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Where Ugra Narasimha resides

Raam Baranidharan, Nov 5, 2013, DHNS:
MILD FORM The Ugra Narasimha Temple is steeped in legend. photo by author

On the banks of River Shimsha, is the non-descript town of Maddur. The etymology of Maddur dates back to the Mahabharatha when it was called Arjunapuri. Years later, when the sage Kadamba Rishi worshipped Lord Narasimha here, the town came to be called as Kadamba Kshetra.

Between the 16th and the 18th Centuries when this region was being governed by the Palegaras, it is said that gunpowder and explosives used for warfare were manufactured and stored here.

It was during this period that the town was christened with its current name Maddu-uru, maddu meaning gunpowder in Kannada.

There is also another version which says the town got its name from its presiding deity, Madduramma, who has a small temple inside the town.


In the quiet lanes of Maddur are a string of ancient temples like the Ugra Narasimha Swamy Temple, Varadaraja Swamy Temple and the Madduramma Temple that showcase its rich legacy.

The Ugra Narasimha Swamy Temple is a marvel etched in stone. As the story goes, during the Dwapara Yuga (the third of the four ages described in the scriptures of Hinduism) Pandava prince Arjuna requested Lord Krishna to display the ugra (angry) avatara (incarnation or form) of Lord Narasimha. As the ugra avatara was too powerful to be seen by the naked eye, Lord Brahma, at the behest of Lord Krishna, created a statue of Lord Narasimha in his ugra avatara.

This is the story behind the unique Narasimha Swamy statue that depicts Lord Narasimha with eight hands and three eyes.

Lord Narasimha is holding a shankha (conch) in one hand, a chakra (disc) in another, pasha and ankusha (instruments or weapons) in two other hands. The statue depicts the victory of good over evil where Lord Narasimha is slaying the asura (demon) Hiranya Kashyipu and wearing the asura’s gut as a garland. Flanking the statue of Lord Narasimha are statues of Garuda to the left and Bhakta Prahlada to the right.

Other beauties

There are several other beautiful idols inside the temple including one where Yashodha is feeding Bala Krishna. The temple also has statues of Sowmya Nayaki (Shreedevi), Narasimha Nayaki (Bhoodevi), Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Anjaneya. In another unique presentation, Anjaneya Swamy is seen covering his mouth with his hand as he bows in respect to Lord Rama.

Behind the Narasimha Swamy temple is the ancient temple of Varadaraja Swamy. The temple dates back to the reign of the Hoysalas.

The Hoysala ruler Vishnuvardhana was a disciple of Sri Ramanujacharya, the proponent of Vishishtadvaita philosophy, who advised that the king’s mother should offer prayers at the Varadaraja Swamy temple in Kanchipuram in order to regain her vision.

As his aged mother could not travel, King Vishnuvardhana ensured that sculptors from Kanchipuram came to Maddur and recreated the idol of Varadaja Swamy. It is said that the queen mother offered prayers to Varadaraja Swamy every day and on the 48th day her prayers were answered.

King Vishnuvardhana’s mother’s sight was restored this way. The 12 feet tall idol etched in black stone stands tall against the grey stone walls of the temple.

From its crunchy Maddur vadas to being named the tender coconut capital of India, the small town of Maddur has made a name for itself. The next time you stop over Maddur for some sumptuous vadas, do take a walk down the alleys of history.

Even when you leave the town, the stories from Maddur and its ancient temples will linger on.

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