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Shiva Temples at Avani and Seethamma Betta – Home to Valmiki’s Ashram where Lava and Kusha were born and raised

Avani is a small village famous for its ancient Shiva temples and monuments. It is located about 95 km east of Bangalore – 10 km before Mulbagal Town. Avani is famous for its temples dedicated to Hindu God Shiva and also has numerous spots associated with the epic Ramayana like the Seethamma Betta or Valmiki Hill. Local people believe that Avani was the home of sage Valmiki, the composer of epic Ramayana.

In olden days it was a famous religious spot and was known by various names as Avantika Kshetra, Ahavaniya and Dakshina Gaya, and is said to be one of the ten places of great sanctity in India. It is also the seat of an ancient hermitage or mutt established by the order of Adi Shankaracharya. This mutt is said to have been established about 500 years ago.

It is believed that Mata Sita, when banished by her husband Sri Rama, stayed here and gave birth to her twin sons Lava and Kusha.

Historically, Avani appears to have been a place of great importance to the Shaiva sect and was popularly called as the Gaya of the South.
The Shiva temples at Avani form a group of seven shrines. These fine temples have been built in medieval Dravidian style, undoubtedly in various stages by different dynasties.

The temples are enclosed in a spacious courtyard with an elegant tall stone main entrance facing east. The basement of the temples has distinct cornices, one of which is ornamented with a row of small horse-shoe arches, and another bearing a frieze of elephants, lions, yalis and makara faces in various poses. The outer walls contain pierced stone windows well carved with finely sculptured idols. Each shrine has a linga installed in the sanctum.

The Ramaligeshwara shrine is the most ornate of all in the enclosure, with very fine sculptures all around the outer walls. 

The hall has a square ceiling with a beautifully executed figure of Uma Maheshwara in the centre and Ashta Dikpalas around. There are two profusely ornamented figures standing in the hall. The doorways of some of these temples are beautifully carved in black stone.

Brothers of Sri Rama – Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrugna – also have separate shrines in the temple complex.

The annual car festival of Ramalingeshwara is celebrated here for 10 days on a grand scale during Maha Shivarathri. A cattle fair also forms a part of the festival when thousands of pilgrims assemble here.

Sithamma Betta - Home to Valmiki’s Ashram where Lava and Kusha were born and raised
Adjacent to these shrines on the west is a hillock called Valmiki Parvatha, locally known as Seethamma Betta, which has many interesting legendary places connected with Ramayana. There is a sacred water spring known as Dhanushkoti Tirtha between two huge boulders, said to have been created by the arrow of Lakshmana. A large cave on the hillock is pointed as the hermitage of sage Valmiki. There is a huge boulder on top of the hillock called Kudure Gundu, which is stated to have been used by Lava and Kusha to tie the sacrificial horse of Rama. There is another small spring called Kashaya Tirtham. On the summit of the hillock is a small temple carved in a huge boulder, enshrining an idol of Parvathi, popularly called as Sitamma.

Avani is around 95 km from Bangalore. One has to take a diversion on Old Madras Road 10 km before Mulbagal Town.

SourceExcerpts from an article written by AVS Rao in September 2007