Thursday, June 30, 2016

Bappanadu - A symbol of communal harmony

Durga Parameswari Temple at Bappanadu

Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, increased devotion, sacrifice and sharing with the less fortunate brethren. There are a number of temples in India which stand as an example of communal harmony wherein members of one community participate wholeheartedly in the rituals or worship of another.

One such example is the Durgaparameswari temple at Bappanadu in Dakshina Kannada. Bappanadu was originally called Moolikapura as the place was full of herbal and medicinal plants which could cure event the rarest of diseases. There was a temple near the river in Moolikapura and the Goddess had manifested in the form of five lingas. Since the goddess was found near the river, she was called Jaladurgaparameswari. King Dharmapala of Chandravamsa who ruled this area in the 4th Century, worshipped this goddess with great devotion and built a temple for her.

Mythology however says, that Bappa Byari, a Kerala Muslim trader, who lived in the 14th Century, almost a thousand years after the temple was originally built, was returning home from a voyage with all his goods and his companion, Usman, when there was a sudden flood in the Mulki river. It rained heavily and the rains made the waters swell and lash across the land. Bappa Byari's ship was tossed here and there and the trader was extremely worried for his safety and that of the goods he was carrying. He could not see anything in the dark. The lights from the Durga Parameswari temple near the shore that normally guided the sailors was nowhere to be seen.

He had heard of the temple and the Hindu Goddess who was worshipped in the form of five lingas but had never had an opportunity to visit the temple. But now, when his life was at stake, he prayed to the supreme power common to all to save his life and the goods that he had procured with great effort. Within minutes, he could hearing a crashing noise. His ship hit something and stopped. He knew he was close to the shore but had no idea where he was. The good news was that the ship was not rocking anymore and the floods were receding. Bappa Byari sat there, praying all night. When it dawned, he was in for a surprise.

The old temple that had once stood on the shore, had been razed to the ground by the gory storm. Debris lay everywhere. The ship had hit the shore, and was stopped by the goddess herself, present in the form of the five lingas. Bappa was so happy that he was alive and his goods were safe. As a token of gratitude, he built back the temple of Goddess Durga Parameswari.

The place to this day, is known as Bappanadu after him and the descendants of Bappa Byari are still given prasad first when the deity is taken out on a procession during festivals. The family offers flowers and fruits as a token of respect to the deity, and this act symbolises the deep communal harmony that exist between not just these two communities, but numerous others in this part of the world. Whenever there is a ceremony in this temple, people of all castes and religions come together to perform several rituals that are part of the ceremony.

The temple has a large Rajagopuram and a spacious circumambulatory path inside. The sanctum sanctorum houses the five lingas that are termed - Moola Durga, Agni Durga, Jala Durga, Vana Durga and Agra Durga on a common pedastal. The five durgas can only be seen during abhishekam to the deity. At all other times, they are covered by Alankaram and only the deity of Durga Parameswari placed before the Swayambu deities can be witnessed.

Apart from the main deity, there are also shrines for Ganesha, Narasimha, Naga Devatha and Kshetra Paala. Navarathri is the biggest festival that is celebrated in Bappanadu. There are Chandi Homams performed on all nine days in the morning, and annadhanam is provided to the devotees. In the Malayalam month of Meenam which starts on 15th of March and ends on 14th of April, the Rathotsava is celebrated with great pomp and glory. Devotees beat drums and sing hymns in praise of the Goddess as five rathas for the five deities are taken out in procession.

Although no epigraphical evidence has been found to prove that Bappa Byari rebuilt the temple, there have been several legends associated with him, including Yakshagana performances that have been passed down generations. Apart from that, there is adequate public documentation to show the involvement of Muslims in the construction of the temple. Not just Muslims, even to this day, several Christians sell Jasmine flowers grown in their gardens in the temple, although there is a demand available for the flowers outside as well. Members of other religions often perform Parvathi Swayamvaram at the temple for fulfilling prayers of marriage for their children.

How to get here: Bappanadu is on the Kochi - Panvel Highway, about 12 kms from the Durga Parameswari Temple in Kateel, and about 30 km from Mangalore.

Google map coordinates: 13.094961, 74.785659

Temple Timings:

5:30 AM to 2:00 PM. 4:00 PM to 9:00 PM

During Friday, Navarathri and Jathra Time:
5:30 AM to 10:00 PM

Contact Details : 0824 -2290585

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Temples of Karuvazhakarai!

Shahuji I, popularly known as Shaji was the Maratha ruler of Thanjavur during the period 1684-1712. During his reign, there were several unrests and threat to his Kingdom from the Sethupathis of Ramnad and Rani Mangammal, who ruled over Madurai with Trichy as her capital. Shahuji, was constantly strategizing to save his empire from his neighbours who were waiting with drawn swords.
It reached a point when he felt that only divine intervention can strengthen his arm, as the game plan kept changing day after day without a result in his favour.

He consulted with his minister, Lakshmana Pandit, on a solution to reinforce his hold over Thanjavur. Lakshmana Pandit consulted with several astrologers and learned men, and they all came up with a uniform solution - to construct temples for Shiva and Vishnu on the banks of the holy Cauvery river. 

Lakshmana Pandit shared this solution with King Shahuji who immediately tasked him with finding the right location to get the temples constructed. So Lakshmana Pandit set out along the banks of the Cauvery, visiting several temples on its banks and seeking divine intervention in showing him the right place for the construction of the temples. 

He travelled across Kumbakonam, Swamimalai, Thiruvidaimarudhur, Dharmapuram, and Mayiladuthurai and set off on the northern bank of the river towards Poompuhar. It was getting to be dark and Lakshmana Pandit decided to spend a night in a grove of Marudham trees (Arjuna trees) on the outskirts of Poompuhar.

The grove had almost all trees and flowering plants that would be used to worship Lord Shiva and Vishnu and Lakshmana Pandit felt an unusual sense of serenity and calmness when he rested there. By morning, his mind was made. It was there the temples were going to come up.

He felt down on the floor and thanked the Gods for showing him the ideal location and went back to Thanjavur with news for Shahuji. Very soon, the construction of the temples began - Lord Shiva sat right in the middle of the grove and came to be known as Raja Rajeswara and Lord Vishnu in the form of Lakshmi Narayana was installed towards the end of the grove. The place where the Lakshmi Narayana temple was built came to be called Lakshmi Narayana Puram and the village came to be known as Marudhur or Karuvazhakarai.

Six Maratha Brahmins, a Yajur Veda family from Senkalipuram and a Sama Veda family from nearby Kanja nagaram who were experts in the Vedas were brought to the village to take care of the temple, Very soon, the King was able to overcome the problems from his neighbours and was also able to defeat the Moghuls and acquire lands upto Varanasi.

Over time, the land between the temples became habitations and soon were taken over by individuals. The temples lost their glory and became dilapidated. The Shiva temple was granted to a family for maintenance about 200 years ago, through a court deed and the descendants of the family maintain it to date. It is a delight to see a well maintained, albeit poorly patronised temple, right in the middle of a grove, with practically every single tree, fruit or flower that is used to worship Shiva.

Lord Rajarajeswara sits majestically in the sanctum sanctorum while Goddess Devanayaki is waiting patiently in her humble abode for the odd devotee to visit. There is also a Bhairava from the Maratha period in the temple. Another noteworthy feature is the huge Nataraja and Sivakami that is under worship. Shiva looks extremely splendid and regal that you cannot take your eyes off him. His Holiness Maha Periya has visited this temple twice during his life time, and spent several hours in meditation before this Nataraja.

The remains of the Lakshmi Narayana Temple that was once worshipped for victory, beauty and prosperity is today being reconstructed through the efforts of Shri Anandhanarayanan, who is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring the temple is reconstructed. But for the main deity, Sri Lakshmi Narayana, and a few other idols, most of the structure and idols belonging to the original temple have been lost and are now being recreated in Mamallapuram.

The consecration is being planned in July 2016 and every single rupee contributed in completing the work will bestow upon the donor, victory in their endeavor, beauty and prosperity. If you happen to be in this locality, please stop by to visit both the temples at Karuvazhakarai, now popularly known as Marudhur.

You may kindly send your contributions to Sree Lakshmi Narayana Perumal Tirupani Committee, State Bank of India Pallavaram CI, SB Account No. 33737211400

How to get here:

Marudhur is found on the road from Mayiladuthurai to Poompuhar at about 9 kms from Mayiladuthurai. 

For Lakshmi Narayana Temple - Mr Anandhanarayanan - 94440 79673
For Rajarajeswara Temple - Mr Swaminathan - 95974 37157