Saturday 1 December 2012

Ashoka and the Temple of Chandralamba

I studied in Karnataka University Dharwad and one of my classmates was from Gulbarga. Karnataka University when I studied included colleges in Gulbarga and Bidar districts.
Both my friend and I were part of the University cricket team and on one of the matches, we had to play in Gulbarga.
Though the match was played over three days, I stayed back with my friend for a few more days. It was during these free days that I went around the towns and cities I visited and read up the history of the place. This habit of mine earned the ire of the head of department and my parents were summoned and told about the shortage of attendance.
Well, back to the story of Gulbarga. My friend took me to the temple of Chandralamba in Sannati. He told me that the temple is as famous as the other ruins in the small village.
Sannati is located between Yadgir and Kanaganahalli and it stands on the banks of the Bheema river. Till the 1990s the only place of interest in the village of Sannati was the temple of Chandralamba and a few other temples.
An unusual event changed the face of the village forever and earned it worldwide attention.  The roof of the Chandralamba Temple collapsed in 1986 and a part of it fell on the idol. When the idol and other places in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple were being cleaned up, the pedestal on which the idol of Chandralamba stood had some carvings.
When the pedestal was removed from the place and examined, it was found to contain inscriptions in Prakrit written in Brahmi script.
Epigraphists were stunned to know that it was an Ashokan inscription. One of the panels, discovered subsequently, had a carving of Ashoka seated on a throne. This is perhaps the only pictorial representation of India’s greatest Emperor.
I saw both the pictorial representation and the Ashokan edict. The edict is at the entrance of the ruins near the temple and it speaks about religious tolerance. The pictorial representation talks of Raya Ashoka.
Further excavations by archaeologists led to the unearthing of  the remnants of a huge stupa called Maha Stupa believed to have been constructed by Ashoka. The Stupa and other Buddhist remains are more than 2000 years old.
Historians say after Ashoka, the stupa was renovated and maintained by the Sathavahana emperors. Centuries later, the stupa came to be destroyed and many materials were used in the construction of other buildings in the area. This perhaps explains why the pedestal was a Buddhist epigraph,          
The site where the stupa stood still being excavated. As of now, it has yielded a lot of artifacts dating to the period of Ashoka and other Maurayan emperors. Many of the inscriptions and edicts discovered here are now housed in the Gulbarga museum.
The entire area of the Maha Stupa and other Buddhist buildings covered more than 210 acres. Only a few acres have bee excavated till now. The entire area is now called Ranamandala.
I then turned my attention back to the 800 year old Chandralamba Temple which is situated at the bend of the Bheema river.
It is circular in shape and dedicated to a devi who is believed to be an incarnation of Lakshmi. This temple is unique as it is built in the Kerala style of architecture. 
The courtyard of the temple is huge and it can easily accommodate 2,000 people at one time.
The priest there told me an interesting legend of Chandralamba. A King of the area, Rajasena, had a beautiful daughter called Chandrala. The King organised a Swayamavara for Chandrala Many process came in the hope of winning the hand of the beautiful princess. The king said he would give the hand of his daughter to the Prince who passed a test.
The test was this. The princes would have to look into the reflection of water and shoot down a pillar. No prince could complete the task.
This worried Rajasena and he prayed to the Gods. One night, a Goddess came in his dreams and told him that a person called Narayana Muni would come and succeed in the challenge.
Narayana came, saw and conquered both the pillar and the princess. They were married and when they left the area, Sethu Raya saw Chandrala and fell in love. While Chandrala ran into the Someshwara temple to escape the evil designs of  Raya, her husband went to Hingula in Afganisthan to seek the blessings of Goddess Hingulambike, an incarnation of  Lakshmi.
The Goddess agreed to help Narayana but put forth a condition. Do not turn around and see if I am following you, she warned. Narayana agreed and both of them began their journey from North to South.
Narayana always took care not to see back. He heard the sound of the anklets worn by the Goddess. When they both reached Shahabad, he failed to hear the sound of anklets Alarmed, he turned back and The Goddess turned inst stone.
When Narayana prayed to her to come to his rescue, the Goddess said she could not move further. However, she gave him a coconut and asked Narayana to break it near Sethu Raya’s palace.
Nartayana went to Sannati and broke the coconut. Bees came out of the coconut and attacked Sethu Raya, who ran screaming in fear from the palace. Finding no way to escape from the stinging bees, the king jumped into the Bheema only to drown.
Even today, you can see the Setu Raya Maduvu near the river. Well, to complete the story, Chandrala became one with God. She had gone into the Someshwara temple to do penance. This is the story of Chandralamba Temple.
Chandralamba is believed to be another incarnation of Lakshmi and she is the family deity of lakhs of Brahmin and Hindu families in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.
Sannati is also the place where Markendaya Rishi meditated and composed Markendaya Upanishads. I saw a small temple here where it is believed that Markendaya wrote parts of the Upanishads.
By the way, there is a small temple dedicated to Chandralamba in Hongunti. It is called Hongunti Hingulambike.      
Sannati is nearer to Hyderabad which is 231 kms than Bangalore. Yadgir in Gulbarga district is just 31 kms from Sannati. Gulbarga itself is 60 kms away. This place can be reached by train from Wadi junction or Nalwar station. You can also stay at Shahapur and drive down to Sannati.
Yeregol is also nearby. This is the place where Jaya Theertha or Teeka Char wrote all his commentaries in a cave. Malked, which has the Brindavana of Jaya Theertha and his guru, Akshoba Theerth and other Madhwa saints is also near.
The only known Chandralamba temple outside Sannati is in Jayanagar Bangalore. The temple founders are Dr. S. R. Rao, archaeologist, and his wife Kamala Rao. It is called Lakshmi Chandrala Parameshwari Temple and it was consecrated in June 1999.
It is located between 20 and 22nd Main, 32nd cross, 4th T Block, Jayanagar. There is a Ganesha and Shiva Temple next to the Chandralamba Temple. The Temple is off 18th Main bus stop. Ask for HOPCOPMS outlet or BBMP office if you are confused. The temple is behind these offices.  
Let me end the story with what happened after I returned to Dharwad. I wads called by the head of the department and reprimanded for being frequently absent from class. All play and no study is dangerous I was told. I was warned not to repeat such acts and allowed to take the examinations, much to the relief of my parents.  

1 comment:

  1. Very informative blog, especially about the legend. Clearer than the narration by the local priests. How far away is the Ranamandala excavation site from the temple?