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Devoted they stand

Gouri Satya, Dec 4 2017, 22:29 IST
Idols of the royal family in a temple in Melukote. PHOTO BY AUTHOR

Idols of the royal family in a temple in Melukote. PHOTO BY AUTHOR

The Maharajas of Mysuru are known for their contribution to diverse fields. The welfare of their subjects was their priority. Apart from being benevolent, they and their queens were great devotees of gods and goddesses. They not only constructed new temples, but also restored and expanded the old ones.

Some of the rulers who contributed in this direction include: Raja Wadiyar, Kanthirava Narasaraja Wadiyar, Dodda Devaraja Wadiyar, Chikka Devaraja Wadiyar, Krishnaraja Wadiyar III, Chamaraja Wadiyar, Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV and Jayachamaraja Wadiyar.

Expressing their devotion

After conserving, expanding and making grants to the temples, the Maharajas stood before the deities as their humble devotees. The bhakta vigrahas (idols of devotion) found in the temples of Mysuru region demonstrate the devotion of the members of royal family.

One such bhakta vigraha is seen in the Lakshmiramana Swamy Temple in the Mysore Palace courtyard. An old temple, where Raja Wadiyar is standing with folded hands before Lakshmiramana, the chief deity of the temple. The sculpture is about two feet high. An inscription there states that Raja Wadiyar built the tower over the mahadwara, the outer gate of this temple.

Another bhakta vigraha of the same ruler is in the Narayanaswamy Temple in Melukote. This is a small figure of about one and a half feet high. The bas-relief statue is placed on a pillar in the navaranga of the temple. Raja Wadiyar is standing with folded hands with his name written at the base.

An ardent devotee of Narayanaswamy, he visited the temple regularly and presented the famous Rajamudi, a golden crown set with jewels to the deity. A similar statue of his is seen in the right of the prakara of the Prasanna Krishnaswamy Temple in Mysuru.

Kanthirava Narasaraja Wadiyar also stands life-like in the Narasimhaswamy Temple at Srirangapattana. His name is inscribed on the pedestal of this three-and-half-foot-high sculpture. He stands on a high pedestal with folded hands, wearing a long robe, with a sword, shield and dagger on the left side. He is also wearing large earrings and vira pendeya (hero's insignia) on the right foot. Kanthirava Narasaraja is depicted as a warrior-devotee here. The statue is in a room to the left of the ranga mantapa of the temple.

He was responsible for its expansion, including a lofty enclosure wall. He installed the image of Narasimha with nachayars and other deities. A similar statue of his is seen in a pavilion of the Trineswaraswamy Temple in the Mysore Palace.

Dodda Devaraja Wadiyar succeeded Kanthirava Narasaraja Wadiyar. He expanded the Trineswaraswamy Temple, adding a stone mantapa, a stone pillar and a seven-storeyed tower over the mahadwara, and placed the images of 25 Shaiva deities on the pavilion of the temple. He stands beside his predecessor at the pavilion of the temple. His name is inscribed below his statue.

Chikka Devaraja Wadiyar's bhakta vigraha is to be seen in the Para Vasudeva Temple in Gundlupet. His image is carved on a pillar in the temple that he built in honour of Para Vasudeva. He renovated the temple and added the images of Lord Para Vasudeva and Goddess Kamalavalli. He also gifted the images of the god with two goddesses, which were brought from Shivanasamudra, along with other gifts to the temple.

Krishnaraja Wadiyar III was a devoted and religious king. He restored and renovated temples, arranged for regular worship in them and made generous contributions towards them. To mark his and his wives' devotion, he installed their bhakta vigrahas in about half a dozen temples in Mysuru and other places.

In tandem with tradition

Krishnaraja's statue is seen in the Prasanna Krishnaswamy Temple close to the palace. In the larger statue, he is standing with his four wives, namely Chaluvajammanni, Devajammanni, Krishnajammanni and Muddu Krishnajammanni. In the smaller copper idols in the temple, he is standing with his three wives. The idols are placed in a cell on the right side of the navaranga.

At Chamundi Hills, there are statues of the Maharaja and his three queens, in a cell adjacent to the sanctum. Their names are engraved on the pedestals of the stone images. In Chamarajanagar, in a shrine within the enclosure of the Sri Chamarajeshwara Swamy Temple are statues of the king and his four queens. We can also see the statue of Prince Nanjaraja Bahadur alongside these statues. Their metallic figures are also placed in the temple but without the prince.

In Narayanaswamy Temple, Melukote, the wives' statues are placed beside the Maharaja, while his statue is placed in the centre, in a cell opposite the entrance towards the sanctum. His statue is also erected in a pilgrim centre in Nanjangud. The image is in a cell in the navaranga of the Nanjundeshwara Temple.

We find a statue of Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV erected in the Chennakeshava Temple at Belur. His successor Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wadiyar continued the restoration and renovation work of this temple.

An inscription in a cell near the kalyani reveals that the Panchaloha image was erected by Jayachamaraja Wadiyar after completing the renovations of the Chennakeshava Temple in Belur and the Hoysaleswara Temple in Halebidu. These statues stand as symbols of the devotion of the Mysore rulers and their queens to the deities in those temples.

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