Bherundeshwara Temple located in the ancient city of Balligavi is a glorious Vijaya Stambha (Victory Pillar) installed by the governor of Banavasi, Chamunda Raya erected in front of the Lord Jagadekamalleswara in the year 1047. According to the locals, the governor who was also given the title of Gandabherunda made a gift of land for Bherundeshwara who is praised in the inscription, “No one on earth is equal or will be equal to the Gandabherunda in virtue, truth and liberality.”
The Hindu scriptures have described Gandabherunda, a two – headed bird (most likely eagle) as a form of Lord Vishnu. This figure manifested as a large bird with two heads in opposite directions and huge feathers. Gandabherunda fought Sharabha, a form of Lord Shiva taken to pacify Lord Narasimha for many days before managing to subdue the latter with His beaks.
This depiction of Gandabherunda is seen in several temples across Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Even the Western Chalukyas and succeeding dynasties revered Gandabherunda and adopted the fierce form as their emblem and its name as their title.
A memorial stone dated 1060 CE has three illustrations of a man from the Tulu region, Chandiga who first worshipped Lord Shiva, then cut off one finger, climbed this historic pillar, threw himself down onto a row of pointed ends of spears set up at the base of the pillar, ending his life and finally reaching the heavenly worlds accompanied by a celestial being who witnessed these events. This is called as Shula Brahma Shile by the locals.
The pillar sits on a high square platform within an enclosure. The legendary Gandabherunda represented with two bird’s heads looking in opposite directions and a human body was seated atop the pillar. The original figure fell down and smashed to pieces in the 1930s. A new one was commissioned in 1937 by Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV of Mysore State and is placed at the foot of the pillar.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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