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Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Ruins of Barkur

Near Udupi and Kundapur, in Karnataka

Kattale Basadi in Barkur, near Udupi, an ancient Jain temple, or basadi in Karnataka, Udupi district - One of the ancient ruins and structures in Karnataka, India

It was one of those days when you have some free time on your hand but not a clue what to do with it. Having a camera in our hands, having nothing better to do that day, we set on a photographic road trip right away. Old temples carved out of rock or historic ruins are often picturesque and are of some interest to me. Riding along NH 17 (new number: NH 66), I remembered being to Barkur very long back in my childhood, but could not remember much about the temples there. Barkur was a capital of the Alupa Kings and also a provincial headquarters during the Vijayanagara times.

Carvings on the 20-feet monolithic pillar before Kattale Basadi
Carvings on the 20-feet monolithic pillar before Kattale Basadi

Kattale Basadi, Barkur, Udupi, Karnataka, India
Kattale Basadi

A long drive on NH 17 (new number: NH 66) and a right turn at Brahmavar led Shrihas and me to the small town Barkur, after crossing River Seetha. Getting some nice snaps for my photoblog Prachitra was the actual intention of this road trip. In the middle of the town, there is a stone monument.

Kattale Basadi Group of Temples
Enquiring the locals, we came to the place with the old temples with a sign board of Kattale Basadi, meaning the Dark Temple. We entered the temple group, with the Kattale Jain Basadi in the front, and two small temples behind it, one Shiva temple and another a Vaishnava temple. These are declared as National Monuments by the Archaeological Survey of India. The three temples, are all in a compound with some other structures inside, and a 20 feet monolithic stone pillar at the entrance.

The temples are not architecturally much beautiful and have minimal carvings, designs or ornamentations on the stones. The exterior walls are mostly plain with minimal carvings. But they are of historical significance as, Barkur was an ancient city, and was the ancient capital of the Tulu kingdom. It was known as Barakanur, and was once a major trade and commercial centre around 2nd century A.D, was a capital city of those times, developed much before Mangalore and Udupi. All that remain now of that historical city are just some ruins scattered all around Barkur.

The sad part is, there was no one to look after these national monuments, and some people were even playing cards, hiding behind one of the temple structures. There was a compound made all around, some little restoration works on the temples, but the grass grown interiors did not see maintenance since months (or years). There was grass and moss grown on Kattale temple too. This may be a very small place with small ruined temple structures, not very picturesque, but it is still a national and cultural heritage with thousands of years of history, and truly deserves better maintenance.

Getting some snaps of the temples and other structures in there, we came out. Then, we sat by a small lake, or rather, a pond for some time. There is a carved stone pillar just beside the pond, but no information, whatsoever about it. Then, we visited the Chaulikeri Ganapathy temple nearly opposite to the pond. This ~900 year old temple has very interesting slanted stone roofing. This temple is functional even today.

“There is a temple in ruin stands, Fashion'd by long forgotten hands: Two or three columns, and many a stone, Marble and granite, with grass o'ergrown!”
- Lord Byron (in: Siege of Corinth)

The Fort that wasn't there!
We then randomly asked people around for any more worth visiting places of heritage; one person mentioned of a fort, and said it was visible on the left side of the road. Some good pictures, I thought, as forts make quite good pictures. But it was somewhat a wild goose chase, as we couldn't actually find it as per the directions given by that fellow. Finally, after searching for the fort upto three to four kilometers, disappointed, we came all the way back. Just as we were nearing the town, we asked another fellow and grabbing more accurate location, zeroed in on the “fort” location. There was quite a large grass grown land, which looked like some local unmaintained cricket ground, only without a pitch. But we still couldn’t see any fort or any ruined structure where the guy said the fort was. As we stood there wondering about the fort, one guy who walked past us said we were standing right inside it! So, this local cricket ground with overgrown grass filling it was the “fort”! It might have been a fort in some age, but now if anyone simply goes and stands there, it wouldn’t appear as a fort even in his wildest dreams. There seemed to be a ruined wall or something surrounding this huge “ground”, below that thick shroud of grass, which had to be walls of the fort. Even the stones of the so called walls were not visible, or were perhaps hiding underneath the thick grass (see it on the google map satellite imagery below.

When seen from the satellite-eye perspective, it does appear there had been some fort in its place which is now totally ruined). No wonder we couldn’t make it out even though we went past it a couple of times. Well, so much for the “fort”, we thought, wasting around half an hour searching for it. If you happen to be at Barkur, and someone refers you to the “fort”, avoid it, unless you are an investigative archaeologist unearthing or restoring totally ruined structures, or someone that interested in historical ruins. It all seemed like one of the cruel jokes of fate! But jokes apart, there should have been some effort to do some restoration; at least a sign board could have been put. This is not the way any place with such historical significance should be maintained.

This wasn’t a planned trip anyway. We just went there without knowing anything about that place. As Marlon Brando once said, “We don’t go anywhere. Going somewhere is for squares. We just go!” These setbacks on our so called photographic road trip didn’t stop us, and we decided to head to some beach. It was nearly 5, and was just enough time to make it to Maravanthe beach around sunset, where NH 17 (new number: NH 66) passes between a river and the sea. All that next time, until then, over and out!

Pros: Barkur is of historical significance. If you are passing by NH17 (new number: NH 66) between Udupi and Kundapur, and are interested in ancient ruins and the history and legacy of the region, this place might be of interest to you.

There are some other temples and places we did not visit; one is the ~700 year old Mudikeri Someshwara temple, which is functional even today. See external links below for more information from other sources.

Cons: This is certainly not a place for sightseeing. There isn’t much left to see here out of the ~365 temples that were there according to the history and legends, most of them totally ruined and mostly nonexistent today due to negligence and natural calamities. The small temples in the Kattale temple group are the only ruins well preserved compared to the other ruins, and as for the grass grown fort, you wouldn’t know it even if you are standing right inside it (see how it looks on the google map below). These small temples or basadis aren’t much architecturally beautiful and have very minimal carvings and ornamentation. This place is listed in several tour guide books of places of interest around Mangalore and Udupi. Of course, this place has much historical legacy and significance, but there isn’t much to see here if viewed from the common traveller’s perspective. Not worth a long journey unless you are really interested in history and ancient ruins. You won’t get any guides here. Except the kattale temple group, we did not see any sign board accompanying any of the artefacts or ruined structures scattered elsewhere. As of now, this is certainly not a place for touring or visiting for pleasure.

Have you been to Barkur?
Share your Experiences and Comments.

Location Map:

View Barkur, Udupi district, Karnataka, India in a larger map

Get Directions to Barkur from your place:

Directions Map:
View Driving directions from Udupi to Barkur in a larger map

External Links:
Below are links to a short and nice video documentary on Barkur, with more information, that we found on Youtube. It comes in two parts and contains additional information:

[1] Barkur a forgotten chapter Part 1 of 2 on Youtube
[2] Barkur a forgotten chapter Part 2 of 2 on Youtube

Related Stories about Barkur on other Web Sites:

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