A sense of wonder envelops me when I gaze at these stones. Lying neglected under the harsh sunlight at Cubbon Park, they tell a thousand stories of centuries gone by. No amount of dust and years can mar their value. These are the hero stones of yesteryear dedicated to brave men or women who laid down their lives while protecting others.
The story of the hero:
Also known as Virrakal, these belong to a period between 3rd century BC-18th century AD. Such stones are common in Karnataka and have been found in Tumkur, Shimoga, Bangalore etc. They tell the story of the hero, the battle he fought, the cause of his death and ultimately his union with God. There are 3-4 panels sometimes more, on such stones depicting each event in detail.
Various panels of hero stone:
The bottom panel shows how a hero died. He is shown larger than the others and his cause of death can be understood from this. Bows, arrows, swords, soldiers, horses -a typical battle scene may be described here if the hero died during a battle defending women or livestock. The middle panel shows the hero being taken to heaven by the angels and the top layer shows him being one with God. Inscriptions could also be written sometimes on the stones, narrating the act of bravery done by the person. A hero stone could be dedicated to a man, woman or even an animal. A hero stone for a hound that had killed 70 boars can be seen in Kolar district.
Types of hero stones:
The hero stones are of different types. Some are Sati Stones also known as Masti that tell the stories of women who immolate themselves on hearing their husband’s death. The widow enters the pyre either with her husband’s body or without. The widow is worshiped as a goddess thereafter and is shown with her right hand rising upwards conveying her blessings to all.
Some are religious like the Nisidi stones that depict Jains who have taken the last vow of Jains- the Sallekhana where they have voluntarily left the body by reducing food and water. The Pendirudeyurchu hero stone is where the hero died protecting women, the Turugol is where the warrior died defending cattle, the Gadi Kalaga is where the champion died defending border, forts or territories.. The bottom panel generally depicts these scenes in detail.
The era of these stones may have long gone. Yet their heroic deeds, sacrifices cannot be put aside. Dead in any form should be respected and those who gave their lives should be honored, be that centuries may have passed. So the next time you see them, don’t just pass. Pause, take a look at the panels, show them to your kids. Let knowledge transfer happen so that these stones don’t bite the dust over time.
If you wish to see these stones come for an Unhurried Walk with us. The walk schedule is put up here.