Wednesday 9 January 2013

The Narasimha who drinks panaka

There are several shrines to Lord Narasimha, one of the Dashavatars, but the shrine here must rank as among the most unique of all.
The shrine here is so fond of panaka (sweetened water with jaggery or sugar ) that it drinks the liquid and regurgitates half of whatever it has consumed.
This is the Panaka Narasimha idol in Thotadri or Mangalagiri in Andhra Pradesh. This is one of the eight important Mahakshetras of Vishnu in India. The other seven are Srirangam,  Srimushnam, Naimisam,  Pushkar, Salagamdrim, Narayanasrama and  Venkatadri. It is believed that Vishnu manifested himself in all these eight places.
The Panaka Narasimhaswamy temple is atop a hillock which is shaped like an elephant. There is another temple of Narasimhaswamy at the foothills.
There is an interesting legend about how this elephant shaped hillock evolved. The Emperor Pariyatra had a son called  Hrasva Srungi.
Sungi was born with an abnormality and he visited many pilgrim places to regain a normal body. He then came to Mangalagiri and stayed for three years performing penance to Vishnu. All the Gods advised him to stay back at Mangalagiri and continue the penance.
When Pariyatra came to take back his son, Hrasva Srungi took the shape of an elephant as he wanted to become the abode of Vishnu.
The temple of  Panaka Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy is situated on the hill. On the right side of the steps leading to the temple is atone inscription of  Krishna Deva Raya of Vijayanagar. A little father, you come across the footprints of Chaitanya  Mahaprabhu.
There is no idol here. The face of Narasimha is carved into the rock with its mouth wide open.
Behind this structure is the temple of Lakshmi and to the west ere is a tunnel which is believed to lead to the nearby Undavalli caves on the banks of Krishna.
Mangalagiri is accessible from Vijayawada or Guntur.
Panaka - a solution of jaggery or unrefined sugar with water, is the offering to the presiding deity. This offering is actually poured into the mouth of the rock cut image of the deity. It is believed that exactly half the amount of the liquid poured, is regurgitated by the image.
When panaka is poured into the mouth of Narasimha, you can clearly hear the sound of water going down its throat. The gurgling sound continues till the deity gives out half the liquid it has consumed. Hence, the name Panaka Narasimhaswamy.
According to legends, Narasimha set out to vanquish the demon Namuchi, who then transformed himself into an ant and hid in a small crevice underground here.
Narasimha closed the crevice and the demon suffocated to death. However, the anger of Narasimha did not subside and his face was transformed into the rock. The gods did all they could to destroy his anger but to no avail. It is believed that Narasimha asked the Gods to offer him honey during Sat Yuga, ghee in tretha Yuga, milk in Dwapara Yuga and panaka during Kali Yuga respectively.
Another interesting fact is that despite the use of large amounts of sugar, there are no ants or house flies in the temple premises. The world is supposed to come to an end when the ants and house flies come here in search of sugar
The beautiful kalyani or temple tank is called Lakshmi Pushkarini. Legend has it that it was created by the gods, combining the waters from several holy rivers of India. Mahalakshmi (who came out of the milky ocean when it was churned by the gods and the asuras), bathed in this pushkarini and married Vishnu thereafter.
Locals say that Rama worshipped the Narasimha here.
The temple at the foothills of Mangalagiri - Lakshmi Narasimha-  has an imposing  eleven storied raja gopura built by a local chieftain Raja Vasireddy Venkatadri Naidu.
The gopura is 153 feet high and 49 feet in breadth and it faces east. It was built between 1807 and 1809. 
Mangalagiri is approachable from either Guntur or Vijayawada either by buses or autorickshaws. It is 8 miles from Vijayawada and 13 miles from Guntur.

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