Bellary ( presently Ballari) District takes its name from the headquarters town which is the seat of district administration. Several theories have been current in respect of the origin of the name of Bellary which is of considerable antiquity that can be traced back to 12th century at least. It is rather difficult to say which one is correct. In one of the lithic inscriptions dating back to 1131 AD found at Byloor, the name ‘Ballare’ is found. In the several later inscriptions also, found at Sindhigeri, Kolur, Kurugodu etc also the word ‘Ballare’ has been used. In 3 Hoysala inscriptions ‘Ballare’ is mentioned as one of the places captured by Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana. From the context of enumeration of places in these records, it is clear that the place referred to therein as Ballare is Bellary of the present days.
There is a legendary theory derived from one of the stories in ‘Basava Purana’. It says that at Kolur, which is in the proximity of the district headquarters, there was a shiva bhakta ( Devotee) by name ‘Ballesha Mallayya’ who would have his food only after worshipping the linga. His great desire was to see the vision of Mallesha ( Lord Shiva). To fulfill the desire of his devotee, Lord Shiva, it is said, revealed himself in a ‘Balla’, a grain measure. The place where Mallesha manisfested himself in a ‘Balla’ was called ‘Bellary’. There is an old Shiva temple of Malleshwara in the fort. The same story has later found expression in the songs of Sarpabhushan Shivayogi, a great mystic poet of Karnataka.
Another theory connects the name of Bellary with the Goddess Durgamma, whose temple is in Gandhinagar, Bellary. In poet Janna’s Yashadhara Charite, the word Balari is used to mean a Goddess and the town is said to have derived its name from this word, because Durgamma had manifested herself in this town.
Ballari district is elongated from south-west to north-east and is situated on the eastern side, almost in the centre of Karnataka state. The district is bounded on the north by Raichur district, on the west by Vijayanagara district, on the south by Chitradurga district and on the east by Ananthapur and Kurnool districts of Andrapradesh.