Thursday 21 February 2013

Srinivasa of Vyasaraja and Ramanuja

This known the world over as the Toy town. Apart from the toys, the silk manufactured here is part of the famous Mysore Silk collection.
Located almost halfway between Bangalore and Mysore, this town sees thousands of vehicles pass by every day. Unfortunately, only a handful deign to stay back here and explore its ancient roots. The vast majority stop at the many famous eateries in and around the town and once finished they head back to either to Mysore or Bangalore.
What many travelers miss seeing is that this is the very place where two of the greatest philosophers stayed back for some time. Both the philosophers have left behind their love and devotion for the same God they worshipped in two different traditions.
While one of the tradition is Madhwa Parampare, the other is Srivaishnava. The philosophers of both the traditions have left behind two temples of the same God-Srinivasa-here and this must one of the few such places in India.
In addition to the two Srinivasa temples, there are scores of temples dedicated to Hanuman and one of them was consecrated by Vyasa Raja, the Madhwa saint.
Thus, the city even today has the two temples where the deities are consecrated by two revered saints of yesteryears-Vyasa Raja of the Madhwa parampare and Ramanujacharya of the Srivaishnava fold.
Both the saints stayed in this town and both of them visited and prayed at the Apremaya Temple in nearby Malur. This is the town of Chennapatna in Ramanagar district.        
Vyasa Theertha or Vyasa Raya was a disciple of Sripadara of Mulabagal. He spent twelve years of his life-1486-1498-devoting himself to the worship of Srinivasa in Tirupati.
While in Tirupathi, he set right the anomalies that had crept into the worship of Srinvasa and streamlined the system. Many of the rituals that he instituted is still followed today.
After he returned from Tirupathi, Vyasa Raja spent time at Abbur near Chennapatna. Though the residents of Abbur and Chennapatna were happy about the return of Vyasa Raja, they had one grouse. They had not been able to make the pilgrimage to Tirupathi to see Srinivasa while Vyasa Raja had been seeing the idol daily for 12 years.
The people took this grievance to Vyasa Raja who too had been feeling a void in his heart at not being able to see Srinivasa. Vyasa Raja then decided to consecrate a temple in the name of Srinivasa so that both the people and he himself would be able to see Srinivasa every day.
He then consecrated an idol of Srinivasa in Channapatna which exists even today. This is in the Kundapura Vyasaraja Matha near the fort in Chennapatna.
This Matha is built in Vijayanagara style. The stone pillars are sculpted with relief structures. Vyasa Raja installed the beautiful idol of  Srinivasa in the Garbagriha. The Srinivasa hears bears remarkable similarity to the idol at Tirupathi.
What makes it important from the Madhwa point of view is that it was consecrated and first worshipped by Vyasa Raja. 
There are two entrances to the hall in the matha- one from north and another from the east. This entrance leads to a hall where we can see the Purandara Mantapa.
There is a beautiful story about the construction of this mantapa. Purandara, who was a disciple of Vyasa Raja and his constant companion, visited Chennapatna and stayed here.
He sang and even composed a few of his favourite bhajans in front of Srinivasa. The residents of Chennapatna and surrounding areas, were enthralled by Purandara’s voice and liberally gave alms and money as Dakshine.
Purandara handed the entire proceeds to Vyasa Raja, saying that it belonged to Srinivasa. He also built the mantapa with his own earnings and a grateful Vyasa Raja named it as Purandara Mantapa.
There is a small carved image of Puranadara and Vijaya Dasa in the mantapa which were carved recently. One of the pillars in this Mantapa has a fine sculpture of Vyasatirtha. The Purandaradasa Aradhane is held here annually.
In front of the main building is a small shrine of Anjaneya. This is one of the 732 Anjaneya shrines consecrated by Vyasa Raja. There is an Anjeneya Temple facing the Vyasaraya Matha.
Another temple dedicated to Srinivasa is better known as the Varadaraja Temple. This is one of the oldest temples in Chennapatna.
The deity here is believed to have been installed by Ramanujacharya who came here from Melkote and spent time at nearby Malur. This is a high structure with a spacious inner Prakara.
Its Garbhagriha is squarish with a tall standing image of Varadaraja (Narayana) in Vijayanagar style. There is an Ardhamantapa leading to a spacious Navaranga having six Vijayanagara pillars containing many relief sculptures on them. Over the Garbhagriha is a Dravidian Shikhara. The niches in the Shikhara are carved with stucco images of Dashavatara-the ten avatars of Vishnu.
The Navaranga is faced by a Mukhamantapa with tall massive pillars having impressive relief sculptures depicting Vaishnava episodes. On either sides of the spacious Mukhamantapa are two Jagatis, having Vasantotsava and Kalyana Mantapas. Beside them are small shrines of Alwars and Ramanujacharya.
At the left corner of the Prakara is the Soumyanayaki Ammanavaru temple with a Garbhagriha, a Navaranga and a small open Mukhamantapa.
Beside the road, facing the Varadaraja temple is one more Anjaneya shrine. There is a Kannada inscription in the front entrance of the temple dated 1553 A.D.  It belongs to  Sadashiva Raya of Vijayanagara and mentions Channapatna but the rest of the inscription is defaced.
There are several other temples in Chennapatna which are worth a visit such as the Lakshminarayana and Nilakanteshwara.
The locals say that the Nilakanteshwara Temple was built by Jagadevaraya, the ruler of Chennapatna though archaeologically the structure can be dated to the 18th century. This temple is unique as it has two Nandis or Bull.
The pillars of the Mukhamantapa and outer Mantapa of the temple are in Mysore style. This is a huge structure with one Garbhagriha, two Ardhamantapas and a spacious Navaranga. The Navaranga is rectangular with four central pillars having several modern images engraved on them. The Nandi facing the Garbhagriha is of Mysore times.
The Neelakantaha Linga is very tall and is believed to be old. One more Nandi is placed in the spacious open Mukhamantapa and it is said to have been brought from the precincts of the taluk office. The pillars of the Mukhamantapa contain fine relief sculptures of Shaiva Purana episodes.
Chennapatha is easily accessible either by road or rail. It is 60 kms from Bangalore and it is situated on the Bangalore-Mysore Highway.
Accommodation is available at the Vyasaraja and Raghavendra Swamy Matha in Chennapatna itself. There are many places in and around Channapatna which are worth seeing such as Abbur, the home of Bramanye Theertha, Bramanyapura which has a beautiful idol of Anjaneya, Malur which is famous for the Apremaya Temple housing Srinivasa and the idol of Ambegalu Krishna.      

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