Treasure trove of heritage
About 90 kilometres from Bangalore, a quaint little area of 9.5 sq km is home to around 10,000 households. Scenic hills stand guard around the town gracefully wearing nature’s green jewels. Hidden within the town is a treasure trove of cultural, folk and mythological heritage. Welcome to Mulbagal, a taluk located 30 kilometres away near Kolar, the district headquarters. The town is home to numerous eye-catching locales as well as shrines famous for their religious and historical importance. Traditionally, this highway temple town is a popular pit-stop for pilgrims passing by on their journey to Tirupathi.
Mulbagal has quite an interesting history and was well documented during the British reign. “The Gazetteer of Mysore”, compiled by B L Rice, reads thus: “Mulbagal is an important town, 18 miles east-north-east of Kolar, on the old Bangalore-Madras road by the Mugli pass. Head quarters of the Mulbagal Taluk and a Municipality. Pilgrims to Tirupati who pass through Mulbagal . . . go through the preliminary ceremony of purification by shaving their heads and bathing in a pond named Narasimha Tirtha.”
The age-old tradition of taking a dip in the sacred Pushkarani (temple pond or tank) that is located near the temple before having darshan of the deity is well-known and this particular pond, named Narasimha Thirtha, has been considered sacred since generations. The pond is located close to the National Highway just two kilometres from Mulbagal town. The famous Sripadaraja Mutt, the monastery of the 14th Century Madhva saint-poet who was the propounder of the Kannada Dasa Sahithya, is located beside the Narasimha Thirtha. The Mutt attracts droves of visitors who come to pay obeisance to the great saint.
Once the eastern most gateway to the erstwhile Mysore region, Mulbagal was originally and quite aptly named Moodala Bagilu (meaning eastern door in Kannada). Today, Mulbagal is famously home to the holy and historic Anjeneya temple that is said to be associated with the Ramayana and Mahabharatha. Historically, the temple was patronised during the Moghul period. The finance minister (Mushrif-I-Dewan) in the court of Moghul emperor Akbar, Raja Todar Mal (1582), is said to have rebuilt and renovated the Anjaneya temple of Mulbagal.
Regarded to be the Kshetra Pala (town’s protector), the deity of Anjaneya is housed in a huge temple complex located next to the town’s bus stand. Apart from the sanctum housing the ten-foot tall presiding deity, the temple complex has several small and big shrines dedicated to lord Srinivasa, goddess Padmavathi and Rama-Seetha-Lakshmana. The temple deities Srinivasa and Padmavathi are believed to have been worshipped by the sage Vashishta.
Mulbagal has also been an important pilgrimage site for the followers of the 12th Century Sufi saint Baba Hyder Vali who get to see the famous Dargah Shariff and mausoleum of the much revered Sufi saint who died in Mulbagal in the early 13th Century, in 1269.
Muslims and Hindus alike are known to visit this Dargah round the year. The grand Urs of Hazrat Baba Hyder Vali celebrated every year in June-July attracts visitors in thousands from all over. Another feather in Mulbagal’s cap is the distinction of being the birth place of the great poet, philosopher and journalist Padmabhushan Devanahalli Venkataramanaiah Gundappa (1887-1975) popularly known as DVG. DVG was renowned for his much acclaimed Kaggas —Mankuthimmana Kagga and Marula Thimmana Kagga — the lyrical and philosophical musings on folk wisdom, reflecting virtually every aspect of day-to-day life. As a testament to his greatness stands the D V Gundappa Primary School on DVG Road in Mulbagal town. Founded decades ago, this more-than-a-century-old village school functions from the memorial building which was DVG’s home in the late 1880s.
Mulbagal’s continuous tryst with history also includes coming under the rule of the great dynasties of Karnataka. It is said to be the second capital of the Vijayanagar dynasty. Many temples built by the rulers of Ganga, Nolamba, Cholas and Vijayanagar dynasties stand as proof. Incidentally, the Mulbagal Anjanadri hill fort was the site of the first Anglo-Mysore war between Hyder Ali and British in1768 when Hyder Ali captured the fort that was later recaptured by Joseph Smith of the British army. Also called Anjanadri parvatha, this historic hill is marked for its ancient Vittaleshwara and Subrahmanyeshwara temples.
The town is also close to the village Virupakshi, three kilometres away, that has the Virupaksha temple housing the sacred Shivalinga and Atmalinga. The temple’s presiding deity resembles the main deity of the Hampi Virupaksha temple. The Dravidian style Virupakshi temple is said to be built by Palegars (chieftains) Lakkanna and Madana of the Mulvayi region under Devaraja II of the Vijayanagar dynasty. Also, about 10 kilometres from Mulbagal, is Kurudumale which is known for its Ganesha temple that has many mythological legends associated with it. Kurudumale also has a Someshwara temple from the Chola period built by the historically well-known talented sculptors Dankanachari and Jakanachari who sculpted hundreds of idols and images of the famed Beluru and Halebeedu Hoysala temples.