A rare manifestation

A rare manifestation

A rare manifestation

A rare shrine is located in a small hamlet called Gavi Rangapura, about 28 km from Hosadurga town in Chitradurga district. Known popularly as Gavi Ranganatha Swamy, Lord Vishnu manifests himself here in the kurmavatara (tortoise) form inside a cave. Gavi translates to cave in Kannada and hence the name of the temple.

The temple complex has been built on a small hill at 4 levels. There are 2 ways to reach the main shrine located at the topmost level. A motorable road goes up the hill till the highest level of the temple complex. There are also granite steps going up from the road level. A large bronze idol of Garuda greets us at the entrance. The rajagopuram is covered with decorative motifs and statuettes all around. At the topmost level, a few steps lead us to the mukhamantapa. On both sides of the steps stand large statues of 2 kneeling elephants. On the wall of the mantapa, there is a large coloured painting depicting the scene of samudra manthan.

The garbha-griha is actually a cave on the hillside. The beautiful idol of Lord Vishnu in the form of a giant tortoise is on the floor, at the centre of the cave. The idol is believed to be an udbhava murthy (self-generated) with all the features of a tortoise. Silver eyes have been fixed on the eye sockets. Lord Vishnu’s signature naama is placed on the forehead, and a silver conch and chakra are kept on the left and the right.

The idol is always covered with garlands of marigold, jasmine, chrysanthemum and tulsi leaves. After the arti is performed, curd is given to the devotees as theertha. The interesting legend behind the shrine is worth reminiscing here. As per Vishnu Purana, Kurmavatara happened during the samudra manthan. It is said that this act was carried out with 2 purposes – to beget amrut or the nectar of immortality, and to bring back Goddess Mahalakshmi from the ocean’s depths. During the churning, Mandara Parvata, which was used as the churning rod, started sinking into the ocean, and Lord Vishnu incarnated as Kurma to lift it up and help the devas and asuras to continue with their task.

At the lower level of the temple complex, there is a separate shrine dedicated to Goddess Udbhava Lakshmi, the consort of Ranganatha Swamy. This temple has a small vimana in golden colour with many decorative statuettes. There are also smaller shrines of Anjaneya Swamy, Lord Ganesha and Anantha Padmanabha Swamy at different levels on the same hill.

Gavi Ranganatha Swamy’s shrine is one of the 3 such rare shrines in the country, where the idols are in the tortoise form. The other 2 are in Andhra Pradesh — Sri Kurma Varadaraja Swamy Temple in Chittoor district and Sri Kurmanatha Swamy temple in Srikakulam district.

The major festivals celebrated at Gavi Rangapura are the Rathotsava and Kalyanotsava, and are attended by thousands of devotees.