Restoring a forgotten temple

Every year, many visit Kukke Subramanya Temple in Subramanya, Dakshina Kannada. However, few would be aware of Sri Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy Temple in Devarakana, 30 km away from Subramanya. The temple, located in serene surroundings, has some unique features.

As one drives along the sparsely used road to Devarakana, huge trees and greenery flank the way. The surroundings are quiet and slow-paced. The temple is situated on top of a hillock in Devarakana. Built in Kerala style, the attractive shrine has pyramidal tiled roofs on a two-tiered structure. As I approach the entrance, I am greeted by P R Bhat, who is actively involved in the restoration of the temple.

Walking around the temple courtyard, he explains the background of the temple and its unique attributes. Devarakana, which means a jungle dedicated to god, had an ancient temple centuries ago with  Lakshmi Narasimha as the chief deity. Over time, due to the lack of maintenance, regular worship and thick growth of trees and shrubs all around, the place was lost and forgotten. It was only a few years ago that the existence of this temple came to be known during an vedic astrological calculation.

Soon, the temple’s excavation began with the help of villagers and traces of a temple and a well were found. The finding of a panchaloha idol of Lakshmi Narasimha further accentuated the fact. From then on, local residents took upon themselves the onus of rebuilding the temple. As per the astrological inference, the method of building the shrine, the deity, and the rituals were specific. Unlike the usual temples where the images are made from stone, wood or metal, the image of Lakshmi Narasimha had to be done from kadusharkara, a paste made from 48 different materials including gold, silver, copper, herbs, sugar, ghee and camphor.

Another speciality of the idol is that it is   an embodiment of the human form in its entirety with skeleton, tissues and muscles built into it. The procedure goes like this: Initially, a wooden body frame is sculpted and placed in the sanctum.

Thereafter, the paste is applied to complete the outer form of the body. This method of making idols is both rare and expensive, and the sculptors who can do that are even more so.  One such rare artisan, Pradeepan Nambiar, was entrusted the task. Simultaneously, the sanctum, the shrines for Ganapathy and Shoolini Durge were built from red laterite stone without using cement or mortar. The well was also restored and the courtyard was embellished with artistic wood work and stone designs. The wooden lions and the intricate ceiling designs depict the finesse of the craftsmen.

The idol of Lakshmi Narasimha is depicted in the ugra swaroopa with the chakra in prahara mudra.The idols of Garuda and Hanuman are also built in the same way and they flank the deity in the sanctum. Puja is performed once a day at 12 noon.

Getting there

From Subramanya, drive 28 km on the Manjeshwar-Subramanya Road until you come to a junction at Ninthikal. At this junction, take a right towards Murulya  village and go straight for 2.5 km. This will lead you to the Devarakana temple. The temple is easily connected by road. There are frequent buses that go to Ninthikal. From here, one can hire autos to reach the temple.

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