Bengaluru, Jun 5, 2019: Tourists, especially those interested in visiting ancient historical monuments, as well as the adventure-seeking young and not so old people, often travel to distant and far-off places like Hampi, Belur-Haledbidu, Golgumbaz, Ajanta-Ellora, Mohenjodaro, Taj Mahal and so on, without paying attention to the most interesting sites and treasure troves in our own backyard.

Though it is easy to dismiss such obvious lack of interest as apathy to our own region, it is quite possible that ignorance about our own historical and cultural heritage might be one of the main reasons. An attempt to set right the situation and enlighten interested persons about two of the ancient historical legacies of Karnataka in the book, `Ballalarayana Durga: Untapped Eco-Tourism Potential of Chikkamagaluru district,’ by J W Lobo, who spent his childhood at Gaudikemane-Balige in the vicinity of Ballarayana Durga.

J W Lobo or Joseph Wilson Lobo, widely known among Mangalureans as Joe Lobo, Kulshekar, studied at St Aloysius College and Roshni Nilaya in Mangalore. He had served as a post-graduate lecturer at Roshni Nilaya and as Personnel Manager at Fr Muller’s Hospital before joining the Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) of Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India and post-retirement joined CHRIST (Deemed to be University) as Director International Office.

The book packed with abundant historical facts and data as well as attractive colour photographs taken by the author himself and brought out by well-known ATC Publishers with printing by leading Brilliant Printers will be released by Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath President Dr B L Shankar, who hails from the district and is intimately connected with the region, on June 7, at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Bengaluru.

The book release function coincides with the 37th Anniversary celebrations of the Every Friday Cultural Evening Programme (EFCEP), which incidentally was launched by Lobo during his illustrious tenure as director of ICCR, as a private initiative in close cooperation and support from H N Suresh, the then Convenor of the Youth Writers and Artistes Guild, and many other like-minded persons. The then Minister for Youth Services Dr Jeevaraj Alva offered full support of his department and its Yavanika hall for staging the programme every week, and ICCR, Department of Kannada and Culture, Department of Youth Empowerment and Sports, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and the Youth Writers and Artists Guild have shouldered the responsibility of continuing EFCEP regularly over the years. The formal function will be followed by `Bhamakalapam,’ a Kuchipudi duet recital by Surya Narayana Rao as Sathyabhama and Krishna Murthy Tunga as Madhavi.

Built by Hoysala Kings

As is evident from the title of the book, the entire monograph revolves around Ballalarayana Durga, one of the oldest forts and perhaps the most neglected forts in India, and the ancient Kalabhairava temple, are known to have been built by the kings of the Hoysala dynasty (1020-1343), who had Belur-Halebidu as their capital. Going back into history, the author brings out the fact that the Hoysala king, Veera Ballala I (1102-1108) and his brother, Bitti Deva or Vishnuvardhana (1108-1142) built the Ballalarayana Durga fort; while the Kalabhairava temple was probably built by their predecessors between 1020 and 1050 AD in view of the fact that Veera Ballala I and his wife used to worship at the temple!

The stone fort of Ballalarayana Durga is situated on one of the highest mountain tops in the country at a height of 4,941 ft and stretches over an area of over 1,000 acres within the outer walls. However, most of the stone structures within the fort walls including what is believed to be the palace are in a dilapidated condition with crumbling walls and chipped off stones.

What is interesting to learn from the book is the fact that the fort was in use continuously from about 1110 till Tipu Sultan's defeat in 1799 as the military establishment of various dynasties such as Hoysalas, Chieftains of Vastare and Belur during the reign of Vijayanagara kings, the Ikkeri Nayaks, Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan (1763-1799).

The Kalabhairava temple, believed to have been built by the Hoysala kings/chieftains around 1020 or 1050 AD, was in regular use as a place of worship for over 1000 years. King Veera Ballala I (1102-1108), on a pilgrimage to the temple along with his wife after ascending the throne of Belur, is believed to have decided to build the fort.

Interestingly, the entire area surrounding Ballalarayana Durga fort and the Kalabhaiveshwara temple forms part of the UNESCO Heritage site and the three villages of Sunkasale Grama Panchayat – Durgadahalli, Madhugundi and Aramane Tagalur – are specifically mentioned by the Dr K Kasturirangan Committee on Western Ghats as coming under the `Ecologically Sensitive Area.’

Plenty of Suggestions

Though the author modestly claims that the book is not a scholarly, historical or original research work, it is full of past and present historical facts and data and makes an in-depth analysis of the negative population growth of Chkkamagaluru district out of the 30 revenue districts of Karnataka.

The book also discusses in depth the situation of Kalasa and argues for raising it to the status of an independent taluk and the ground realities of Mudigere taluk, which have seen scanty development over the decades despite the district being the fourth richest in terms of per capita income after Bengaluru Urban, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi. The suggestion for creating the separate Kalasa taluk had been conceded by the H D Kumaraswamy-led JD(S)-Congress coalition government in its budget for the year 2019-20.

Dwelling at length on various aspects of the untapped eco-tourism potential of the Chkkamagaluru district, Lobo has come out with a series of suggestions for the development of the region and popularising its tourism potential besides advocating measures on the proliferation of home-stays while taking care to protect the environment, which deserve serious consideration for implementation by the government.

The author has suggested developing the areas surrounding the Ballalarayana Durga-Kalabhairaveshwara temple by forming the Ballala Durga Development Authority on the lines of the Pilikula Development Authority Act, 2018 by the government along with the formation of a Ballala Durga Eco-Tourism Society or Trust involving like-minded people for the overall planned development of the region.

Captivity of Mangaluru Christians

One aspect that might be of interest to the Christian community of the coastal region, especially Catholics, is the historical fact regarding the mass transit of thousands of soldiers and people taken as prisoners by Tipu Sultan in 1784 after the capture of the Mangalore Fort by defeating the British – all of which have been discussed in detail. Lobo argues that the Christians taken as captives by Tipu’s soldiers from Mangalore to Srirangapatna via the Kadtical Ghati route and not Jamalabad fort, as the latter was constructed by Tipu Sultan in 1794 or 10 years after the captives being taken in 1784. The Kadtical Ghati section remained the main lifeline of Tipu’s empire till his death in the battle of 1799.