A quaint temple on a hilltop

A quaint temple on a hilltop

Kundapura in Udupi district is a strategically located town surrounded by many temples of historical importance. Just less than 10 km from here lies the hamlet of Kumbhasi, and on a hillock called Anegudde is a prominent Ganesha temple. We chose to go up the hillock in a vehicle, although many devotees chose to use the stairway to reach the premises. The greenery around indicates the remnants of a forest. In the past, the region was filled with elephants and hence the name, Anegudde.

As it is the auspicious month of Karthika, many people thronged to the temple, and security personnel were stationed all over to guide the visitors. From the parking lot, we head towards the entrance to pay our obeisance to the presiding deity, worshipped as Siddhi Vinayaka or the Sarva Siddhi Pradayaka - fulfiller of boons.  

The conjoined peepal and neem trees cast their shade at the entrance. The temple is quaint looking with a small gopuram visible from the entrance and it bears sculptures of Vinayaka in various forms. The temple has two main sections: the pillared and stucco walled structure housing the altar and an adjoining hall. The pillars painted in sandal and yellow colours bear simple floral motifs. Elephants holding lotus adorn the corners of the roof. The spacious hall comprises a dining area where daily annaprasadam is offered.

A few steps ahead take us to the threshold of the main entrance and from here, the tall, monolith idol in a standing posture is visible. Resembling an elephant more than the usual Ganesha, the idol is chaturbhuja (four-armed): two in a mudra to bestow blessings while the other two pointing downward, indicating salvation at his feet. I am arrested by the gold and silver kavacha, which gives the idol a majestic look.  

The belief is that the idol is a swayambhu vigraha (self-manifested one) and is said to be from the Mahabharata period. As I make the customary pradakshina, I come to see that the temple has seen many modifications in the past few decades. The
mythology is depicted on the walls of the inner praakara in blue-grey coloured embossed pictures in stucco style, with a brief caption written in Kannada.  

Mythology & local lore

As the story goes, sage Agasthya took upon himself to perform a yagna to appease the rain gods and save the region from a severe drought. However, the demon Kumbhasura posed many hurdles to the rituals, causing havoc. The sage sought the help of the Pandavas who were in exile and were in the region at that time. Bhima, who was assigned the duty, prayed to god Ganesha to bestow powers to slay the demon. Ganesha appeared in the form of an elephant and gave Bhima a sword to fulfil the task.

A fierce battle ensued, and eventually, Bhima killed Kumbhasura. The yagna completed without further hindrance and the area was blessed with rains, sustaining life. After this incident, the village took the name Kumbhasi and Ganesha became the chief deity of the area. Signifying the event, Parashurama is said to have developed the shrine and declared it as one among the mukti sthalas, a place of salvation.  

According to a local story, millennia later Vishweshwara Upadhyaya, an ardent devotee of Ganesha, was guided in his dream about the existence of the shrine. On another occasion, he saw a cow showering milk on a stone covered with wildflowers and creepers. Upon excavation, he found the vigraha and realising the significance, he began performing pujas regularly. It is said the tradition continued since then.

Ganesh Chaturthi and Sankashta Chaturthi are the main events that are celebrated here. An annual grand rathotsava (car festival) takes place in the month of December. Devotees often perform the tulabharam seva to the lord.

The spiritual power around the temple is palpable. It is no wonder that devotees come here seeking boons from the generous elephant god.

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