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Ramalingesvara Temples and Inscriptions, Avani

DISTRICT: Kolar; TALUK: Mulbagal
LOCALITY: Avani (Lat. 13° 08' N; Long. 78° 28' E)

The region is said to be the Avantika kshetra one of the ten places of great sanctity in India. Traditionally, this place is identified as the abode of legendary sage Valmiki, author of the great epic Ramayana. To corroborate this a hillock nearby is identified as Valmiki Parvata, Rama, enroute back to Ayodhya after victory over Ravana, is said to have visited this place as ‘Gaya of south’ and Sita is said to have given birth to the twins, Lava and Kusha here. An inscription of 339 AD of the time of Banas refers to this place. Later inscriptions refer to this place as 'Gaya of south'. The huge temple complex is located in a courtyard having two entrances, one each from the south and east. The temples are assignable to the Nolamba period of circa 10th century AD and renovated subsequently during the Chola period. Of the temples Ramalingesvara, Lakshmana-Iingesvara Shatrughna-lingesvara, Anjaneyesvara, Sugrivesvara etc., the Lakshmana-lingesvara temple is the most ornate. The navaranga pillars have relief sculptures and the Ceiling has Uma-Mahesvara surrounded by Dikpalas. The linga in the garbhagriha is the largest. The south mahadvara is of the Chola period. The Ceiling of the Bharateswara temple also has Uma-Mahesawara surrounded by Dikpalakas. In the navarange of the Parvathi temple stand two highly ornamented figures about 4.5’ and 4’ high, respectively with bears and mustaches, which are said to represent the brothers Ilavanti Raya and Vasudara Raya. On the north outer wall of the Laxmaneswara temple is a seated figure with rudraksha necklace, representing tribhauvanakarta, the famous guru of the 10th century AD, the label to the right of the figure gives the name.  On the exterior, the adhisthana has five mouldings, ornamented with friezes of elephants, lions, yalis and makara heads. The wall is relieved by pilasters and sculptures of yakshas, dvarapalas, Siva, Bhairava, Bhairavi, Vishnu, Ganesha etc. The Ramesvara temple on plan has a garbhagriha, anantarala and a navaranga. The pillars in the navaranga are of the ornate type. The adhisthana has mouldings decorated with kirtimukha and lions. The walls have pilasters surmounted by Dravida towers.