Agrahara Bachehalli – The memory stone pillar of the Garudas and Lenkas, the suicidal bodyguards of Hoysala kings.

Garuda and Lenka’s

Agrahara Bachehalli is a small village towards north-east of the main town of KR Pete in Mandya district.

There is a unique hero stone with inscription of the existence of feudal group of warriors in the Hoysala polity called Garudas in the temple premises of Hunaseshwara  , a Shiva temple in the village.

Hunaseshwara Temple
A Hero stone(ವೀರಕಲ್ಲು): Martyred Babbeya nayaka of Garuda lenka clan(Hoysala) fighting with Kalachuru royalty seated on elephant. (Info:Swanithan Naratarjan)

According to the Hindu mythology ,  the Garuda is the vehicle of Shri Vishnu. Just as the Garuda bore the burden of Vishnu, this group of warriors bore the burden of the Hoysala sovereignty.

These three pillars of about 15 feet height were erected during the reign of Ballala-I and Narasimha III of Hoysala dynasty who ruled from their capital,  Dwarasamudra  (Presently  Halebidu ) ,  in the memory of the warrior heroes who self-immolated  by sacrificing their lives for the welfare of Hoysala Sovereignty.

The Hoysala warrior administrator, who desires to become a Garuda to a monarch, has to take an oath and vow of obedience and loyalty to the Sovereignty.

These Garuda lenkas wearing a special symbol on their body in the form of Gold or Silver ornament –“Gandapendera” which is tied to their left ankle and while walking makes a jingling sound.

The wife or wives of a Garuda in the same manner abides by oath carrying an ornament and died along with her husband and such a wife were named as “Lenki”.

The warriors who were subordinate to a Garuda also had acceptance of the oath of obedience by giving Bhase to their master were similarly called Lenkas.

This Lenkas sacrificed their lives after death of Garuda to whom they were attached.

This pillar depicts the valor of seven generation of Garudas of Gandanarayana-setti belonging to Mugile family of Veera Bananju a mercantile community.

What is interesting is that the family associated with merchant class and probably later was elevated by the Hoysalas to the rank of ruling elites.

These Garuda and Lenkas played a significant role in many battles supporting their Kings. They not only excelled  in martial qualities and some of them had abilities in music, administrative levels and patronage to many poets.

The Garuda cult reached to it’s zenith in the 13th century, since they were samantha system ( sub-ordinates ) under Hoysalas,  they were aptly referred as “Samantha Garudas”

Beyond doubt they played a significant role in the Hoysala kingdom expansion against the Chalukyas, Yavanas and the  Cholas.

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