South India is full of beautiful temples with stunning architecture all around. The Ramalingeshwara Group of Temples in Avani, Kolar is one of them that is a must visit. Avani is a small town located almost 30 km from the main town of Kolar, Karnataka. The place is located very close to Bangalore. Yet, it is unexplored and offbeat. It is declared a national heritage by the department of Archeological Survey of India.
History of Ramalingeshwara Group of Temples in Avani
As per the archeological survey of India, the temples in Avani were constructed in 10th CE by the Nolamba dynasty. A minor South Indian dynasty who were also the followers of Lingayat tradition centered around Shivalinga worship. Later the temple was restored a bit by the Chola dynasty. The temple is constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture. According to historian James Harle, the Ramalingeshwara Group of Temples is one of the earliest examples of temples with a group of Shrines surrounded by a single outer wall.
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As per the local legends, Hindu Saint Maharishi Valmiki lived here. The plateau beside the temples is where his abode was. Lord Ram visited here after his return from Sri Lanka. It is also believed that the sons of Lord Ram and Devi Sita – Luv and Kush were born here. That is why the plateau is also fondly named ‘Luv Kush Betta’. Betta in Kannada means a hill. When Shri Ram was doing the Ashwamedha Yagna, this is where Luv and Kush stopped his horse and war was initiated between Ram and his brothers, against his own sons Luv and Kush.
Later, Lord Ram and his 3 brothers decided to absolve their bad ‘karma’ of waging war against children by doing puja. That is when they established a Linga each of Shiva and did a puja of Shiva here.
Getting to these temples
From Bangalore, head to Kolar, and then further on NH 75. Almost 30 km from the main town of Kolar, a road from the main highway on the right side diverges inside the village of Avani. Travel 10 km on this road and one reaches the temples.
Since the Ramalingeshwara Group of Temples is a prominent heritage site of Avani, everyone in the village knows the route to it. Add to it the fact that the temple is the sole point of interest for most of the visitors. So, you can easily ask for directions to the temple. Even if you don’t know the local language. Just mention the name of the temple and the villagers will point you in the right direction.
Keeping on the path is really easy because there is only one main road leading to the temple. And the Luv-Kush betta is quite visible from far. As long as you are nearing the plateau, you are in the right direction.
Visiting The Ramalingeshwara Group of Temples in Avani
As we step inside, the beautiful Dravidian style architecture of the group of several small temples inside the main courtyard immediately captivates us. The intricate carvings on each and every pillar of the temples are especially notable. There is a Mandapa or porch before the main entrance of each temple, leading to the cell.
There is a Kalyan Mandapa (Wedding Platform) at the right side of the entrance. And a bench to rest on the left side. Inside the temple courtyard, there is a golden flag in the center, right in front of the entrance. Take a round of the temple from left to right in the clockwise direction and you will see all the major small temples and shrines that form the Ramalingeshwara Group of Temples. The carvings on the temple wall represent Deities & animals like Lions and Elephants.
There are signboards in front of each of the temples describing the rich architecture. Here’s the description from the one in front of the Ramalingeshwara temple.
The Ramalingeshwara temple has a Garbhgriha (The innermost sanctum of a Hindu Temple), an Antarala (A foyer in front of the Garbhagriha) and a Navranga (A hall supported with multiple pillars, often used for dance performances as a part of the prayer offering). The pillars of this temple are of ornate style. They resemble the Manastambha design. The Adhisthana has moldings decorated with Kirtimukhas and Lions while the walls have pillars surrounded by Dravidian towers.
The Shrines & Temples inside the premises
The Ramalingeshwara Group of Temples contain a shrine named after each of the four brothers from the epic Ramayana – Ram, Lakshman, Bharat, and Shatrughan. Each of these shrines has a huge Shivlinga. These shrines are named Ramalingeshwara, Lakshmanalingeshwara, Bharatlingeshwara, and Shatrughanlingeshwara respectively. Three of the shrines stand adjacent to each other. These are the Ramalingeshwara, Lakshmanalingeshwara and Shatrughanlingeshwara shrines.
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The Ramalingeshwara is the central one and is also the main temple. You will most probably find a priest inside this main shrine. Lakshmanalingeshwara has the largest Linga amongst all shrines. While the other three Linga’s are almost of the same size. The Bharatalingeshwara shrine lies on the other side of the temple premises. Some believe that it was the first shrine to be put up in this temple. Finally, there is a shrine dedicated to Parvati also in the temple premises. After all, where there is Shiva, his Shakti has to be there.
We particularly loved the peaceful environment and the beautiful carvings on the temples. There was hardly anyone else apart from us. And that makes it an even more beautiful weekend getaway from Bangalore. We went to each of the Shrines and said our prayers.
Thereafter, we moved further and reached the end of the temple premises. Apart from the shrines, there is a small Vigneshwara Temple with a small and beautiful idol of Ganesha on the far left of the premise. Ganesha, remember is the Parivar Devta or the family deity as the son of Shiva and Parvati.
Then, there are some Shivlingas on the front right of the courtyard, besides an ancient well. The well is still functional and contains drinking water.
The Sita Temple
There is a small temple of Sita atop the Luv Kush Betta. Although we didn’t trek to the top, there are stairs that lead to the top. And the views of the Ramalingeshwara Group of temples from there must be very beautiful.
There is a small and beautiful pond between the temple and the plateau itself, where lotus plants abound. This pond is believed to be the prime source of water for Sita when she lived here. The pond is believed to be holy and people use it for taking a holy dip. While the priests of the temple also bath here. Using a few flights of stairs, you can go right into the pond.
Sita is also called ‘AvaniSuta’ (the child of the earth) as it is believed she was found while the earth was being plowed. It is believed the village derives its name from this same association of Sita with the earth. Along with the temple, there is a cave here which is believed to be the abode of Valmiki when he was staying here.
There is a faith that if a childless couple wants to be blessed by a child they should visit this temple. The lady should take a bath in the pond and then trek up the plateau to this temple. As she reaches the temple, she feels sleepy. And when she falls asleep, she dreams of a loving woman blessing her. And thereafter the couple’s wish for a child is fulfilled.
Festivals at Temples
Mahashivratri is celebrated on a grand scale here. A Rath Yatra is held during Mahashivratri that starts from the courtyard of the Ramalingeshwara Temple. Thousands of people from nearby villages and towns gather here during this time to witness and be part of the festival.
This village falls in the Mulbagal taluk. There are no train stations within 10 km of the village. It is best reached by direct buses from all the nearby cities including Bangalore. Also, self-driving is another great option to reach here. Sri Narasimha Bharati IV of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham had established a new Matha here. And installed one of his Shishya’s or disciples as the head of the new Matha. This can also be visited along with the main destination.
The village is also known as “Gaya of South India”. However, we couldn’t find the exact reason as to why. Do tell us if you know, we are so interested to find out.
Overall, it is a great place for the spiritual soul, architecture lovers, and tranquility lovers. For those who love ancient temples or heritage sites. And for those who get intrigued by the legends associated with temples. As well as anyone who is looking for a peaceful offbeat destination. Being a bit of all of the above, they made a perfect destination for us.
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This is a guest post by Neha. She and her husband Abhishek are travel enthusiasts & travel bloggers by passion and software engineer by profession. They travel with their little daughter far and wide, sharing their experience through their travelogue Revolving Compass. They are spreading their love for travel through all their social media platforms as well. You can connect with them on Facebook & Twitter.