Kumbashi, the demon slayer

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Kumbashi, the demon slayer

Hidden in the mythical tale of the battle between Bhima and demon Kumbhasura is sage Agasthya’s effort towards providing relief to drought-hit people of the region. Today, Kumbashi is a traveller’s dream, writes Kushal V R.

An invitation to a family friend’s wedding in Udupi brought a wonderful opportunity for us to visit the famous Siddhi Vinayaka temple at Anegudde or Kumbashi. Known to be a Mukthi Sthala (place where one attains salvation) and one of the seven important pilgrimage centres in the coastal region of Karnataka, the place owes its name to a unique mythological story that dates back to the Mahabharatha.

Once, faced with recurring spells of drought in the region, the sage Agasthya decides to perform yagas and penance to please the gods and bring rain. But all his efforts were constantly ruined by a demon named Kumbhasura living in the vicinity. The sage is determined that the demon must be eliminated to bring peace and prosperity to the region. Having learnt that the Pandavas were roaming the region in exile, he requests Dharmaraya (Yudhisthira) to send Bhima for slaying the demon. Being the strongest amongst the Pandavas, Bhima readily agrees and a ferocious battle ensues.

Despite Bhima’s strength, he is unable to kill Kumbhasura, who, by the virtue of a boon, seems invincible. Worried with the prospect of defeat, Bhima, while returning to camp after the day’s fight, happens to hear a divine voice that advises him to invoke the blessings of Lord Ganesha for achieving victory. On praying to the Lord, Bhima is bestowed with a sword by him, in the guise of an elephant that helps Bhima slay the demon. The region thus derives its name from two words namely Kumbhasura, the demon and Asi (sword), the weapon used to slay him.

It is also said that as Lord Ganesha descended to earth in the guise of an elephant to bestow the sword, an elephant shaped rock is said to have appeared at this point, thus giving the place its other name, Ane­­gu­dde, meaning the hillock having an elephant shaped rock (ane meaning eleph­ant and gudde meaning hillock in Kannada).

Later forgotten with the passage of time, it was only about 300-400 years ago that a Brahmin named Upadhya discovered this place based on a dream and helped restore it to its former glory.

As the name suggests, the temple is situated atop a hillock and can be reached either by steps or by road. The temple itself is a very imposing and majestic structure with an ornate and well-built entrance. The architecture followed is similar to the coastal
temple architecture style with an outer periphery enclosing the sanctum sanctorum.
Some sources say that the face of the rock containing the trunk of the elephant is worshipped while the other rock faces are covered by walls. The idol of Lord Ganesha is encrusted in a silver casing and is said to be in the Chaturbhuja (four arms) posture with two arms indicating grant of boons (Varadha Hastha) and the remaining two indicating salvation. Having darshan and taking a scroll around, we happened to see a yaga mantapa and a dining hall built for the devotees to partake food. The temple premise is very calm and peaceful. Care has been taken to ensure the surroundings are kept clean.

Descending the hill via steps, one gets to see three more shrines namely Mahalingeshwara (Harihara), Suryanarayana and Aiyappa Swamy temples. The Mahalingeshwara temple is the first that catches the eye with a unique style of having been constructed inside a small kalyani (tank). One needs to descend to the temple to have a darshan of the Linga. A small well inside the temple also piques the curiosity of devotees who mistakenly attribute it to a wishing well and drop coins (it actually isn’t and a Kannada board warns the visitors of the same). Going back up, one gets to see small fish in the pond and a few lucky souls may even get a rare glimpse of a water snake wading through the water with its head bobbing up. The Aiyappa Swamy and the Suryanarayana temple are also located close by with the latter looking quite impressive in terms of its architecture.

How to get there

Anegudde or Kumbashi is about 10 kms from Kundapura and 30 kms from Udupi and is situated on the NH-17 (NH-66) between Udupi and Kundapura. Buses are regularly available from either Udupi or Kundapura and one can get down at the entrance where an option of either walking or hiring an auto to the temple is available. A majestic archway close to the highway helps in easy identification of the temple.

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