Bankapura, a place of historical importance is famous for Nagareshwara Temple and the Peacock Sanctuary. The temple and peacock sanctuary both are located within the fort area of the town. The fort which covers a large area of 139 acres is in absolute ruins. The name ‘Bankapura’ was derived from ‘Bankeya’, who was a renowned general of Rashtrakuta emperor Amoghavarsha I (Nripatunga).
Bankapura was ruled by Western Chalukyas initially. In AD1140 Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana made this place as the capital of his northern territories. It is also believed that Vishnuvardhana breathed his last here. Post AD1550 Muslim rulers took over this place until it was annexed by British in the year 1802.
- The temple consists of Mukhamanatapa, Navaranga, Antarala and Garbhagruha (Sanctum).
- This temple is also known as ‘Aruvattu Kambagala Gudi’ (Sixty Pillars Temple) after the sixty beautiful Chalukyan style pillars in the Mukhamantapa.
- There is a beautiful carving of lotus in the middle ankana of the Mukhamantapa.
- The Mukhamantapa can be entered from 3 sides and has Kakshasanas (seating arrangements) all across its border. One can find miniature Gopuras (towers) and delicately carved miniature sculptures all along the outer wall of the Mukhamantapa.
- The temple was subject to attacks on its discovery and many sculptures have vanished including that of the main deity.
- Navaranga is connected to Mukhamantapa via a beautiful Mantapa which has seating arrangements on either side. The 2 pillars in this Mantapa are full of rich carvings and are main attraction of this temple.
- The door of Navaranga has beautifully carved five band decorations with attractive Gajalakshmi motif on the lintel.
- Navaranga originally had 2 entrances on either side with beautiful Mantapas, now only one remains. We can find beautiful and crafty work on the right side entrance. The one on the left was severely damaged by muslim attackers and is now permanently closed by constructing a wall.
Bottomline: The Nagareshwara temple which stands below the ground level is a marvelous structure built in Western Chalukyan style. How it withstood the attacks of muslim marauders is a mystery. Popular belief is that the whole temple was buried under mud by the villagers before they left the town fearing muslim invasion. This in fact is also the reason why we find the temple below the ground level today.