Monday 19 November 2012

The Nava Brahma Temples

There are several cities in India where there is a temple dedicated to Lord Brahma. The most famous of such temples is the one at Pushkar near Ajmer in Rajasthan.
There is also a temple for Brahma near Vellore. It is just off the Chennai-Bangalore highway and it is in Virinchipuram, 15 kms from Vellore. It is called the Margaparendeshwar Temple.
The other main temples for Brahma in Tamil Nadu are the Brahmapureshwara Temple at Tirupattur near Siriganur,  Trichy and the Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara temple at Kodumudi which is 40 kms away from  Erode.
However, there is only one place in ancient India where there are several temples dedicated to Brahma in India. Though the temples were built by the Chalukya emperors of Badami who were Kannadigas, they are today located in Andhra Pradesh.
The Chalukyas have built some of the most magnificent temples ever seen in the world. The Badami-Aihole-Pattadakal area is called the cradle of temple art. The rock cut caves of Badami, which was the capital of the Chalukyas, defies imagination.
The Banashankari Temple in Banashankari near Badami is one of the most impressive temples of its kind. The Banashankari temple in Bangalore is only a pale shadow of this original.
The Chalukyas ruled over a vast area in south India and  its greatest emperor, Pulekeshi, defeated Harshavardhana or Harsha on the banks of the Narmada.
One of the most beautiful group of temples left behind by the Chalukyas are the Nava Brahma temples at Alampur in Mehaboobnagar district in Andhra Pradesh.
Alampur is a small town near Kurnool and the Nava Brahma temples date back to the 7th century. Some of the temples are believed to have been built by Pulekeshi.
As the name implies, there are nine temples dedicated to Brahma, Hence, the name Nava Brahma. The temples are on the banks of the Tungabhadra. It is at Alampur that the Tungabhadra and Krishna rivers meet. Hence, it is also known as Dakshina Kashi.
Alampur is located 200 km from Hyderabad, 88 kms from Mantralaya, 78 kms from Bellary and 381 kms from Bangalore. Kurnool is the nearest railhead and it is 28 kms from Alampur.
It is considered to be the western gateway of Srisailam which houses one of the sacred Jyotirlingas.The southern, eastern, and northern gateways are Siddhavattam, Tripurantakam and Umamaheswaram respectively.
The Nava Brahma temples are Taraka, Swarga, Padma, Bala,  Garuda,Kumara, Arka, Vira  and Vishwa. All the temples are located within a courtyard on the left bank of the Tungabhadra.
You enter the courtyard through a narrow gate.On the left is the Taraka Brahma and on the right is the Swarga Brahma. The Padma Brahma is to the west of the Swarga Brahma. The Garuda Brahma is to the Southeast of the Padma Brahma temple. The main shrine,  Bala Brahma, is in the compound to the north. Towards another end is the Kumara Brahma. In one Compound are the Shrines dedicated to Arka Brahma, Vira Brahma and Vishwa Brahma
Of the nine temples, the Bala Brahma temple is considered to be the most important shrine of worship. This temple dates back to  702 AD. It is the main shrine of worship during Shivaratri. The temple also has the disfigured idols of Jogulamba and her consorts.
The Taraka Brahma temple is partly in ruins, and it has no idol. It is built on a raised platform with a square sanctum.  
There are Telugu epigraphs dating from the 6th-7th century AD.  The Swarga Brahma temple has a beautiful Gopura-Rekhanagara Vimana- which is awe inspiring. It contains several sculptures in bas relief. This temple  was built between 681-696 AD by Lokaditya Ela Arasa in honour of the queen of  Emperor Vinayaditya (680-696).
The Padma Brahma temple is also in ruins. However, unlike the Taraka temple, this has a Linga with a beautiful finish. You can see your reflection on the Linga. This temple has the biggest sanctum sanctorum.
The Vishwa Brahma temple is considered the most artistic of the temples. The walls depict scenes from the epics. It has a reference to Vishwakarma or the Lord of the Universe.
The Arka Brahma is the smallest of all temples. The gopuram and kalasa are missing in this structure, presumably vandalised.
The Kumara Brahma temple is near the main shrine. It is one of the oldest temples.
The Garuda Brahma has a carving of Garuda carrying Vishnu. The Veera Brahma temple is a partially damaged structure.
There is also a temple dedicated to Suryanarayana in the courtyard. Images of Vishnu and his avatars are carved on the temple walls.  the 9th century.  There is also a Narasimha temple with inscriptions from the period of Krishna Deva Raya of the Vijayanagar Empire.
Another tourist spot near Alampur is Papanasam which has nearly two dozen temples. The most important of these temples is dedicated to Papanaseswara (Shiva). They belong to the 11th century AD.
Alampur, in ancient times,  was known as Halampuram, Hamalapuram and Alampuram. Another of its name, Hatampura, is mentioned in an inscription dated 1101 AD.
All the temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva and each of structure has a long rectangular mantapa with a Nandi in front.
Legend has it that Brahma meditated here for a very long time and Shiva conferred the powers of creation to him. Therefore, the Bala Brahma is also called Brahmeswara and his consort Yogini or Jogulamba (Parvathi).
Would you believe  it that this site would have been submerged by the backwaters of the Srisailam project. However, it was saved after a barrage was constructed downstream to contain the water flow.

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