There are several legends about how Bellary (ಬಳ್ಳಾರಿ) got its name.
One of them is that a few devout travelling merchants halting in Bellary, could not find a ShivaLinga 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.
Another legend is that the city is named after Indra, the king of Gods, who slew a Rakshasa (demon) named Balla who lived nearby. Balla-ari means 'enemy of Balla' (ari – enemy in Sanskrit).
The third legend derives the city's name from the old Kannada word Vallari and Vallapuri.