Hero Stone - a simple memorial to the unassuming warriors - ancient India

Hero Stone, Balligavi, Karnataka. en.wikipedia.org/
Above image:  Hero stone with 1286 AD Old Kannada inscription during rule of Yadava King Ramachandra in the Kedareshvara Temple, Balligavi in Shimoga district, Karnataka. Source: Mysore inscriptions, pg.168, Benjamin Lewis Rice, Director of Public Instruction, Mysore and Coorg, Printed at Mysore Government Press, Bangalore, 1879..........
Centuries ago numerous dynasties across India were ruling their kingdoms  effectively with good rulers and army with proper security measures, etc. Invasion by neighboring rulers or raid from  other countries, particularly in NW parts of India was an inevitable thing.  It was a threat to the stability of the kingdom and the welfare of the people.Wars would always leave behind a trail of  destruction, death  and chaos and the defeated country 's economy would be shattered. So, in those days, as  part of education, young boys, particularly from the royal families had to undergo training in various aspects of military warfare, horse riding, archery, handling of hand-to-hand weapons such as spears, swords, daggers, etc. The boys also had to learn the art of self defense as well. 

In ancient time heroic people were given due respect and be treated like Demi-god.  In Tamil Nadu as  there are many legends, a mother, in by-gone days, would like her son to go the battlefield and come out victorious and would  never approve of his death when he got killed while running away from the battle. A son had a heroic death only when he died from injuries he received on his chest while courageously facing the opponent.  

Heroes never fail to make a sacrifice; they are good at taking risk and do things that other people may avoid. In general perceptive, anybody can be a hero, if he has the courage and determination to achieve his goal, unmindful of the trouble he has to face. A man or woman with a spirit of heroism needs to be appreciated and remembered. In case of war, such heroism becomes visible, ever-lasting and the hero becomes an immortal figure. 

In the olden days it was a common practice to commemorate the honorable death of a hero in battle and a simple memorial would be built called a  Hero Stone (Viragallu in Kannada, Naṭukal in Tamil). Dating back to 3rd century, such hero stones are discovered across India, covering from 3rd to 18th century.   Invariably, most of them  often carry inscriptions displaying a variety of adornments, including bas relief panels, frieze, and figures on carved stone.  Usually they are in the form of a stone monument and may have a narrative of the battle in the inscription at the bottom. 

Among the Indian states, Karnataka has the largest number of hero stones -  roughly two thousand six hundred and fifty, the earliest dated to the 5th century. The earliest one dates back to  Iron Age (1000 BCE–600BCE), however, majority of them came from between 5th and 13th centuries AD. 

The hero stones are erected mostly to  glorify the exploits of the warrior in the battlefields. However,
not all stores carry the story of  heroism of men or women.  The Atakur inscription (also Athakur) gives a different story. The Hero Stone dated  939 A.D. has an inscription of  a classical Kannada poem,  commemorating the death of the pet hound of Ganga King Butuga II (the hound died fighting a wild boar)

Tradition had been that a  hero stone  may have 3, or in rare cases, four panels. The upper panel depicts  a deity such as a Shiva linga, the middle panel displays the hero, sitting in a palanquin/ shrine  being taken to the heaven by the nymphs / apsaras and the  bottom  panels would display battle scenes. 

In Tamil Nadu, there are several hundred Hero Stones erected in memory of great warriors who lost their precious lives, either defending the country or the community they represented. This practice of having Hero Stones erected has been in vogue since the Sangam Age - 2300 years. the custom existed during the  Nayaks and post Nayaks period - 1800s. The stone panel carries details such as name of the king, narration of hero's exploits, etc.   

5 pananel Viragal,Karnataka. en.wikipedia.org/
Above image: 12th century hero stone (Viragal) with old Kannada inscription from the Tarakeshvara Temple at Hangal, Karnataka. Ref source:John Faithful Fleet and James Burgess, Her Majesty's stationary office, 1878, Pâli, Sanskrit and Old Canarese Inscriptions: From the Bombay Presidency and Parts of the Madras Presidency and 
Maisûr, p.18.............

Hero stones,10th century,Trimurthi Narayana Gudi,Ancient Origins
The largest hero Stone / Viragallu, is  about 12 feet high  found in Betageri, Karnataka.  On the Hero Stone, the 9th century Pallava King Dantivarman is depicted as riding a galloping horse beautifully dressed and carrying a spear. At Pappapatti in Usilampatti taluk, Tamil nadu, the 18th century (?) stone shows a warrior accompanied by his wife who holds a flower. Recently in 2017, two women- warriors were glorified in a stone (dated 13th century). They were courageously going to thebattlefield.