Temple of tales

Travel Tales

The abode of Ambegalu Navaneetha Krishna is situated at Dodda Mallur, a small hamlet, about 68 km from Bengaluru, off the Bengaluru-Mysuru Highway. The tall rajagopuram of this shrine is clearly visible from the highway, about two km beyond Channapatna. We pass through a well-sculpted and beautifully decorated archway by the roadside to reach the temple complex comprising the main shrine of Lord Aprameya, Aravindavalli (Mahalakshmi) and the popular, crawling baby Krishna.

The shrine is towering and the majestic rajagopuram greets us at the entrance. This magnificent structure built in the Dravidian architectural style is embedded with statuettes of Lord Vishnu in different manifestations of his dasavatara. The main entrance, or mahadwara, is 30 feet high, and as we enter, we see a small statuette of Mahishasura Mardini on our left and Lord Ganesha on the right. A tall monolithic dhwajasthambha is placed just in front of the doorway.

Facing the rajagopuram, a few metres away, is the four-pillared Purandaradasa mantapa, made from stone, with beautiful carvings all around, a tribute to the renowned Kannada classical music lyricist and composer. It is believed that Purandaradasa was inspired to compose and sing his famous kriti Jagadodharana Adisidalu Yashoda at this shrine.

Once inside the parikrama (enclosed compound), there is the moola murthy (main deity) Lord Vishnu in the form of Sri Aprameya. The tall, magnificent idol is made of saligrama stone, and is said to be around 1,500 years old. The lord is in the abhaya hasta vishvaroopa posture, holding the conch, chakra, mace and a lotus in his hands.

Just outside this sanctum is the Shukanasika mantapam made of sandalwood, which houses Lord Aprameya’s utsava murthy. This is a replica of the main idol, crafted out of metal and is extremely beautiful. Utsava murthy is accompanied by his divine consorts Sridevi and Bhoodevi on either sides.

As we walk through the parikrama towards the left of the main sanctum, we reach the small shrine of Goddess Mahalakshmi, known here as Aravindavalli, due to the belief that she was born in a lotus flower in Vishnu theertha. The idol of Chaturbhuja Devi is seated in padmasana posture on a lotus.

We continue our pradakshina and reach the North Western corner of the parikrama. Here, we can see Ambegalu Navaneetha Krishna. Ambegalu means crawling on all fours. The adorable child Krishna is in a crawling posture, atop a flat Garuda Peedham. This is believed to be one of the very rare Krishna shrines where he is in the form of a toddler. The beautiful idol is made of shiny black stone and is believed to have been installed by Veda Vyasa himself.

The baby is holding a ball of butter (navaneetha) in his right hand, and appears to be moving towards us. It is known that couples offer silver and wooden cradles at this shrine to be blessed with children. Janmashtami is the most important festival at this shrine, when thousands of devotees throng to worship and seek Navaneetha Krishna’s blessings.

The Dodda Mallur shrine is also known as Dakshina Ayodhya, based on a legend that Lord Rama had stayed here for a while during his exile. According to the annals of history, this temple complex was built in the 4th century by Chola emperor Rajendra, around the original sanctums where the idols already existed. It is surprising to learn that the whole temple complex is built on sand and does not have any solid base or foundation. Legend has it that great sages like Kapila and Kanva stayed here and worshipped Lord Aprameya in various yugas.

There is an interesting legend about the origin of the name Mallur. Many years ago, a king known as Sarangadhara had his hands cut off in a war by his enemies and was thrown into the Nirmala river, (now known as Kanva river) flowing nearby. In spite of severe pain and weakness, he managed to reach this temple and worshipped the Lord with all his heart.

Pleased with his devotion, the Lord blessed him, and the king got back his hands. Based on the word, mulaithu. meaning ‘grew back’, the place seems to have got its name Mulaithur, which was later shortened by usage to Mallur.

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