It has been rightly emphasized that nothing engages a man the whole man more thoroughly than religion. Religion is believed to form man’s conscience orient his aims impregnate his culture and determiner his ultra terrestrial aspiration. The exceptional importance of the religious factor particularity temples in the developments of India deserves to be studied.
Why should we have myths? Do they serve any purpose? Mythology is an integral part of religion its taste to the covering of a fruit which preserves its taste and flavor. As shri C. Rajagopalachari has said “We cannot squeeze religion and hope to bottle and keep the essence by itself. It would neither be very useful nor last very long. Mythology and holy figures are necessary for any great culture to rest on its stable spiritual foundation as a life-giving inspiration and guide. Through familiarity with our mythology is necessary if we decide to preserve our individual as a nation.
This book is the result of my experience on a tour. I had heard of the hoary temple of Annapurneswari at Horanadu in Chikmagalur district. After my darshan of the Devi, I asked the pujari the history of the place as temples for this Goddess were rare. I felt there should be some strong reason for the installation of this diety in this far off, almost inaccessible place. The priest and others could only say that the temple was connected with sage Agasthya who is supposed to have started the Aryan immigration to the south.
G.V. Rao was born in 1924 in Trivandrum and did his M.A. in Economics from Presidency College, Chennai. He won the Allen Prize for political science. He taught in the Union Christian College Alwaye for two years. He joined the Indian police service in 1950. He was awarded the police medal fro meritorious service 1973 and the President’s police Medal for Distinguished service in 1981. He has edited “Thoughts on the Indian police” in 1982. He passed away in March 2000.
We have great pleasure in presenting this book which deals with temples mostly ancient of Karnataka and the lore or sthala purana pertaining to them.
A part form the soul-elevating devotional and religious aspects, it is a unique educative and enriching experience to visit these temples with their rich architecture and wonderful sculptures. The inner enrichments is doubled when we realize that we are on the sacred soil once trodden and sanctified by divine personages.
For instance, the sthala purana relating to Banashnakri. The author quotes Sant Samrat Sri Tulsidas Ramacharitamanas in support of the belief that Rama the supreme Being Himself in human form visited the place during his quest for His consort, Sitadevi kidnapped by Ravana.
Similarly many of the sthala puranas narrated have been backed by the original puranas they have found a place.
More than 80 temples and connected temple lore have been covered in this book. The author Shri G.V. Rao had personally gone on pilgrimage to all these and painstakingly collected data for the book.
According to the author the idea for the book welled up in his mind when he visited the temple in Horanadu where the priests were vague about its origins and told him that all the palmleaf manuscripts of the temple were lost in a fire.
The Bhavan has been blessed to offer the bhakti soaked people of India that is Bharat temples and Legends of almost all the States of the Indian Union.
It is a noble and selfness Adventure in faith of Shri Rao in the evening of his pilgrimage of life on earth. We are sure that this offering of that pious soul will elevate and benefit the readers who peruse it with devotion and inspire them to visit as many of the temples described in it as possible.
I take this opportunity to thank Shri Rao family for having financial supported this publication. My thanks are also due to journalist Shri. Pratap Phadnis who helped us in editing the book. Thanks to Bhavan’s family at Bangalore particularity Shri K.S. Rama Rao in making this a useful publication.
Our country is a land of temples. It is no exaggeration to say that there is no village in this country without at least a small temple. From earliest times there has been a belief that people should live in the midst of temples.
It has been rightly emphasized that nothing engages a man the whole man more thoroughly than religion. Religion is believed to form man’s conscience orient his aims impregnate his culture and determine his ultra-terrestrial aspiration. The exceptional importance of the religious factor, particularity temples in the developments of India deserves to be studied.
There are difficulties in conducting a study of this kind even if it is confined to Karnataka. In the first place with innumerable temples scattered all over the state to choose a few becomes very subjective. However, I have kept certain parameters in mind. Temples which have no sthala puranas or myths have been excluded. Many modern temples fall in this category.
While describing temple rituals many Sanskrit words have been used. It is not possible to do full justice to them in a translation. Translations fail because of the vast difference between Eastern and Western ways of description and thinking. A person interested in the rituals is advised to visit a temple and familiarize himself.
The next point is as to why we should have myths. Do they serve any purpose? Mythology is an integral part of religion. It is compared to the covering of a fruit which preserves its taste and flavor. As Shri C. Rajagopalachari has said “We cannot squeeze religion and hope to bottle and keep the essence by itself. It would neither be very necessary for any great culture to rest on its stable spiritual foundation as a life-giving inspiration and guide. Thorough familiarity with our mythology is necessary if we decide to preserve our individuality as a notion.” While recounting the sthala puranas every attempt has been made to connect them to one or the other of the puranas.
The folklore of all nations have a large number of myths and mythical motives separate from religion but preserved for their epic or fantastic qualities. The characters in comic strips present the modern version of mythological folklore heroes. Superman has been extensively popular owing particularly to his dual identity. Though hailing from a planet Superman destroyed by a catastrophe and possessing prodigious power Superman lives in the guise of a timid unassuming journalist bulled and dominated by his colleagues.
Krishna in his Geetha classified devotees into four kinds one who is in distress one who desire good things in life one who wants to know the reality and one who knows the reality. The first two kinds throng the various temples or places of pilgrimage where they can get relief. The visits to these centers could also be to fulfill a vow or as an act of penance. Fundamentally the idea is that the deity resides or exercise a peculiar and powerful influence in some definite locality and to this locality the devout repair either in their reverence or in quest if His assistance and bounty. What does such a pilgrim visiting a temple need to know? The sthala purana informs him of the temple’s history, including its usually miraculous discovery and the adventure of those important exemplars such as god’s demons, Serpents and men who were freed from sorrow of one kind or another by worshipping there. Most temples make available to pilgrims booklets which narrate their history and the rituals they observes.
The first extensive example of such literature is the Tirthayatra Parva of Mahabharatha which cites localized myths and glorifies individual shrines. What is the goal of pilgrimage? It is that the worshipper comes in contact with a power that aids the person’s mundane existence. At the heart of the shrine lies a concentration of secret power.
Myths form part of the wider world of Hindu mythology. However different their orientation however local their concerns they are by no means independent of the classical Sanskrit tradition. On the contrary they have taken many of the famous Northern myths and adapted them to their own purpose, often transforming them considerably in the process.
To digress a little it is very necessary to indicate the importance of puranas. They appeal to one and all. In the average individual they generate devotion and he feels elevated. To a student well read in the Upanishads and the Brahman sutras, puranik literature becomes a demonstration of the subtle mystical truth played out on a dynamic and massive stage. They were widely read by the common people and were a great source of inspiration for both the literate and the illiterate. The period from 300 to 1000 AD is considered to be the age of the puranas. As they exist now puranas are not wholly puranik (ancient) but are a combination of the very old and what is not so old. They may rightly be described in this light as the embodiment of the ideas and the growing traditions of the race. They have played a very significant role in the dissemination of the philosophical and religious ideas of the Hinduism to the vast multitude without scholarly equipment to read the difficult shastras. The puranas with plenty of stories to easy style reinforced the Hindu way of life and its virtues. The spread of the Hindu dharma is most effectively carried out through puranas. Puranik stories are intended to be a summation of national character and national life. The personages of the puranas are woven into the fabric of national life and the days associated with such heroes and incarnation are celebrated even today like Ramanavami, Naraka Chaturdasi, Krishna Jayanthi, Ganesh Chaturthi, Shivarathi, Dasara and so on people learnt more from the stories of the Harishchandra Rama. Sita Savithri and others than form all the arguments of samkhya and nyaya. Thus viewed from any angle, the puranas are on invaluable help towards good life and at the same time the epitome of the Indian genius its possibilities shortcomings and triumphs.
Interspersed in the book are a number of slokas and mantras what exactly is a mantra? It is result of a vision of a seer and is a concert manifestation is the world of language of the deity or devatha which is made to manifest in the mantra. A mantra correctly and systematically recited with proper a manner that a harmony is established. Different mantras produce different vibration and they invoke different deities. Some mantras produce miraculous effects by mere sound vibration alone, unconnected to their meaning of the faith of the operator. Psychogenic mantras are a string of sound vibrations. These mantras are used even now by our rural population, like the ones used to cure scorpion or snake bites.
The second type of mantras is words associated with strong emotional experience. The mere utterance of those linking ideas or words evokes enormous emotional evergy associated with them. A large class of them acts virtue of the meaning of the words repeated. As a thought is repeatedly held in the mind man tends his mind in the desire way. The age-old saying confirms this view (man is mind alone and what he assumes that the becomes). This explains the power of repetition. The mantras set up vibration sound that creates subtle forms in the inner realms. These forms are created within the mind of the mediator out of his own mental stuff. In many cases a pure mantra depends for its effectiveness upon the mantra shakti or power inherent in sound.
To sum up as Shri Madhvacharya clearly states in his Rig Bhasya the Vedic mantras have a three fold meaning physical psychological and spiritual. The work of recent Indian scholars trained in the exact methods of historical research and interpretation provided by savants and mystics like Dayanand Saraswati and Shri Aurobindo Ghosh have supported that view and new light on the import of Vedic hymns.
Some of these mantras like the Tharaka Mantra are so potent and powerful that they are supposed to take a man across the ocean of rebirth. Lord Shiva imparted this mantra to Paravathi saying, “O Paravathi, this Tharaka Mantra is equivalent to the thousand names of Lord Vishnu.” Another such mantras is the Gayathri Mantra. The chapter power of mantra in the book Saint of shrigeri by Shri R. Krishnaswami ILyer published by Shri Ramakrishna Press, Madurai (1977) confirms this.
Once when His Holiness Chandrasekhar Bharathi was camping at Papanasam in Tiruneveli district the child of a disciple one night lost a gold chain in a large crowd. When told of this the Swamiji asked him to return the next morning the Swamiji then taught him a mantra and asked him to recite it a thousand and eight times. When he did so he was told that a man would pass in front of his house and to follow him. It happened exactly as he was told. The latter left the village and walked towards a paddy field. He went on like this for quite sometime and later stooped down and took the chain from the field. Immediately the disciple caught him and recovered the chain.
It is inconceivable that there are temples without images. The desire for a personal god who could be prayed to and worshipped instead of the Brahman was strongly felt by the manses. The great seer Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, gave a convincing reply when asked about the need for idol or picture worship. He said “If you want to see God you must first visit temples of worship and meditate on the idol daily offering worship to the main shrine.” His disciple the illustrios Swami Vivekananda said “Two sorts of persons never require any image the human animal who never thinks of any religions and the perfected being who has passed through these stages. Between these two points, all of us require some sort of idol outside and inside. We may worship a picture of God but not God as a picture. God in the picture is right but the picture as God is wrong. Let us try to make things simple and bring out the golden days when every man will be a worshipper and the reality in every man will be the object of worship.” Idol worship makes concentration of mind simpler and easier. This is one of the easiest modes of self-realization.
A notion is widely prevalent that contrary to the above statements, idol worship is only a step and an aid to the concentration on the divine and we rise beyond this stage of worship. The works of the Azwars prove otherwise. They equate the idol with God not merely His body but God in entirety. The Bhagawad Sashtras lay down that the Lord assumes five different forms as under: 1. Pararupa (in Vaikunta) 2. Vyuharupa (in Ksheerabhdi) 3. Antharyamirupa (in the heart of everyone) 4. Archarupa (in images) and 5. Vaibhavarupa (when he comes down as avatharas).
In each of these rupas God manifests himself in full and there is no gradation among them one leading to another. One of the Azhwars said “Fulfill your love quench your passion by communion with the beautiful and merciful Gods who reside temples with no other purpose in view than to mix freely with the devotees who see him there.” Shri Paramahamsa has demonstrated that his Kali image was a living symbol of godliness. God has himself chosen, of his own divine will to make his special abode in the idols in temples.
According to Samarangana Suthradhara the treatise on iconography icons made of gold bestow good health on the worshippers that of silver fame that of copper progeny that of stone prosperity and victory and that of wood longevity. A celebrated idol attracts many devotees because it is also consecrated by the power of a mantra. One may find it more convenient to comprehend if one focuses one’s attention on an object. It is only by constant practice of worshipping God with forms that one attains competence to contemplate on God who transcends all forms.
In this context it is very pertinent to quote an incident connected with Swami Vivekananda. The Swami visited a highly Westernished prince. The prince told him he had no faith in holy images. When the swami saw a photograph of his father and told him to take it down and spit on it the man was shocked and pointed out “That is may father.” The swami laughed and said “You call a piece of paper your father.” The prince replied “Of course not but it remind me of him.” Exactly the swami replied, “You even give it a place of honour in your home, not because of what it is mere paper but out of love for they person whom it recalls to your mind. And that is just why devotees keep sacred images. Surely you don’t credit them with so little intelligence as to think that stone images made by human hands are themselves gods people know that there is nothing particularly holy in stone or in metal as such. But having formed these substances into shapes that recall to the minds of devotees the love purity or grace of infinite god they honour these forms for the sake of him whom alone they adore. Even when distant places here on earth cannot be imagined accurately if we have not personally visited and seen them, how then can we visualize accurately immortal God?”
This book is the result of my experience on a tour. I had heard of the hoary temple of Annapurneswari at horanadu in Chikmagalur district. After my darshan of the Devi, I asked the pujari the history of the places as temples for this goddess were rare. I felt there should be some strong reason for the installation of this deity in this far off, almost inaccessible place. The priest and others could only say that the temple was connected with Sage Agasthya who is supposed to have started the Aryan immigration to the south.
Once all the rishis and gods made a beeline for Kashi to attend the wedding of Shiva and Paravathi and the earth started tilting. Shiva then requested Agasthya to go south to maintain the equilibrium. So great was the power and glory of this rishis. When the sage pointed out that he would miss the wedding, Shiva assured him that the wedding would be re-enacted at Kalasa where he had his ashram. This was all u could gather and the priest told me that all old palm leaf records were destroyed by fire a few years ago. This set me thinking as to why an attempt should not be made to collect mythological or other stories connected with the important temples of Karnataka and string them together. This book is the result of that study. In conclusion let me quote Shri Aurobindo the famous seer of Pondichery.
Shri Aurobindo in his epic Savitri says :
“This world is not build with random bricks of chance
A blind god is not our destiny’s architect
A conscious power has drawn the plan of life
There is meaning in each line and curve.
Fate covered with unseen necessity
The game of change of our omnipotent wills
Our life is a paradox with God for me.”
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