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ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ : One of them is that a few devout travelling merchants halting in Bellary, could not find a Shiva Linga for their worship. They then installed a balla (ಬಳ್ಳ) (a measuring cup or seru (ಸೇರು) used to measure grain) upside down as a Shiva Linga and worshiped it. Eventually, that place was turned into a temple dedicated to Balleshwara (ಬಳ್ಳೇಶ್ವರ) or Shiva, which got distorted to Malleshwara (ಮಲ್ಲೇಶ್ವರ), and Bellary derives its name from this temple. This temple can still be found in the Fort area of the city, and an annual festival and fair dedicated to Shiva is conducted at the temple premises even today.

Numerous neolithic archeological sites have been discovered around Bellary, such as the ash mounds at Sanganakallu, Budhihal, Kudithini, Tekkalakote, Hiregudda and Kupgal. The Sanganakallu settlement, spread over an area of 1,000 acres (4.0 km2), is one of the largest neolithic complexes known around Bellary.

Some of the events in the Ramayana have been related to places around Hampi, the celebrated capital of the Vijayanagara empire.

Historically, the Bellary area has been known by many names, such as Kuntala Desha, Sindavadi-nadu (ಸಿಂದವಾಡಿ-ನಾಡು) and Nolambavadi-nadu (ನೊಳಂಬವಾಡಿ-ನಾಡು).

Bellary was ruled in succession by the Mauryas, Satavahanas, the Pallavas, the Kadambas, the Badami Chalukyas, the Rashtrakutas, the Kalyani Chalukyas, the Southern Kalachuryas, the Sevuna Yadavas, and the Hoysalas, and also ruled briefly by the Cholas during the wars between Kalyani Chalukyas and the Cholas.

After the Sevuna Yadavas and the Hoysalas were defeated by the Islamic sultanates of Delhi, the Vijayanagara Empire arose under Harihara I and Bukka I who dominated the Bellary area. Bellary itself was ruled by the family of Hande Hanumappa Nayaka, a Palayagara of the Vijayanagara rulers. After the fall of the Vijayanagara empire, the Hande Nayakas of Bellary were successively subsidiary to the Adilshahi sultanate, the Mughals, the Nizam, Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan, and finally the British Empire after the Nizam ceded a large part of the southern Deccan to the British East India Company. The Hande Nayakas ceased to be rulers of Bellary after Major Thomas Munro disposed of the palayagars of the ceded districts and established the Ryotwari land revenue system.

In 1808 AD, the ceded districts were split into Bellary and Kadapa districts, and in 1867 AD, the Bellary Municipal Council was created. Further in 1882 AD, Anantapuram district was carved out of the Bellary District. The Maratha princely state of Sandur was surrounded by Bellary district.

As of 1901 AD, Bellary was the seventh largest town in Madras Presidency, and was one of the chief military stations in Southern India, garrisioned by British and native Indian troops under the British Indian Government. The town included a civil railway station to the east of the Bellary Fort, the cantonment and its railway station on the west, the Cowl Bazar and the suburbs of 'Bruce-pettah' (currently spelt Brucepet) and 'Mellor-pettah', named after two British officers once stationed in the town. The industries in the town included a small distillery and two steam cotton-presses. The steam cotton-spinning mill established in 1894 had 17,800 spindles, and employed 520 hands.

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