The fort in Belgaum, Karnataka, India is today home to the Territorial Army. In the past, it housed a local feudal dynasty – the Ratta Kings who were family members of the kings of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty and they controlled small areas during the expansion of the kingdom by the Rashtrakuta kings. Even after the decline of the Rashtrakuta kings, the Ratta kings continued to rule their small principalities under other dynasties well into the 1200-1300s.
The Ratta kings were mostly followers of Jainism. The Ratta kings who ruled North Karnataka called the town of Saundatti their capital but later shifted their base to Belgaum fort. There are two Jain Temples or Basadis in the Belgaum Fort. One of them called Chikki Basadi (small temple) is undergoing restoration while the other Kamala Basadi has been recently restored to its present beautiful self.
The word Basadi, could have roots in the Sanskrit ‘Vasati’ which means residence, a dwelling and in the Jain context a shrine, a temple. The Jain temples are called Basadis in South India.
The main diety in Kamala Basadi is Shri Neminatha, the 22nd Thirthankara of Jainism. The temple was built in 1204 by Bichiraja a minister of the Ratta King Kartavirya IV. The temple gets its name from the most beautiful ceiling in the temple’s mantapa (hall) – intricately carved concentric circles of the lotus (kamala) flower with a central lotus bud. The pillars that support the ceiling are simple and carry the ‘diamond-cut’ that is quite common in the pillars at the Hoysala temple in Belur. If you have visited the bigger and better known Jain temples of Gujarath or Rajasthan you will realise that exquisitely carved ceilings are a typical feature and the lotus theme was quite common. So it was a wow moment for me to see such a lavish ceiling in a tiny little Basadi!
The multi-layered pillars, layered lintel and a fairly high threshold leading from the outer hall to the inner hall add grandeur to the otherwise small temple. The inner hall has statues in black stone of Rishabhanatha, the first Thirthankara, Sumathinatha, the fifth Thirthankara and Parshvanantha, the 23rd Thirthankara.
Latticed walls can be seen at the door leading to the sanctum sanctorum. The lintel has the mythical figure ‘makara’ – with the mouth of a crocodile, trunk of an elephant, ears of a cow, body of a pig and a peacock’s tail.
The statue of Shri Neminatha is sculpted in black stone in a sitting posture. At the base of the backdrop stone panel, on either sides of the seated Shri Neminatha you can spot an elephant, followed by the tiger and the makara.
In Belgaum fort, you can also visit the Military Durga Devi Mandir, the Ramakrishna Mission Ashram and the Hazrath Sikander Shah Dargah.
You may find this interesting to read about and visit as well.
PS: Many towns and cities in India have been renamed, the justification being that they have been un-anglicised. So Belgaum is now ‘BELAGAVI’. But for me, BENGALOORU is Bangalore, MANGALOORU is Mangalore and BELAGAVI is Belgaum. Strangely I have got used to calling Madras CHENNAI, Bombay MUMBAI and Calcutta KOLKATA 🙂