Tuesday 2 April 2013

The unfinished Raja Dwara

At first sight, they look as if they are part of a bigger ruins or building. Though the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has a board stating that this a protected monument, there is not much information about it.
A small number steps lead from the winding road to the structure. It must be the most imposing ruin in the area, having stood silently for several centuries.
This is the Rajdwara or Raja Gopura of Melkote, a temple town of Mandya district in Karnataka state.
This ancient monument is believed to be more than a thousand years. Legend has it that this massive unfinished structure was conceived and constructed by the legendary sculptor and artiste Jakanacharya of the Hoysala Kingdom.
Jakanacharya was a renowned sculptor of the Hoysala Kingdom. His design of Chennakeshava temple at Belur had already made him a legend.
Born in Kaidala, now in Tumkur district, Jakanacharya had abandoned his village and family and come to Dwarasamudra, the Hoysala capital, to eke out a living. The Hoysala Kings saw the talented artiste and gave him all the encouragement needed. The more monuments he built, the more his fame spread.
The Hoysalas then conferred on Jakanacharya the title Amarshilpe.
When the Hoysalas began to endow the temples of Melkote with their largesse, Jakanacharya too was asked to contribute.
The then Hoysala Emperor, Vishnuvardhana, earlier known as Bittideva, was camped in Melkote. He was meeting the Srivaishnava saint, Ramanujacharya, who had been driven out of Chola Kingdom.
Ramanajucharya had settled down at Melkote. He had cured Vishnuvardhana’s daughter of an illness. A grateful Vishnuvardhana had offered the saint half his Kingdom.
Ramanujacharya declined the offer and asked Vishnuvardhana to convert back to the Vaishnava fold. Vishnuvardhana gladly did so and he also accepted the saint’s advice to construct a Raja Gopura and a gate to the Cheluva Narayana Temple.
Ramanajucharys wanted the gate to be built in one night. Vishnuvardhana then entrusted the job to Jakanacharya.
The master sculptor kept all his tools and boulders ready and set to work.
The massive gate has no foundation and the huge boulders have been placed on  bare land.  If you climb on top of the gate, you can see Shravanabelagola afar and even the backwaters of KRS Dam near Mysore.
By then, Vishnuvardhana had renovated and repaired the Yoga Narasimha temple atop the hill and the Cheluva Narasima temple.
Some of the sculptors, who were jealous of the growing popularity of  Jakanachary and his closeness to the Hoysala Emperors, challenged the master craftsman to construct a massive doorway with a doorjamb and stately entrance within 24 hours.
Jakanacharya surveyed the entire Melkote town and chose a spot which today is just opposite the Academy of Sanskrit research.
Jakanacharya then set about arranging the huge boulders and also sculpted four massive pillars, two on each side of what would be the Raja Gopura to Melkote.
He wanted the Rajadwara to be the entrance for people coming to Melkote from Mysore side.
Work began at 5 a.m., and by night, the present standing Raja Gopura had already emerged. Some of  Jakanacharya’s jealous detractors came to the work spot and tried to engage the Amarshilpe in conversation and small talk.
Jakanacharya did not deign to reply but continued with his work. Fearing a loss of face and consequent lowering of their dignity, the detractors hatched a despicable plan to outsmart Jalanacharya. They bribed the bugler, who was stationed nearby, to sound the bugle.
When the bugler sounded his bugle, Jakanacharya was disappointed at losing his bet. However, when he realized that the bugle had sounded at 9 p.m., and that he had more than eight hours of time left, he was shocked and hurt at the manner in which he had been deceived.
He gave one last look at the unfinished monument and walked away, a disgusted man. No amount of pleading would bring back Jakanacharya to the unfinished structure.
To this day, the pillars look unfinished and ravaged by time. Of the four pillars, two are 30 feet in height. Imagine how it would look had it been completed.
The drive or walk from the Akka and Tangi Kalyani to the unfinished doorway is worth its while. The structure would give us an insight of what could have been had Jakanacharya completed the structure.
Melkote during  
The structure was almost forgotten but today, it has got a fresh lease of life, thanks to several films that have been shot here. Rajanikanth in Padaiappam Aishwarya Rai in Na Na Na Re from Guru and Vishnuvardhana in some of his Kannada films have chosen the massive structure as a suitable background.
A little farther away is a place called Dhanushkodi. This is the place where Rama shot his arrows at the ground when Sita wanted water.
The view from the Raja Gopura and Dhanushkodi is superb. Do not forget to taste the Puliyogre and sweet pongal of Melkote. Ask the temple priests or check out with the numerous Iyengar eateries in the temple town.
Melkote is a little over 51 kms from Mysore and 133 kms from Bangalore. It is very easily accessible by road from almost all cities in Karnataka. Mandya is the nearest district and Pandavapura a fairly big town and a taluk of Mandya district

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