Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sankara Narayana!

Recently, we undertook a four day visit to temples in UK and DK.....puzzled? Well, it is just Uttara Kannada and Dakshin Kannada! Usually, I would be the one meticulously planning itinerary to lesser known yet unique places, but this time I was swamped at work and had to rely on the travel operator.

Even that was a random choice, based on a search on the internet. Karnataka vacations, based out of Bangalore. All that we had was an exchange of a few emails. I was quite happy with the quality of planning by Mahesh Temkar. At no point, did I reveal to him that I was a blogger, but was pleasantly and embarrassingly surprised when on arrival, he mentioned that he had been a visitor to the blog and had instructed our driver, Srikanth to take us to as many old, and unique temples as time would permit. This was a true treat, and Srikanth, was a very pleasant and knowledgeable driver.

We saw a number of beautiful and unique places, still not prominent on tourist maps. Sadly none of the literature or even name-boards had any English or Hindi in them. Aalayam Kanden has been working on overcoming the language barrier in such sites by translating the sthalapuranams into English for better benefit of the tourists and one such case was the Trikkur Mahadeva Kshetram in Kerala. You can read about it here.

One such place was the Sankara Narayana Temple at Sankara Narayana. Yes the place itself is named after the temple. When Parashurama wanted to donate land to Brahmins, he is said to have thrown his axe into the ocean, and received the land extending from Gokarna to Kanyakumari from God Varuna. This landscape came to be known as Kerala. Parashurama divided this land into 64 villages and donated it to the Brahmins. Not just that, he created 108 temples here which are to this day known as Parashurama Kshetrams.

Seven out of these 108 temples are currently found in Karnataka. They are Subramanya, Udupi, Kumbakashi, Kodeswara, Sankaranarayana, Kollur and Gokarna. These are known as Saptha Parashurama Kshetrams and are said to be equivalent to Ayodhya, Mathura, Maya, Kashi, Kanchi, Avanthika and Puri.

Out of the seven Parashurama Kshetrams, Sankaranarayana is very significant. This is the location where both Shiva and Vishnu have manifested in the form of Swayambu lingas. These lingas are found about one feet below ground immersed under water in the sanctum sanctorum. A perennial spring washes over the lingams and flows out of the sanctum through the Gomukham. This spring is called Suddhamrutha Theertham.

Sankaranarayana Photo Courtesy: Sankaranarayana temple

The Sankara lingam is found on the left for the devotees and is round in shape, whereas the Narayana Lingam found on the right, is flat and the hoof marks of a cow are seen on it. It is believed that the Kamadhenu stood over the lingams and expressed her milk over them and while doing so, her hoof mark got embossed on the Vishnu lingam. In the past, the priest used to show the lingams with the help of a mirror to the devotees. However, now this practice has been discontinued and silver Kavachams have been adorned over the lingams so that they are visible for the devotees to worship.

On entering the temple complex which has been recently renovated, one can see the Koti Theertham. The greenery around the temple tank and the clear water make it a very pleasant experience to bathe in its cool waters. Devotees atleast sprinkle the holy water on their heads, before entering the temple. A huge mural in typical Kerala style welcomes you. On either side of the entrance, there are huge wooden images of Nandi and Garuda depicting the vahanas of the two Lords found in union inside.

In the sanctum sanctorum, there is a huge deity of Sankaranarayana, the left portion depicting Sankara and the right portion depicting Narayana. Apart from the main deity, there is also a silver icon on the north eastern side of the sanctum. The foyer has various forms of Shiva and Vishnu on either side. Although the temple has been recently renovated, the inscriptions from the ancient temple have been preserved and are installed on the circumambulatory path.

The Lord is also called Kroda Sankaranarayana. There were two Asuras, namely Karasura and Rakthasura who were tormented human beings on Earth. On seeing this, Kroda Maharishi appealed to Lord Shiva and Vishnu to take the form of Sankaranarayana and destroy these two asuras. The Lords agreed to do so and destroyed the two asuras at Sankaranarayana. Then, based on Kroda Maharishi's request, they manifested as Swayambu lingams so that devotees could continue to worship them there.

A hill next to Sankaranarayana is called Krodagiri and it is here that Kroda Maharishi is believed to have done penance to invoke Lord Shiva and Vishnu. Even today, idols of Sankaranarayana, Gowri and Lakshmi are found inside the cave where Kroda Maharishi is said to have meditated.

Apart from the main deity, there are also shrines for Mahaganapathy who is worshipped before Sankaranarayana, Gopalakrishna, Panchamukha Anjaneya, and a small lingam called Partheswara. Just like Sankara and Narayana are found in a single form, Gowri and Lakshmi are found next to each other in a single shrine. This is not something that we commonly find in other temples.

Every year, a grand Jathra festival is celebrated on the second day after Sankaranthi. Thousands of pilgrims visit here during this time and participate in the car festival too.

So if you are in this area, do take time out to visit this unique temple!

How to get here: Sankaranarayana is about 35 kms from Udupi on the Udupi Mangalore route. Nearest railway station is Kundapur.

Temple Timings: The temple is open from 7.30 am to 1.30 pm in the morning and from 3.30 pm to 8.30 pm in the evening.