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.

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