Sunday 10 February 2013

The temple to a tortoise

This is the only temple in India where a fossil of a large tortoise is worshipped. It is also the only temple where Vishnu is worshipped in the form of a tortoise, the second of the Dashavtars.
The temple has more than 200 black granite pillars and two flag posts or Dhwaja Stambha. Each pillars is distinct from the other and this no two pillars are similar. Besides, the two Dhwaja Stanbhas face different directions.
There are in all 127 in four Indian languages, including Devanagari, Prakrutha and Oriya. Some of the Oriya inscriptions are ascribed to Narahari Teertha, the Madhwa saint and follower of Madhwacharya.
This is perhaps one of the few temples where Shankaracharya,  Ramunajacharya and Narahari Theertha, each of hem representing the three main streams of Brahminism- Adwaitha, Vishistawaitha and Dwaitha-have come prayed and left relics behind which can be found even today.
This is the temple of  Vishnu or Srikurma, which is 18 kilometres away from Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh. 
The first mention of the temple goes back to the second century AD. Subsequently, it was renovated by the Cholas and later by the Gangas.
This is the only place in India where Vishnu is worshipped as a tortoise. The moolasthana or the central piece of the idol is considered to be large Saligrama. The Koorma (or Kurma) is the fossil of an actual and large-sized turtle. The head of the deity is in the form of a Kurma or tortoise and it is represented by a Vishnu nama and the tail is represented by a Saligrama presented by Shankarachayra.
The idol faces west and this is another peculiarity. There is an interesting story behind this.
The villagers of  Srikurma and naighbouring villages had all along believed that the idol was of Shiva. When Ramanujacharya came to the place, he saw that the villagers were wrongly worshipping Vishnu as Shiva. When the villagers refused to listen to him, Ramanajucharya called out to the idol, saying that it would have to turn towards him if he was indeed Vishnu.
Even as he said it, the idol turned towards him. Since then, the idol is turned to the West and it is being worshipped as Vishnu and not Shiva. The villagers then constructed a Dwaja Stambha facing the deity. This pillar or Stambha faces West. The earlier Stambha faced East. Thus the temple has two Dhwaja Stambhas.
There is another interesting story on why Vishnu opted to take the form of a Koorma or tortoise here.
Several thousand years ago, King Swetha Chakravarthi ruled the Kingdom of Swethapuram. His wife was called Hari priya. She had her own palace at Vanitamandala which was 14 kilometers away from Swethapuram or present day Srikurma.
On day, on a Magha Sudha Ekadasi, the King visited the queen in her palace. The Queen was immersed in worship of Vishnu. The King then asked the Queen to give him company and this put her in a dilemma.
The Queen did not know what to do-participate in the Ekadashi or join her husband. She prayed to Vishnu to give her a solution. Vishnu then created a huge river which began to flow between the King and queen and divided them. This is the river that is today called the Vamsadhara.
The king panicked and fled to Swethachala mountain to escape the fury of the swirling river. He then sat alone. Sage Narada appeared there and told him the reason why the river had created a distance between the royal couple.
Narada then suggested to the King to pray to Vishnu in the form of a Koorma and also chant the mantra, “Om Kum Kurmaya Nama”. The King then started worshipping Kurmanatha at Chakra Thirtha.
When Vishnu appeared before the King and asked him to seek a boon, the king said he wished to see the lord in his second incarnation of Kurmanatha.
When asked why, the King said he wanted see the incarnation which was part of the Manthara Parvatha at the time of churning the ocean.
Vishnu then appeared in the form of a tortoise. On the request of the King, he agreed to reside here as a tortoise. He also allowed the King to build a temple. Narada then went back to Deva Loka and
led Brahma to Srikurma who then consecrated Kurmanatha.
It was then that the Sudarsana Chakra became active and flames soon arose. Brahma subdued the flames by chanting the Gopala mantra.
The Bramanda Purana says Durvasa and their followers visit this place regularly for penance. Krishna’s brother Balarama visited this place and declared that this would be the only kind of such a temple in the world. He then built the Uma Rudra Koteshwara Temple on the banks of Nagavali in Srikakulam.
Balarama created Nagavali by using his plough (nagali) to till. The Stala Purana tell us that Lava and Kush, sons of Rama, worshiped Kurmanatha by offering Abhishakam to get rid of  Shani Dosha.  
Shankaracharya and Narahari Theertha-the second disciple of Madhwa, have visited the temple and worshipped the deity.
Srikurma is on the Walter - Kolkata railway route.

No comments:

Post a Comment