Tuesday 19 March 2013

The Kumbh of Karnataka

An earlier post has dealt with the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad. The Mela is the biggest gathering of people in the world and even students from Harvard were in Allahabad to study the phenomenon.
But what many do not know do not know is that Karnataka too has its own Kumbh Mela and it is considered to be as holy and as religiously significant as the Allahabad and Nasik Kumbhs.
The only difference is that while the Allahabad and Nasik Kumbas are well-known, the only Kumbh in south India is relatively unknown. And of course, the visitors to the Karnataka Kumbh are miniscule compared to the billions who come to the Kumbh in north India.
Everyday we have seen images in the media about religious heads and politicians heading to Allahabad for the ritual bath during Kumbh in the Triveni Sangama-the confluence of three rivers, Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswathi.
But it is really unfortunate that the Kumbh that was held in Karnataka barely received a mention either in the media or among the people. There were no continuous television coverage or continuous articles about our Kumbh though it is no less holy.
This is the only Kumbh not only in Karnataka but the whole of south India. The Kumbh here is held every three years and it is organised in T. Narsipura or Tirumukudlu.
T. Narsipura is a pilgrim town with several ancient temples and it is located on the banks of three rivers. The Cauvery, Kapila and Spatika flow here and their confluence is called Sangama.
Hundreds of devotes flocked to the bathing ghat at T Narsipura and participated in the Kumbh that was organised in February 2013.
Unlike the Kumbhs in north India, the event in Karnataka is of recent origin. The first Kumbh was organsied in 1989 and since then it has been held regularly every three years.   
The Narsipura Kumbh was spread over a week, while the Allahabad Kumbh goes on for 55 days. Saturdays and Sundays saw devotes by the thousands flocking to T Narsipur.
This was the ninth Kumbh held here and there were no Naga sadhus to take a holy dip. However, a number of Shaivite mathas and sadhus were in attendance to participate.  
This year, the Kumbh was inaugurated by Nirmalanandanatha, the 72nd Seer of Adichunchanagiri Mahasamsthana in Mandya district.
Almost all the devotees offered argya to the Sun God. The organisers had set up a temporary bridge to connect the small island with the mainland. However, this bridge was not made of pontoons but of three layers of sand bags.  
The three temples of Agasthyeshwara, Bhiksheshwara and Gunja Narasimhaswamy was crowded with devotees.Temporary shelters for religious leaders and seers to reside in were set up in the vicinity of Agastheshwara and Gunjanarasimhaswamy temples
This pilgrim centre was a beehive of activity and the district administration had engaged workers to construct makeshift steps, removing algae, install temporary wash basins, drinking water taps and rest rooms for devotees.
The Kumbh here too tested the district administration to the full. The administration had made arrangements for continuous supply of water and power. Swimmers and lifeguards had been stationed nearby to ensure that nobody drowned.  
Temporary bus stations manned by NCC cadets were operated and there were bus services to several towns and cities, including Mysore, Mandya, Sriraggapatna, Malavalli and even Bangalore.
T. Narsipura is in Mysore district and its history dates back to the Skanda Purana.  
The alphabet T stands for Trimakuta Kshetra or Tirumakudlu and Narsipura comes from the Gunja Narasimha temple, that is a landmark in the town.
T. Narsipura is considered to be as sacred and as holy a Prayag or Allahabad. Hence, it is also called as Dakshina Kashi. According to a local legend, Agastya, himself consecrated the Shiva Linga here.This is called the Agastyeshwara Linga.   
There is another Linga which is believed to be the one brought by Hanuman here from Kashi. Agastya had asked Hanuman to bring the Linga. This is called the Hanuman Linga.
The other lingas are the Someshwara Linga, Markendeshwara Linga and the Gargeshwari Linga. The first two lingas are in T. Narsipura and the third is a little distance away in Gargeshwari village.
There is also an interesting legend associated with Gunja Narasimhaswamy Temple. It is said that Narasimha appeared in the dream of a washerman telling him that his idol lay beneath the stone on which he washed clothes everyday. The deity told him to build a temple for him and asked him to look for gold coins beneath the stone which could be used for the construction of the temple.
When the washerman wished to see the Linga at Kashi, Shiva told him that he had earned punya of about a coral beed vine seed or Gunja. Thus, the temple got the name of Gunja Narasimhaswamy.
T. Narsipura is easily accessible by road and nearby places of interest are Sosale, where Vyasa Raja consecrated a Hanuman and built a Vyasaraja matha, Somanathapur which has a Hoysala temple, Talakad with its temples buried under sand and Shivanasamudra with its magnificent falls.  

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