Celebrating a rich heritage

Celebrating a rich heritage

This is the oldest temple in Namma Bengaluru. It was  rebuilt in the 16th century but has a history that dates back many years before that. It is connected with the founder of the city,  Kempegowda. And most of all, this is where you will see a rare architectural marvel that happens every year on January 14, on the day of ‘Sankranthi’.

No prizes for guessing that we are talking about the Gavi Gangadhareshwara Temple
located in the heart of the city in Gavipuram adjacent to Basavanagudi.

Legend has it that the temple was carved out of a rock in the 9th century. Some people say it could be even as early as the 6th century but these dates are not confirmed. It is believed to have been inhabited by Rishi Gowthama, who took shelter in this cave to do penance. Hence it is even referred to as Gowthama Kshetra. Even today, the temple is within the cave and is a fine example of rock architecture. But what is documented is its history in the later years.

In the 16th century, Kempegowda the founder of Bengaluru, reconstructed the temple as a mark of respect to Lord Shiva after he was released from prison. He had been jailed by Rama Raya for five years and on his release he reconstructed this temple. Naturally the temple has a rock floor that has different levels and steps have been carved out to reach the sanctum santorum.
The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva in a monolithic stone form and also houses an idol of Agnimurthi or the Fire God that has two heads, seven hands and three legs and is known to help cure eye ailments. There is a long passage in the temple that has sculptures of Saptamatrikas -  Brahmani, Vaishnavi, Maheshwari, Kaumari, Varahi, Indrani and Chamunda. It is said that each of these Goddesses are associated with Shiva and are the female counterparts of the male gods. Hence they are decorated using similar ornaments. You will also see shrines of Lord Ganapati, Goddesses Sridevi, Bhudevi, Parvati and Durga here. The temple’s courtyard also houses several monolithic sculptures.

The unique distinguishing element of the temple, however, are the four monolithic pillars — two granite pillars that support the giant disk of the sun and moon and the other two which have a number of Nandi figures on the top. The left has the disc-shaped Surya Pana (Sun) and Lord Shiva’s trishul and the right has the disc of Chandra (Moon) and the damroo, a music instrument associated with Lord Shiva.

The significance of this architectural marvel can be seen on the day of ‘Makara Sankranthi’ when the first rays of sunlight pass through an arc between the horns of Nandi and fall directly on the Shivalinga inside the cave.

This illuminates the idol giving it a golden hue which is revered by devotees who throng the temple especially on this day to be able to see this rare phenomenon. This phenomenon is seen during sunset and occurs once a year and it is said that on this date the sun moves into Makara Raashi or Capricorn. The temple is a protected monument under the Karnataka Ancient and Historical Monuments, and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1961.

The other day the temple sees a lot of crowd is Shivaratri which is celebrated with much pomp and gaiety. The temple is a fine example of a past that merged spirituality with scientific acumen and is a must see for the same.

Did you know?

The Gavi Gangadhareshwara Temple is considered by many as a panacea for people with eye problems. It is believed that a devotee who looks at Lord Agni here will be cued of any eye diseases he or she may have.

It is believed that there is a tunnel that connects this temple all the way up to Varanasi. This has however been closed to stop people from exploring the same. It is said a second tunnel connects to the Shivagange hillock located about 10 kilometers away.

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