Confluence of art, lore and sanctitude

Confluence of art, lore and sanctitude

Kateel, located at about 30 km  from Mangaluru, is a popular pilgrimage centre in Dakshina Kannada district. The place is well known for the shrine of Durga Parameshwari, which is located here. It is unique in the sense that the shrine is on an islet, on the riverbed, in the middle of River Nandini, and connected to the mainland by a small walkway bridge.

There are two beautiful arches decorated with statuettes and designs at the entrance to the bridge. A large statue of the river goddess Nandini Devi stands next to the doorway, holding a pot of water.

Inside the complex, there is a large mantapa, an antarala and the garbhagriha. The garbhagriha is built in Kerala style, with sloping roofs. Six layers of series of small oil-wick lamps are placed on the walls. A beautiful gold plated idol of Goddess Durga in a standing posture is placed in the main garbhagriha. The deity is adorned with gold and diamond garlands, and a crown.

There are two other smaller garbhagrihas nearby, one for   Goddess Sri  Devi's udbhava linga  and idol, and another for Lord Ganesha. The utsavamurthy, also grandly decorated and studded with gems, is kept near the chamber of the main idol. In front of the garbhagriha stands a dhwajasthambha (flag mast) overlaid with silver.

Tales of yore

The legend of the origin of this shrine is quite interesting. Long ago, the earth was caught in the grip of an unprecedented drought. At this point in time, Sage Jabali, who was in deep penance in a cave near Kateel, woke up and was shocked to see the devastation around him. The sage resolved to eradicate the drought by holding a yajna.

But the yajna required things which were not available because of the drought. So he ascended to heaven using his yogic powers and requested Indra to spare the divine cow Kamadhenu to provide the materials needed for the yajna. Indra told him that since Kamadhenu had gone to Varunaloka for a yajna, he can send her daughter Nandini if she is agreeable. Sage Jabali pleaded with Nandini to come down to earth to save the people, but she did not agree because evil was predominant here. The sage was angered and cursed Nandini to be born as a river on earth. When she repented and asked forgiveness, Jabali could not take back the curse, but asked her to go down to Kannakachala on earth and undertake penance, meditating on Shakti.

After rigorous penance, finally,   Goddess Sridevi appeared before her and told her that as per the curse, she had to first flow as a river on earth from the foot of the Kanaka mountain. She had to fertilise the drought-stricken earth and remove the hardships of people. Nandini carried out the orders and one day Devi appeared in the form of a linga in the middle of the river and gave her redemption from the curse.

The second legend is about Goddess Sridevi slaying the vicious demon Arunasura, who wanted to establish a demon kingdom. The Goddess assumed the form of Kali and killed the demon's soldiers. When Arunasura himself came to fight, she disappeared into a rock. The asura stabbed the rock angrily.

Soon, thousands of bees swarmed out of the rock and attacked Arunasura. Sridevi also took the form of Bhramarambika, a giant bee, and slew the demon by piercing his chest with the sting.   Sage Jabali helped Sridevi calm down, and regain her normal form.

On his request, she agreed to stay in the middle of the river as a swayabhu linga. A shrine was constructed over the linga later for Durga Parameshwari, and the idol was placed behind it. Even today, The main offering to the goddess here is tender coconut, as it helped her calm down.

Besides the legends, this temple is known for the Sri Kateel Yakshagana mela, a Yakshagana troupe associated with it. The troupe's performances are so popular that it is booked for another 10 years. The devotees arrange performances if their desires are attained, as an act of gratitude and completing a vow.

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