Unique Sculptures of Karnataka

Gajalakshmi Sculptures

The earliest images of Gajalakshmi in India are found in Bharhut, Madhya Pradesh. Here, two elephants can be seen pouring water on goddess Lakshmi who is standing on a lotus. In Karnataka, earliest image is that of a pendant found in Thalakadu which has the embossed figure of standing Lakshmi with elephants.

Gajalakshmi, seated on a lotus flanked by elephants, can be seen commonly in lintels of door frames of temples and houses through out Karnataka. In some parts of Karnataka, Gajalakshmi sculpture is worshiped as ‘Bananthi Kallu’ – ಬಾಣಂತಿ ಕಲ್ಲು . On the occasion of a birth in the family, the idol is kept face down for the safe delivery of the baby. After the successful delivery, the idol is re installed to its original position.

Badubbe – ಬಾದುಬ್ಬೆ

In northern Karnataka, Gajalakshmi idols are commonly found near water bodies. Rarely, some of them have inscriptions and are called Badubbe -ಬಾದುಬ್ಬೆ  sculptures. There are many inscriptions in Kannada which mention a ritual Badubbe Parva  ಬಾದುಬ್ಬೆ ಪರ್ವ( Badubbe habba, festival) and Badubbe hola – ಬಾದುಬ್ಬೆ ಹೊಲ( fields of Badubbe). These inscriptions belong to the period before 12 and 13th centuries. No inscriptions of later centuries are found which mention Badubbe. Now, Badubbe worship has been completely forgotten in the region. In many places, Badubbe idol is used as Bananthi Kallu – ಬಾಣಂತಿ ಕಲ್ಲು as explained above.

A very unique Gajalakshmi sculpture is shown below.  Here an erotic scene is depicted on one side at the bottom and a women in labor is depicted on the other side. This is a very sculpture which is not found anywhere else in the region.


Konana Thale – ಕೋಣನ ತಲೆ – Buffalo Head

Konana Thale ಕೋಣನ ತಲೆ- Bison Head sculptures are found in the districts of Haveri, Dharwad, Gadag, some parts of Bellary, and Bijapur districts. In present times, like Gajalakshmi sculptures, the significance and worship of these sculptures are faded away. They are often found outside of village boundaries and in some places, by the side of Gajalakshmi sculptures. In most places, they are carved on boulders at outskirts of villages. Sometimes they are depicted with flowers between the horns. Many villages across Karnataka have the word ‘Kona’ in them, like,  Konanan Thale, Konana Thambigi, Konandur etc.

These sculptures are not found in southern parts of Karnataka. In this region, Durga sculptures with goddess standing on the head of a buffalo are seen near the tanks or near water pond and wells. This shows that these images may relate to the worship of source of potable water.

Rarely, these sculptures are found with inscriptions. On the buffalo head of Kachchavi village, there is an inscription belonging to 5th century AD. On the basis of this evidence, we can say that these buffalo heads were worshiped as early as 5th AD in northern parts of Karnataka.

Gosaasa – ಗೋಸಾಸ

These stones were installed to denote the donation of cows. Some varieties in this category were installed in a place to define its existence.  These were installed to declare progression of a ದೊಡ್ಡಿ- doddi – barn to a village fit for settlement. Typically a place used to be declared as a village if it contained a place of worship-temple, and a lake to sustain the livelihood of people. These stones typically have a plough and a lotus etched on them. You can find Gosaasa stones arranged in a matrix grouped in numbers like 3, 6, 9, 12.  Some of them have interesting sculptures like ox or oxen ploughing the fields, Kalasaas (scared pots), twin fish, or an elephant.This culture of erecting Gosaasa stones which existed in the region is long forgotten and there is total lack of awareness among people about Gosaasa stones. If you come across such stones in your vicinity, the Academy requests you to educate people who might be using such stones for domestic purposes.

In a village in northern Karnataka, an interesting sculpture was found with swans, tortoise and a fox depicting the story from Panchatantra by Vasubhagabhatta. This is an important find, as Vasubhagabhatta’s Panchatantra stories are considered to be the oldest and such depiction in stone is rarely found in India. It is interesting to note that some of Vasubhagabhatta stories are depicted similarly in South East Asian countries.


Shula Brahma – ಶೂಲ ಬ್ರಹ್ಮ

Shula Brahma is a devotee, who on a precious day, sacrifices his life  sitting on a sharp spear which pierces his body.  There are memorial stones erected for such Shula Brahmas across Karnataka and parts of Andhra which were part of Kannada region. This ritual came to practice with the advent of Veerashaivism in Karnataka. The Shula Brahma or the devotee is shown sitting on a sharp spear planted on the ground sacrificing his life for his religious faith.  In some stones, Shula Brahma is shown standing by holding the spear on the side.


11 responses to “Unique Sculptures of Karnataka

  1. congrats,. Good representative illustrations. I too have seen some of this rare sculptures.

      • Welcome to your pastings and posts.

        2014-04-23 16:10 GMT+05:30 Karnataka Itihasa Academy :

        > itihasaacademy commented: “Hello Sir, thanks for your encouraging > words. We will be glad to put your photos on the website if you wish to > share them. Regards” >

  2. Thanks for useful information. The photos of sculptures are very good. Is it necessary for the photographer to attach his name to the sculpture, in fact, it will be disturbing, even defacing the photograph. If this is discouraged, it will be fine. Remember, we have great sculptors of unique and marvellous stone sculptures, but they never bothered to put their name on their own work. Is it necessary / justified for the photographer, who just clicked the picture, to have a right to write his name on the photograph. This thought always comes to mind. People / photographers can use their wisdom and make their own judgement please.

    • Hello Sir, thank you for your valuable comment on this subject. We will definitely discuss this internally and act accordingly. Here are the reasons for attaching the copy right information.

      1. First and the foremost, there are many scholars who have put in so much time, effort and hard work, travelling to remotest corners of Karnataka and clicking these photographs, which would otherwise be not known to the world. In recognition of their hard work and intellectual property rights, we decided to put the copy right information. Right now you can see that Dr, Devarakonda Reddy has contributed many photos to the website from his personal collection. Likewise there will be many people from within the academy and outside, contributing their valuable find to the website. In view of this, we have attached the name of the photographer to all the photos published on the website.

      2. As you might know, the digital world is a free domain and anyone can claim right to the photos, worse, they can even come up with a false information and state that as a historical fact. This happens all the time on the web and false facts gets copied and propagated and people accept that as the truth.

      3. As the main purpose of this website is to create historical awareness about our history and culture, we are cautious as to present well researched facts only and do not want misuse of pictures and information.

      Looking forward for your valuable inputs and suggestions,


  3. This is an amazing and essential work you have done. Especially impressing is your effort to teach our great history to our progeny.
    Very glad to this work.

    • Sir, Thank you very much for your encouraging words. Please visit the website again and bring in your friends as well. We will be adding more interesting and valuable information about hero stones, sculptures and history of Karnataka.

      Looking forward for your continued support and encouragement.
      Warm Regards.

      • thank you.

        2014-06-17 9:46 GMT+05:30 Karnataka Itihasa Academy :

        > itihasaacademy commented: “Sir, Thank you very much for your > encouraging words. Please visit the website again and bring in your friends > as well. We will be adding more interesting and valuable information about > hero stones, sculptures and history of Karnataka. Looking forward for” >

  4. Yappy tortoise Panchatantra story reached all the way to Aesop’s Fables. there is another depiction on a vertical on oldest railing at BodhGaya, but noone seems to have a photo, I saw it there back in ’88.

  5. Hi,
    There is place in Karnataka where there is a school for teaching stone carvings and they also take orders for making stone sculptures. Is anyone aware of that place? Can you please let me know.

    • Hello Sir, here’s an address near Bengaluru
      Director, Canara Bank sponsored K.P.J. Prabhu institute for handicrafts training, Jogaraduddi, Bidadi industrial area, Bidadi, 562109, Ramanagar district. Ph: 9900158885.

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