Monday 22 October 2012

The hidden temple of Kali

There are innumerable temples dedicated to Kali and some of the most famous of them are the ones at Kalighag in Kolkata and at Dakshineshwar near Kolkata where Swamy Vivekananda’s Guru Ramakrishna Paramamsa saw Kali in her fiery avatar.
There are several Kali temples in Karnataka but perhaps none of them have the hoary history that one such temple has at Kuknur village in North Karnataka.
Kuknur is a small  town in Yelburga taluk of  Koppal District. It  is 40 kms from Hospet and 7 km from the famous Mahadeva temple at Itagi.
Kuknur is historically important for temples built by the Rashtrakutas and Chalukyas. The Navalinga Group of temples  belonging to the Chalukyas,  is worth a visit. Kuknur. These temples were built between the 8th and 13th century A.D. There are two other temples here- Kalleshvara and Mallikarjuna.
What is more interesting is the MahaMaya Temple which is situated in the centre of the town. This temple inspires awe and fear and it has historical value. This temple is mentioned in the Mahabharata.
There are three deities in the  Garbha Gudi-Lakshmi and Parvathi which together is called MahaMaya. There is also a deity of Jarihara- Hari meaning Vishnu and Hara meaning Shiva
The three idols  face south and this is something unique as idols generally face north. This temple is supposed to have been constructed during the 8th or 9th century.
However, what inspires fear among locals is another temple buried underneath the MahaMaya temple. Locals say a Kali temple which was buried under earth beneath this very temple  centuries ago and Digbandhana (spiritual fence or border done by chanting of mantras) done to contain the evil spirits within the earth. Till today, nobody has dared to excavate the temple and the villagers of Kuknur had come out in strength when archaeologists wanted to dig up the earth and study the temple.
The underground Kali temple is associated with King Chandrahasa whose story is told in the Mahabharata. The priest of the MahaMaya Temple says the Kali temple was the place of Nara bali or human sacrifice during ancient times and since there is mention of this place in the Mahabharata, the Kali temple can be called among the oldest. Later, the temple came to be covered up and the evil spirits too were bound within the earth by mantras. Till today, nobody has dared to excavate the temple and any one who wants to do so is reminded of the story of  Chandrahasa.
The story goes as follows:
Chandrahasa was the  king of Kuntala kingdom which in ancient days (the Mahabharata period) consisted of parts of north Karnataka and south Maharashtra. The Ashvamedhika Parva of the Mahabharata says Chandrahasa was the son of the king Sudharmika of Kerala. He married Vishaye and Champakamalini who was the princess of Kuntala. They had two sons Makaraksha and Padmaksha.
Chandrahasa befriends Arjuna who was accompanied by Krishna guarding the Ashvamedha horse of  Yudhistera. Chandrahasa anoints his son Makaraksha as king and acomapnies the army of Arjuna to help Ashwamedha.
Chandrahasa had six toes on his left foot. He was born under the Moola Nakshatra. When he was young, his father was killed and he was spirited away to Kuntala by a maid.  Dushtabuddhi, a minister of  the king of Kuntala, was feeding the poor. He noticed the boy and saw his aristocratic features. He decided to get rid of the boy and asked his followers to kill Chandrahasa.
Chandrahasa was taken to the forest but his captors could not bring themselves to kill  him. They then cut off the sixth toe and took it back to the minister so that they could prove that Chandrahasa was killed.  Meanwhile, a tribal king, Kulinda, adopted Chandrahasa as he had no children and brought him up.
A long time passed and Chandrahasa grew up to be a handsome youth. Dushtabuddhi once chanced upon Chandrahasa and immediately recognised him. He then hatched another plan to kill Chandrahasa. He wrote a letter to his son, Madana, to poison Chandrahasa. Ironically, it was Chandrahasa who carried this letter to Madana.
Chandrahasa came to Kuntala with the letter and was he resting in a garden on the outskirts. Vishaye, a daughter of Dushtabuddhi, who had come to the garden, saw  Chandrahasa and fell in love with him. She saw a letter in Chandrahasa’s hand and opened it out of curiosity.
She saw that the letter was in the hand of her father and that it was addressed to her brother. The letter asked Madana to give Visha (poison) to  Chandrahasa.  Vishaye thought had father had wrongly worded the letter and that he meant Chandrahasa must be given Viahaye. She then changed the word from Visha to Vishaye.
Chandrahasa handed over the note to Madana,  who promptly performed the marriage. A shocked Dushtabuddhi hired murderers to kill Chandrahasa when he visited the Kali temple at Kuknur. He then asked Chandrahasa to visit the temple and take the blessings of Kali.
Chandrahasa was on his way to the Kali temple when Madana came to him and asked him to ho to the royal palace as the king wanted to see him. When Chandrahasa said he was asked to go to the kali Temple by Dushtabuddhi on this particular day as it was the custom, Madana offered to go instead. “Please go to the palace as the king is on his deathbed and he wants to se you. Since my father says it is customary for members of our family to go to the Kali temple today, I will take your place”, he said.
Chandrahasa agreed and he rushed to the palace where the king gave his daughter, Champakadamini, in marriage and also made him the king. Meanwhile, Madana came to the Kali temple where he was killed by  assassins sent there by his father. When  Dushtabuddhi learnt of his son’s death , he went to the Kali temple and beheaded himself.
Chandrahasa came to know of  the two deaths at the Kali temple. He then went to the Kali Temple and prayed to her and requested her to bring back Dustabudhi and Madana to life. When Kali did not oblige, Chandrahasa too killed himself.  Kali then bropught back all three to life.
Long after this story, the temple existed and it is not known when it was buried. Any information on this is welcome.

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