Showing posts with label Shiva Temple. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shiva Temple. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Friday, September 3, 2010

In the land of the ‘Om’ - Omkareshwar Jyotirlinga

An island shaped like the most sacred of Hindu symbols, the Om, a mountainous region covered with ancient temples, the sacred Narmada flowing on either side, smoothening the rough rocks into pebbles to be carried away by pilgrims and venerated as Shiva Lingams, Omkareshwar is all that and more.

Home to one of the 12 Jyotirlingams, the island of Omkareshwar is venerated almost as much as the lingam itself. 

There are two main temples at Omkareshwar, one on the mainland and one on the island. The island temple is credited to Mandhata, an ancestor of Rama, who installed the lingam and built the temple. While most consider this one to be the Jyotirling, the place abounds in myth and legend. According to one, this lingam is believed to have split into two and installed itself on the other bank too. According to others, it is the temple of Mamleshwar (also called Amaleshwar or Amareshwar) on the mainland which is older and the real Jyotirling. 
Omkareshwar Temple
Omkareshwar Temple

Mamleshwar the Jyotirling: 

While the island temple has received much attention in the past and has been renovated recently, the Mamleshwar temple certainly looks much older and more beautiful too. The Mamleshwar temple is also more endearing thanks to the absence of the pandas (priests) who are the most prominent feature of the Omkar Mandhata temple on the island. We visited the Mamleshwar temple at night before the final aarti was performed, and had to literally hunt out a priest to perform abhishek to the lord, and the one we finally found was so thrilled by all the items we had brought for the puja that he happily did the elaborate puja with a smile on his face and asked for money only when we were done.

Omkar Mandhata

For a long time, the only way to approach the island was by boat. Now, there are two bridges, one connecting the boat landing area to the Omkar Mandhata temple, the other connecting the two temples — Omkareshwar and Mamleshwar. No vehicles are allowed on the island, so both are only foot bridges. The Narmada which once flowed fast and furious along this stretch is now a tame river, thanks to a dam mired in controversy, of which one gets a wonderful view from the bridge. 

The entire island is a hilly area, and it is these hills which give it the shape of the Om. Just a few steps take us to the temple, which is visible from quite a distance. 
Chitrapat Kshetra
Chitrapat Kshetra
At a lower level, just below the main temple is a small entrance to a cave. Today, the inner parts of the cave are no longer accessible, but at the entrance is an image of the sage who made this cave his home — Sri Govinda Bhagavatpada — the guru of Adi Shankaracharya. It was to this cave that the young Shankara came, having given up his home, seeking the preceptor who would lead him to the light. It is here that he came as a young boy, swimming across the furious waters of the Narmada, and left, a sanyasi with a mission! In spite of the rampant commercialization of Omkareshwar, this small cave has maintained its sanctity, the sanctity that can be felt at once as you enter the cave!

The roads are lined with shops, big and small, selling all the paraphernalia of Indian prayer rituals, but the main commodity in these shops is are the Shiva Lingams. It is a belief that every stone found in the Narmada is a Shiva Lingam, and every few yards sits a child or a woman selling stones picked from the depths of the river. Prices start from Rs 21 onwards and especially coveted (and expensive) are the black stones with a white line passing through, which signifies the Upavita, or sacred thread. 

Omkareshwar Parikrama: 

While it is for the temples that most pilgrims visit Omkareshwar, the most interesting thing about the island is the island itself. With its unique shape, the island itself has been venerated, and over centuries, scores of temples have been built on it. The ancients not just built the temples, but also made a path so that one could visit all the temples while circumambulating the entire island. This is called the Omkareshwar Parikrama, and has been recently revived by MP Tourism. 

The Parikrama path starts near the bridge and moves along the Narmada till it joins its tributary, the Kaveri (so called, even though it is the same river, diverging from the main river at the other end of the island), passing through temples old and new, some standing tall and proud, others in ruins, winding its way along the mountains, now climbing to yet another temple, now descending to the bank of the river, finally culminating at the temple consecrated by Mandhata. The well paved road is about nine kms long, and takes, at the most, three and a half hours to cover, including rest stops at the various temples. It is quite an easy trek, considering that my son, who is six and my father-in-law, who is 70, both completed it without too much trouble!

There are many places of interest along the path. The first is the sangam or confluence of the two tributaries of the Narmada. This is, for a change, clean and perfect for a bath. The clear water with rounded pebbles forming the river bed invites us to sink our feet into it and enjoy a relaxed dip, while the more devout pilgrims (few, at the best of times, since it is almost an hour’s walk from the bridge) offer prayers. 

Temple in India
Temple in India
An interesting custom is followed here. Big and small stones are collected from the river and piled up along the bank with prayers to the goddess of the river. One of the villagers there told us that people stacked these stones in the hope that they would be able to build houses as easily as they stacked these stones! We found these stacked up stones not just at the confluence, but all along the river bank, in fact, all over the Parikrama path!

Then there is the Gori Somnath Mandir, an ancient temple where the lingam is a huge one, jet black in colour. Legend tells us that this lingam was once pure white, and that one could see his past life just by standing in front of it. Then came Aurangzeb, and as soon as he appeared in front of the lingam, it turned black! This is one of the few temples in the area still intact to a large extent. Though many of the beautiful sculptures have fallen down, it still stands tall and proud among the ruins of others which have not been as fortunate!

As we climb down the final steps which lead us to the end of the Parikrama, our aching legs yearn for a rest, but we feel fresh inside, and can’t help thinking that we arrived at Omkareshwar to see one of the Jyotirlings, and were appalled with the rampant commercialisation, but returned with so much more, an inner peace that comes from a truly spiritual experience!

How to reach

Omkareshwar is situated about 65 kms from Indore and 256 kms from Bhopal. The road from Indore takes us through the mighty Satpura ranges, and winds its way along the Ghats before opening up into a plain covered with cotton fields and irrigated by the Narmada. The journey from Indore to Ujjain takes a little more than an hour by car and about one-and-a-half hours by bus.
Direction to Omkareshwar
Direction to Omkareshwar

There are plenty of buses available on this route, both, those run by the MPRTDC as well as private ones. They can certainly not be classified as luxury, but they are comfortable and adequate for the short journey. A car hire for the one way trip costs about Rs 1200.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Unearth the Secrets of Talakadu

It is the classical Indian story . A tale told by gods and demons, filled with kings and queens, replete with curses and boons. There is a little bit of history here, blended with some geology and topped with legends and myths. Set on the banks of the River Cauvery in Karnataka, this saga dates back to the 4th century and has certain intriguing elements, defying the very laws of nature.

Talakadu temple
It was a natural curiosity to unearth the secrets of Talakadu that drove us from Bangalore one Sunday morning. It was one of those beautiful moments. The weather was just right. An eagle scooped down and soared away with the same ease. A herd of goats clamored for attention. Flanked by the verdant greenery, we passed fresh dewy fields, lotuses jostling for space in ponds, flitting butterflies and a few scattered hamlets. We saw glimpses of rustic life as various stages of harvest were in progress. The entire scene was an ode to the countryside. We ambled on for a couple of hours on the Mysore Road and took a detour at Maddur, passed Mallavalli en-route to this sacred, historic town.
We were rather unprepared for this. At the first glance, it was just a prosaic picnic spot, overcrowded with swarms of loud local tourists and besieged by persistent guides. Stalls selling local fares were protruding in every corner. We made our way towards the river bed, where the Cauvery flowed at her own pace. It presented an unusual, yet a stark picture. There were huge mounds of sand by the banks of the river, like a beach. With a canopy of tall eucalyptus trees spread out from the sand, it felt like being in the middle of a forest. The dense shrubbery, some lively birds and monkeys dangling between the branches completed the picture.

The mounds of sand were everywhere, like small hillocks, some as high as even 15 meters. It was a steep climb, as the feet sank in with each step. It was an inexplicable sight; nobody could fathom where the heaps of sand came from. The fertile soils of the Cauvery basin seemed to have become fine particles of soft sand by sheer magic. While the answer may be with a geologist, my local guide narrates this legend.

The curse of Talakadu 

A curse of a woman he says is the cause of this sand blown town, an erstwhile fertile capital of several dynasties that ruled over Karnataka. A tale filled with greed and lust for power. It was the time when Talakadu and Srirangapatna were under the Vijayanagar empire. The death of the last Viceroy, Srirangaraya provoked the Wodeyars of Mysore to declare war. As Srirangapatna fell, the Wodeyar ruler sent his soldiers to covet the jewels of the late Viceroy’s widow, Alamelamma. As she fled from her pursuers, she is supposed to have jumped into the Cauvery, uttering the curses. My guide gets all dramatic as he proclaims the curse…” May Talakadu be always covered with sand and may the kings of Mysore always remain without heirs. “ The locals fear the curse as they say that it has come true. Talakadu is mysteriously engulfed with a sea of sand and the family tree of Mysore rulers show a large number of adopted heirs.
The story moves from being a mere myth to some startling historic discoveries as well. Recent excavations have unearthed temples from these mounds of sand and each dynasty has left their architectural stamp on them.. My guide points out that 30 such temples are still buried underneath the sand dunes as we climb our way to the excavated areas

Unearthed - spirituality under the sands 

Talakadu is famous for the Panchalingas – the temples dedicated to Lord Shiva called Pathaleshwara, Maruleshwara, Arkeshwara, Vaidyanatheeshwara and Mallikarjuna.Of these, the first two are the oldest, built by the Ganga kings. The locals here say that the Shivalinga in the former is said to change color according to the time of day – from red in the morning to black in the afternoon and white in the night. To us though, in the cool afternoon, it was simply black.

We continued our spiritual quest and reached the Vaidyanatheeshwara temple, the largest of them all, which was built by the Chola rulers. All these temples are neatly thatched and embedded in pits as we climbed down to visit them. Remnants of the bygone era were seen in some scattered stones, broken pillars, an ancient well and even some idols. The Pancha Linga festival is celebrated with much fanfare once in 12 years during the Kartika season, where the temples are allowed for worshipping. The last festival happened in 1993 and the next scheduled late this year. The lost and forgotten township sees throngs of devotees only during this period, while at the rest of times, it remains a desolate spot, with a few picnickers.

Tala and Kadu - More Stories...

We paused to give our feet a bit of rest and heard the story of Tala and Kada, the two hunters, after whom my guide says, this town in named. One more story, this time, it fuses a bit of religion as well. A sage, Somadutta and his disciples were killed by wild elephants when they were doing their penance. They were said to be reborn as elephants in the same forest. Two hunters, Tala and Kada watched the ritual of the elephants offering prayers to a silk cotton tree. And out of curiosity, axed the tree down, only to find it bleeding. A voice then instructed them to heal the wound with the leaves and the blood miraculously turned milk which immortalized the hunters and the elephants as well. A temple later was built here around the tree, and the place became known as Talakadu.
temple at talakadu
Temple at Talakadu
We resumed our journey amidst the excavations. Besides the Panchalingas, another magnificent temple stands out. The Keerthinarayana temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, built by the Hoysolas, to celebrate the victory of Talakadu over the Cholas. Scattered stones lie all over the place along with the pillars, stone inscriptions, some carvings. The main temple, intricately carved houses an eight foot tall idol of the deity.

Excavations, they say have unearthed a 12 feet tall stone mandapa along with remnants of Garuda kamba. Work by archaeologists is still in progress here, as we stroll among the many stones, which my guide claims are ‘originals. It looked like each piece of stone was being numbered and the mantapas were being rebuilt to recreate the splendour of the past.

We had walked for more than a couple of hours, deeply engrossed in the continuous banter of our guide. Our feet caved in many a time, as we scaled the steep sand dunes. In the last two hours, we had traveled back to several centuries. We paused for a moment, taking in the sight. The silence was overwhelming. The voices of the past were buried under the layers of sand. We sat there, trying to build castles, but the wings gently swept them down. This, we realized was the destiny of Talakadu -the confluence of the historic and the holy spirit, where myths and legends merged, but were all completely swept away by the blasts from the past.

Getting There

Talakadu is just three hours by road from Bangalore, enroute to Mysore. It is about 130 kms kms from Bangalore, which is the closest airport. You could drive down from the Kanakpura Road or take the good old Mysore Road upto Maddur, past Mallavalli and proceed on the road towards Kollegal. About some 5 kms before the detour for Sivanasamudram Falls, there are sign boards indicating Talakadu, 22 kms to the right. The road is bad in patches and very often, it is long and winding, without any landmarks or signboards.