Friday 30 November 2012

Munroe was a classmate of Prahalada

Well, all of us know about the episode of Thomas Munroe and Raghavendra Swamy. However, not many know that Rarayu himself gave the reason for appearing before Munroe and talking to him.
This is the story of  Munroe and Rayaru.
When Munroe visited Mantralaya, he was the Collector of Bellary. He had been offered the post after the final Anglo-Mysore war of 1799 in which Tipu Sultan had been killed.
The British had parceled out the territories of Tipu among their allies and also allowed the Wodeyars to retain lands in south Karnataka.
The British had decided to keep the territory surrounding Bellary. There were two reasons for this. The last Vijayanagar Emperor had been pensioned off and his territory taken over by the British. The second reason was that Bellary and surrounding areas had been the stronghold of Tipu and the British did not want any further resistance.
Munroe ad ordered the revenue officials to rationalise their system of collection. As temples were centres of revenue, he wanted the revenue officials to exercise greater control over them (This is what the Governments in India do now. They decide to take over a temple or religious institution under the Muzrai Act whenever they wanted to exercise greater control over them).
The then Government of Madras asked Munroe to ensure that all the revenue from the Raghavendra Swamy Temple in Mantralaya were demitted directly to the Treasury.
Munroe passed on this order to the revenue authorities who failed to act. When there was reminder from Madras about the revenue pending from Mantralaya, Munroe decided to take matters in his own hand and decided to visit Mantralaya.
It was sometime in 1800 when Munroe came to Mantralaya, When he was told about the holiness of the place, he respectfully removed his shoes and also his hat and entered the matha.
He then walked towards the Brindavana of Raghavendra Swamy and began looking at it. Even as he was watching the Brindavana, he slowly began seeing a figure seated in the Brindavana.
The figure emerged more clearly to show itself as a saint and Munroe soon began his famous conversation in English.
The officials accompanying Munroe and the temple priests looked askance as they saw that Munroe was speaking with himself.  They could not see Rayaru. They were also surprised to see Munroe clutching Mantrakshathe in his hands.
Munroe went back without collecting the revenue and wrote an order against collecting revenue from the math and sent it back to Madras Presidency.
This notification, deciding not to collect revenue from Mantralaya, was published in the Madras Gazette, Chapter XI and page 213, under the heading “Manchali Adoni Taluka.”
I have seen this order in Fort St. George. A copy of this order is also in the possession of the matha in Manthralaya.
Let me go back to the story of Munroe and our Rayaru. Soon, the news of Munroe having spoken to Raghavendra Swamy spread far and wide. There were celebrations in Mantralaya over the issue.
However many devotes, matha officials and even the priests of the temple were disappointed that Rayaru chose to appear and speak before a Britisher while they were denied any such privilege. “What is so great about Munroe that Rayaru gave him darshana,”  they asked.
The Pradhana Archaka of the Raghavendra Swamy Temple and others were discussing the eposode regularly and voicing their disappointment that they had so far not been given any such darshan.
One night, Rayaru appeared in the dreams of the Pradhana Archaka, who was also a party to the discussion, and told him that there was a specific reason for physically coming before Munroe.
Rayaru disclosed that when he was on earth as Prahalada in Krita Yuga, one of his classmates was Munroe. Rayaru durng his previous avatars was Prahalada, Balika Raja (He was killed in a mace fight in the Kurukshetra war by Bheema. He had to fight against the Pandavas as he ws asked to do so by Bheesma, his kin) and Vyasa Raja. 
He also told the Pradhana Archaka, that Munroe had been assigned a task to be completed and he could do that only in his later avatar as a British official. Munroe, Rayaru, said had repaid the debt by waiving off the revenue. He had, therefore, the unique privilege of  seeing Rayaru and conversing with him.
By the way, there is a statue of Munroe in Chennai. The statue shows him seated on a horse without a saddle. The statue was made by Francis Legatt Chantrey, the famed English sculptor. There is another reason to remember Munroe. He set up a committee in 1826 to look into the issue of public instruction in Madras region. One of the recommendations of the committee was to set up Presidency College in Madras.

When Munroe ate Tirupathi prasada

Till the laddus came to be distributed as prasada from the 1940s, the Srinivasa or Balaji Temple of Tirupathi every day distributed a special variety of pongal called Munroe Prabhu Kangalam.
This Munroe was none other than the man who had spoken to Raghavendra Swamy in Mantralaya. How did Munroe’s name come to be associated with a sacred dish of one of the most holy temples of India. Well, there is story behind it.    
The Tirupathi prasada, comprising pongal and vada is famous and it is associated with curing many diseases and debilities. One of the many beneficiaries of this prasada is the British Governor, Sir Thomas Munroe.
Munroe is well-known among the devotes of Raghavendra Swamy as the person who spoke to Rayaru when he visited Mantralaya. The act of Munroe speaking to Rayaru who was sitting in his Brindavana is now part of the Mantralaya folklore.
But, how many know that the same Munroe also visited Tirupathi and he was cured of an ailment only after eating with his bare hands the prasada of Srinivasa.
Munroe was a Scottish soldier and he joined the East India Company. A natural athlete, he was a superb boxer and an all-rounder in sports during his school days in Glascow.
In 1779, he joined the English Army in Madras as an Infantry cadet. He fought in the wars against Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan.
After the death of Tipu in 1799, he was from 1800 to 1807 made incharge of the northern districts ceded to the British by the Nizam of Hyderabad.
It was in the northern districts he first introduced the Ryotwari system of land revenue collected from farmers. This system continues even today with several modifications.
He went back to England and returned to Madras in 1814 and was given the special assignment of reforming the police and judicial system of Madras Presidency. In 1820, he was appointed as the Governor of Madras  and it was during this tenure that he visited Tirupathi and had a taste of the prasada.
As Tirupathi came under the Madras Presidency, Munroe was told about the deity of Srinivasa and thousands of people who came to the temple.
Income from temples in those years formed a major part of the revenue for the East India company.  A devout Christian, Munroe closely scrutinised the accounts of temples, including that of Balaji but rarely visited them.
He once went to Tirupathi and decided to look around the temple. As he was inspecting the premises, he found hundreds of clean shaven devotes eating pongal from their bare hands. While children were eating the pongal with relish, the old people were seen squatting on the ground and eating the prasada.
Now here is where there are two versions of what further happened.
This is the first version.
Munroe appeared disgusted by the manner in which the people were eating pongal with their bare hands. He asked the officials to maintain hygyine and directed them to collect all the pongal prasada and throw them out. He lectured to the devotes, telling them they would get diahorrea and cholera if they ate pongal.
The officials accompanying Munroe forced the devotes to throw out the prasada. Munroe went away satisfied that he had put an end to a “dirty” practice, as he called it. The pain increased to such an extent that the remedies that he took on his own did not work.
The administration rushed a number doctors to Munroe but none could cure his stomach pain. Munroe endured sleepless nights and he was reduced to such a state that he was amenable to any suggestion or remedy that would cure him.
A Hindu official in his entrouge suggested that Munroe would be better off if he took some prasada from the Srinivasa temple.
When Munroe demurred, the official bravely remarked that he was suffering as he had forced the devotees to throw away a sacred dish. “Eat it and you will be cured,” he said.  Left with no alternative, Munroe began eating the very pongal which he had ordered to be thrown away.
The first fistful of pongal he ate gave him a strange satisfaction. The more he ate, the less the pain became and by the time he ate the entire pongal, the stomach pain had subsided.’
Munroe realised the enormity of  his wrong order and directed the temple authorities to resume giving prasada to the devotees. He also lifted all the restrictions that he had wanted to impose or imposed on the temple and the distribution of prasada.
He also ordered the revenue authorities of the area to set aside a part of the revenue collected from Kodapaayal village near Tirupathi to be made over to the temple for preparing and distributing the pongal prasada. He also personally created an endowment for the prasada which continues to be placed before the Lord of Seven Hills even today.
This pongal prasada was given to all the devotees who visited Tirupathi tili 1940 when it was replaced by the laddus. Till then the pongal was known as Munroe Prabhu Kangalam.
The incident had a seminal effect on Munroe and his family. They al became ardent devotees of Srinivasa and never missed an opportunity in praising the Lord.
The second version of the story is not so romantic. It says Munro was frequently  suffering from stomach pain and no doctor could cure it or come out with a remedy.
Munroe had several secretaries each of whom were delegated with a specific task. One of his secretary was a Hindu and he suggested to Munro to take a vow that he would visit Tirpuathi if he was cured of the ailment.
Munroe vowed to visit Tirupathi if he was cured. Of course, the stomach ailment went away and a grateful Munroe came down to Tirpuathi from Madras where he was headquartered and prayed to Srinivasa. He also created an endowment in which daily prasada in his name is offered to Srinivasa. The TTD continues this endowment even to this day.
He died of cholera when he was visiting the northern areas of the Madras Presidency. This death, as I see it, could be attributed to his insensitive remark to the devotees that they would die of cholera of they ate pongal.

Thursday 29 November 2012

A grandmother's tale of Rayaru

In one of my earlier articles, I had written about how Rayaru made my grandfather walk.
Now please allow me to relate a few incidents from the life of  my grandmother.
My grandmother, Sharadamma, is 95. She is absolutely hale and hearty for her age. She is now in Bangalore and she has traveled with her son and daughter-in-law by car from Mysore where she lives.
My grandmother was the first women in my grandfather’s house. My grandfather had two brothers and their mother had died when Bangalore witnessed a plague in the early 1900s. Since then they had been brought up buy their father and there was no woman in the house.
The first rules of the house, the way Pooje should be performed and other daily rituals were laid down by my grandfather. She was not only the sister-in-law to two brothers of my grandfather but also their well-wisher and guardian.
My grandmother went to Purana every day in the evening at Krishna Mandira in Shivaramapet, Mysore. I cannot recall a single day when she bunked the Purana. It was her calling every evening and she attended it come rain or hailstorm.
She was a great devotee of Raghavendra Swamy, Chamundi  and of course Ranganatha of Srirangapatna. Many were the days when I boarded the passenger train from Mysore to Srirangapatna along with her  for taking a dip in the Cauvery every Karthika Masa or any other special occasion.
My grandmother had a special knack of  learning mantras. I was once bitten by a scorpion and even as my grandfather went to get some medicines, my grandmother recited mantra and the pain and swelling went away. Years after the incident I tried all my tricks to ensure that she blurted out the mantra. She, however, refused, saying that she had been taught the Mantra by a holy man during one of her visits to Srirangapatna and that she had been told not to reveal it to anybody.
Grandmother was had a bedtime tale to tell-they all dealt with the Puranas and Shastras. These stories have remained with me and given me an everlasting interest in religion and philosophy. She was also an excellent singer and she could sing many Devaranamas.
A devotee of Mantralaya Prabhu, she fated frequently and always for others and never for herself. The first time she fasted was when my mother was in the maternity ward KR Hospital almost four decades ago. Rayaru gave my grandmother Mantrakshate and told her not to worry. A girl child was born and there was a great deal of rejoicing at home. Grandfather ordered masala dosas and my uncles whooped with joy. All my grandmother did was to go to the Pooja room and light a lamp and pray for the mother and daughter.
Another time, my grandmother ordered her younger son back home from an assignment in Sandur. She did not want her son to be so far away. My uncle came back and grumbled about how he had lost a job.
My grandmother did not reply. She fasted for three days and Rayaru gave her bananas and told her son would get a job at Mysore. My uncle got that job and he stayed on there till he retired, one of the best in his field.
When one of her daughters was suffering from kidney failure, she prayed to Rayaru to relieve her of pain and take away her life quickly. My aunt, that is the other daughter of my grandmother, passed away without much suffering two years ago.
My grandmother told me she has full faith in Rayaru and the last time he gave her mantrakshate was when she was in the house of her granddaughter near Vidyapeeta in Bangalore a few weeks ago.
My grandmother prayed for me and my sisters and her other grandchildren every time they had examinations, interviews or faced some problems or the other. She has always been sending money to perform seva to Rayaru, Vadiraja Theertha and Anjeneya.
Even today, she is an ardent devotee of Rayaru and her vast knowledge of Rayaru would put us all to shame. While I gave excuses to my wife today for not taking her to the Raghavendra Swamy Temple today, my grandmother who came home insisted that she wanted to visit both the Raghavendra Swamy Temples in Jayanagar and she did so in an autorickshaw.
She says she will be back home tomorrow and she wants to visit the Srinivasa and Narasimha Temple in Jayanagar. It is, after all, Rayara Krupe.       

Rayaru made my grandfather walk

I am one of the contributors for the blog Samyuktha Harshitha.
I read with interest the two articles on Raghavendra Swamy. I decided to write the third about a miracle that occurred in our own house.
My grandparents are from Mysore. My grandfather was a doctor. His name was Dr. M.S. Seebanna. My grandmother is Sharadamma and she is 95 years of age. This story is about how Rayaru helped my grandfather during a period of difficulty.
This incident happened during the early 1970s. My grandfather had a dispensary called Lokamba in Mysore. He was one of the first doctors to set up a dispensary in Mysore. He was a very tall and handsome man. He was extremely fond of Masala Dosas and he offered them generously to anyone who came to visit him. These masala dosas from Raju Hotel in Mysore were famous and I had the privilege of tasting them sitting on the lap of my grandfather.
Grandfather had a daily routine which was set for decades. People on the road in Shivarampet where my grandparents lived set their clock by grandfather’s walk to and from the dispensary. I always saw him in a huge Jubba and White Panche. He never wore lungi.
I once asked my grandfather why he did not wear suits. He smiled and told me this story which my grandmother collaborated with more details.
One day, my grandfather and his friends went to Fountain Hotel in Mysore for a cup of coffee. On the way back, my grandfather lost mobility on both his legs. He was unable to even keep his feet on the ground. His friends initially thought it might be some minor problem and brought him home.
A doctor was called and his prognosis of the sudden loss of mobility in the legs was not good. My grandfather, who was always seen in perfect English dress of  coat, pant and hat was deeply disappointed.
He had always been a follower of Rayaru and remembered him often. He turned to Rayaru for help. He performed seva for five days and requested Rayaru to give him back the mobility in his legs. In the meanwhile, the doctors were doing their best to unravel what had happened to my grandfather but to no avail
On the fifth day, Rayaru appeared in my grandfather’s dreams and gave him a silver cup full of  Panchamruta. “Drink this and get up and walk. Do not worry”, Rayaru said.
The next day, when my grandfather awoke, he felt some sensation in his legs and during the next few days he managed to get back the mobility in his legs. He then once again began his clockwork like walk from home to the dispensary but by then he had decided to give up Western clothes and settled for a Jubba with White Panche.
The Lokamba Dispensary once again opened and Grandfather once again began treating patients. He continued treating patients for several years before calling it a day.
Most of the patients who came to him for treatment did not have money for payment. Instead, they paid him in kind-some gave him fresh bananas, while others offered vegetables they had brought to Mysore for selling form their villages. Grandfather accepted them happily, without a murmer.
Whenever I visited the clinic, which was very often, he would speed me off to Raju Hotel, ordering Masala Dosas. My grandfather died of cancer several decades ago. However, my grandmother is still going strong at 95. She too is a devotee of Raghavendra Swamy.
My next article on the miracle of Raghavendra Swamy will be on my Grandmother.       

Rayaru gave me Mantrakshate

He was a well-known academician of Mysore. A professor and head of department of a  prestigious college, he and his wife had come to the Rayara Matha at Subbarayana Kere in Mysore.
The couple’s only son is an engineer with a prestigious company in Bangalore.
The professor is not a very orthodox man. Though he goes to temples and believes in gods and miracles, he cannot be called orthodox.
The Professor and his wife have visited several holy and pilgrim spots in India. They perform poojas every day and Lord Narasimha is their family diety.   
On that day, the afternoon was hot and the professor looked tired. He was also slightly exhausted from all the work he had put in. He was slowly doing the Pradakshina of  the Brindavana in the matha.
The matha was practically deserted as it was almost closing time. The matha officials were preparing to close down the shutters for the afternoon and arrangements were being made to serve Theertha Prasada.
The professor completed the first Pradakshina. Even as he was going around the Brindavana with devotion to Rayaru in hi heart, an old man who was slightly bent with age accosted him and gave him Mantrakshate.
The Professor took the Mantrakshate and completed the Pradakshina. He then tried to find out where the old man had gone. He could not find him and the ne he realised that it was Rayaru who gave him the Mantrakshate.
To this day, the Professor is blessed by Rayaru. He gets the Mantrakshate every year on a particular night. When he opens his wrist in the morning, the Mantrakshate is in his palms.
He has kept the Mantrakshate in a box in his pooja room where it occupies the pride of place.
Rayaru also appeared in person when the Professor and his wife visited Mantralaya.
Well, this is the Mahime of Rayaru at  Subbarayanakere.
This matha is the oldest Raghavendra Swamy Temple in Mysore and it belongs to the Nanjangud Raghavendra Swamy Matha.
There are several other miracles associated with Rayaru here. However, since we are not personally connected with the persons who got the benefit of Rayaru;s grace, we will refrain from writing about it.
In this case, we can personally vouch for the miracle of Professor and his wife. We have seen the Mantrakshathe given to him by Rayaru every year. We also know him and his family members personally.
The previous seer of Raghavendra Swamy Matha, Sushemendra Theertha, was one of the officials who worked in this matha before his elevation as a pontiff.
My parents, grandparents and myself have had the honour of taking Theertha and Mantrakshathe from the hands of Sushemendra Theertha several decades ago. This great man had come to our house near Krishna Mandira in Shivarampet in Mysore and I can still recall this event.  
Today, the circle where the NS Road and Veena Seshanna Road intersect is called as Sushamendra Theertha Vrutta (Circle).
By the way, there is a small park near the Raghavendra Swamy Temple which has a history of its own. This was the park where  freedom fighters gathered to hold meetings during pre-Independence days.
The park, which is located on seven acres, on Chamaraja Double road, has been renamed as Freedom Fighters' Memorial Park or as “Tyagi Park.’’

Rayaru gave us twins

This is the first article in the blog dealing with personal miracles of Raghavendra Swamy.
Let us begin with the Raghavendra Swamy temple at 5th Block, Jayanagar.
A couple from Jayanagar, Bangalore, have submitted this incident. So here goes…..
We are Madhwa Brahmins and we have twins. Both are girls and they are studying in a well-known convent in Bangalore.
The parents do not want their identity known and we have decided to keep it that way. What matters here is the blessing of Rayaru and his sympathy and not the name of the couple.
This is how the story unfolded.
The couple said…….
Our first child, a girl, was born sometime in September 2004. The child was born premature and it was underweight. Both the mother and daughter were admitted to a well-known hospital in Bangalore.
While the mother was discharged after a few days, the child was kept in the ICC peadiatric ward for almost a month. The child was unable to eat on its own and it had to be fed. Since its organs were not very well developed, it could not take anything except mother’s milk..
The father was allowed to see the child only for a few minutes before he was asked to leave the ICU. The doctors there told him that they had been doing their best but the child would survive only if  it desired to live.
The medicines and tablets to the child continued for almost a month. The doctors wanted to increase the intake and one day gave the child a little more milk. The child was unable to digest this and its liver got clogged. Soon, it developed complications and it died on early on Vijayadashami.
The child was laid to rest in an unmarked place at the Hindu crematorium in Lakshmipura near Ulsoor.
Deeply disappointed over the turn of events, the couple faced several other problems. They also lost faith in God and stopped going out.
The loss was all the more poignant for the father as he had interacted every evening with the child. He rushed down from his office to his house where his wife would hand over a small container with her milk to him. The father then would go to the hospital as he knew that their child, which was lonely in the ICU, would be waiting for a sip of her mother’s milk
Recovery from the tragedy was slow and painful. Every time the couple looked at a small child, particularly a girl, they were reminded of their lost one. Though the mother appears to have come to terms with the tragedy, the father still has not forgotten the first child. He has so far never revealed to his friends that the first born has passed away. On that particular day, Vijayadashamai, he does not go out of the house and prefers to spend time alone. That is the day he has set aside for his first born. 
Meanwhile, days passed and one day, the in-laws of the girl went to the Rayaru Matha in Jayanagar 5th Block.
The pooje of the Raghavendra Swamy Brindavana had just concluded and the priests were giving Mantrakshate and Theertha. When the in-laws approached the main priest or Archaka, he recognised them and asked the why they had not come to the matha for such a long time.
The couple’s mother-in-law told the priest how she had lost her granddaughter. The priest got up, took a coconut, put Mantrakshate and flowers on it and handed it to the mother-in-law, and asked her to bring the couple.
The couple, who had never visited any temple, came reluctantly to the Rayara Matha. The priest called them in and blessed them saying that they had lost one, but they would get two. An year after he predicted this, the couple are happy parents of  twins.
The anugraha of Rayaru continues on the twins to this day too. The twins have won several prizes in competitions and they regularly take part in contests arranged by the Raghavendra Swmay Mathas in Bangalore. They have won prizes in contests organised by the NR Colony, Jayanagar 4th Block and 5th Block Mathas. 
The last prize they won was at the hands of  the Uttaradhi Matha seer, Satyatma Theertha, at the Narasimha Temple in Basavanagudi, Bangalore.
Om Namo Raghavendraiah.
This is the first in the series of  miracles of Raghavendra Swamy that we are putting up on the blog. The next will be the miracle of the Mantralaya seer at the Rayara Matha in Mysore.                

One hundredth article

Well, in just a month’s time after starting the blog, we managed to write 100 articles. The articles deal with a variety of topics from Madhwa seers to history, temple visits, personalities and sight seeing.
The blog hopes that the readers and viewers have enjoyed the experience. We have tried to highlight issues that are generally either not easy to access in the public domain or which remain relatively unknown. 
All the article are written from first hand experience. We at the blog have endeavored to give the readers an unbiased view of the events, personalities and tourist spots. Much of the writing has been concentrated on Madhwa seers as we are more familiar with it.
We have consciously avoided writing in first person as we wanted the readers to go out  there and enjoy the place we had mentioned. However, in some cases bringing in personal views becomes inevitable and even in such cases, the personal element has been substantially reduced.
We are yet to write about  Sripadaraja Swamy, Bramanye Theertha  and Raghuttama Theertha. We have written substantially on Madhwacharya and Vyasa Theertha. Write ups on other Madhwa seers would follow shortly.
The next few articles would focus on some miracles that we have personally been witness to or our close kith and kin have experienced. In such cases, it becomes difficult to avoid the personal touch. We will begin with a write up on Raghavendra Swamy and his miracle.
The blog is very simple in design. We will add more photographs shortly. The articles, including those in the archives, will be labeled and categorized into distinct boxes. This, we hope will be more reader friendly.
We have also started a small blog exclusively on Bangalore. This blog too will be given a link here along with another Madhwa blog called Kalpavriksha Kamadhenu which belongs to Meera Subbarao. Kalpavriksha Kamadhenu has a lot of articles on Raghavendra Swamy apart from details of Hindu festivals, Madhwa dishes and personalities.
Happy reading.    

The saint around whom a town grew

He is a Madhwa saint around whom a town grew up. Today, that small town has grown up into a thriving industrial area, bordering the coastal city of Mangalore. The seer liked ekantha and was called Ekangi Swamy but wherever he went, crowds of devotes followed him and sought his blessings.
He had come to Karnataka nearly three centuries ago from Kashi in search of peace and calm. When he came to an area near present day Mangalore, the seer choose a spot  and sat in meditation.
His fame as a scholar and devout Madhwa had spread so far and wide that the place where he sat in meditation across a river soon turned into a prosperous trading centre. People began flocking to the place and it soon came to be known as Gurupura.
Even after he left, the people stayed back and today Gurupura is a busy industrial area.
Ironically for a saint who liked calm and quiet, his brindavana in one of the most populated cities of the world- Mumbai- in a place called Walkeshwar which he  had purchased. The Brindavana is in a locality that is described as one of the most expensive land  in the world.
This saint is none other than Madhavendra Theertha, the seventh pontiff if the Kashi Matha, who was one of the most influential seers of his times.
The seer entered Samadhi sajeeva (live) at Walkeshwara in Mumbai on August 1, 1775. The Samadhi is located between the Arabian Sea and a small lake where he used to bathe regularly before doing pooje.   
Even today, it is believed that this seer goes to bathe early in the morning to  the lake wearing his wooden padukas. The sound made by the padukas on the road has been heard by many people, including Sukreetindra Theertha, the Kashi Matha seer, who entered brindavana in 1949.
Another person, a devotee from North Kanara, too has heard the noise that the Padukas make. He was sleeping near the place where Madhavendra Theertha was supposed to take bathe. When he woke up the next morning, he found that he had been physically shifted to another place away from the lake.
Madhavendra Theertha had powers to know what the future held. He could foresee the day and date when his guru, Devandra Theertha, would enter Brindavana and he made all preparations for the event.
When the day approached, Devendra Theertha was in Bantwal and all the disciples began chanting Bhagavath Geeta and singing bhajans. The seer left his mortal body amidst the holy chanting in 1740. His  Brindavana of Devandra Theertha is situated on the banks of the Netravathi river. 
He installed the deity of Lord Venkatesha along with Varadaraja at Gurupura in 1742. He also consecrated the idol of  Bindu Madhava in Mulki (along with Lord Narasimha installed by Sri Vijayindra Theertha). He had himself bought the idol of Bindu Madhava from Kashi.
The seer was also instrumental in setting up the Kashi Math in Walkeshwar where his Brindavana is situated. There is a story told here about how much the seer liked this place. He decided to buy the land here and construct a small matha. He also decided to enter Brindavana at this place.
Madhavendra Theertha gave Deekshe to two disciples as his successors-Jnanindra Theertha, who entered brindavana in Nashik in 1760 and Yadavendra Theertha who entered brindavana at Honnavar in 1773. He later appointed Upendra Theertha as his successor. Upendra Theertha was the Peetadhipathi of Kashi Matha till 1791 and he entered Brindavana at Benaras.
It is believed that Madhavendra Theertha  performs miracles even today from the brindavana. By the way, the famous Hertitage Walk of Mumbai starts from this Matha.
Walkeshwar is in South Mumbai and it is at the north-west end of Marine Drive. Walkeshwar is another name of Lord Shiva and in Sanskrit it means an idol made from sand. The Malabar Hill and Hanging Gardens are part of Walkeshwar and the Raj Bhavan is just a stone’s throw away.
The real estate prices of Walkeshwar can be described as among the most expensive in the world. 

Wednesday 28 November 2012

The Ganesha that fell out of a tobacco pouch

There is a small but beautiful island in Kundapur taluk which during the British rule was known as Salt Island.
The Salt Island was the place where trading in salt took place. It was also the place where trade in seafood and tobacco occurred. Thus, salt and seafood was the only two commodities that the islanders depended upon.
The island’s Kannada name was Uppinakudru. Uppu in Kannada means salt. It is a very small island six kms north of Kundapur in Udupi district. The island is now not as very well known as it was during the British period.
Though it is no longer the centre of salt and seafood trading, it has, of late, become a prominent tourist attraction.
The island has many temples but the most famous is that of Ganesha. There is a very interesting and humorous story behind the idol of Ganesha which is consecrated in the temple.
While trading in tobacco, salt and seafood was legitimate during the British period, there was an equally remunerative trade going on and that was smuggling of ancient idols and artifacts. Since this island was very near to the West coast and as it was not policed, smugglers and antique dealers found Uppinakudru an ideal place for smuggling them out of India.
Old-timers in the island can tell you how the idols were smuggled, hidden within layers of tobacco and salt and in some cases seafood. As the tobacco was tightly packed in gunny bags, there was no question of  opening them. The tobacco came from nearby Belgaum and they are evebn today rated on par with tobacco grown in Virginia, United State. These bags were weighed and stacked aboard ships for onward transport to foreign countries.  
The island was thickly planted with coconut trees and it hid the place from prying eyes. Several pirates had made the island their home and they made good money by smuggling idols and other antiques.     
Once a consignment of tobacco was to be exported from the island. As the package with several tobacco pouches was being transported, an idol of Ganesha tumbled out of the bag, startling the onlookers. The people who had smuggled the idol fled, leaving Ganesha at the spot.
The people got together and decided to build a temple to Ganesha at the spot and called it Siddhi Vinayaka Temple. They said as Ganesha himself had decided on the place where he wanted the temple to come up, the structure would have to be built at the precise spot.
The Ganesha Temple exists even today and you can visit it along with other temples in the island. One of the oldest temple on the island is that of Vasudeva. The temple of Gopala Krishna is worth a visit.
Vasudeva is the local deity of the islanders. This temple was the seat of ancient education. There are at least eight  maths in the island such as Lakshminarayana Matha, Eashwara Matha, Ganapathi Matha, Devi Matha and Gopinath Matha.
The island is completely surrounded by Gangavali river. During the time of Tipu Sultan, ammunition was stored here when he went to war with the British.
This is regarded to be birthplace of Yakshagana. One of the Yakshagana troupes here traces its origin to a date more than three centuries ago. Yakshagana string puppetry is famous. Today, the salt island is known all over the world for its Yakshagana.

The nearest railway station is Kundapur and the nearest airport is Bajpe in Mangalore. The island is 447 kms from Bangalore, 98 kms from Mangalore and 38 kms from Udupi.

The saint for whom Narasimha opened the door of his temple

All of us have either read or heard about the story of  how the Nawab of Adoni, Sidhi Masud Khan, tested the prowess of Raghavendra Swamy or Rayaru by  placing a plate containing meat before the seer.
Rayaru accepted the offering and sprinkled holy water from the kamandala he was carrying. When the clothe covering the plate was removed, the meat had turned into fruits and flowers.
This incident is recorded in history and it finds mention in many books and songs on Raghavendra Swamy, the bard of Mantralaya.
Similarly, the story of Kanaka Dasa in Udupi and how the idol of Lord Krishna in the Sri Krishna Temple turned is also widely mentioned. The Kanakana Kindi in the temple is as famous as the idol of Krishna.
Several centuries earlier to the period of Raghavendra Swamy and Kanaka Dasa, a renown  Madhwa saint, Akshoba Theertha, had defeated Vidyaranya, the Advaitha scholar and Guru of the founders of Vijayanagar Empire Hakka and Bukka, in a debate on “Tatvam Asi”. After the debate, a pillar of victory had been constructed in Mulabagal.  
All these three incidents have been immortalised. But did you that there was one Madhwa Saint during whose life time all these incidents occurred. The doors of a Narasimha Temple opened on its own when this seer came calling at the temple: the meat, blood  and fish offered to him tuned into holy articles and a Vijaya Stambha was consecrated in his memory after he won a debate over a well-known Adwaitha scholar.
This seer was none other than Satyapriya Theertha, one of the most holy men of his times and the Peetadhipathi of Uttaradhi Matha from 1737 to 1774. He had taken over the reigns of the Matha from Satyapurna Theertha.
An ardent devotee of Moola Rama, he is credited with many miracles. During one of his sanchara, he came across the King of a Muslim kingdom. The King, who had heard about the seer’s miracles, wanted to test him.
The King offered three plates pooja, containing mutton, fish and blood. The seer sprinkled Theertha and Tulasi on the plates and when the clothes covering the plates were removed,  the mutton had transformed into sandalwood, fish into stone and blood into  arathi for Moola Rama.
Even as this was going on, the King began losing his eyesight. Unnerved by the miracle, the King feel at the feet of  the Seer and begged forgiveness.
The seer blessed him and the King regained his eyesight. The King then gave three villages, including Chandanoor, and another land grant of over 100 acres to the Uttaradhi Matha apart from other riches. A copper plate donating the land to the Matha can be seen even today.
He decided to visit Melkote, now in Mandya district. When he came to the Yoga Narasimha Temple, the priests had closed the temple doors and felt for the day. Deeply disappointed, the seer began praising the lord and began singing his glory.
The temple doors opened on its own and the temple bells began ringing on its own. The dumbfounded priests performed mangalarti and left the seer in front of the idol to meditate.     
On a tour of north India, he came across an Adwaitha Pandit and scholar called Ghanshyam in Kashi. This scholar had written more than 100 dramas in Sanskrit and was considered an authority on Advaitha literature and philosophy.
Gnan Shyam Kavi accepted Satyapriya Theertha as his Guru and became his follower. He also wrote a book, Prachanda Raahoodayam, a book in five chapters, in which he has made the seer as the hero of the work. This books discusses the Dwaitha. Adwaitha and other schools of philosophy.
The residents of Kashi and the seer’s devotes installed a tower in Kashi inscribing on it the seer’s glorious deed and the defeat of the Adwaitah scholar. (Here, I would like to draw a parallel to the victory of Akshoba Theertha, one of the four direct disciples of Madhwacharya over Vidyaranya).
He revived a boy who had died of snake bite by sprinkling holy water and reciting mantras.  
When the seer was visiting Rameshwaram along with his disciples, thieves attacked attacked them near Man Madurai (near Madurai) and went ahead with the jewel box, sacred bell and other articles of the matha. As the seer sang and prayed to Hanuman to rescue his master’s articles, a group of monkeys set upon the thieves and set about kicking and biting the thieves.
The thieves rushed back to the seer and gave back the articles. They also begged for forgiveness. The monkeys vanished as suddenly as they came and this place was named as Veera Vanara Madurai. This place exists even today near Madurai.
During his last days, the seer personally felt the presence of Rama after performing the pooje of Moola Rama and pother deities of the Matha. He realised his end was near and entered Brindavanana at Mana Madurai in Shivaganga district, Tamil Nadu, on Chaitra Shuda Traiodashi.
Please visit the Brindavana as it is very unique. By and large, all Brindavanas of Madhwa saints are constructed upon a tortoise or Koorma.
This Brindavana is unique as a Sarpa or spiral snake is on the Koorma. There is a beautiful poem in honour of this seer by one of his successors to the Uttaradhi Matha, Satyadharma Theertha.
Satyapriya Theertha has written several works, including commentaries on Upanishads.

The Shastra Gooli of Uttradhi Matha

He had the shortest stint as the Peethadhipathi of the Uttaradhi Math. But his Keerti (fame) has outlived his lifespan and even today people talk about his expertise in shastras, philosophy and logic.
A terror to scholars of other streams of  philosophy, he was given the title “Shastra Gooli.” In Kannada, Gooli means a Bull and here, the title was a prefix to a Madhwa seer who was being compared by the people of his times to the redoubtable Jaya Theertha or Teekacharya who in his previous incarnation was a bull carrying the works of Madhwacharya.
Known as Sathyasanthustha Theertha, he had a very short period of just eight months and three days as head of this matha. Within this short time, he considerably improved the finances of the math and set it on a firm footing.
In his Poorvaashrama days, he was called Balachar. He was one of the Astana Pandita of the Wodeyars in Mysore. A keen learner, he was a student of another equally well-known scholar Patri Vedavyasachar.
The Wodeyar kings were patron of art and literature. They regularly conducted debates and lectures of scholars called Vidwat Sabhas. These sabhas became so famous that pandits and  scholars from India and abroad attended them.
The pandits who participated in these sabhas were felicitated. During one such Sabha, a scholar Chandramouli Avadhani challenged the gathering to a debate. While none dared to debate, Balachar agreed and then entered into a debate which went on or several days.
The arguments covered Shastra, Nyaya, Taraka and aspects of ontology. Chandramouli conceded defeat and the gathering were in awe of  Balachar who looked to them like a raging bull.
The Maharaja of Mysore, Krishna Raja Wodeyar (3), too noticed the ferocious manner in which Balachar defended the Dwaitha tenets and gave him the honorific “Shastra Gooli.” The Maharaja also conferred on him the honor of  leading the Vidwat sabha. He was also an expert in Vyakarana and Mimamsa apart from being well-versed in epistomology.
He entered Brindavana in 1841 in Mysore after initiating Satya Parayana Theertha as his successor. His Brindavana is next to the Brindavana of his guru, Sathyasankalpa Theertha. He was a contemporary of  Vidyanidhi Theertha of  Vyasaraja Matha, Sugynanedra Theertha of Raghavendra Swamy Matha and Raghunatha Theertha.
There is a story of his Brindavana. My parents and relatives in Mysore have seen holy water flowing from the Brindavana which was said to be Ganga. The flow of water after a woman who had menses touched the holy structure. This is what the priests in the Uttaradhi Matha in Hale Agrahara near Gun House in Mysore where the brindavana are located told my parents.

The Brindavanas that shook

It was sometime in mid 1750s. The pontiff of the Raghavendra Swamy Matha was Vadeendra Theertha. He was the great grandson of Raghavendra Swamy who had entered Brindavana in Mantralaya in 1671.
Vadeendra Theertha was the son of Purushottamacharya who in turn was the son of Lakshminarayana, the only son of Raghavendra Swamy. In his Poorvashrama, Vadeendra Theerta was called Srinivasacharya. 
Vadeendra Theertha had finished composing Guru Guna Sthavana, a beautiful work, praising his ancestor Raghavendra Swamy and also detailing his works.
Vadeendra Theertha decided to dedicate the work to Rayaru and he went to Mantralaya and stood before the Brindavana and began reciting the composition. He was the Peetadhipathi of the Sri Raghavendra Swamy Matha from 1750 to 1761.
Minutes went by and the melodious voice of  Vadeendra flowed around the Brindavana attracting devotees and pilgrims who also stood respectfully in front of the Moola Brindavana of Raghavendra Swamy.
When Vadeendra Theertha completed reciting the works, the Brindavana of Raghavendra shook and nodded its approval. Even to this day, the Brindavana of Raghavendra can be seen titled to one side. This is because of this incident.
Guru Guna Sthavana is a work of 36 verses in honor of Rayaru. It gives us the dates chronologically of the compositions of Rayaru and also the circumstances under which these works came to be written.
Incidentally, Vadeendra Theertha was just two years old when Raghavendra Swamy entered Brindavana in Mantralaya. Vadeendra Theertha entered Brindavana in a structure that was originally constructed by Diwan Venkanna for Rayaru.
Rayaru wanted a much simpler Brindavana and predicated that another holy saint would be entitled to sit in the Brindavana meant for him a few decades later.  
If you look closely at the Brindavana, you can see a small crack on top.  A popular story is that a woman flung a stone in anger when Rararu did not appear in her dreams and fulfill her wishes. The same night, Rayaru came in her dreams and told her he would have appeared in her dreams that night and given her his blessings.
The Brindavana of Raghavendra Swamy is also supposed to have nodded its approval to the Harikathamrutasara composed by Jagannatha Dasa.
Another Brindavana is also supposed to have shaken itself  when a Pravachana was being conducted before it decades before the Rayaru miracle.
Satyasandha Theertha of Uttaradhi Matha had come to Sangli in Maharashtra. He visited the Brindavana of  Satyavrata Theertha (1635-1638) and began a Pravachana on Nyaya Sudha after completing the pooje to Moola Rama.
Even as scores of people, devotees and matha officials looked on, the Brindavana of  Satyavrata Theertha shook from side to side several times after the Pravachana was completed.
One of the witnesses to this incident was the king of Sangli, Balraj Urs. Both these saints entered Brindavana when alive. Another similarity between the two saints is that after Rayaru, the Sri matha came to called as Raghavendra Swamy Matha. The Uttradhi Matha name continued but all seers occupying the peeta after Satyavrata Theertha took the prefix Satya in honour of the immense contribution of  the saint to the matha and to Dwaitha Parampare.
There is another saint in the Uttaradhi Matha parampare called Satyavara Theertha. His Brindavana is at santebidanoor. His name so closely resembles to that of Satyavrata Theertha that there is confusion between the two saints.

Monday 26 November 2012

Karnataka and the story of Tirupathi laddus

Did you know that there is a Karnataka connection to the world famous Tirpuathi laddus.
The ghee or butter in the mouth –watering laddus, which are a gastronomic delight, is supplied by the Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) which owns and sells its products under the Nandini brand.
The KMF had participated in the tender process called by the Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanams (TTD)  for supply of butter and it won the bid hands down. What weighed the tender in favour of the KMF was its buffer stocks of nearly 2500 tonnes of butter and the high quality standards it has set itself.
The KMF sends a tanker of butter every day to Tirupathi, almost all of which is used to make the laddus. These tankers carry about seven to eight tonnes of butter.
On its part, KMF produces 25,000 tonnes of ghee (butter) and the TTD is the largest buyer by a long distance. It picks up 100 tonnes of butter every day.
Apart from Tirpuathi, KMF also supplies its milk powder and its products, including ghee, to several other temples in and outside Karnataka and outlets and shops in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
The coffee beverage chain, Coffee Day, sources its milk requirement from KMF. The coffee day outlets in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have Nandini milk. 
Today, the Nandini brand has established itself in the domestic market. It is the second largest selling mil and milk product brand in India after Amul.
The Kolar-Chikaballapur belt of Bangalore-Kolar  region produces 7,20,000 litres of milk every day and this is much in excess of the demand. It is this excess that allows KMF to maintain buffer stocks and also sell its products to TTD and other bulk consumers.
The cashew nuts, cardamom and other spices that go into the making of the laddu is sourced from the Spices Exchange in Kochi, Kerala.
All pilgrims who go to Tirupathi and visit the Balaji shrine get laddus when they exchange their tickets at the laddu counter. The laddus are also sold at a higher price in the counter.
The system of giving laddu prasad is only a recent appendage, dating back to the late 1930s.
Till the laddus made their entry as prasada, devotees were
contained rice powder mixed with wet jaggery or jaggery liquid.
The first time that laddus were given as prasada was in 1940.
The TTD management decided to make laddus like a hill (kondatha in Telugu) for some exclusive poojas such as Nitya Kalyana and Kalyanotsava. The laddus were initially prepared with sugar and offered to the deity and then handed over as prasada to those who had participated in certain exclusive rituals. They then cost just six paise.
The credit for the laddu prasada goes to a person called Kalyana Iyengar.
Devotees began appreciating the laddus and the demand for them picked up. The TTD then decided to go in for larger distribution of laddus and from 1943, the laddus were offered as prasada for Kalyanothsava.
The laddus were first distributed to all devotees only once a week, that is on Saturdays. This was modified to give lauds to devotees on all days. While those who participated in exclusive rituals were given big size laddus, regular devotes got only small laddus.
In the 1940s, the lauds were prepared by a handful of people belonging to the Mirasi Brahmin sect. This meant that only hereditary trustees of the temple could prepare the laddus.
 Later this system was replaced by constructing huge kitchens for preparing all prasdasa, including laddu, vada and the Mirasi was abolished. In the early days these kitchens used firewood for preparing prasada.
It was in 1984 that gas replaced firewood in the Tirupathi kitchens and over a period of time the kitchens have been mechanized and fully automated. Even the laddu making has been given a makeover.
The list of ingredients that is used every day to prepare the laddu is called Ditta. Nearly 2 lakhs laddus are prepared every day. The laddus for the Lord are prepared separately in the temple kitchen called Potu.
The laddu contains  butter, oil, besan flour , sugar, cashew nuts, cardamom,  raisins and almonds. Sugar is the biggest commodity used in the preparation.
Though the size of the laddu has reduced over the years, the taste has remained the same. No wonder, it is called the Srivari laddu.
The laddus now come the Geographical Indicator (GI) tag, which means that they are the exclusive patent of the Lord of Tirumala.  A petition was filed recently in a court against the GI tag which was dismissed.
Tirupathi is the most visited worship site of the world.  There is another first for Tirupthi. It is also the place where a person visits the temple again and again. It is also the only temple where rituals are booked years and months on advance.
Earlier, some branches of Vijaya Bank in Bangalore booked tickets for sevas at Tirupathi. This system has been discontinued now, though you can give sevas at the Vijaya Bank branch at Tirumala.
In Bangalore, you can get tickets for sevas and more information at the TTD office and temple at Vyalikaval. The laddus are distributed here on a specified day.   

Sunday 25 November 2012

The first abode of Subramanya

It is believed to be the first abode of Subramanya or Karthikeya in India. It is also among the oldest temples in Karnataka where women were barred from entering till 1996.
This temple of Subramanya was lost for several centuries to the forests. It was rediscovered in the 15th century along with the mythical hill on which it was supposed to be located. Today, there are enough materials on both the temple and the hoary hillock on which it is located.
Both the temple and the hillock are associated with the Puranas, particularly the story of  Parusurama, one of the Dasavatars and Karthekiya, the brother of Ganesha. It is also associated with the literary works of one of India’s greatest writers.
Ironically, there is an idol of Ganesha which is today more popular and attracts more devotes than the deity of Karthikeya. Yes, I am writing about the Karthikeya Temple in Kumaraswamy Hills in Sandur taluk of Bellary district.
Legends and religious texts state that Krauncha Giri, where this temple is located, is the first abode of Subramanya. The temple is 10 kms away from Sandur.
The first thing that strikes a visitor or pilgrim when he arrives is the elliptical shape of  Krauncha Giri with a diametric narrow pass. This gap or narrow pass was made when Karthikeya accidentally struck the mountain when he was battling Tharaka, a demon.
This story of Karthikeya and Taraka and other demons that Karthikeya slew can be found in the Mahabharata (Salya Parva), Skanda Purana (Asura Kanda) and other works.
India’s greatest dramatist, Kalidasa, has written about the narrow pass or the small cut made in the mountain of  Krauncha Giri in Megha Sandesha.
Though Hindus knew of the story and also the fact that the battle between Karthikeya and Tharaka took place in Krauncha Giri, the location had disappeared amid thick forests and many thought it was only a mythical mountain like the Meru.
It was only in the 15th century that the temple and the hill were discovered by the local rulers of Sandur called the Ghorpades (The Ghorpades continued to rule over Sandur till Independence).
The forests surrounding the temple and the hillock came to be known as Swamimalai.
The temple was initially built by the Chalukyas and this makes it one of the oldest structure in Karnataka. It was subsequently improved upon and renovated by the Rashtrakutas.
The temple is accessible from Sandur by road and it houses shrines to Parvathi, Kumaraswamy or Karthikeya and Ganesha.
Historians date the Parvathi temple to the period of the Chalukyas of Badami. So it is estimated to have been built sometime during the 8th century AD. Karthikeya Temple is ascribed to the Rashtrakutas and is roughly dated towards the 9th century AD or early 10th century AD.
Locals say that  when the Rashtrakutas built the temple, the original idol was that of Shanmugha and not Karthikeya. The idol of  Karthikeya was consecrated by the Rashtrakutas.
Women were barred from entering the temple for centuries. This practice was followed even after the Ghorpades discovered the temple. It was left to Murarirao Yeshwanthrao Ghorpade in 1996 to throw open the temple to women. Since then more than 3500 women have entered the temple. However, women in and around Sandur still hesitate to enter the temple.
Another credit to the Ghorpades is that they threw open the temple to the Harijans as early as 1930. Mahatma Gandhi who visited Sandur in 1943 appreciated this gesture.           
Krauncha Giri is also associated with legends of the sages Agastya and Parusharama. It also shares a bond with the legends of  Srisailam Jyotirlinga in Andhra Pradesh.
Swamimalai ranges
If you visit the temple, do not miss the Swamimalai ranges. It is home to wildlife like Russel Viper, spectacled cobras, peacocks, leopards.
The geological rich Sandur has been mined for iron ore and other minerals such as manganese. Sandur too has many attractions. The nearest airport is Bellary and Sandur is approachable by road from Bellary and other places of Karnataka.

The island fortess where Vachanas of Basaveshwara are buried

This is not only an island with a little bit of history but also a place of legends. One such legend is that more than a lakh of verses or vachanas composed by Basaveshwara, the poet, statesman, thinker and philosopher from north Karnataka, are buried in a stone box here. The stone box is amid the Krishna river and it is visible only during summer when the level of water in the river comes down.
This is Jaldurga, the riverine island in Raichur district. As the name itself suggest it is a water fort-Jal means water and durg stands fort.
This is one of the many islands in Raichur district and perhaps the most important from the historic point of view. The island is formed by the Krishna and two other smaller streams.
The fort of Jaldurga was built by the Adil Shahi emperors of Bijapur who strengthened the ramparts and raised its height to ensure complete safety and security. Before the Adil Shahis took over the fort, it belonged to the Bahamani sultans who were bitter rivals of  Vijayanagars. The fort, for sometime, passed into the hands of the Vijayanagar before it lapsed once again to the Adil Shahis. 
Jaldurga, during the days of the conflict with the Vijayanagar dynasty, played a vital role in giving a toe-hold for the Adil Shahis. Since Raichur and Mudgal forts passed hands from the Adil Shahis to Vijayanagars and vice-versa, the Adil Shahis were in need of a permanent military camp. Jaldurga fulfilled this long-term goal.
The Adil Shahis went about building what was once an impregnable fort. Today much of the fort is in ruins. Meadows Taylor has given a graphic description of the fort.
The high walls of the fort came in handy for another purpose. There are spots on the fort from where criminals, traitors and those who displeased the Adil Shahi kings were thrown off.  People who were sentenced to death were pushed off the fort at a particular place. Such people  landed on the rocks below and died. One such spot is the steep cliff on the northen side.
The top of the fort housed a palace of the Adil Shahis. There was also a small mosque which is nowhere to be seen and a cellar. An underground tunnel originated from the top of the fort to the ground below. Today, thick vegetation covers this structure.
When you reach the top of the fort, get ready to enjoy a breathtaking view of the craggy rocks below and the Narayanapur dam which is miles away. The waters of the Krishna and its two smaller tributaries is a sight for sore eyes.
There used to be a huge vault here where riches and treasures were supposed to have been stored.
Getting to Jaldurga is rather easy. Lingsugur, the nearest town and
taluk headquarters of Raichur district, is just 13 kms away. Raichur is 70 kms away. There are plenty of buses and private vehicles operating from Lingsugur and even Raichur to Jaldurga.
This island is much different from the island of Srirangapatna. The Krishna here flows eastwards around Jaldurga and two small streams or tributaries join the Krishna creating this island. 
There are some tombs as you approach the fort. All we can guess is that they belong to the Adil Shahis. There is no name or board to give us details. There are some arches which were once doorways or gates to the fort.
Locals and old-timers will show you the places where the fort once had seven beautiful gateways.     
The walk around the fort will take you to Sangemeshwara Matha and a Yellamma Temple. The idol of Yellamma has a face which is red in colour. The trees around this temple look green even in summers. This is because of the gift of green bangles given to the Goddess by devotees. Devotees pray for a particular cause and gift Yellamma with the bangles for fulfillment of their wishes.
The other Yellamama which I saw was the one at Saudatti. (There are many temples dedicated to Yellamma in north Karnataka and Maharashtra).
There is also a temple of  Sangameshwara here.
Walk down the Yellamma Temple towards the rocky water front which leads you to the banks of the Krishna. This place is called Mandhana Maduvu.
Locals will show you a place in the river which they say can be seen during summer when the water level of the Krishna recedes. The stone here is in the form of a box which is reported to contain a lakh of verses of Basaveshwara or Basavanna. There are many versions on why and how the verses came to be hidden here.
Basaveshwara has written innumerable vachanas and they are on a variety of topics. These vachanas form part of a beautiful body of literature called Vachana Sahitya. This sahitya predates Dasa sahitya by a century.
Imagine if  what the locals told me about Mandhana Maduvu proves to be true. When I visited Jaldurga, the Krishna was overflowing the danger mark and water was also being released from the Narayanapur Dam. Hence, there was no way I could see the stone box.    
The Krishna forms a cascade here and it is called Jaldurga falls or Narayanapura falls.
The island is home to small wildlife and the Forest Department has constructed a view point behind the Sangamshwara Matha. This is part of the Jaldurga reserve forest. Take the permission of the Forest Department to explore the jungle and shoot pictures of  snakes, mongoose, fox, wild hares an even hyenas.
The small town of Jaladurga has a temple dedicated to Hanuman.If you are interested in history, I suggest you read the book, A Noble Queen written by Philip Meadows Taylor in 1878. Taylor was an adminiatrator posted in India and he started out as a clerk in the Bombay Government. He has published several novels on India, including a book on Thugs and Tipu Sultan. He has also written a book called history of India.
Banavasi, the capital of the Kadambas which is near Sirsi, was also called Jaldurga and even the Golconda fort was called by a similar name.