the Vijayanagar empire, himself spent some time in Madivala.
Today, though, there are no trappings of royalty, either in Madivala or in the Someshwara temple. The temple underwent extensive renovations five years ago, but as Gopala Rao says, fortunately, the inscriptions were largely unharmed. The temple’s outer walls that carry the inscriptions and also idols of various gods including Ganesha, Durga and Vishnu, remain unaltered.
Inside, apart from shiny new flooring, the garba griha and artha mantapa were untouched. These inner chambers still remain small and darkened spaces that encourage a personal and intimate communion with the Lord.
Apart from four carved pillars, the artha mantapa has a large and elegantly proportioned granite Nandi facing the linga. Behind the Nandi, the eastern wall of the temple has a small opening that is directly in line with the linga.
In the days before Madivala was engulfed in buildings, the sun’s rays entered through this small opening to illuminate the linga. According to the priest, K Achyuta Rao, the temple’s deity is a Swayambhu linga, i.e., it is said to have manifested itself without any human agency.