People in Rayalaseema remember only Vijayanagara king Sri Krishnadevaraya, the third ruler of the Tuluva Dynasty (1509 to 1529).
But, 700 years before him, the Nolamba Pallava kings ruled the southern parts of present Anantapur district, Kolar and Chitradurg districts in Karnataka and south-western parts of Chittoor district, and there is a rich architectural heritage left behind by them.
This treasure is now ready for display with authentic information from Archaeological Survey of India at a swanky museum with six galleries at Hemavathi in Amarapuram mandal of Anantapur district.
At Hemavathi, the Siddeswara temple complex, a popular destination for the devout, has a unique Siva idol in black stone in human form, unlike a Linga akara in majority of the temples.
The ASI had taken over the Siddeswara (Henjerappa) and Doddeswara temples built by the Nolamba kings in the 9th century, at Hemavathi long ago.
A small museum, which had been built three decades ago in the temple complex, has now been expanded and tastefully painted and exhibits displayed on pedestals with information.
The renovated museum will be open to public in a fortnight, according to ASI conservator Krishna Chaitanya.
Several valuable sculptures were collected by the ASI from the remnants of temple ceilings, pillars and idols found in the agriculture fields, and during excavation for house-building in the surrounding villages over the years and dumped in the Doddeswara Temple. These exhibits have now got a decent place for people to see and appreciate their beauty.
While these Nolamba dynasty kings flourished from the early 9th century during the regime of Rashtrakutas (whose rule spread from the Ganges to Kanyakumari), their downfall began when Ganga dynasty king Marasimha overpowered them in the late 10th century. These Nolambas were Kannada kings and got several temples constructed with architectural finesse that can be seen even today in the black-stone idols of several Hindu and Jain deities.
As you enter the museum, pillars with inscriptions on them welcome you and the most striking exhibits are the half-broken Chamundeswari black polished-stone idol.
The second gallery on the left is dedicated to Lord Siva and remnants from the Vedagallu temple with an ornate arch, small Vinayaka idol are on display.
Lord Vishnu idols in five different avatars, including Vamana and Venkateswara, give an insight into the sculpting skills of artisans of those times. The fourth gallery, one of the largest ones, has a collection of all female deities with ‘Saptamatrikas’ stealing the attention. These seven idols are displayed individually in addition to the combined panel of the Saptamatrikas, a group of seven mother-goddesses, each of whom is a shakti, or female counterpart of a god, and revered by the people in those days.
Fifth gallery has a collection of seven broken temple ceiling panels and the sixth one has a Jain Teerthankar’s idol as Nolambas were influenced by Jainism too, explains caretaker K. Mahesh Babu. Horizontal bars of temples and other small objects have been displayed in a cupboard. About 132 km. from Anantapur and 170 km from Bengaluru, a day’s trip to Hemavathi will be a walk/peek into the history of the region.