Under the Ashwatha Trees: the Naga Stones of Nagashettyhalli

February 5, 2017 / Slogan Murugan

The next time you visit a temple or stand next to a shrine in urban India, try imagining what the place looked like a few decades or a century back. Erasing all the buildings and roads, mute the roar of traffic punctuated by honking. Bring back to life the open spaces, trees. Rocks and water bodies that have been drained, levelled, dug up and or covered by the need to house our growing population.

A brief recent history of Nagashettyhalli

Nagashettyhalli was one small village on the outskirts of Bangalore with an irrigation tank that was drained in the mid-eighties before which the water overflowed into the Hebbal Lake. The paddy fields of the Village is where Dollar’s Colony now stands and buildings with names like Pebble Bay.

These are pictures of the surviving serpent stones that dotted the landscape and continue to survive within what is now the expanding city of Bengaluru. They were surrounded by fields, vegetable farms and a few modest homes.

The change was gradual. It started in the late seventies and the transformation was complete by the early 90s. First, the farms got divided into plots for suburban homes into layouts bearing the name of the villagers who owned the land. There were some graves where the better-off landowners were buried. The proud Manninamagasor Sons-of-the-soil and their families in this village preferred to be buried in their own farms. Today homes have been built over them. The wells have all been covered up and bore wells look for the water table deep under the ground.

The Naga Stones

Before there was Wikipedia, there was Kamat’sPotpourri for answers in English for questions about little-known things in Karnataka (and India). You can check it out at Kamat.com. According to the grand old lady at Kamat, the serpent stones are closely associated with fertility and not just the crops. Many couples and families say thank yous for having a child by installing these serpent stones and giving their children names like Nagraj for boys and Nagaratha for girls. Many of these stones can now be found in Dollar’s Colony next to the paddy fields fed by the Nagashettyhalli lake once stood.

There are no more snakes or farms to protect anymore and rodents run wild like people on their bikes and cars.These worshipped stones in the middle of the city, surrounded by upmarket housing and a transformed village suggests that some people still prefer the shrines of an agricultural past.

The stones also the protect the Ashwatha trees under which they stand. For now.

AUTHOR: Slogan Murugan (GOPAL MS) a blogger who documents Mumbai’s street at Mumbaipaused.com