Monday 31 December 2012

The name of the ancient town that Aurangzeb could never change

This place today is a pale shadow of its once glorious past. Its reference point is from the times of Ramayana. It then again found mention in the Mahabharata.
Apart from the epics, this place is closely connected with the first Indian empire-the Mauryas. The Mauryan Emperor, Ashoka, arguably the greatest Emperor of India, married the daughter of a banker here.
Kalidasa’s Meghadoot has immortalised this town which is the tri junction of three rivers. It also has the remains of  India's only votive pillars with palm-leaf capitals-the Heliodorus pillar, also known as Khamba Baba.
It also features prominently in the Brahmin, Jain and Buddhist texts. This is also the town that the last great Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb (1658-1707) wanted desperately to name after himself. Try as much he did, he failed to get the name changed.
Today that town still retains its old name of Videsha. However its old glory is gone forever and it is a small city with a magnificent past. The three rivers of  Betwa,Bes and Choprel flow quietly, oblivious of the crowd. These three rivers form the boundary of the ancient town of Besnagar.     
The first reference to Videsha in the Ramayana of Valmiki. He says that Shatrughna's son, Shatrughati, was placed in charge of Vidisha.
During the Mahabharata period, this place was called Bhadravati and it was the residence of Yuvanashva who supplied the famous horse to Yudhishthira during his Ashvamedha sacrifice
Three kilometres from Videsha is another old city with a past. This is Besnagar, which is also identified closely with ancient Vidisha. Besnagar is on the banks of the Betwa.
The name Besnagar dates back to pre-Christian ages. It figures prominently in Buddhist, Jain and Brahmanical literature under various names such as Vessanagar and Vaisyanagar.
Legend connects Besnagar or Vessanagar with Raja Rukmangada who neglected his own wife for the sake of the Apsara, Visva Mohini. He also named a town after her and called it Vishvanagar.
It was sometime in the 7th century AD that Besnagar was destroyed. This town was on the west of the Betwa. However, another town arose but on the eastern side of Betwa located on the western side of the river Betwa and it came to be called Bhailaswamin or Bhillaswamin, which later came to be corrupted as Bhilsa or Bhelsa.
The name Bhelsa can be traced to the temple of the Sun God which was built here.
When Ashoka was still a prince aged 18, his father the Emperor Bindusara, who was ruling from Pataliputra, appointed him as Viceroy of Ujjain.
Ashoka left Pataliputra for Ujjain, Enroute he halted at Besnagar. Here, he met Vidisha Devi, the daughter of a banker. Though she belonged to the Sakya clan, Ashoka had no qualms about marrying her as she is believed to have nursed him when he fell sick.
Devi was Ashoka's first wife She gave birth to twins-a son Mahendra and daughter Sanghmitra. After the Kalinga war, she moved away from Ashoka, appaled by the scale of the killing.  
Both the children spent a lot of time at Besnagar. When Ashoka became the Emperor of India, both Mahendra and Sangamitra went to Ceylon as their father's religious ambassadors.
They carried a twig of the original Bodhi tree to Ceylon. They also led the first Buddhist Mission to Ceylon. On her part, Devi never visited Patliputra. She stayed on at Besnagar only and embraced Buddhism afterwards.
A monastery type building has been excavated near the magnificent stupa at Sanchi. This was Devi’s residence and there are strong historical evidence to prove that  Ashoka built her the structure.
Sanchi is just 8 kms from Besnagar. Before Mahendra and Sangamirtra set sail for Ceylon, they came to see their mother at Besnagar. Devi then took both of them to Chaitya Giri or the place where the Sanchi Stupa was constructed.
After the Mauryas, the Sungas, the Kanvas, the Nagas, the Vakatakas, the Guptas, the Kalchuris of Mahishmati the Parmars, and even the Western Chalukyas ruled over Vidisha. Artifacts of these dynasties have been found in and around Vidisha.
Under the Guptas, Besnagar-Vidisha was a flourishing city. The Udayagiri caves are a testimony to the Gupta presence here. The caves contain many Gupta idols and carvings and are worth a visit.
Later, this region remained under the control of the Mughals. Aurangzeb tried to rename the City as Alamgiri Nagar after himself, but without success.
He destroyed the Brijmandal temple and built a mosque from the materials of the Hindu temple in 1682. He called it Alamgir mosque. Yet, the name of Alamgiri Nagar never took off and even then preferred to call it Vidisha.
After the Mughals, it was the turn of the Marathas and Peshwas to lord over the area. Thereafter, it became a part of the Scindia's Gwalior State and was a tehsil of  the Isagarh Pargana.
In 1904, Vidisha became a district having the two Tehsils of Vidisha and Basoda till the formation of Madhya Bharat in 1948. In 1949, Vidisha was enlarged in area with the merger of small states of Kurwai. The Sironj sub-division which was formerly in Kota district of Rajasthan and the small paragana of  Piklone belonging to the Bhopal State were added to the district when Madhya Pradesh took birth.
Even today, the antiquity of the  plateau of Vidisha vividly reflects its grandeur in the form of Besnagar, Gyaraspur, Udaypur, Udaygiri, Badoh-Pathari and other smaller villages and towns. There is too much of history to chronicle here and too many ruins to name.  
Vidisha is 56 kms from Bhopal the capital of Madhya Pradesh. The Udayagiri caves belonging to the Gupta caves are nearby.
Vidisha is well connected by roads. It is one the Mumbai-Delhi and Delhi-Chennai rail line.

Yukti Mallika- An argument in poetry

Yukti Mallika  can be called the magnum opus of Vadiraja Theertha along with Rukminisa Vijaya. These two are the most commonly read works of Vadiraja Theertha.  
In the Mallika, Vadiraja analyses threadbare different philosophical systems and comes to the conclusion that the Madhwa Siddantha or the Dwaitha is the best.
He is at his dispassionate and rational best, drawing upon the works of other systems but finally refuting all of them, including the Brahma Sutra Bhashya in favour of Madhwa Dwaitha.
The Mallika has five chapters which are labeled as Sourabhas. They are Guna Sourabha, Shuddhi Sourabha, Bheda Sourabha, Sadhana Sourabha and Phala Sourabha.
It has 5379 slokas.
The Guna Sourabha and Shuddhi Sourabha deals with Madhwa’s theism and the concept of Brahman. The Bheda Sourabha says Jeeva and Brahman cannot be one and the same or identical. They both are different and exists on different levels.
The fourth chapter- Sadhana Sourabha- says the cosmos is real and it refutes the theory of Maya. The Phala Sourabha is about Madhwacharya’s exposition of the Brahmasutras and the Acharya’s interpretation.
Vadiraja Theertha refers to Madhwacharya several times in the Mallika and professes his admiration to him. The views of Shankarachararya in his Bhashya and Anandabhoda and Sriharsha and the Tatwadipana are referred to here and scholastically refuted.
When he comes to the stand of Madhwacharya and his siddantha, Vadiraja communicates directly with the reader superbly using his wit and dry humour to back the Dwaitha point of view.
In a way, we can say that Vadiraja has carried forward the Madhwa Siddantha to a newer level, giving a fresh look and interpretation. He gives us a detailed explanation of  many of Madhwa’s position on dualism and the concept of Bheda.
The last chapter is important for Dwaithas as it traverses the topic of Moksha. The avatar of Madhwacharya as Vayu are also touched upon as is the practice of Mudra Dharane.
The Mallika is unique as it is the first independent work to rationally examine different streams of philosophy. Why Vadiraja Theertha chose this topic when Madhwas already had Nyayamruta of Vyasa Theertha is a puzzle.  Perhaps, he wanted to demolish the opponents of Dwaitha once for all.
However, a closer look at the Mallika would show us that Vadiraja was influenced by the Nyayamruta and the Chandraika by Vyasa Theertha. But what sets this text aside from others of its ilk is its simplicity and new analogies and metaphors and the common sense approach to philosophy.
This can be seen in his interpretation of Tat Twam Asi (It means thou are that or self-this concept first was in Chandogya Upanishat) and Neha Nanasti (concept of distinction). He cleverly uses the opening lines of the Aitreya Brahamana-a collection of ancient sacred hyms in the Rig Veda-to uphold the Taratamya of Gods and also establish the supremacy of  Vishnu.     
It has some excellent analogies drawn from nature and life illustrating the difference between the fininte and the infinite.
It is here for the first time that Vadiraja Theerta refers to Madhwa Siddantha as Tatwavada.
Pareeca tatwaadee asmin gariyasti bharoo mama”  
“Argues in poetry", says Prof. B.N.K. Sharma, the Dwaitha scholar, about the Mallika. One of the first commentaries on the text is by  Surottama Teertha, the pointiff of Bhandarkeri Mutt, and the purvashrama younger brother Vadiraja Theertha himself.
The Uttaradhi Matha pontiff, Satya Pramoda Theertha, has also written a commentary on this work. He gave a beautiful discourse on the subject when he sat in Sode for the Chaturmas several years ago.

Where people swore before a god not to lie with a Judge watching

If you want to depose in a court of law as a witness in India you have to take oath or swear on the Bhagavath Geetha. The oath says that you tell the court the truth and nothing but the truth. This is the practice followed in almost all courts in all the states of India.
This practice of swearing or taking oath by placing one’s hand on a holy book emanated from the British and it has continued till date.
But did you that till 1950, swearing to tell the truth could also be done before a God and that God was Narasimha.
People who went to a court in and around Saligrama in Udupi were permitted to swear that they would tell the truth if front of the Narasimha idol.
If the person so desired to take the oath before the Lord, the Judge himself would come down from the court to the temple of  Srimad Yogananda Guru Narasimha in Saligrama where the person would take his oath top tell the truth.
However, swearing to tell the trust was not a mere formality. There was an elaborate ritual that would have to be followed. Such a person would have to first take bath in the both the Kalyanis or temple tanks.
The Narasimha in this temple is the chief deity of Saligrama. As such, people believed that they would suffer if they told a lie before Narasimha. Such was the fear of Narasimha’s anger that people rarely swore wrongly before him.        
Once the person completed taking bathe in both the tanks, he would come into the temple from the door at the side, wearing the wet clothes.
He would then be asked to ring the two pramana bells hung near the main entrance. He would then be asked to come up to the front of the sanctum and then light six lamps. Once this was done, he would be permitted to take oath. After this, he would be asked to blow out the lights from the six lamps he had himself lit.
This entire procedure would be repeated two more times. In all, the person would follow this unique ritual thrice.   
This practice continued in the temple till the 1950s after which it was discontinued.
According to the Padma Purana, the idol of Guru Narasimha in Saligrama appeared at the bottom of a pipal tree holding Shanka (conch) and Chakra (disc) in its hands. Narada then installed the idol here.
Another legend relating to the deity is about Lokaditya, the son of Mayura Varma of the Kadambas who came here along with his Army and a group of Brahmins led by a person called  Bhattacharya.
The Brahmins performed mahayagas like Poundra and  Atiratra at the request of  Lokaditya. The Brahmins invoked the blessings of Maha Ganapati at the start of the yagnas.
Ganapathi then appeared in the dreams of Bhattacharya with 10 hands and told him to re-install the idol of Lord Yogananda Narasimha. He also told Bhattacharya that from, henceforth, Narasimha himself will be the Guru and god for the Brahmins of the 14 villages surrounding the temple in Saligrama.
To this day, the Brahmins of these 14 villages, known as Kota Brahmins treat and follow Narasimha as their sole Guru. Though they are all Brahmins, they do not owe allegiance to any of the mathas.
The idol of Narasimha is made of the Saligrama. It is seated in a yogic posture on a Mahaganapati yantra. There is another story for this. Bhattacharya witnessed lions and elephants living on harmony here. He, therefore, called this place as Nirvairya sthala- meaning the place of no enemity.
The idol faces west and the two tanks are located on either sides of its hands namely, the Shanka Teertha and the Chakra Theertha.
There is a small crack in the top of the idol. According to the priest, the idol was initially facing east. Because of the Ugra nature of Narasimha, the crops which fell under the gaze (of the eyesight) of the idol were burnt to ashes.
An angry Brahmin once struck the idol with a plough and crack appeared there. Subsequently, an idol of Anjaneya was put up outside the temple directly looking at  the eye level of Guru Narsimha.
The Anjaneya idol was installed there to reduce the Ugra nature of Narasimha and stop the burning of crops.
There is an idol of  Durga Parameshwari next to Guru Narasimha and exactly opposite Maha Ganapathi.
Saligrama is 23 kms north of Udupi. There are direct buses from Udupi and Mangalore, 

Sunday 30 December 2012

The horse that inspired a stuti

Vadiraja Theertha was a frequent traveler. The most famous disciple of  Vyasa Theertha, he often visited Hampi or Vijayanagar.
When in Hampi, Vadiraja Theertha, Vyasa Raja. Purandara Dasa and Kanaka Dasa gathered either at the ashrama of Vyasa Raja or the University of Vijayanagar of which Vyasa Raja was the Chancellor. They all discussed Madhwa Siddantha and many a times Purandara needed just a gesture from Vyasa Raja to start composing extempore one of his innumerable Devaranamas.
Vadiraja visited almost all the pilgrim places in India and wrote about it in a book called Theertha Prabhanda.
Once Vadiraja visited Pandrapur which was under the rule of the Adil Shahi Kings of Bijapur. This visit was sometime in the 1550s. Vadiraja and his disciples came to the shrine of Panduranga Vittala.
They decided to stay back in the temple for a few days. A few days had passed when an angry resident of Pandrapur marched upto the temple and began berating Vadiraja Theertha. It took a little time for the seer and his followers to understand that the man was angry as a horse was eating away all his crops, particularly Bengal Gram (Kadale) and nothing he did could scare away the horse.
Vadiraja Theertha and his disciples were flummoxed when the man said the horse belonged to them. An astonished Vadiraja Theertha vainly remonstrated with the man, saying that the horse did not belong to him but to no avail. The man then decided to search the temple and the surroundings sure that he could find the horse.
The man searched for a long time and found no trace of any animal let alone a horse. He went back a deeply unhappy man, muttering to himself about people allowing animals to wantonly destroy crops.
Vadiraja Theertha then asked the man to show him the horse. The man readily agreed and took him to his field a little away from the temple. By then, a number of people had gathered and they all pitied the man. All of them along with the seer marched to the field.
When the group came to the field, all of them were astonished to see that corns of gold wherever the horse had grazed in the field.
While the entire gathering looked nonplussed, Vadiraja said it was Lord Hayavadhana or Hayagriva who had come to Pandrapur in the form of a horse and eaten the grains.
Variraja then turned to the farmer and told him how lucky he was to have seen God with his eyes in this Yuga. The farmer was overcome with devotion and he gave up the land to the Matha and he prostrated before the seer, pleading for forgiveness and seeking Vadiraja’s blessings.          
The story does not end here. Vadiraja Theertha composed the Dashavatara Stuthi in honor of the incident. This is set to Ashva dhaati and when sung it resembles a horse dance.
When Vadiraja began composing the song, a white horse came near him and began prancing about, keeping its steps in tune with the Raaga. When Vadiraja tried to come near the horse, it vanished into thin air.   
The stotra begins thus:
Om Mathsyaya namaha
Proshhthisha Vigraha Sunishthiva Noddhata Vishishtambuchari Jaladhe……”
Vadirajaru regularly offered Hayagreeva Naivedya to Lord Hayagreeva.  The sweet Naivedya was cooked mainly with ghee, jaggery, Kadale Bele (channa dal), almonds and grapes.  Every day Hayavadana would come in the form of the white horse, place its front legs on each shoulder of Vadiraja Theertha and eat.
Vaadiraja Theertha sang Dashavatara Stuti and the horse used to dance.
Today, the most common photograophs we see of Vadiraja Theertha is of a horse placing its front legs on his shoulders and eating Hayagreeva.  

The Pancha Brindavanas

All the Madhwa saints have only one Brindavana where they are entombed. Be it Sripadaraja Theertha, Vyasaraja, Raghuttama Theertha or even Raghavendra Swamy, they all are in one Brindavana.
However it is only at Sode in Sirsi taluk that we see five Brindavanas in honour of Vadiraja Theertha. Though the central Brindavana belongs to Vadiraja Theertha it is flanked by four other Brindavanas. The four brindavanas are arranged in the form of a rectangle with the Brindavana of Vadiraja Theertha in the middle.
Thus, only one brindavana belongs to Vadiraja. But, then what about the other brindavanas,. Do whom do they belong.  
Vadiraja Theertha himself has explained the reason behind the four brindavanas in his book Swapna Brindavana Akhyana.
The entire Akhyana was recited by Vadiraja Theertha from within the Brindavana between 1630 and 1642 to a deaf mute. This work mainly deals with the Mahime of Vadiraja Theertha, his place in the pantheon of Gods, the nature and holiness of the Brindavana and its importance.
Vadiraja Theertha asks people who read the book not to disbelieve it. He declares himself as a Rujuguna -A god who will take the place of Mukhya Prana. He is the Bhavi Sameera and he talks about the importance of the Brindavana.
The seer says that the Brindavana at Sode (his brindavana) is much different from the Brindavana of other saints. He seems anxious to mark the difference between the pancha brindavanas of Sode and similar brindavanas elsewhere. He cautions readers again and again about the need for suspension of disbelief while reading his Akhyana.
Vadiraja Theertha pays his respects to Hayagriva and he says this God resides in the brindavana along with other gods and celestial beings. He then goes on to himself identity the gods who are present in the brindavana in the  first two verses of the Akhyana as Brahma, Rudra and Indra.  
“Hayagrivam Chidanamdavigraham Sadanugraham
Dashagrivach Chidamshapaanma Nigriva Vimochanam
Svanamagraha Nadeva Nirastagraha Vigraham
Vrumdavanagatam Vamde Brahmarudremdra Vamditam”
Vadiraja says Hanuman is at the south of the Brindavana, worshipping Rama and Bheema is in the west, worshipping  Krishna, while Madhwacharya himself is at the north worshipping Narayana or  Veda Vyasa. Vadiraja says he himself is in the east worshipping his Hayagriva.
It is in this book-Akhyana-that Vadiraja reveals himself to be a  Latavya, who will take over from Vayu. He says the Brinadavana is blessed five times over as it has the five forms of  Vishnu-Vasudeva, Narayana, Pradyumna, Aniruddha and  Sankarshana.
All the details about the five brindavanas, their holiness, names and numbers of gods who reside in the brindavanas, the way to perform pooje, the most sacred time (five times starting from the Pratha Kala) to perform poojes are all contained in the Akhyana.
The book is a masterpiece which brings out the personality of Vadiraja Theertha and the respect he is given by gods and other celestial beings.
Sode is in Sirsi taluk and it is well connceted by roads.
The Sode matha is one of the most holy places. Apart from the brindavana of Vadiraja Theertha, there is the temple of Trivikrama, the deity of Bhootaraja, the Dhavala Ganga-the tank where Ganga is supposed to reside and many small temples consevrated by Vadiraja Theertha. There are direct buses to Sode from Bangalore. Accommodation is available at the matha itself.  

Saturday 29 December 2012

The work from the Brindavana

He is perhaps the only saint in the Madhwa Parampare who composed a work even after he entered Brindavana. The work was dictated by the saint from within the Brindavana to a deaf mute over a period of several years.
When completed it came to be called  Swapna Brindavana Akhyaana. The author-Vadiraja Theertha who had entered Brindavana in 1600, several decades before the book came up.
This is the story of how the book came to be written.
Vadiraja Theertha was succeeded by Vedavedya Theertha. He was followed by Vidyanidhi Theertha and Vedanidhi Theertha.
Some thirty years after Vadiraja Theertha entered Brindavana, the deaf and dumb Brahmin who had served him faithfully started having extraordinary dreams.
Vadiraja Theertha appeared in his dream and recited shlokas that he urged the Brahmin to convey to Vedanidhi Theertha. The Brahmin recollected clearly the shlokas and recited them in front of  Vedanidhi Theertha, who arranged for them to be transcribed into a manuscript.
After reciting the shlokas, the Brahmin would lose his ability to speak and relapse back to his previous deaf mute state. This startling incident went on for 12 years from 1630 to 1642 before the work, called Swapna Brindavana Akhyana, was completed
This lengthy metrical work in characteristically alliterative style of Vadiraja was communicated every day to the deaf mute in two or three verses.
Not many people were able to go through let alone understand the work. The language was highly complex and the contents mystical. It was left to the deaf mute Brahmin to be reborn in 1776 to unravel the mystery of the Swapna Brindavana.
The Brahmin became the seer of the Sode Matha in 1788 called Vishvapriya Theertha (1776-1865). He once went to Sode and performed seva to the brindavana of Vadiraja Theertha for 48 days.
On the last day, when Visvapriya Theertha  prostrated himself before the Brindavana, consecrated rice fell on his head. In a flash he recollected all the details of his previous births and his role in the creation of the Swapna Brindavana Akhyana. He also understood the meaning of the Akhyana.
He called his disciples and taught them the Akhyana. He arranged for notes and commentaries to be written on the Akhyana. His sole aim was to propagate the work and he did it tirelessly. He this came to be known as Vrundavana Acharya. His Brindavana is in Udupi.
Visvapriya Theerha  commissioned one of his disciples Musna Acharya to write a Sanskrit commentary on the Brindavana Akhyana and another disciple, Raghupravira Theertha of the Bhimanakatte Matha, to write the Pramanyabodhini which substantiated the authenticity and validity of the Swapna Brindavana Akhyana. This book was first printed in 1925 from Belgaum.
The theme of the Swapna Brindavana Akhyana is the Mahima of   Vadiraja and his oneness with Latavya, the God. It is here that Vadiraja declares that he is the Ruju Guna and that he will succeed to the post of Mukya Prana in the next Brahmkalpa. He speaks about his holiness as God thus ands says he holds the Ruju Sthana (position)
“Om Am devam Vijanati Rujustham punyakrunnarah
Sayati nilayam punyam yadgatvaa na nivartate”
Vadiraja Theertha asks people not to judge the Swapna Brindavana Akhyana like any other work. He himself says it is a special work and studying this is equivalent to the study of the Purusha Sukta.
There are 22 Adhyayas or chapters in the book and the first four  are called Bhajana parvas. In these chapters, Vadiraja Theertha speaks about the service of  celestial beings to him and to Lord Hayagriva.
The first and fifth chapters and all the chapters from the fifth to eleventh are classified as Vaibhava parvas. All these chapters are on Vadiraja Theertha-his greatness and merit, scholastic ability and holiness.
The chapters from twelfth to twenty-second  are known as Nidarshana parvas and they are nothing but instructions by  Vadirajar Theertha  to devotees.
Another legend about the incident of the writing of the book is that the deaf mute later took birth as Vedanidhi Theertha of Sode Matha and he explained in detail the nuances of the book in his work called “Anu Brindavana Akhyaana”.
The Anu is a beautiful composition extolling the virtues of Vadiraja and his place in the galaxy of saints on earth and the gods above.
The Anu says devotees who consider Vadhiraja as a Riju Deva, and worship him in his Pancha Brindavana at Sode will attain merit. This is so because Vasudeva himself is ever present in the Brindavana in the five forms of  Vasudeva, Narayana, Pradhyumna, Anirudha and Sankarnshna. Besides, Mahavishnu,  Maha Lakshmi, Bramha, Vaayu and Rudra are also present in the Brindavana.
“Hayagrivam chidanamdavigraham sadanugraham
Dashagrivachvhidam shapaanmanigriva vimochanam
Svanamagrahanadeva nirastagraha vigraham
Vrumdavanagatam vamde brahmarudremdra Vamditam.”
The verse translates thus-I worship Hayagriva who has blessed me and he has a body like Rama, Krishna and Veda Vyasa. This is simpler translation. In actuality, the verse calls for a deeper understating of how Rama destroyed Ravana, Krishna helped  Nalakubara and Manigriva get moksha from their curse, Veda Vyasa releases from bondage by the mere utterance of his name,
and how the supreme God has entered into the five brindavans and is worshipped by Brahma, Rudra, Indra and other celestial beings.
Coming back to Visvapriya Theertha, he was an eminent scholar and he lead an austere life. He subsisted only on Laja and flour for several years.
Folklore has it that Bhootaraja, the legendary attendant of Vadiraja Theertha, served Visvapriya Theertha whenever the need arose.
He was instrumental in converting the then ruling family of Cochin to Dwaitha sect.

The Bard of Mulabagal

It is really unfortunate that the blog has taken so much time to focus on one of the most outstanding Madhwa saints of all times. Herein, we place a write up on this saint who was also a  writer and an educationist.
An avatar of Dhruva, this saint was known as Lakshminarayana Muni during his poovarshrama days. He was given the honorific Sreepadaraja Theertha when the Madhwa world came to know of his holiness and scholastic bent of mind.
A true yogi, Sripadaraja is considered to be the bard of Mulabagal.
He has several firsts to his credit. He is the Bheeshmapeeta of Haridasa literature in India. He is also the first saint of the Dwaitah order to sing compositions in Kannada and also use them in his daily worship.
He spoke, wrote, sang and even composed in Kannada-the language of the people. He also started a Veda Patashala in Mulagabal which during his times reached a preeminent state in the realm of education.
Sripadaraja took Vyasa Theertha under his care and tutored him. It is to him that Vyasa Theertha owes his scholarship. Sripadaraja also set Vyasa Theertha on course to become the Rajaguru of Vijayanagar when he declined that invitation himself and sent Vyasa Theertha instead.
Not many know that Sripadaraja was also a man who could perform miracles. Once he performed one of his many miracles before a huge gathering of  Madhwa saint.
The Vijayanagar Kingdom was known for its patronage to Hindu religion and culture. The kings were all patron of arts, architecture and learning.
It was sometime in the mid 1500s that then Vijayanagar King decided to organise an assembly of saints and holy men in Koppara in Devdurg taluk of Raichur district.
This is how the miracle unfolded.
Koppara was known for the Aswatha Narasimha temple on the banks of the Krishna. The Vijayanagar King invited many Madhwa scholars and saints to observe Chaturmasa here.
Vibhudendra Theertha, accompanied by Lakshminarayana Muni, camped here begin their four month long Chaturmasa programme.
Lakshminarayana impressed everyone with his knowledge and his lecture on Nyaya Sudha was well received.
Unfortunately, the crown Prince drowned in the Krishna and a tearful King placed the body before the saints and requested them to revive his son. As the saints looked at each other, Vibhudendra Theertha, pointed to Lakshminarayana and asked him to proceed towards the body.
Lakshminarayana first invoked Aswatha Narasimha and poured holy water from the Kamandala into the mouth of the dead prince.
The youngster stunned the entire audience when he prayed to Narasimha saying that if Nyaya Sudha was really the Srikara Grantha and if the holy gathering had performed Sudha Mangala correctly, all the merits accrued should go to the God and from him to the price so that he can be revived.
The Prince jumped up and became alive. The king prostrated himself before Lakshminarayana and ordered his throne to be brought to the spot. He wanted to do Kanakabhisheka to Lakshminarayana nut he said the honor should first go to his Guru.
Vibhudendra Theertha and al the assembled saints urged Lashminarayana to allow the King to perform Kanakabhisheka.
A modest Lakshminarayana foirst placed Nyaya Sudha on the throne and performed Mangalarti. He then held it onto his lap and sat on the throne.
By then he had been named as Sripadaraja Theertha and he decided to settle down at Mulabagal. It was Narasimha Theertha near Mulabagal that he built his ashrama.  
He then went on to become the Raj Guru of the Vijayanagar Kings, a task which he later handed over to Vyasa Theertha, his favourite disciple. He was the first among the Madhwa saints to be honored with Ratnaabhiskeha.
(This is the first in a series of articles on Sripadaraja Theertha. The others will follow soon.)   

The place where the Vedas were divided and Puranas written

It is a small town in the most populous State of India. Though it is near the State capital of Lucknow, it is not on any tourist map. Yet, if Hindu mythology is to be believed it is perhaps one of the most important places.
This is the place where the Puranas came to be written and the Vedas came to be divided. It is also the place of the deep well of Vishnu which has immense religious significance. This town is also one of the 108 Divya Desams of Vishnu and revered by the twelve saint poets called Alwars.
This is the town of Naimisaranyam or Naimisaranya also called Nimsar. It is located at the junction of the roads from Sitapur and Khairabad. It is 32 km from Sitapur and 42 km from the Sandila railway station and just 45 miles north of Lucknow.
The town is on the left bank of  the river Gomati. This is the place where the Visnhu Chakra created the highly revered well called Chakra Kunda. Every new moon day, a large number of people gather at the well and purify themselves with a dip. If the new moon falls Monday, it is believed that a holy bath in the well and offering to the presiding deity Lalitha will wash away all the sins committed in the lifetime.
According to Puranas, our Gods chose this place on Earth to establish Dharma. Their plan to spread Dharma on Earth went awry as a demon called  Vrittrasur was proving to be a major hurdle.
The Gods then requested Maharshi Dadhichi to give his bones to them so that they could create a weapon to kill the demon. The demon was finally killed.
To honor the sage, a festival is held every Phalguna and it is known as Chaurasi Kosi Parikrama.
As the Srimad Bhagavatam was narrated here, it is said that a pilgrimage to Badrinath and Kedarnath is incomplete without a visit to Naimisaranya. The Mahabharata itself says “Anyone who fasts, prays, and attains perfection at Naimisaranya finds happiness in all the worlds”.
There is another legend about this place. When Brahma contemplated a great wheel that would span the entire universe, the wheel’s center was at “Naimisaranya”.
The Puranas say that Naimisaranya has a parikrama (circumambulation) path of 16 kms, in which all the sacred places in India are located.
Rama, Balarama, Dadhuchi Muni, the Pandavas, Shankaracharya,  Ramanujacharya and several other saints of all beliefs and religious orders have come and visited the sacred spots here.
The Pandavas came here when they were in exile. Rama  performed sacrifice here for killing Ravana, a Brahmin.
The Chakra Kunda or Chakra Tirtha is a deep well whose depth has not been found out. When the Kali Yuga was about to commence, 80,000 sages headed by Saunaka Rishi approached Brahma and told him to identify the spot where they should hold the Yagna to ward off the evil effects of the Kali Yuga.
Thus at the end of the Dwapara Yuga and the beginning of the  Kali Yuga, Brahma released his Manonmaya Chakra to ascertain the impact of the impending Time. The Chakra travelled all around  the Earth and it finally came to a stop here.
Brahma then  prescribed the circumference or the ‘nemi’ of that zone, fit for Yagnas which were performed for ten thousand years even as he carried on the process of creation. Since the midpoint of the Chaka was here, Brahma declared this to be the center of the Earth
The Chakra Tirtha has no end. The British wanted to disprove this and they sank a cable for more than 1,000 metres (3300 feet) but they did not find the depth. They gave up.
Near the Tirtha is the Vyasa Gaddi. It is at this spot where  Veda Vyasa (Narayana), the author of Mahabharata is said to have divided the Vedas into four parts and also written the Puranas.
Locals point to a huge Banyan tree here which is said to be over 5,000 years old. They say this is the precise place where Vyasa sat and wrote the Puranas.
There are many places in and around the town, each with its own share of history, mythology and religion.
There is a temple of Hanuman with the idol of Ram and Lakshmana on his shoulders. It is said that Hanuman brought out Rama and Lakshmana from Patala Loka at this very spot.
There is a deity of Vyasa and the Pandavas in the temple.
The Hanuman Temple has a strange custom. Pilgrims buy sweets and put them in his mouth.
Other places to visit are the Suta Gaddi where the sage Suta Goswami sat while instructing other sages 5,000 years ago. He spoke about Srimad Bhagavat Geeta here. Ugrashravas, also Ugrasravas, Suta or Suta Goswami is the narrator of several Puranas, including Mahabharata, Bhagavath Purana, Harivamsa, and Padma Purana.
He narrated all these before a gathering of  sages here. Suta was the son of Lomaharshana and a disciple of  Veda Vyasa, the author of Mahābhārata. Ugrasrava belonged to the Suta caste, who were typically the bards of Puranic literature.
The entire Mahābhārata epic is structured as a dialogue between Ugrasrava Sauti or Suta -the narrator and sage Saunaka-the listener. The narration (Bharata) of the history of Bharata kings by sage Vaisampayana to the Kuru king Janamejaya was embedded within this narration of  Ugrasrava Sauti.
Vaisampayana’s narration (Jaya) in turn contains the narration of Kurukshetra war by Sanjaya to King Dhritarashtra. Thus the epic has as a story within a story.
There is also the Narada Deva Temple with 108 altars and the 1008 Sivalinga Temple containing copies of the four Vedas and Puranas, including Srimad Bhagavata (Bhagavat Purana). The Shiva temple here is also unique. The eyes of Shiva looking east in the morning and west in the evenings. The presiding deity of the town, Lalita Devi, has a temple around the Chakra Tirtha.
The best place to stay is either Lucknow or Sitapur. There are regular buses and taxis from Lucknow and Sitapur. If you want to visit all the holy places here, it is better to engage the services of a local guide. A smattering of Hindi will help as the guides and locals generally do not know any other language.

Friday 28 December 2012

The City of Djinns

It is the capital of India and it has been the theatre of war for centuries. It has been ruled by a number of dynasties and all conquerors, including the British, realised the importance of gaining a foothold over Delhi.
Delhi is a city of cities and you have many interesting historical, religious monuments and scores of ruins. Some of the ruins like those at Indraprastha go back to the times of the Mahabharata.
The city of the Red Fort and Qutb Minar has its own charm and hoary past.  Delhi has a monument to almost each year or rather decade of its existence.
A few days ago, one of my friends was waking across the Feroz Shah Kotla when he saw a crowd of people. He assumed that the crowd might have come from the nearby Cricket Stadium.
He was stunned when told that this was not a cricket loving crowd but one that prayed to the Djinns who are supposed to make every wish of a human come true.
The explanation stumped my friend and he looked around in disbelief. It was very difficult for him to digest the fact that people in the national capital believed such things and that too in the 21st century.
I told him that what he had heard and saw was true. Delhi is also known as the City of Djinns and this goes back centuries ago.
The ruined city of Feroz Shah Kotla is adjacent to the cricket stadium. This was the Ferozabad that was built between 1354 and 1356 by Feroz Shah Tughlaq, the successor of Mohammad Bin Tughlaq.
Feroz ruled from Delhi between 1351 and 1388. He built the imposing citadel of the Kotla in 1354 but the City quickly fell into ruins once his reigns ended. Today, the ruins are just off the Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg.         
Djinns are said to be found in plenty in these ruins. Every Thursday, Delhi witnesses one of the largest gatherings of people, praying and writing to the Djinns to fulfill their wishes.
Even the authorities seem to have resigned themselves to the large number of people who throng the ruins on Thursday afternoon by throwing it open for free. During al other times, you have to shell out Rs. 5 to stroll among the ruins.
Islam says Allah made Djinns out of smokeless fire before he made humans out of clay. Djinns are not supposed to have any shape  or form. They can live for centuries. However, they have a very human character. They can be moody or even bad in character.
The gathering assembles before the 13 meter high sandstone Ashoka Pillar on a rubble-built three-tiered pyramidal structure. Feroz transported this 27 tonne pillar in 1356 to Delhi from Topar in Ambala, where Emperor Ashoka had installed it.
There are inscriptions on the Pillar which are believed to be incantations. Some of the inscriptions are in Sanskrit and many other inscriptions are unreadable.
People believe that if they come here and pray, the Djinns help them, get rod of their troubles and they even help human beings get rid of ghosts and spirits.
When the evening fades away, the people too move away slowly, with a heartfelt prayer on their lips to the Djinns. Locals say the practice of writing to the Djinns started in the 70s when a fakir caked Ladoo Shah lived in these ruins.
The wall near the pillar is full of requests to Djinns on a variety of topics. The old well or Baoli nearby gives a creepy look to the entire area.
The mosque adjacent to the well is one of the biggest buildings of the Tughlaq period. Talk to the Imam of the mosque about the Djinns and you are bound to be surprised.

Where Vishnu married 360 maidens

This is temple where people throng in large numbers to take the blessings of the presiding deity for matrimonial bliss. This is also the temple where Gavala Rishi married off all his daughters and they numbered a whopping 360.
Gavala had 360 daughters and he was worried about their marriage. He approached Lord Vishnu and Vishnu agreed to marry
His daughters one by one. So the marriage went on for almost an year until all of Galava’s daughters were married.
On the day his last daughter was married, the sage had a vision of Vishnu and realised that the Lord himself  had been the  bridegroom. Vishnu then amalgamated all the 360 daughters of Galava into one being and she became Akhilavalli.
The place where the marriage took place is called Tiruvidanthai and it is just 35 kms from Chennai. It is on the road to Mahabalipuram.
The Utsava Murthy is called Nitya Kalyana Perumal (one who is ever auspicious or one who is married everyday). His consort is Akhilavalli.
Tiruvidanthai is a small village and this temple is one of the 108 Divya Desams – shrines sacred to Vaishnavites or devotees to Vishnu.
Though the temple is small, it is very ornamental and rich in history and sculpture. It is also called Sripuri and Varahapuri.
The main deity is Lakshmi Varaha Perumal and it is in a standing posture. He is the form of a boar. He is in a standing posture in the sanctum, with his right leg on the ground and his left leg raised and resting on Adi Sesha, his serpent.
There is a separate sanctum for Akhilavalli or Komalavalli Nachiyar. As Vishnu has Komalavalli on his left, the temple is also called  Edavendai.
Legend has it that apart from Galava, another saint Markandeya and the demon  king Mahabali worshipped Vishnu here.
The Adi Sesha here is depicted with his consort, both of them together below Vishnu’s foot. With both the deity and mount in the company of their respective consorts, locals say this spells matrimonial bliss for whoever visits the temple.
Thought the present temple appears to have been constructed in the 19th century, there must have been a shrine as Tirumangai Alwar, one of the 12 Vaishnavite saints and who belonged to the 8th century, has composed verses on the deity. 
These verses are in the form of a mother complaining about her lovesick daughter who is pining for Nitya Kalyana Perumal.
Two beautiful tanks adjoin the temple.
People who want to get married and those who seek marital bliss come here and pray. They go around the shrine nine times, wearing floral garlands that have previously gifted to the deity. The priest told me that people will find their life partner within a few weeks after completing their ritual.

Monday 24 December 2012

The clothed Ganapathi

It is one of the oldest shrines in Udupi district. It was once one of the 365 temples in Bakrur near Udupi. But today though not many temples survive, the Batte Vinayaka Temple is among the three dozens that have survived the ravages of time.
The temple is unique and it attracts a large number of people. As the name itself suggests, it is Known as Batte or cloth Ganapathi. The deity in the temple faces north and it always wears a piece of clothe around its waist.
Apart from the clothe, the Ganapathi is encircled with small bells around the waist and it has pleated hair. The idol is found to be leaning towards the West.
Every day,  owners and drivers of vehicles  visit the temple to seek the blessings of  Ganapathi. There is a belief  that if  Ganesha gives his blessings, nothing will happen to the vehicle.
The temple is believe to have been built earlier to the Alpua rulers who ruled Barkur. The Alupas were powerful feudatories of the Chalukyas of Badami and they built several temples here.
Another unique feature is that there are five foot prints on a rock in front of the temple. This temple was never locked for centuries but since the last three years, the temple management is locking the doors of the structure as a precautionary measure.
There is another Ganapathi temple nearby called the Bairagi Ganapathi Temple at Chowlikeri. This temple was constructed by the Cholas.
This temple too has an interesting story. There was a beautiful tower in front of the Bairagi Ganapathi Temple. It is so called as the idol was installed by a Bairagi or mendicant. It would sound the gong twice a day-once at noon and another time during the night. The sound can no longed be heard as a truck hit the tower, making it lose its tryst with time.
Another temple is the Rathnagarbha Ganapathi at Ranganakere, three kms from Barkur towards Mandarthi. This temple was bult by the Alupa rulers along with a small pond known as “Rathna Kere”.
Locals say this Ganapathi had treasures in his belly. It was broken by a thief and taken away, leaving the idol mutilated. It was this story that led to the saying, “Ee Oorina Odeyana Hiriya Magana Koralu Muridu Karulu Bagedu Nodu”. (Break open the throat and  stomach of the elder son (Ganapathi) of the Lord of this village).
The Channa Keshava Temple here is also in ruins and miscreants have dug it up at several places in search of treasure.
Barkur is well connected to both Udupi and Mangalore and of course Honnavara.  

A devout Jain who was a military genius, poet and builder

Chavundaraya is synonymous with the construction of the Gomateshwara in Shravanabelogala. A Jain, he is also known as one of the ministers of the Western Ganga Emperors who ruled over large tracts of south Karnataka.
The Ganga Emperors had Talakad as their capital and they were very faithful vassals of the Rashtrakutas and they fought many wars for the Rashtrakutas. They even took on the Cholas on behalf of the Rashkrakutas.
Chavundraya also known as Chamundaraya (940–989) was also a renowned military commander of the times and he had been given the title Samara Parushurama and Ranaranga Singa . He was a veteran of many wars and his knowledge of military tactics was exceptional.
He played a vital role in the battles fought with Rajaditya, Vajjaladeva, Govinda and the battles of Bageyurakote, Ucchangi and Gonarabayalu which are all  well documented in inscriptitions and literary works
A Brahmin by birth, Chavundaraya himself says he converted to Kshatriya caste. A 10th century inscription in Algodu village in Mysore district and an inscription in Arani in Mandya district sheds light on the genealogy of Chavundaraya.
The inscriptions says that Chavundaya was the son of  Govindamaiah.
It is believed that Chavundaraya owed his scholarship and interest in literature to his initial upbringing as a Brahmin. He was also a patron of art, architecture, literature. But not many know that Chavundaraya was himself a poet of repute and the second oldest works on verse in Kannada language was written by him. He was also adept in Sanskrit in which he has written some works
An ardent devotee of the Jain ascetics, Nemichandra and Ajitasena Bhattaraka, this powerful minister of the Gangas commissioned the Gomata statue in 982.
Chavundaraya exerted immense influence during the rule of the Ganga Emperors, Narasimha, the second, Rachamalla the fourth and Rachamalla the fifth.  
It is really a mystery how this multi-talented personality found time to pen down some of the well-known works of his age.
His Chavundaraya Purana, also known as Trishasthi Lakshana Purana, is a Kannada work which was written in 978. It is very probable that the “Charitrasara” in Sanskrit was written during the same time or a little later.
The Kannada work is important as it is the second work in verse in the language.
Chavundaraya Purana is a summary of the Sanskrit works, Adipurana and Uttarapurana, written by Jinasena and Gunabhadra during the rule of Rashtrakuta Emperor Amoghavarsha.
The prose is written in simple and lucid Kannada and it does not have any reference to complicated Jain philosophy.
It narrates the legends of twenty-four Jain Thirthankaras, twelve Chakravartis, nine Balabhadras, nine Narayanas and nine Pratinarayanas – narrations on sixty-three Jain proponents in all
Apart from being a writer, Chavundaraya personally patronised  the two famous Kannada grammarians Gunavarma and Nagavarma, the first.
Kannada language and literature owes an indelible debt to Chavundaraya for having patronized the poet Ranna whose  Parusharama Charitre is an eulogy of  Chavundaraya.
Charitrasara  is a scholarly treatise  on the subject of the practices of ascetics. He has also written a commentary on Nemichandra’s Gommatasara. If Gommatasara is in Prakit, Chavundaraya’s commentary called Vira Martandai is in Kannada. Unfortunately this book is supposedly lost.
However, we have references to this work by another commentator, Kesava Varni, who is the author of  Kesavavarniya Vritthi.
Chavundaraya’s contribution is acknowledged in an inscription in the Tyagada Brahmadeva pillar in Shravanabelogala where is called a gem in the jewel of Lakshmi and a moon.
He also personally helped out Ranna when the latter came to Talkad from his home in north Karnataka.   
A devout Jain, Chavundaya practiced Jain religion with full dedication. He lived his life according to the Jain tenets. He and his family members- mother Kalala Devi, wife Ajita Devi,  son Jina Deva, younger sister Pullava and younger brother Naga Varma were all strict Jains and they lived the life of austere Jains.
Well, the story of Chavundaraya and the statue of Gomata is too long to write here. Suffice it to say that it is a shining example of his work as a builder.
Chavundaraya thus comes across as an all-rounder. He was a warrior, patron of arts and literature, poet and writer, Minister and adviser, a devout Jain and above all a fine human being. 

Madhwacharya's Mahabharata

India is a land of a billion people. Of this number, only a handful can lay claim to have met or seen God and only a miniscule of these numbers can say that they were asked by God to educate people and write a book.
Madhwacharya is among such rare persons. He not only met the venerable Veda Vyasa (Narayana) twice in Badari but he was also asked to write the Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya to correct the imbalances that had crept up in the epic.
The epic had been written thousands of years earlier and it had undergone several interpolations, additions and even subtractions. It was left to Madhwa to reinterpret both the Ramayana and Mahabharata correctly and in context of the events that had occurred.
As Madhwa was Hanuman in his first avatar when the Ramayana  occurred and Bheem in the second during the time of the Mahabharata, he was eminently qualified to write a commentary on the Bharata or Mahabharata.
This can be termed as  one of the rarest of rare books as it deals with both the epics-Ramayana and Mahabharata simultaneously. It gives us a beautiful and evocative exposition of the epics and also several concepts of religion and philosophy.
The Nirnaya comprises of 32 chapters and each chapter deals with a different issue. It runs into more than 5,000 verses. The work can be categorised into three parts. The first part covers the first three chapters and gives us a beautiful summary of Mahabharata and entire scriptures. It is these chapters that lays the foundation for the other two sections to follow.
The second section comprises chapters 4 to 9 deals and with the story of Ramayana. The last section details the story of Mahabharata from chapters 11 to 32. The final chapter deals with the Pandavas’ ascent to heaven. The tenth chapter is all about Vyasa (Narayana).
In the Nirnaya, Madhwa explains some of the finer aspects of the Bharata (Mahabharata) by drawing upon other religious texts such as Vishnu Purana, Vedas, Hari Vamsha and Bhagavath Geetha.
Since Madhwa was the earlier avatar of Hanuman and Bheema, here Bheema is the hero of  almost all the episodes or rather incidents.
What makes this work invaluable is that Madhwa himself writes about the reason for penning the work. This is contained in the second chapter called Vakyoddharah. He says here that he wants to give us the correct interpretation of the verses written by Veda Vyasa.
Madhwa was asked by Veda Vyasa himself to write the Nirnaya. He had visited Badari the second time and after coming back to Udupi, he wrote the Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya.
The Nirnaya is not mere a book on the epics. It gives us a new and more correct interpretation of the events and incidents of the Ramayana and Mahabharata in relation to the Puranas and Shastras.  We have to take this as the most authentic and correct interpretation as it is Hanuma through whose eyes we see the Ramayana being told and Bheema through whom the Bharata is being narrated.
This can be called the first research work on the epics. It also gives us a correct version of many events of both the epics and proves beyond doubt that over centuries some incidents, passages and slokas have either been added or interposed with the original, twisting the real meaning.
 Here Madhwa establishes several concepts of the Dwaitha Siddantha (philosophy) such as the greatness and supremacy of Hari or Vishnu, the high position of Vayu, the concept of Bheda  which is integral to Dwaitha philosophy and the Taratamya or hierarchy of Gods.
“Taratamyam tato gyeyam sarvocchatvam harestatha
tatadvina nakasyapi vimuktih syath kathanchana”, says our Acharya about the hierarchy of Gods.
Here, Vishnu is the giver of all knowledge and he then imparted it to Brahma and other Gods. 
He also illustrates the difference between the Atma and the Paramathma. Thus, this work built the foundation for the Tatwavada of our Acharya.
But please remember this is a critical work and it does not offer a line-by-line commentary of the Bharata. For that you have to go to Vadiraja Theertha’s  Mahabharata-Prasthana which gives us an explanation of one hundred thousand difficult words in the Bharata.
Apart from Raghavendra Swamy, a commentary on Nirnaya was also written in Kannada by Vadiraja Theertha. This book is also called Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya.
Kambalur Ramachandra Theerta of Vyasaraja Matha, whose brindavana, is in Vellore, has also written a tippani on the Nirnaya.   
For a easier understanding of the Nirnaya, it is better to read the Bhava Sangraha written by Raghavendra Swamy.  This is a work of 32 slokas and each sloka summarises one of the 32 chapters of the Nirnaya.
Satyaabhinava Theertha, one of the pontiffs of Uttradhi Matha has written a Vyakhana on Mahabharata Tatparya Nirnaya.
The Nirnaya cannot be read in isolation as it has several layers of meaning. It can be read alongside one of the commentaries for a better and truer understating of the epics.

Sunday 23 December 2012

The town that once had 365 temples

Once upon a time this was the place in Kannada Nadu that had 365 temples. A temple a day to visit and perfoem pooja, seems to have been the ambition of the rulers of this area.
These rulers had so constructed the temples that each one of them had a programme or ritual on a day and thus throughout the year , the town wore a festive look.
The town, once the stronghold of  the Pandyas and the Cholas, passed into the Vijayanagars. This town was also governed by the Kadambas of Banavasi, Hoysalas of Dwarasamudra, Rashtrkutas of Manyakheta (Malked) and the Chalukyas of Badami. It was also the capital of the local Alupa rulers.
The Alupas were powerful vassals of the Chalukyas of Badami and one of the Alupa ruler even defeated the Cholas.
This was also the town that hosted Shankaracharya and Madhwacharya. A few other saints of both the Adwaitha and Dwaitha order visited the town.
Today, much of the traces of history seems to have vanished and of the 365 temples, only a mere three dozen remain. The two forts which once commanded the Arabian Sea have all but disappeared but traces still remain.
Located just 15 kms from Udupi, this town, which is rich is mythology and history, is known as Barkur or Barakanur. The 365 temples and the everyday celebration of  the temple give it the named Nithyothsavavada Naadu-the land of celebrations.
Barkur first gained prominence under the Pandya rulers. One of the Pandya rulers, Boothala Pandya, is believed to have ruled for 75 or more years and ushered in an era of peace and prosperity.
The Simhasan Gudda in Barkur is believed to be the exact spot where the palace of  Boothala stood. The Anjenaya Temple here is therefore called Aramane Anjaneya Temple as it was either a part of near the royal palace (Aramane).
Another heritage in the gudda is the Shaami tree (known as banni tree) in the Bana Mahakali Temple which is nearby.
Today, there are 30 odd temples left of the 365 and almost all of them are located in a three kilometer radius. Some of the important temples and structures are the Katthalke Basadi, a Jain monument.     
There are temples dedicated to several communities such as  Billavas, Konkani, Ganigas, Pujaris, Mogaveeras, Dalits and Viswakarmas. The Panchalingeshwara temple located on Car Street is worth a visit.
Just across the Panchalingeshwara are the temples of  Chippi Anjaneya, Batte Vinayaka and Kalabhairaveshwara.
There is also a temple dedicated to Somanatha. The twin temples of Chaulikeri dedicated to Ganapati and Shiva respectively belong to the 14th century. The Kotekeri Temple of Venugopala Krishna and the Siddeshwara Temples were constructed in the 11th century AD and the Mahishasura temple in the 12th century
Barkur is famous for the matrilineal inheritance system which originated in Bennekudru.
Bennekudru is one the banks of  Seetha and it houses the beautiful temple of Masti Amma, which is the Kula Deve the of  the Mogaveeras or members of the fishing community.
Boothala Pandya introduced the  matrilineal inheritance system-Aliyasanthana or Aliyakattu-from this place. This system is still in vogue and it is adhered to by Bunts, Billavas and Jains. 
Barkur was the provincial capital of Hoysalas and later the Vijayanagars. Between 1336 and 1565 when it was under the Vijayanagars, more than a hundred Governors presided over the province of Mangalore and Barkur from here.
Locals and historians point out that Barkur reached its peak under the Vijayanagar emperors. It was an important port for the Vijayanagars and it is from here that they imported horses.
When the Vijayanagar Empire disintegrated, the local Palegars became independent before the Keladi rulers captured it. Then it was the turn of Hyder Ali and subsequently the British.
A local tale credits the legendary Vikramaditya of Ujjain having visited Barkur several times.
The Bhanderkeri Matha in Barkur was built by Madhwacharya who visited this place in the early part of the 14th century. Several centuries earlier, Shankaracharya visited Barkur enroute to Kollur.
Barkur is well connected by road. Mangalore is 75 kms away and Bramavar is nearby. Barkur is also on the Konkan railway map.