Hidden Treasures of Nallur

It is easy to skip Nallur. There are no yellow tourism boards here or signages to tout its antiquity. But ancient it is, for there is an important historical source- a 14th century inscription dating back to a Tirumalanatha temple of Nallur. Don’t go looking for it though. You will not find the inscription nor recognize the temple; it is in ruins amidst Lantana bushes with its idols broken, ceiling caved in and wild, tangled creepers very much in place.

Nallur Tamarind Grove:

Nallur today is famous, as it boasts of a biodiversity heritage site -the 12th century Nallur Tamarind grove. As you zip past Devanahalli to Hoskote you will find Nallur, slow down and you will see numerous tamarind groves. This is it. Once again there are no sign boards nearby to say that you have arrived. The major landmark is the Gangamma temple of Nallur.

So, what is special about these tamarind trees? For one, they are around 400 years old-carbon dated by UAS, Bangalore. That’s not their only specialty though. They have sucker roots just like Banyan tree or the Krishna Butter cup. Most of the tree trunks are hollow, yet young roots spring up from these, giving rise to new tamarinds. So, what you see is a cluster of old and new trees surrounding a single hollowed tamarind.

There is a belief that Rajendra Chola planted these trees. This may not be a myth. A few miles away is the village Gangavara that boasts of a temple with inscription referring to Rajendra Chola who is seen giving grants to his generals.

Go around the grove. Don’t expect much. It is a 54-acre heritage site, yet not even fenced. Lantana bushes abound plenty, trash makes its signature here too. Yet, the place is silent only broken by a plane taking off, now and then.

Nallur fort and temple:

Across the grove is the temple of Gangamma. A gigantic peepal tree in front of it, a couple of Naga stones and few broken statues greet you at the entrance. The Google map says Gangamma temple at Nallur Kote. And you realize that Nallur probably had a fort.

A few searches on the net and you come across an interesting story about Nallur kote or fort. It is believed that one Chauda Raya was its chieftain. Nallur also known as Nallurpatna was ably defended by him. The fort itself was strong, so strong that it resisted a siege from its neighboring enemy for three years and only fell due to an internal betrayal. The city and the fort secrets were disclosed by none other than the chieftains’ daughter.

The story goes something like this. The chief of Hoskote and Nallur had declared war in spite of a matrimonial alliance between them. Nallur chieftain’s daughter was married to the Hoskote chief. She accompanied him on the battle field and revealed the whereabout of a subterranean passage connecting the city from outside.  When the enemy scaled the walls of Nallur fort, the chieftain of Nallur blew up his palace.

There are no traces of this fort today and also no signs of the palace treasure. Yet it holds a hidden treasure- the ruins of Channarayaswamy aka Tirumalanatha temple.

Perhaps of early Vijayanagara period it is mentioned in two inscriptions- a 1386 AD inscription that mentions the donation of a lamp pillar to the temple by Chikka Ankaiah and a 1401 record that mentions the name Marapa who was connected with the temple work.

There are no signs of the lamp pillar in front of the temple. What remains are the stone walls and their carefully crafted sculpture work. The images of infant Krishna, his antics like the dance on Kalinga are beautifully sculpted and still retain the power to enthrall visitors. The figures have a fluidity and grace that years of neglect have not been able to erase.

This hidden treasure, nearby the renovated Gangamma temple is a sad affair. There is no fencing, no plastering, no repairs; ceiling is caved in, a headless statue of a goddess still lies inside, yet in spite of the neglect, the structure screams its antiquity.

So don’t miss out on these hidden treasures of Nallur-the Nallur Tamarind grove and the Channarayaswamy temple. It is just a 30 minutes’ drive from International Airport and can be easily covered as part of a weekend tour.

–Usha

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