Treasures of Tumakuru

Treasures of Tumakuru

My eyes rove my environs, all the way to the horizon. The crisp air has a nip of chill in it and wisps of cotton clouds float delicately over our heads as we stand in the Yoganarasimha temple complex atop the Devarayanadurga hill near Tumakuru.

Down below, small hamlets, gopuras of shrines, glistening lakes, a range of hillocks tapering into fertile plains and narrow water conduits crisscrossing through verdant fields stretch for endless miles before me. The fragrance of flowers offered to the deity in the sanctum waft across with the gentle breeze that caresses us in its embrace. The tranquillity of our surrounds is broken by snarling simians that threaten to decamp with eats that some picnickers visiting the temple have carried with them.

Visual feast
Devarayanadurga is a pilgrimage for the believers, an amazing treasure trove for art and history buffs, a hotspot for adventure-seekers, trekkers and picnickers, a visual feast for nature lovers and shutterbugs, and a way of life for thousands of locals. Rising to a height of 4,000 feet above sea level, the region, which has been the seat of several rulers, is nestled atop discontinuous chains of metamorphic granite hills that run in the north-south direction of the State, from Hosapete to Yelandur. It is a beautiful hill station in enchanting shades of green, surrounded by deciduous forests and dotted with several temples, most prominent among them being the shrines of Bhoganarasimha and Yoganarasimha, which are at different elevations.

Devarayanadurga was also called as  Aane Bidda Sari and Karigiri Kshetra. Aane Bidda Sari was a hilltop town on Devarayanadurga under the Hoysalas. According to legends, a rogue elephant, supposedly a gandharva, charged towards the precipice of the hill, slipped and fell to its death. Hence the names Karigiri and Aane Bidda Sari. These names were retained even during the reign of the Vijayanagar kings. A name change later, led to it being called Jadakana Durga, after a chief Jadaka. Its present name is attributed to the Mysore Maharaja Chikkadevaraja Wadiyar, who captured it in 1696 and built its fort and tower of the Narasimha Temple that exists to date.

Seven gates through 3 elevations with each of them having a shrine dedicated to Narasimha in various forms and the ancient temple of Sanjeevaraya, honouring Hanuman, take us to the top of the hill. Yet again, sacred springs — the Aane-done, Jaya Thirtha, Narasimha Thirtha, Parashara Thirtha and Pada Thirtha are located at different heights and attract devotees by the droves. The former 2 waterbodies form the source of the Mangali and Jaya streams, joining together to form the Irukasandra at the foothill. A large cave enshrining Rama, Lakshmana and Sita allures visitors at the mid elevation. At the topmost elevation is the east-facing shrine of Yoganarasimha. Adjoining the temple is the sacred pushkarani (pond), formed by the remaining 3 thirthas.

After paying our obeisance to the gods at various levels of the hill, we visit Namada Chilume and the deer sanctuary en route. We watch in fascination as herds of deer lazily chew on leaves and having mock fights with each other before proceeding to the spring. On the route stands a solitary nandi, sculpted in stone. In all honesty, I must say I was a trifle disappointed with Namada Chilume, which is a small circular water pit enclosed by metal railings. Considered sacred, it is a perennial spring that trickles from a rock.

Legend has it that when Rama visited the place and wanted a few droplets of water to wet the holy white clay to put on his forehead, he found the area completely parched. He immediately shot an arrow into the rock, thus creating the spring. Hence its name Namada Chilume.

Kaleidoscope of colours
The Devarayanadurga Sri Bhoganarasimha Swamy Jathre or annual Car Festival held in March-April, and Narasimha Jayanthi in May, turn the hill into a kaleidoscope of colours, drawing pilgrims in thousands.

After trekking the hills for a short stretch and relaxing in the cool confines of the surrounds of Namada Chilume, we take off to visit the humble abode of Ganesha at Guluru, a small temple in the midst of village houses. Our final place of visit on the trip is Kaidala, the nondescript village, close to Guluru and about 10 km from Tumakuru on Kunigal Road.

The hamlet remains uncelebrated and obscure despite the fact that it boasts of the twin temples of Chennakeshava and Gangadareshwara, built during the Hoysala period. However, the latter temple, we learn from the locals, remains open only once a week, on Monday.

Kridapura or Krida Nagara, as Kaidala was originally called, is the birth place of the great sculptor Jakanachari. He immortalised himself through his works, earning him the prefix Amarashilpi Jakanachari. He is credited with the creation of some of the finest carvings in the Hoysala monuments at Belur, Halebid and Somanathapura.

The sprawling Chennakeshava temple complex, an aesthetic blend of Hoysala, Dravidian and Vijayanagara styles of architecture, is circumscribed by a fort-like high wall, the entrance to which is defined by a towering 3-tiered gopura with exquisite carvings. The doorway, which leads to the courtyard, is flanked by pillars that portray sculpted relief works of deities, seers and dancing apsaras. While the right pillar reveals a figure of Chennakeshava, which is similar to the idol in the main sanctum, the left pillar features a tall figure in standing posture, hands folded, donning an upper cloth and dagger in hand.

While some surmise this figurine to be that of the celebrated sculptor Jakanachari, another school of thought credits the carving to be that of Gule Bachi, the chieftain of King Narasimha who sanctioned the temple construction.

The temple comprises the navaranga, which is supported by 4 eloquently carved black granite pillars, and the sanctum sanctorum with Chennakeshava as the presiding deity. The idol of Chennakeshava in monolithic black stone, unlike in most Hindu temples, is west-facing.

The 5½ feet tall image is flanked by the 2 beautiful images of Sridevi and Bhoodevi. A unique feature of the temple’s architecture is that on Makara Sankranthi day, the rays of the sun fall directly at the feet of the main deity. Legend has it that this was the last idol that Jakanachari chiselled, which he did so at the ripe age of 86 years!

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