Friday, December 17, 2010

Navabrindavan, Anegundi

A glimpse of the Nava Brindavanas
Immediately after writing about the Chintamani temple, at Anegundi I wanted to write about Navabrindavan which is on the other side of the Tungabadra from the Chintamani temple. Nava Brindavan means nine tombs of saints who were predecessors of Sri Raghavendra. The brindavans are situated in a small mound like island in the middle of Tungabadra. The only mode of reaching Navabrindavan is through ferries in summer season. In rainy seasons where the river is flooded, there is no route to reach there, and therefore, blessed are those who have the opportunity to do so. Who are these saints who have their tombs here? Why did they choose to do so at this exact place? Read on.
This was the place where Sangukarna, an angel used to come and collect flowers for the puja of Sriman Narayana in Devaloka. He used to forget himself in the beauty and serenity of this location that he would often return late, well past the time the flowers would be required. Angered by the fact that he often was lost in worldly pleasures, he was cursed to be born as an asura. The child so born to Hiranyakasipu, the demon king, was none other than Prahalada. Prahalada spent hours meditating in the cave on this island. He used to come here from his palace and stay and meditate on Narayana. The place where the homa kunta of Prahalada once stood now bears the moola brindavana of Sri Raghavendra ( at Mantralaya) and the place where Prahalada meditated and where Sangukarna spent several hours collecting choice flowers bears the brindavana of Sri Vyasaraja.
Prahlada Cave

The connection can be well appreciated if one is aware of the reincarnations of Sangukarna.
Sangukarna - Prahalada - the lesser known avatar Pahlikaraja - Vyasaraja & Raghavendra. There is no avatar after Sri Raghavendra as he has promised to stay in his astral form within the brindavana for 700 years.
Beautiful view of the Tungabadra at the entrance to Navabrindavan

After crossing the river Tungabadra by ferry, we have to get down at the island and walk through the rocky terrain for about 500 - 700 metres to reach Navabrindavan. All puja items will have to be taken from the Raghavendra Mutt at Anegundi since nothing is available there.
An old mandapam on the way to Navabrindavan

 Even the battars reach there by ferry and come back in the evening. During rainy season, there is no puja and harathi is shown from the other side of the river itself. The first thing to do when you get down from the ferry is to take a dip in the icy cold waters of the tungabadra. I always feel there is a lot of difference in the waters of the Tungabadra between Mantralaya, Bhikshalaya and Navabrindavan. While in Mantralaya, it is warm and welcoming, in Bhikshalaya or Bichale as it is locally called, it gushes with happiness and in Navabrindavan it is extremely calm, deep and chill. Pebbles of unique shapes are all over the bed of the river and are usually collected and placed in pooja rooms. There are stones like Ganesha, Shivalingam, and various other forms.
The ancient Ranganathaswamy shrine with lamps 

The navabrindavan complex has the samadhis of the nine saints, a Ranganatha Swamy shrine, a Hanuman shrine and another hanuman installed by Sri Vyasaraja, right opposite to his brindavan.

There is sufficient space to circumambulate around the samadhis.
The saints whose brindavanas are available in the temple complex are:
1. Sri Padmanabha Theerthar - the first and a direct disciple of Sri Madhvacharya
2. Sri Jayatheerthar/Sri Raghuvaryar - There is a lot of debate whether the second brindavana in Navabrindavan belongs to Sri Jayatheerthar also known as Teekachariar or Sri Raghuvaryar.
3. Sri Kaveendra Theerthar- Moolaguru to two important Madhva Maths
4. Sri Vaageesa Theerthar
Sri Sudheendra Theerthar Brindavanam
5. Sri Vyasarajar- Sri Vyasaraja as we saw earlier was the previous incarnation of Sri Raghavendra. He was the Raja Guru of the Vijayanagar Empire and has installed over 700 Hanuman idols all over the country.
6.Sri Srinivasa Theerthar - Next in lineage to Sri Vyasarajar
7. Sri Ramatheerthar - Sri Rama Theerthar succeeded Sri Srinivasa Theerthar
8. Sri Sudheendra Theerthar - Sri Sudeendrar succeeded Sri Rama Theerthar. He was Sri Raghavendra's guru and the noble saint who initiated him into sanyas.
9. Sri Govinda Odayaru

Sri Vyasaraja Brindavana

Out of these, the Vyasaraja Brindavana is unique and has four pillars in front of it. Figures of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman, Krishna, Sri Vyasaraja etc. are inscibed on the four sides of the Brindavana. Opposite to the Vyasaraja Brindavana, is the Avatharatraya Hanuman temple. This idol of Hanuman installed here by  Sri Vyasaraja is indeed unique.
It depicts the three avatars - Hanuma, Bheema, Madhva in one form. The face is like Hanuman, the arms and shoulders well - rounded and muscular with the Gadhayudha symbolises Bheema, the avatar of Hanuman in the next yuga and the manuscripts in his hand symbolises Madhvacharya.

Avathaarathraya Hanuman
There are two other shrines here, one of Sri Ranganatha swamy with Lakshmi Devi holding his feet and the other another Hanuman temple. These two are atop a boulder, next to the cave in which Prahalada had spent several years meditating. They seem to be older in times when compared to the Avathaarathraya Hanuman.
There are certain regulations while visiting the Navabrindavan.
1. Nobody is allowed to touch the brindavans and disturb the saints in meditation.
2. A yellow line has been drawn around the brindavans and the line should not be crossed while circumambulating.
3. Do not go around the brindavans with wet clothes and untied hair.
4. This is a very holy place and is a parihara sthala for all astrological complications one might have and therefore should be treated that way.
There are several means of information about Navabrindavans these days. But from what I have read so far, Sri. A S Rajagopalan, Editor, Kumudam Jodhidam and Sri. Amman Sathyanathan, author of Sri Raghavendra Mahimai Volumes have been giving a lot of authentic information about the saints, the place and its importance and have been advocating for people to visit here at least once in their lifetimes to get the blessings of these great saints.
The Ranganatha swamy shrine in Navabrindavan

One can also get all information about Nava Brindavan ,pooja items, times of worship etc. from the Raghavendra Swamy Mutt at Anegundi
The view outside Nava Brindavan

Apart from Navabrindavan here at Anegundi, there are two other navabrindavans at Shenbakkam near Vellore and at Erode near SPB Colony respectively. I have been able to visit both with Rayaru's blessings and will soon write about them, god willing.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chintamani Temple, Anegundi

The entrance of the Chintamani Temple with a view of River Tungabadra 
Inside the cave where Rama met Sugreeva for the first time
The footprints of Rama at the spot where he aimed and
shot at Vaali
Anegundi is in Koppal District of Karnataka. Just across the river from Hampi, it is another treasure trove of ancient history and reminder of the glory of Krishnadevaraya and the Vijayanagar empire.
This place is believed to be the maternal home of Bhooma Devi and during Ramayana times,
this was Kishkinda, the kingdom of Vaali and Sugreeva. As I mentioned this place is so full of remains from the Ramayana times, that it is a delight to be here. The Chintamani temple complex houses the cave in which Rama met Sugreeva for the first time to seek support in finding Sita. Not only that, the spot from which he aimed and shot at Vaali is also here.

People light lamps and worship the stone on which Rama
is believed to have sat and spoken to Sugreeva in the cave

Light coming in through the roof in Sugreeva's cave

The mountain of ashes believed to be that of Vaali's
Close to the temple, is Pampa Sarovara which houses the cave in which Sabari, the old lady who was an ardent devotee of Rama met him. Sabari, anxious to give Rama the choicest of fruits, used to taste them first before offering to him, and the Lord understanding her love and devotion accepted those fruits with pleasure. The Anjanadri Hill, said to be the birth place of Hanuman, or Anjaneya as he is also called is also found here. The locals believe that the ashes of Vaali and some bones can still be found at the place where he was cremated in Nimmapuram.

This place is called Chintamani as it was here that Lord Rama met Hanuman for the first time along with Sugreeva and gave him a jewel to identify Hanuman as his messenger when he met Sita. The Chintamani temple was subsequently developed by a Saint who stayed here for several years. He has created a Sivalingam and Annapurani housed under a beautiful Rudraksha Mandapam and a Sree Chakram has also been installed here. It is believed that the saint one day went into the cave at the base of this temple and never came out.
The Sivalingam, Nandhi and Annapurani with Rudraksha Mandapam
inside the temple complex

There are several other interesting places to visit close to Chintamani like Navabrindavan which houses the brindavans (samadhis) of nine saints who were predecessors of Saint Raghavendra ( including the Brindavana of Vyasaraja the Rajaguru of Krishnadevaraya, the previous incarnation of Saint Raghavendra himself)and the samadhi of Krishnadevaraya. I plan to write a seperate blog on the three Navabrindavans in the country including this one, the other two being at Shenbakkam near Vellore and Erode near SPB colony.

Tourists who visit Hampi also visit Anegundi and it is common to find foreign tourists easily outnumbering Indians. There are modest places to stay at Anegundi itself and the Raghavendra Mutt there also provides rooms and food if requested in advance. A ferry service is available to take tourists from Anegundi to Navabrindavan and Hampi and it plies till about 6 pm in the evening but for the times of heavy rains. A bridge is also being constructed to facilitate road travel to these places. If you happen to plan to visit Hampi at any time, please take time out to visit Anegundi as well. It is an awesome place and a must see for every Indian.

Contact person at Anegundi : Mr.Manju Phone: 094492 84490. Note only BSNL phone network is available here.