Stories the river tells


Stories the river tells

 The Hanuman temple. Photos by the author

Far away from the concrete jungle, away from the noisy vehicles, resting cozily beside the Hemavathi river is a tiny village, Kalhalli, which houses the unique Bhoo Varahaswamy temple. This is one of the prominent places along the path of river Cauvery in Karnataka.

En route to Kalhalli, after taking a deviation from Pandavapura, we came across many beautiful villages like Aralukuppe, Hosa Kannambadi, Belenahalli and Gangikere. Kalhalli is about two kilometres from Gangikere. One has to hire a local vehicle from Gangikere or walk up to the temple as there are no buses plying till there. Belenahalli is a village with a major flower market. The flowers are grown locally and in the surrounding villages and then brought to the village market for trade. We could smell the fragrance even before we passed through the market. This market is a visual treat.  

The last few kilometers of our journey made up for a bumpy ride as the roads were not so good. As our vehicle rattled along, we spotted the river flowing gently just beside the road. The captivating river more than made up for the ride. All along the path, there were either banana plantations, flower beds or coconut fields. We were so engrossed in watching the beauty of the river, that we did not realise we had reached our destination.

The temple is dedicated to the third incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the Varahaswamy or the wild boar form.  The structure of the temple is a very simple one. It is a rectangular building built of big grey stone blocks.  It consists of two units, the garbhagudi (sanctum sanctorum) and the front hall. There are two huge wooden doors at the entrance.  Inside the sanctum sanctorum is the awe- inspiring idol of the deity.  

Tranquil beauty

The deity here is that of ‘Pralaya Varahaswamy’ in a sitting pose with Goddess Bhoodevi seated on the left lap of the Lord. This 18-foot-high idol is so beautiful and majestic that it commands respect and remains in the memory of the viewer for long. This tranquil beauty is a monolith. Made of grey stone, the horns of the deity are lighter in colour and the eyes have a red tinge.

Interesting history

This deity is said to be a very ancient one and more than 2,500 years old. Mythology has it that this region was a punyakshetra or a sacred place.

According to legend, King Veera Ballala got lost in these forests during one of his hunting trips. When he was resting under the shade of a huge tree, he saw a hunting dog chasing a rabbit. When they reached a particular spot, an extraordinary incident occurred. The rabbit, which was the meek one, turned back and started to chase the ferocious dog. Noticing this strange turn of events, the king was convinced of some unseen powers of that spot.

Thus he dug up the whole area and found the deity of Pralaya Varahaswamy hidden under layers of earth. The king then installed it in the temple and offered regular prayers. The temple that we see today is the remains of what the king had built. This temple has weathered severe floods and stood to tell the tale. Even today, right in front of the temple is the stone slab with Devanagari inscriptions on it, telling us the story of the place. The king had also granted the surrounding villages (2,500 acres) to the temple then for its sustenance.

Ancient ruins

This temple is open to theists and tourists from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm. Adjacent to this temple are the ruins of an ancient temple that was once dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi. This structure is smaller in size. Mythology has it that when the area was submerged in the backwaters of the Cauvery river and the gushing waters of Hemavathi river, she flung open the roof of the temple and escaped to another religious place Melkote which is nearby. The hole through which she is believed to have escaped is star shaped and the stone slab of the same shape and size has been found at Dodda Gadiganahalli, a nearby village. This stone has been matched to that of the ruins of the temple by the archaeologists. On the river bed are other ruins of the Hanuman temple.  This can be seen when the river water recedes.

River Hemavathi

The river Hemavathi. Photos by the author  Rivers have a great significance in India. Just beside the temple is the river Hemavathi flowing graciously.  During the monsoon, water level rises and reaches the temple wall. As the backwaters from the dam also gush in, the river here swells, submerging the adjoining areas. With the change of season, the water recedes. As a result of this annual process, a large amount of fine sand gets deposited and hence sand mining is a common activity here. We could see many lorries standing there to collect this sand and take them to the site of construction work elsewhere.

Other places of interest nearby are the Triveni Sangama, the Ranganatha Swamy temple (built like the one at Udupi) and the Venugopalaswamy temple at Hosa Kannambadi (still under construction as the ancient temple is being moved to a new and safe site).

Tucked away from anything that resembles modern civilisation is this serene and fertile place with an amazing history. We sat there in the hall, facing the deity, listening to the bustle of devotees and taking in the magnitude of everything. 

It was getting warmer, and when we finally got up to leave, we realised it was past noon and we had been sitting for more than an hour. 

We were glad we had been to a place with such a glorious past and a gripping history.  
To reach this place from Bangalore, take the Bangalore – Mysore highway, and then take the deviation from Pandavapura. After taking the right turn at Pandavapura, travel another 32 kms to reach this place.  Kalhalli is in KR Pet taluk of Mandya district.
It is is just about 24 kms from Mysore’s Krishna Raja Sagar Dam.

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