At the summit of faith

Temple history

Kodagu’s Paadi Igguthappa temple became a prominent place of worship during King Lingarajendra’s reign. The temple, located atop a hill in a forested area in Kakkabe, has been in existence since 1153, writes C P Belliappa

KODAGU'S PRESIDING DEITY The temple of Igguthappa at Kakkabe in Kodagu. Photo by the authorGoddess Cauvery and Lord Paadi Igguthappa are the two presiding deities of Kodagu. If legends are to be believed, Igguthappa temple located atop a hill in a forested area in Kakkabe, in the southern part of Kodagu, has been in existence since 1153 AD. Legend also has it that Igguthappa is one of the seven divine siblings who chose Kodagu as his abode.

The temple became a prominent place of worship during Lingarajendra’s reign. Legend has it that in 1811, Lingarajendra came to the densely forested area surrounding the temple to hunt for elephants. Lingarajendra’s main source of income, besides taxes collected from his subjects, used to be cardamom and ivory. Every pod of cardamom grown and every tusk extracted from an elephant had to be surrendered to the raja at a price fixed by him!  

Lingarajendra was camping at the nearby Nalknad palace and had instructed his dewan Apparanda Bopu to organise the hunt. Dewan Bopu arranged for machaans to be built on trees and had hunting dogs and drum-beaters to herd the elephants. On the appointed day Lingarajendra and Bopu sat on a machaan armed with powerful guns especially designed to shoot elephants.

In spite of all the drum-beating and dogs barking, not a single elephant was to be seen. The raja started getting restless and directed his ire at Bopu. Lingarajendra’s nasty temper was well-known and Dewan Bopu who was a devotee of Igguthappa started silently praying for some divine intervention. Suddenly a huge pachyderm with mammoth tusks appeared silently from the nearby bushes.

The elephant looked up at the machaan where Lingarajendra and Bopu were seated and started scratching itself on the tree trunk. The raja and dewan froze and were too petrified to shoot the beast. The action of the elephant shook the large tree so violently that they were about to fall off from their perch.  This time around, Dewan Bopu prayed loudly to Lord Igguthappa to save him and the raja. Lingarajendra too joined Bopu in prayer. Suddenly the behemoth stopped, once again looked up, and gently sauntered away into the forest.  

Lingarajendra, a Lingayat, was a worshipper of Shiva and had not visited Igguthappa temple which was dedicated to Vishnu. He made an exception and asked Bopu to immediately take him to the temple. It was a modest shrine. The head-priest welcomed the raja and advised him to perform various poojas including tulabhara (donation of grains equivalent to the weight of the devotee), to thank Igguthappa for saving his life.

After all these rituals, Lingarajendra asked the priest if he could do anything for the temple. The priest was quick to request for a punarnirmana (renovation) of the temple.

Lingarajendra immediately agreed and the temple was renovated and the approach improved. He also made grants of wet-lands in the vicinity, the income from which continues to be used for the upkeep of the temple. When the reconstruction was completed, he visited the temple again. At the temple, he had a sack full of silver coins brought. Lingarajendra dipped both his hands and scooped out three heaps of silver coins. He then ordered Dewan Bopu, who was present, to get an idol of an elephant made out of the coins. The coins weighed about three kilograms.

Silver elephant

The best silver-smiths from Mangalore were commissioned to craft an idol of an elephant. On the back of the idol is inscribed in halagannada (old Kannada), the year in which it was dedicated to Igguthappa for favours granted to Lingarajendra. This exquisite silver elephant is used daily in the poojas performed at the temple.
 
In 1835, the year after Lingarajendra’s son Chikka Veerarajendra was deposed by the British, Dewan Apparanda Bopu took it on himself to renovate the temple. The structure was reconstructed and was fitted with tiles replacing the earlier thatched roof. The temple once again went through reconstruction in 2008. Descendants of Apparanda Bopu along with other devotees have provided silver cladding for the entrance door. 
 
Paadi Igguthappa is an important deity for the people of Kodagu. He is considered a provider of bounty and one who fulfills his devotee’s wishes. Iggu means grain and thappa means give.

Puthari, the harvest festival in Kodagu, is normally celebrated 90 days after Onam. Every year, paddy is first harvested in fields belonging to Lord Igguthappa. People of Kodagu celebrate the festival the following day. On a daily basis, those who visit the temple are served a simple but scrumptious lunch.

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