Temples of India

MUMBAI’S MOST POPULAR TEMPLE Siddhivinayak

The Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Mandir attracts millions of devout visitors every year. Fortunately, the temple has been able to organise the large number of visitors in a disciplined way, especially on Wednesdays, when celebrities also converge

WORDS: N.B. RAO

When football legend Ronaldinho came to Mumbai last month, one of the first things he did was to visit the Siddhivinayak Ganpati temple at Prabhadevi in central Mumbai and seek the blessings of the lord.
Ronaldinho, who consecutively won the FIFA World Player of the year awards in 2005 and 2006, represents the Delhi Dragons team and is in India to participate in the second edition of Premier Futsal.
He is one of the latest in a long list of celebrities – both Indian and foreign – who visit the unassuming temple in the heart of India’s financial and commercial capital to pay their tributes to Lord Ganesh.

INTERNATIONAL CELEBRITIES
Other recent international celebrities visiting the temple include Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple Inc, who began his India trip last year with an early morning visit on a Wednesday to the temple.
Bollywood celebrities including the Bachchans – the entire family led by Amitabh – Sanjay Dutt, and a host of actors and other famous personalities are regular visitors to the renowned temple.
Like hundreds of thousands of devotees, a number of celebrities often walk barefoot from their homes in the distant suburbs of Mumbai to Prabhadevi to pray at the temple.
The Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Mandir, dedicated to Lord Shri Ganesh, was built by a contractor, Laxman Vithu Patil, for a rich woman, Deubai Patil in November 1801.

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The childless Deubai wanted a temple built for other such women who were desperate for a child.
For many years it was an insignificant structure in Bombay, measuring less than four sq m and had a brick dome. Today, the Siddhivinayak temple is one of the richest in the country and also one of the busiest.
Long queues are evident round-the-year, but especially on Wednesdays, when hundreds of thousands of devotees throng the temple from early morning.

TEMPLE CARVED OUT OF SINGLE BLACK STONE
The Ganesha idol at the temple was carved out of a single black stone and has the elephant god’s trunk to the right

(instead of the left). In 1952, an idol of Hanuman, which was found nearby while doing road repairs, was also brought and installed in the temple.
Over the years, as its popularity grew, five more floors were added to the temple complex, located in what is today one of Mumbai’s busiest hubs.

ONE OF THE RICHEST TEMPLES
Today, Shree Siddhivinayak is one of the richest temples in India, with hundreds of million rupees pouring into its coffers.
The wooden doors feature images of the ‘ashtavinaak’ (eight manifestations of Ganesha) and the inner roof of the temple is gold-plated.
The temple also has had its controversies.
About 15 years ago, there were accusations

that the temple trust was mismanaging the huge donations that were being collected. The Bombay high court appointed a committee to investigate the allegations.
The probe panel was shocked at the manner in which it was being mismanaged by a committee that was packed with nominees of ministers and other political heavyweights.
It was quickly replaced.
The temple, however, continues to be the most popular in Mumbai, attracting hundreds of thousands of devotees every week.
It has also adopted eco-friendly techniques of rainwater harvesting and has its own solar unit, making it self-sufficient in energy.
And the tons of flowers that devotees offer are collected and recycled as compost.

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RUNNING FOR A CAUSE
On July 26, 1982 actor Amitabh Bachchan had a near-fatal accident on the sets of Manmohan Desai while shooting for the film Coolie. With serious injuries suffered from mistiming a jump during a fight scene, he was rushed to the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai after initial treatment in Bangalore.
Thousands of his fans maintained a vigil praying for his survival and one of his fans, Arvind Pandya, from Vadodara, vowed that he would run backwards from the Siddhivinayak temple in his hometown to the one in Prabhadevi in Mumbai.
A determined Pandya began his ‘run,’ even as Amitabh’s health deteriorated in the Mumbai hospital. He ran almost for a month; his pace quickened in the second half, as the actor’s health began to improve.
“I prayed for him and vowed to run backwards from Vadodara to Mumbai for his well-being,” recalled Pandya much later. “When doctors declared him out of danger, I completed the run in 13 days.”
He recalls that the reception at the Bachchans’ house was overwhelming. Pandya now interacts regularly with the superstar

KANAKA DURGA TEMPLE Jewel of Amaravati

Perched on the Indrakeeladri Hills on the banks Krishna River nestles the famous Kanaka Durga Temple of Vijayawada, which is now part of Amaravati, upcoming capital of Andhra Pradesh.
Dating back to the 8th century, the temple of Goddess Durga is the second-largest temple in Andhra Pradesh and appears in her Mahishasura Mardani (killer of demon Mahishasura) form with eight arms. The deity, a 1.2-metre-high statue, is seen piercing the demon Mahishasura with her trident. This ancient temple finds mention in many sacred texts and is one of the 108 Shaktipeethas in the country.

Sanctum sanctorum is in the form of a pyramid with delicate stone carvings seen on the surface. The golden crown is the most impressive aspect of this temple and can be spotted miles away.
As per mythology this region was once inhospitable and strewn with rocks which obstructed the free flow of River Krishna.
Lord Shiva is said to have made the hills give way making the river flow and as it passed through many tunnels it got the name Bezawada (Telugu Bejjam means tunnel) which later became Vijayawada. Also Arjuna is said to have prayed to Lord Shiva atop the Indrakeeladri Hills.

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Kanaka Durga slaying Mahishasura atop Indrakeeladri is is part of the legend.

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In Puranas demons usually acquired great strength by appeasing the Gods. Feeling invincible they would harass the devas and the sages on earth who would then seek help of Goddess Parvathi or Lord Shiva or Mahavishnu to save them from the demonic assault. In various avatars of her Paravati is said to have killed the demons. As Goddess Kausiki the demons Sumbhu and Nisambhu were killed; as Mahishasura Mardani Mahishasura was killed and as Kanaka Durga the demon Durgamasura.

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In order to kill the demon Kanaka Durga asked her ardent devotee Keeludu to assume the form of a hill and enticed the demon to the hilltop.
Thus, Keeladri became the abode of Goddess Kanaka Durga whereupon she took the form of Mahishasura Mardani with eight arms and each arm holding a different weapon, riding a lion, and trampling the demon on the hills of Indrakeeladri.
Shiva too came to earth and took his place on an adjacent hillock as a Jyothirlinga.

Lord Brahma worshipped him with jasmines and thereby Lord Shiva got the name of Malleswara Swamy. Celestial beings like Indra too visited Indrakeeladri.
Once again, River Krishna had its flow obstructed because of the Indrakeeladri and the devas requested the Hill to allow river to pass to join the sea.
Keeludu who was the life force behind the hill obliged giving a small passage and the ferocious river carried a part of the hill four miles downstream to Yanamalakuduru, where a hillock called ‘Thelukonda’ or floating hillock today stands.
Adi Shankaracharya visited the temple installing the Srichakra and the worship of Goddess Kanaka Durga began as per Vedic rituals.
This place is also called Phalguna Theertha because it is said Arjuna performed penance and sought Pasupathastra from Lord Shiva (Shiva’s most powerful weapon).
But Shiva put Arjuna to test taking the form of Kiratha and a battle ensued.
Finally, Shiva gave the weapon to Arjuna admiring his bravery.
Nose-ring of Goddess Durga is never removed in this temple because Lord Krishna gave his own ring to Durga which is treated with utmost piety.
Navratri (nine days) is celebrated with religious fervour and most significant is the Saraswati Pooja.
During the nine-days the temple sees lakhs of pilgrims thronging it.

This Indrakeeladri hill is unique having been chosen as the abode of Kanaka Durga and Her consort Malleswara who is a Swayambhu (self-manifested).
Another important aspect of the temple is that Goddess Durga is on the right side of Lord Malleswara as against the tradition of Goddesses being on the left of their consorts. This shows Shakthi is predominant on Indrakeeladri.
The nine-day festival of Navaratri ends on Vijaya Dasami Day when people worship arms and perform Ayudha Pooja.
There is apocryphal story how a police officer once refused permission to his own police officials to display their arms on the Vijaya Dasami day. He received a message from his boss of being dismissed from service. Terrified by the events, the officer permitted celebration of Vijaya Dasami and also took part. Later, he was informed that his dismissal order had been cancelled. This tradition for policemen to celebrate Vijaya Dasami at the temple continues even today.
During the Navaratri, Goddess Kanaka Durga is specially decorated daily in one of the nine ways: Balatripura Sundari, Gayathri Annapurna. Mahalakshmi, Saraswathi, Lalitha Tripura Sundari, Durga Devi, Mahishasura Mardani and Raja Rajeswari Devi. And on Vijaya Dasami day, the deities are taken in a swan-shaped boat around the Krishna river, popularity known as ‘Theppotsavam’, witnessed by myriad devotees.
A ghat road was laid in 1969 yet most pilgrims prefer to climb the steps leading to the temple. Some climb the hill even by decorating the steps with turmeric powder and vermilion to redeem their pledge of Metla Pooja (worshipping the stone steps).
Modern day Goddess Kanaka Durga temple is said to have been constructed during the rule of Mogalaya ruler Thaanisha. According to Sthalapuranam, King Thaanisha with the assistance of his ministers Akkanna and Madanna had monitored its construction from Kondapalli. Besides being a religious centre, Vijayawada reflects typical Andhra culture.

VARAHA TEMPLES Symbols of love and bravery

In the Vishnu Purana, Varaha represents sacrifice, as the eternal upholder of Earth

Words:STEFFI MAC

We have often heard of temples being created out of the love and deep devotions humans have for their Lord. According to some legends, the Gods themselves have inspired humans to construct temples in their honour.
But rarely will one hear of a temple that is constructed to represent the bravery of the Gods. The Varaha temples are the embodiment of that bravery and love. They are one of the strongest examples of God’s undying love for the earth and its people and what He can do to protect it.

LEGEND
Varaha is the incarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu in the form of a boar.

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Varaha is the incarnation of Lord Vishnu in the form of a boar and the third among the 10 listed avatars.

Varaha is the third of the ten listed avatars of Lord Vishnu. When the demon Hiranyaksha stole the earth (goddess Bhudevi) and hid her in the primordial waters, Vishnu appeared as Varaha to rescue her. He slew the demon and retrieved the earth from the ocean, lifting it on his tusks, and restored Bhudevi (earth) to her place in the universe.
Varaha may be depicted completely as a boar or in an anthropomorphic form, with a boar’s head and human body. His consort, Bhudevi, the earth, is often depicted as a young woman, lifted by Varaha. The earth may be depicted as a mass of land too.
SYMBOLISM
In the Vishnu Purana, Varaha represents sacrifice, as the eternal upholder of the earth. His feet represent the scriptures, his tusks sacrificial stakes and his teeth are offerings. His mouth is the altar with tongue of sacrificial fire.

The hair on his head denotes the sacrificial grass. The eyes represent day and the night. His coarse hair represents sexual prowess, while the head represents the seat of the priest.
Thus, Varaha is the embodiment of the Supreme Being who brings order amidst chaos in the world by his sacrifice. Varaha symbolises the resurrection of the earth from the dissolution of the universe and the establishment of a new aeon.

TEMPLES ACROSS THE COUNTRY
Varaha was originally described as a form of Brahma, but later on was recognised as the avatar of Vishnu. The earliest Varaha images are found in Mathura, dating to the 1st and 2nd century CE. Early sculptures of Varaha generally depict him in his boar form.
Anthropomorphic depictions of Varaha with human body and boar’s head became popular in the later period. Other early sculptures exist in the cave temples in Badami in Karnataka (6th century), Varaha in Mahabalipuram (7th century) and Ellora Caves (7th century).
In the Udayagiri Caves (Cave 5) in Madhya Pradesh, an image of Varaha rescuing the earth sculpted in sandstone (dated to 401-450 CE) is seen; and a zoomorphic image

from 8th century from Bago-Pathari is now with the Archeological Museum at Gwalior.

By the 7th century, images of Varaha were found in all regions of India and by the 10th century, temples dedicated to Varaha were established in Khajuraho (existent, but worship has ceased), Udaipur and Jhansi (now in ruins).
In the first millennium, the boar was worshipped as a symbol of virility. The Chalukya dynasty (543–753) was the first to adopt Varaha in their crest and minted coins.
The Gurjara-Pratihara king Mihira Bhoja (836–885 CE) assumed the title of Adi-varaha and also minted coins depicting the Varaha image. However, the boar and its relative the pig started being seen as polluting since the 12th century, due to Muslim influence on India. Muslims consider the pig and its meat unclean. This led to a decline in Varaha worship to a certain extent.
The Varaha temple in Hampi was built in the typical Vijayanagara style of architecture. The temple complex is a rectangular area bounded by a wall. A huge entrance tower adorns one side of the complex.

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Though damaged to a large extent, the entrance tower still reflects the beauty and grandeur that was once attached to it. The temple stands in the middle of the large compound.

The Varaha cave temple in Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu, is located on a hill. The entrance facade has four octagonal pillars and two octagonal shaped pilasters.
It is a small monolithic rock-cut temple with a canopy carved into the rock face of pink granite formations, dating from the 7th century.

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BRAHMA TEMPLE The Home of the Creator

Brahma temple in Pushkar is an architectural marvel. It is said to have been created by Lord Brahma Himself, The temple is an incredible tale of spirituality, mythology, history and belief

WORDS: STEFFI MAC

LEGEND
According to Padma Purana, Brahma saw the demon Vajranabha trying to kill his children and harassing people. He slayed the demon with his weapon, the lotus-flower. The lotus petals fell on the ground at three places, creating three lakes: the Pushkar Lake or Jyeshta Pushkar (greatest or first Pushkar), the Madhya Pushkar (middle Pushkar) and Kanishta Pushkar (lowest or youngest Pushkar) lake.
When Brahma came down to the earth, he named the place where the flower (“pushpa”) fell from Brahma’s hand (“kar”) as “Pushkar”. Brahma then decided to perform a yajna (fire-sacrifice) at the main Pushkar Lake. In order to perform his yajna peacefully without being attacked by the demons, he created hills around the Pushkar – Ratnagiri in the south, Nilgiri in the north, Sanchoora in the west and Suryagiri in the east and positioned gods there to protect the yajna. However, while yajna was on his wife Savitri could not be present at the designated time to perform the essential part of the yajna as she was waiting for her companion goddesses Lakshmi, Parvati and Indrani.

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Annoyed, Brahma requested god Indra- the king of heaven – to find a suitable girl for him to wed to complete the yajna. Indra could find only a villager’s daughter (in some legends, a milkmaid) who was sanctified by passing her through the body of a cow. Gods Vishnu, Shiva and the priests certified her purity as she had passed through a cow. It was her second birth and she was named Gayatri. Brahma then married Gayatri and completed the yajna with his new consort sitting beside him. But when Savitri finally arrived at the venue, she found Gayatri sitting next to Brahma which was her rightful place.

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Agitated, she cursed Brahma that he would be never worshipped, but then lessened the curse permitting his worship in Pushkar. Savitri also cursed Indra to be easily defeated in battles, Vishnu to suffer the separation from his wife as a human; the fire-god Agni to be all-devouring and the priests for officiating the yajna to remain poor.
Endowed by the powers of yajna, Gayatri diluted Savitri’s curse, blessing Pushkar to be the king of pilgrimages, Indra would always retain his heaven, Vishnu would be born as the human Rama and finally unite with his consort and the priests would become scholars and be venerated.

Thus, the Pushkar temple is regarded the only temple dedicated to Brahma. Savitri, thereafter, moved into the Ratnagiri hill and became a part of it by emerging as a spring known as the Savitri Jharna (stream); a temple in her honour exists here (Legend source: shreebrahmajimandir.com)

HISTORY
It is also believed that Brahma himself chose the location for his temple. The 8th century Hindu philosopher Adi Shankaracharya renovated this temple, while the current medieval structure dates to Maharaja Jawat Raj of Ratlam, who made additions and repairs,

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though the original temple design is retained. Pushkar is often described in the scriptures as the only Brahma temple in the world, owing to the curse of Savitri, but also as the “King of the sacred places of the Hindus”. Although Pushkar temple does not remain the only Brahma temple, it is still one of very few existing temples dedicated to Brahma in India. International Business Times has identified Pushkar Lake and the Brahma temple as one of the 10 most religious places in the world and one of the five sacred pilgrimage places for the Hindus in India.

ARCHITECTURE
The temple is set high and marble steps lead to entrance gate archway which is decorated with pillared canopies. The entry from the gate leads to a pillared outdoor hall and then the sanctum sanctorum.
The temple is built with stone slabs and blocks. The red spire of the temple, symbol of a swan and the mount of Brahma are distinct features of the temple.

Adi Shankaracharya renovated it. Though original design is retained, Maharaja Jawat Raj of Ratlam made additions and repairs

The shikara or dome is about 70 feet (21 m) high.

The swan decorates the main entry gate. The temple floor is usually covered with coins from devotees with their names inscribed on them as mark of offering to Brahma. There is a silver turtle in the canopy that is displayed on the floor of the temple facing the sanctum, which is also built in marble.
Brahma’s central idol, made of marble was placed in the temple in 718 AD by Adi Shankaracharya. The icon depicts Brahma, seated in a crossed leg position in the aspect of creating the universe. The central, life-size image is called the chaumurti (“four-faced idol”).

It has four hands, four faces, each oriented in a cardinal direction. The four arms hold the aksharmala (rosary), the pustaka (book), the kurka (kusha grass) and the kamandala (water pot). Brahma is riding on his mount, the swan. The four symbols held by Brahma in his arms: the rosary, Kamandalu, book and the sacrificial implement kusha grass represent time, the causal waters from which the universe emerged, knowledge and the system of sacrifices to be adopted for the sustenance of various life-forms in the universe. Gayatri’s image sits along with Brahma’s to his left. Savatri alias Sarasvati sits to His right along with other deities. Images of the peacock, Sarasvati’s mount, also decorate the temple walls. Images of the preserver-god Vishnu, life-sized gate-keepers and a gilded eagle-man, mount of Vishnu are also seen in the temple (Source Wikipedia).
The strong mythological beliefs, the architectural beauty and the deep-rooted spirituality of the Brahma temple reflects the true spirit of Indian religious faith.

GURUVAYUR WORDS: Abode of God’s Own Country

Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple is situated in a municipal town Guruvayur of Thrissur District of Kerala. It is the fourth largest temple in India in terms of the number of devotees visiting per day. Since the legend has it that Guru and Vayu installed Krishna’s deity at that sacred spot where the temple now stands, the deity is called Guruvayurappan by devotees.

The legend also has it that Guruvayur became divine on account of the “tapas” performed by Lord Siva and later by the Prechethas (the 10 sons of Pracheenabarhis and Suvarna) in the Rudratheertham – the sacred tank on the northern side of the temple – where Lord Guruvayurappan has His holy bath on the last day of annual festival.

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Siva worshipped Mahavishnu for years under the waters of the Rudratheertham. Prechethas came to this place to do tapas to attain the king of all kings from Lord Mahavishnu. Sensing the motive of Prechethas, Lord Siva emerged out of the Rudratheertham and revealed to them the “Rudrageetham”, a hymn in praise of Mahavishnu. Siva suggested they chant it to get their wishes fulfilled. The Princes won the favour of Mahavishnu after rigorous tapas for 10,000 years under the waters of Rudratheertham chanting Rudrageetham.

DEVOTION OF NENMINI UNNI
NenminiNamboodiri was the priest at Guruvayur temple. He had to go for some urgent work and told his 12 year old son to offer cooked rice to the Lord and left. When the time arrived, the child offered it to the Lord and thought in all simplicity that the Lord will eat the rice, but the idol did not move. Unni went outside and brought some salted mangoes and curd from the

neighbourhood in the belief that the Lord may like some condiments with the rice.
He mixed the curd with rice and offered it again, but to no avail. He cajoled, requested, coaxed even threatened, but it did nothing. He started crying on his failure and shouting in the sky to the Lord that his father is going to be angry. The Lord could not bear it anymore! The rice disappeared from the plate. The boy felt relieved and left. On seeing the empty plate, the temple assistant was very angry with the Unni, but the child couldn’t understand the cause of his anger and told him that God ate up the rice with the curd and salted mangoes. This angered him more.

On his father’s arrival, the assistant complained that Unni himself had eaten the rice, and that he was making false stories. Though Unni told his version, his father did not believe it. He raised his hand to slap him, but just then a celestial voice was heard saying, “I am the guilty one, Unni is innocent”.

ARCHITECTURE
Guruvayur temple is an epitome of Kerala’s temple Vastuvidya. It is faced towards the East with two pillars on the east and west.
The entire area between the pillars is roofed with tiles and is called Anapanthal.
At the centre of this is a square shaped pillared hall called Nalambalam, its outer wall is fixed with a gallery of oil lamps.
On the south of the Nalambalam is a sub shrine of Lord Ayyappan.
There is a hall in the temple where in dance performances were held in the olden days.
In the front and the east side of the Nalambalam, the pillars of light are located. There are a number of such pillars in the temple. There is a twenty-four feet light pillar that holds numerous wicks that illuminate the temple in the evenings.
Of the other two at West Gopuram, one is in the shape of a tree. The temple also boasts a seventy feet flag made of gold.

The temple is an emblem of love, faith and belief. The legends reflect how God always watches over us and responds to our prayers. The architecture is a reflection of the beauty and peace the Lord provides and the courtyard embodies the fact that, ‘God always provides.’

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The idol of Lord Krishna resides in the inner most room of the temple is known as Garbhagriha. Everything is the room is made from gold. The outer room is called Mukhamandapam. The wall of SreeKovil is decorated with ancient (17th century) murals. Surrounding this is a pillared square hall called Nalambalam or Chuttambalam. A gallery of oil lamps is fixed on the wall of Nalambalam. On the north of the SreeKovil is a temple well called Manikinar. There is also a shrine for a goddess.
Daily lunch is arranged for the devotees in the temple in the hall. Next to it is the temple tank Rudratheertha. It is said that Lord Shiva and his family prayed to Lord Vishnu there.

THE PRACTICES
The puja (prayers) held at the temple rakes in hundreds of followers’ everyday from various parts of the state and the country. There is also a strict rule regarding the dress code for the temple. The men are expected to wear ‘veshtis’(white loin cloth). They are not allowed to cover their torso. The women can only enter the temple in a saree or salwar suit. Boys are allowed to wear shorts and girls are required to wear long skirts and tops (pattupavadaia typical skirt worn by girls) in order to enter the temple.
The temple is an emblem of love, faith and belief. The legends reflect how God always watches over us and responds to our prayers. The architecture is a reflection of the beauty and peace the Lord provides and the courtyard embodies the fact that, ‘God always provides.’

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TURBULENT HISTORY

Guruvayur’s sanctum sanctorum was rebuilt in 1638 AD. Since then it is a pilgrimage centre thanks to five of its famous devotees who propagated Lord’s glory – Poonthanam, Melpattur, Vilvamangalam, Kururamma and the Prince Manadevan (Zamorin).
In 1716 AD the Dutch plundered and set fire to the temple. Rebuilt in 1747 AD it was captured in 1766 AD by Haider Ali. On being given 10,000 fanam(a type of money that was issued by the State of Travancore) as ransom the temple was spared. Haider Ali however made some amends when he gave a ‘Devadaya’ (gift) to the temple in 1780 AD which saved the temple from extinction.

In 1789, Tipu Sultan, Haider Ali’s son and successor, came to the temple to defeat the Zamorin and convert Hindus to Islam. The Mulavigraha (main deity) was hidden underground and the Utsavavigraha (processional deity) taken to another place. Tipu set fire and plundered the temple. But a timely rain doused the fire averting a catastrophic damage. After the English drove out Tipu, both the vigrahas (deities) were reinstalled.
In 1841, the Govt of Madras restored the Devadaya appropriated by Tipu Sultan. In 1928, the Zamorin once again became administrator of the temple.

In 1931-32, a SatyagrahiKelappan secured entry of untouchables into the temple. Today anyone can have darshan outside the sanctum sanctorum (Sreekovil). The Devaswom feeds 500 – 1000 pilgrims daily.
On 30th November 1970, a calamitous fire broke and Hindus, Muslims & Christians fought shoulder to shoulder to control the fire. Despite 5 hours of raging fire, the Srikovil, the vigraha of Guruvayurappan, and the sub shrines of Ganesha, Ayyappa and Devi, and the flag staff remained intact.

BHADRACHALAM TEMPLE BHAKTA RAMDAS Beauty of faith, atmost devotion

Temples have been our place of solace and peace quite often. At times they have been the reason to help us deal with problems and then there are times when we only are there to feel the presence of the Almighty around us.

Words: Steffi Mac

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This way or that, temples are a constant reminder to us that we aren’t alone, that there is someone looking over us and listening to our prayers. Amidst all the beautiful temples of the country, there is one that isn’t only famous for its beauty, but also for its unique history and the number of devotees it hosts every year.

The Bhdrachalam temple is the epitome of spirituality, hope and the love of the Almighty for all living creatures.

HISTORY
It is the abode of Lord Rama (The seventh incarnation of SriMahavishnu). This temple located on the hill is the famous shrine Bhadrachalam-The name derived from Bhadragiri (Mountain of Bhadra-a boon child of Meru and Menaka).

According to history, the significance of this shrine dates back to the Ramayana Era. This hill existed in “Dandakaranya” of Ramayana period where Rama with his consort Sita and brother Laxmana had spent their vanavasa- and Parnashaala(the place connected to the famous Golden Deer and the place from where Sita was abducted by Ravana) is also in the vicinity of this temple site.

It is at this Mandir site that, long after Ramavatara, Bhagawan Mahavishnu manifested Himself as Rama again to fulfil a promise He made to His Bhakta Bhadra, who continued his Tapas through Yugas, praying for the grace of the Bhagawan Sri Ramachandra murthy.

Bhadra performed penance at the bank of river Godavari in this “ Dandakaranya “ to get grace of lord Rama.

When he finally met him, the exulted “Rishi” implored Rama to be seated on his head, but Rama who was in search of his wife Sita promised him that his desire will be fulfilled on his way back. Lord Rama first wanted to find Sita, accomplish punishing the wicked Ravana and establish ‘Dharma’. But Lord Rama could not fulfil it and yet Bhadra continued his penance. Moved by his devotion, Lord Vishnu manifested himself as Lord Rama and rushed to his devotee Bhadra. He signalled his arrival by blowing the ‘Shanku’, accompanied by his Sita and Laxman. He resembled ‘Gajendra Moksham ‘. Thus, the idols of Rama (with four hands) have the Shanku on the right,

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Chakra at his left and Dhanurbhana (Bow and Arrow in the other two hands), Sita and Lakshman are on either side.

The place of deities is the head place of Bhadra-achalam (hill), thus this shrine was transformed into Bhadrachalam. (Source Google)

THE DISCOVERY OF THE IDOLS
The idols of Vykuntha Rama, Laxmana and Sita were found by Pokala Dhammakka. Pokala Dhammakka, an ardent devotee of Rama lived in the 17th century and was an inhabitant of Bhadrireddypalem, a mile away from this holy place. On one fine night, she had a dream of Rama who said “the saints and sages are worshiping my embodied idol settled on Bhadragiri” and asked her to trace them, perform pooja (prayer) and attain salvation.

The next morning she started searching for the idols. She peeped into an ant-hill and found the idols hidden in it. She poured hundreds of pots of Godavari water on the ant-hill. It dissolved and gave way to the hidden Deities. Since that day, she offered her prayers every day for the rest of her life.

CONSTRUCTION OF TEMPLE
Bhadrachalarama temple was constructed by Kancharla Gopanna popularly known as Bhakta Ramadas in the year 1674 A.D.

Once Ramadas, heard the news that the villagers were proceeding to witness a Jatara at Bhadrachalam. He too visited Bhadrachalam out of curiosity. He found the deities and was amazed. Ramadas, then asked the villagers to contribute liberally for the construction of the temple. After the contributions were found to be insufficient, the villagers appealed to him to spend the revenue collections for the construction of the temple with a promise to repay the amount after harvesting the crops. Accordingly, Ramadas constructed the temple with an amount of Rs 6 Lakhs collected from the land revenues without the permission of the Nizam Nawab.

When the temple was almost complete, he had a problem of fixing ‘Sudarshana Chakra’ at the crest of the main temple. He was deeply distressed and fell into sleep. On the same night, Rama in his dream asked him to have a holy dip in river Godavari where he would find it. The next day morning Gopanna did so and found the holy Sudarshana Chakra in the river without much difficulty. He presumed that the Sudarshana Chakra itself was shaped up with the divine power of God Rama.

There was a custom of offering pearls to the deities on an elephant. This procedure is still followed by present state Government. The process takes place on Rama Navami Festival every year.

ARCHITECTURE
The temple is divided into three parts. The first is the temple dedicated to the head of Bhadra. A rock structure on the inside has the footprints (supposedly) of Lord Ram. Thirunamam is applied to the rock so that the visitors can recognise it as Bhadra’s head. The second is the sanctum where the temple’s deity resides. The third one is the rajagopuram (main tower) which is located at Bhadra’s feet.

The temple has four entrances and there are 50 steps to be climbed to reach the main entrance. In 1974, a huge door named the Vaikuntha Dwaram was built to ensure proper management of the devotees. Right opposite to the sanctum sanctorum, there is a gold plated dwajasthambam (flag post). It is made of panchaloha and contains images of Garuda, the vehicle of Vishnu.

On the top of the sanctum, an eight-faced Sudarshana Chakra with a thousand corners was engraved by Gopanna, who found it in the waters of the Godavari. On the same tower, there is a small idol of the deity. The entrance for devotees vouching for special visit is towards the left of the sanctum while the regular visitors have to wait in a queue that leads straight into the garbhagriha. To the right of the sanctum, the utsava idols of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana are housed which are worshipped daily. (Source Wikipedia)