Monday 31 December 2012

Where people swore before a god not to lie with a Judge watching

If you want to depose in a court of law as a witness in India you have to take oath or swear on the Bhagavath Geetha. The oath says that you tell the court the truth and nothing but the truth. This is the practice followed in almost all courts in all the states of India.
This practice of swearing or taking oath by placing one’s hand on a holy book emanated from the British and it has continued till date.
But did you that till 1950, swearing to tell the truth could also be done before a God and that God was Narasimha.
People who went to a court in and around Saligrama in Udupi were permitted to swear that they would tell the truth if front of the Narasimha idol.
If the person so desired to take the oath before the Lord, the Judge himself would come down from the court to the temple of  Srimad Yogananda Guru Narasimha in Saligrama where the person would take his oath top tell the truth.
However, swearing to tell the trust was not a mere formality. There was an elaborate ritual that would have to be followed. Such a person would have to first take bath in the both the Kalyanis or temple tanks.
The Narasimha in this temple is the chief deity of Saligrama. As such, people believed that they would suffer if they told a lie before Narasimha. Such was the fear of Narasimha’s anger that people rarely swore wrongly before him.        
Once the person completed taking bathe in both the tanks, he would come into the temple from the door at the side, wearing the wet clothes.
He would then be asked to ring the two pramana bells hung near the main entrance. He would then be asked to come up to the front of the sanctum and then light six lamps. Once this was done, he would be permitted to take oath. After this, he would be asked to blow out the lights from the six lamps he had himself lit.
This entire procedure would be repeated two more times. In all, the person would follow this unique ritual thrice.   
This practice continued in the temple till the 1950s after which it was discontinued.
According to the Padma Purana, the idol of Guru Narasimha in Saligrama appeared at the bottom of a pipal tree holding Shanka (conch) and Chakra (disc) in its hands. Narada then installed the idol here.
Another legend relating to the deity is about Lokaditya, the son of Mayura Varma of the Kadambas who came here along with his Army and a group of Brahmins led by a person called  Bhattacharya.
The Brahmins performed mahayagas like Poundra and  Atiratra at the request of  Lokaditya. The Brahmins invoked the blessings of Maha Ganapati at the start of the yagnas.
Ganapathi then appeared in the dreams of Bhattacharya with 10 hands and told him to re-install the idol of Lord Yogananda Narasimha. He also told Bhattacharya that from, henceforth, Narasimha himself will be the Guru and god for the Brahmins of the 14 villages surrounding the temple in Saligrama.
To this day, the Brahmins of these 14 villages, known as Kota Brahmins treat and follow Narasimha as their sole Guru. Though they are all Brahmins, they do not owe allegiance to any of the mathas.
The idol of Narasimha is made of the Saligrama. It is seated in a yogic posture on a Mahaganapati yantra. There is another story for this. Bhattacharya witnessed lions and elephants living on harmony here. He, therefore, called this place as Nirvairya sthala- meaning the place of no enemity.
The idol faces west and the two tanks are located on either sides of its hands namely, the Shanka Teertha and the Chakra Theertha.
There is a small crack in the top of the idol. According to the priest, the idol was initially facing east. Because of the Ugra nature of Narasimha, the crops which fell under the gaze (of the eyesight) of the idol were burnt to ashes.
An angry Brahmin once struck the idol with a plough and crack appeared there. Subsequently, an idol of Anjaneya was put up outside the temple directly looking at  the eye level of Guru Narsimha.
The Anjaneya idol was installed there to reduce the Ugra nature of Narasimha and stop the burning of crops.
There is an idol of  Durga Parameshwari next to Guru Narasimha and exactly opposite Maha Ganapathi.
Saligrama is 23 kms north of Udupi. There are direct buses from Udupi and Mangalore, 

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