Saturday, November 12, 2011

Diwan Venkanna & the Moola Brindavana at Mantralayam

The Moola Brindavana of Sri Raghavendra Swamy
While writing about Bhikshalaya and Appanacharya a few weeks ago, I thought my next post must feature Diwan Venkanna, another devotee of Sri Raghavendra Swamy and all the grace and blessings he received. But then, God destined otherwise. So here it is, the soul-touching story of Venkanna and how the blessings of Guru Raghavendra changed his life forever.

Venkanna was a young Brahmin boy in Adoni, which is a town about an hour's drive away from the present day Mantralayam in Kurnool District of Andhra Pradesh. His parents had died while he was young, and his maternal uncle took charge of his property and brought him up. Planning to usurp all his wealth, the uncle did not educate Venkanna and sent him to graze cattle. He also beat him up all the time. 

One day, while he was grazing cattle, he saw the saint walking by with his folllowers. Something in his eyes, the compassion on his face and benevolence in his demeanour, made Venkanna run to him and fall at his feet. All he could do was weep, thinking of all that he had gone through at such a young age.

The Swamy looked at him with kindness, and gave him Mantrakshatha, and asked Venkanna to remember him whenever he was in difficulty. Venkanna felt a strange sense of peace washing over him. He saved the mantrakshatha carefully.

Days rolled by. One day, the Nawab Siddhi Masood Khan, was passing through that region. His messenger brought a note to him. Not knowing the local language, the Nawab called out to Venkanna who was nearby, to read the message for him . A startled Venkanna politely told the Nawab that he was illiterate. The Nawab could not believe that a young Brahmin would be uneducated and so ordered him to read the message, failing which he would be beheaded for disobedience.

Venkanna did not know what to do. With tears in his eyes, he prayed to Raghavendra Swamy and took the scroll in his hand. Like magic, he was able to see and understand what was written there. The message was one of victory for the Nawab. The happy Nawab appointed Venkanna as the Diwan of Adoni.

The illiterate cowherd Venkanna had become Diwan Venkanna !!

Years rolled by. Sri Raghavendra Swamy had by then started on his journey towards the location for his Jeeva Samadhi. Hearing that he was passing through Adoni, Venkanna made arrangements to receive his Guru because of whose mercy he was the Diwan today. He received the Swamy at the entrance of Adoni with music and garlands, falling at his feet and washing them with rose water.

By this time, the Nawab had heard a lot about Guru Raghavendra's grace from Venkanna and was eager to test him to see if he was really that magnificent. That day as Raghavendra swamy was performing his daily poojas to Moola Rama, the Nawab went to meet him with a covered tray of mutton. He offered the plate to Guru Rayaru with feigned humility. The Guru accepted his offerings with a smile and placed it before moola Rama and continued his pooja. At the end of the pooja after the Harathi was made and water sprinkled around the offerings, the Swamy removed the cloth over the plate of mutton. Lo! and behold! It had turned into fruits and sweet smelling flowers. The Nawab was ashamed of his act and wanted to make amends. He was willing to give Raghavendra Swamy anything within his capacity.

The Guru smiled and asked him for Manchala Village. The Nawab was surprised, since Manchala was a dry land. He was willing to give a more fertile and prosperous land to the Swamy. However, since the Guru was insistent, he made out a deed granting the village to the Swamy. A satisfied Raghavendra Swamy then went to Manchala Village and took permission from Manchalamma, the Grama Devatha to enter his jeeva samadhi there. He also promised her, that anyone who came to visit him, would worship her first before seeing him. This tradition continues even today.
Goddess Machalamma - at the  old shrine
Sri Raghavendra then took Venkanna to the location where he wanted the Moola Brindavana to be built. He explained to him that this was the location where he had performed yagnas during the time he was Prahalada. He described the stone that he wanted to be placed on his moola brindavana and requested Venkanna to bring it from Madhavaram, a village about 5 kms away from Mantralayam.

Venkanna and his men, went in search of the stone and brought it back with a great deal of devotion. They constructed a lovely brindavana and invited Sri Raghavendra to look at it. The Guru was silent for a few minutes, and then told Venkanna that this had not been the stone that he had spoken about. Venkanna was disappointed and felt miserable that he had failed to identify the stone requested by his beloved Master. The Guru consoled Venkanna and asked him to keep that brindavana empty and build another next to it with the stone he had requested for.When the time came, they would know who would occupy this brindavana, built with so much devotion.

This brindavana is now occupied by Vadeendra Theertharu, Poorvasrama great grandson of Sri Raghavendra Swamy and the fifth Yathigalu after Sri Raghavendra Swamy. When he sang the Guru GunaSthavanam in front of the Moola Brindavana, the entire Brindavana is said to have shook in appreciation of the verses.
Vadeendra Theertha Brindavana located right
next to the Moola Brindavana (Photo Courtesy:
Venkanna wanted to know the signficance of the stone that Guru Raghavendra had requested and the Guru explained that it had been the stone on which Sri Rama had sat for some time on his way to Kishkintha in search of his wife Sita and once again gave him the description and the location to find the stone. This time Venkanna brought the right stone and the Moola Brindavana was built by him with extra care and devotion.
Guru Raghavendra Swamy also asked him to make an anjaneya idol on the remaining piece of the stone and place it opposite to the Moola Brindavana.
Mantralaya Hanuman
To this day, the Hanuman stands opposite to the Moola Brindavana and is being worshipped by Guru Raghavendra Swamy and all his devotees who visit him.

One piece of the stone was left behind at Madhavaram, at the spot where it had been located to show the significance of the location and the event.
Rama Shila at Madhavaram
This stone is housed in a small shed and people who know its significance, visit it on their way to Mantralayam. If one travels by train, Madhavaram is on the way from the Mantralayam Road Junction to Mantralayam.
The small shed in Madhavaram wherein the stone is preserved
Venkanna had the fortune of witnessing the Brindavana Pravesa of Guru Raghavendra Swamy. Pleased with his devotion, the Guru gave him the Padukas that he had been wearing .Today the 11th generation of Venkanna, still stay at the old Manchala Village on the banks of Tungabadra and perform poojas at the Moola Brindavana. The Padukas given by Sri Raghavendra Swamy is still protected by them, and worshipped in their personal pooja room. This house is close to the Venkataramana Swamy temple, installed and worshipped by Guru Raghavendra Swamy.

Raghavendra Paduka
Venkanna was an able administrator and performed several tasks for the interests of the people of Adoni. In fact the tank that he had built for storing water at Adoni, called Venkanna Bhavi stands till date bearing testimony to the devotion and efficiency of Venkanna who from a mere cowherd had become a Diwan,purely through the grace of Guru Raghavendraswamy.

Venkanna Bhavi at Adoni
If you are visiting Mantralayam, do take time out to stop by at Madhavaram, and to walk behind the temple to the banks of Tungabadhra, to visit Manchalam Village and the temple of Venkataramana Swamy and the house of Venkanna, where the Padukas of Sri Raghavendra Swamy are being worshipped.
Venkatramana Smamy, the Kula Devatha of
Sri Raghavendra Swamy installed and worshipped by
him at Manchala Village


  1. Hi Priya!
    Really lots of info. you have given us.
    Next time we visit Mantralaya we will take more time to see all these connected nearby Villages.
    If I am Lucky we will try to make it in New Year1
    Dr V thanumoorthy

  2. Very inspiring.I have gone twice to Mantralayam and seen Venkataramanaswamy temple but have not seen The padukas and the Rama stone between mantralaya Road and time I shall definitely see all mentioned by u, Priya.Thanks a lot.

  3. Splendid Priya. It brought before my mind's eyes the Holy Place in its entirety.

    I was at Mantralayam in March this year and had the good fortune of having darshan of Sri Raghavendra Swamy's Brindavanam, Sri Vadeendra Teertha Swamiji's Brindavanam. Sri Manchalamman, Sri Anchaneya Swami.

    But on reading your write-up I realized that I have missed quite a bit, and should repair the same when I visit the place soon enough for thanks giving (GW).

    Thank you so much for this brilliant write-up Priya. May the Almighty Bless you with a chance to visit many more temples and holy places and through your hands let Him/Her/It bring to light Their Greatness for the welfare of the people.

  4. I am not aware of the importance of the village of Venkanna and the paduka of Ragavendraswami is still kept in his house and worshipped by his descendents. Reasons for Hanuman temple \being there is also a News to me now. Thanks for sharing all these information with us.

  5. Dear Thanumoorthy Sir,

    I will be at Manthralayam on 31st December and 1st January till about 2 pm in the afternoon. Do let me know if you are able to visit. Else God willing we will definitely plan a trip together in 2012.

    Thanks and regards,

  6. Thanks so much for your feedback Dr.Krishnan, Shri.Iyer, and Madhuramvenki. I pray you are able to visit all these places during your next trip to Manthralayam.

    Warm regards,

  7. the episode is so real; and how much Gurugalu graces every soul He requires only devotion from us; nothing else.