Saturday 1 December 2012

The temple of Bedara Kanappa

It was a Sunday evening and I was watching television with my family. As I was surfing the channels, a melodious voice on a local Kannada channel stopped me from switching or surfing channels.
The song that was being aired was Shivappa Kaypo Thande and it was featured on Rajkumar in the film Bedara Kanappa.  The intensity of the song and the pathos left all of us in tears. All of continued to watch the film and we were amazed to know that both Rajkumar and comedian Narasimha Raju had made their debut in this 1954 film.
My mother was at hand to narrate the tale of Bedara Kannapa and all of us marveled at the manner in which Kannappa, the hunter, donated both his eyes to Shiva. The film directed by H L N Simha and written by G.V. Iyer as well as the tale told by my mother remained in my memory for long.
My family and I visited Tirupathi and one of my friends told me to visit Kalahasti, which is one of the sacred place for Shiva. I did not show much interest and said I would go if time permits. I perked up when he told me that I could also visit the Bedara Kanappa Temple which is at the foothills of Kalahasti.
I completed the darshan of Lord Venkateshwara twice in a day and, therefore, I had a say to spare. As I was in my own vehicle, transport was not a problem. I took my friend’s advice and drove to Kalahasti.
Kalahasti had been in the news after its main gopura constructed by the Vijayanagar emperor Krishna Deve Raya collapsed. I saw the heap of rubble on one side of the temple and it pained me that our generation had failed to protect even Gods property. When I went, officials from several Government departments of Andhra Pradesh were there and the blames game was on. Each one was blaming the other but himself  for the mishap.
I visited the Kalahasti shrine and made way to a much smaller and much less known shrine of Shiva which is better known as Kanappa Temple.  
Kannappa today has been elevated to the status of Nayanmars whichs is another name for Shaivite saints. There are 63 such saints or Nayanmars and they are all staunch devotees of Shiva.
Kannappa was born in the region of Kalahsati and he belonged to Kongu Vettuvagounders community. He was also known as Boya Tinnadu, Thinappan, Kannapan or Kanappa. Another name for him was Dheeran.
The actual birthplace of Kanappa is Udupuru, now called Vutukuru which is very near to Rajampet in Andhra Pradesh. He was a good hunter and he hunted animals in the surrounding forests. As was the custom of  his caste, he was a worshipper of the Linga.
When he had gone hunting around the forests of Kalahasti in Sripuram and Mummidicholapuram, he had once found a shivalinga. This linga was called Vayu linga but Kanappa did not how to worship it as per Hindu custom and tradition.
As he did not have any device-jug or mug for bringing water from the nearby Swarnamukhi river, he poured water into his mouth and walked to the linga and poured the water from his mouth over the linga. He also offered the linga whatever animal he had killed.
This was the daily routine of Kanappa and Shiva once decided to test his devotion. The rooftop of the Shivaling began to crumble and everyone fled from the temple, faring that the structure would collapse completely. Kanappa was unperturbed. He threw himself on the linga to prevent the roof from falling on the idol. People marvelled at his devotion and named him Dheera.
A few days later, Kanappa noticed that one eye of the linga was oozing blood and tears. Kanappa thought that the eye had been injured and realised that the only way to stop the flow of blood and tears was to pluck out an eye and place it on the linga. He decided to pluck out one of his own eyes and did so with an arrow. He then placed the eye on the injured eye of the linga.
Imagine Kanappa’s anxiety when the other eye too began to bleed and shed tears. Without thinking, Kanappa decided to gourge out his other eye. But there was a problem. He was already blind in one eye and if he plucked out his other eye, how could he place the eye exactly on the injured linga.
Kanappa then placed the toe of his  foot on the injured eye of the linga. He then took out his other eye and even as he was bleeding profusely, he placed it on the other eye of the linga.       
Moved by the  extreme devotion of his devotee,  Shiva appeared before Kanappa and  restored both his eyes. He called out to Kannapa saying “Nillu Kannapa” ("Stop Kannapa"). From that day on, he came to be known as Bedara (Hunter) Kanappa.
This shrine I saw of Bedara Kanappa is on the southern side of the hill where the Kalahasti Temple is located. The shrine here is called Kannabeshwara.
The priest of this temple told me that Kanappa was none other than Arjuna. He also told me the reason for Arjuna taking birth as a hunter. He said Arjuna had done penance at Indrakiladri Hill for obtaining the Pashupathi Astra. However, Arjuna failed to recognise Shiva when he came in the form of a hunter.  Arjuna had to be reborn as a hunter in another life to attain final Moksha.  
By the way, Bedara Kanappa wasoneof the nost successful films in Kannada. It was first staged as a play, produced by Gubbi Veeranna Nataka company before being filmed. All the songs in the film were a hit and they are sung even today. No wonder, it ran in cinemas for over hundred days.
Bedara Kanappa was dubbed in Telugu as Kalahasti Mahatyam and till date it remains the only non-Kannada film of Rajkumar, After my Tirupathi and Kalahasti visit, I saw the film once again.

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