Tuesday 26 August 2014

The sands of time

There has been much debate on the sands that covered Talakad, the once magnificent capital of the mighty Gangas who ruled over several areas of what is today known as South Karnataka.
Talakad or Talakadu is today a small town on the left bank of the Cauvery, 45 kilometres from Mysore, 29 kms from T. Narsipura and just a few kilometers away from Somanathapura.
A few decades ago, Talakad was home to more than 30 temples, most of which are now buried in sand. A few temples have been excavated and retaining walls built to keep away the sand away.
The sands to this famous temple town are brought by the Cauvery, which flows just across the town. The sands, over centuries, have acquired mystical proportions and thousands of tourists and pilgrims visiting Talakad are told a fascinating tale of why and how the town came to be buried under sand.
Though the origin of Talakad is lost in the maze of antiquity, it is an undeniable fact that it gained prominence only after the Gangas (the Western Gangas, 350-1100 AD) made it their capital. Madhava, the first ruler of the Gangas, proclaimed Talakad as his capital in 350 AD.
The Gangas were initially feudatories of the Chalukyas and then the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta or Malkhed.  They were overpowered by the Cholas during the 11th century and  Talakadu was renamed as Rajapura. In 1117, the Hoysala Emperor, Vishnuvardhana, seized Talakad from the Cholas and assumed the title of Talakadugonda. He is said to have ground Talakad to dust and killed scores of people. In commemoration of this achievement, he built the Keerthinarayana temple at Talakad.
Today, most of the temples are submerged in sand. Many of the stone pillars  of these temples lie scattered across Talakad which today is better known for the Pathaleshwara, Maruleshwara, Arkeshwara, Vaidyanatheeshwara and Mallikarjuna temples which together is called the pancha linga temples.
A fair is held every 12 years for these five temples of Shiva and this is called Pancha Linga darshana, which was last held in 2005.
Apart from these five temples, historians and archaeologists aver that there are several other temples buried under sand. While scholars and historians are debating how so much sand came to Talakad and how they could bury an  entire city, geologists and scientists say it was an ecological incident or rather accident that left Talakad battling the sands of time.
Localites, guides and others claim that the sands are a result of a curse. This fascinating tale of sands covering temples and burying a town is closely linked to the Wodeyars of Mysore.
As we all know, Raja Wodeyar defeated Sriranga Raya, the Viceroy of Srirangapatna, which was a province under the Vijayanagar dynasty. Sriranga is supposed to have left Srirangapatna and gone towards Malangi, a small village on the opposite banks of Talakad.
Raja Wodeyar was desirous of getting hold of the jewels of Alamelammaa, the second wife of  Sriranga Raya, alo known as Tirumala. Hearing of this, Alamelamma went towards Malangi. She was hotly perused by Raja Wodeyar. When Raja Wodeyar was on the verge of taking her captive, an angry Alemelamma cursed the King thus: (ತಲಕಾಡು ಮರಳಾಗಿ; ಮಾಲಿಂಗಿ ಮಡುವಾಗಿ, ಮೈಸೂರು ದೊರೆಗೆ ಮಕ್ಕಳಾಗದೆ ಹೋಗಲಿ!)
The English translation of the Kannada words mean: “Talakadu Maralagi, Malangi Maduvagi, Mysuru Dorege Makkalagadirali.”
The curse was the beginning of the end of Talakad which subsequently came to be buried under sand. While Malangi became a whirlpool, the Mysore Emperors did not have direct descendents and they had too adopt a son to carry on the lineage. 
Howsoever interesting and fascinating this tale of curse, there appears to be a more scientific and geological reason for the sands to bury Talakad and this can be traced to an event during the Vijayanagar period.
Talakad and all of Mysore and south Karnataka were once part of the famed Vijayanagar Empire. Bukka was the ruling Emperor of Vijayanagar. One of his many ministers was Madhava Mantri. 
Madhava Mantri was a Brahmin. He was as apt at debates as he was at war. Buka deputed him to conquer Goa from the Bahamanis. Madhava Mantri seized Goad and built the Gomanteshwar Temple.
Bukka then ordered Madhava Mantri to look after the Mysore province. Madhava Mantri then decided to build a dam across the Cauvery a little upstream Talakad. He did so as he wanted to divert the water for irrigation purposes.
The dam led to the river bank splitting into two. The swift south-westerly winds that blow across this region regularly began depositing sands at Talakad which lat directly in the path of the wind. Thus, we see that the fist incident of the sands blowing towards Talakad occurred sometime in 1336 and they continued for several decades.
In just a mater of sixty years, Talakad lay buried under sand and it came to be abandoned. Malangi, which is on the opposite bank came into prominence.
Centuries later, and this was sometime after 1610 when Raja Wodeyar defeated Sriranga Raya, the tale of the curse came to be told and today the curse is believed to be the reason for the Wodeyar Kings inability to produce a male heir.
While the dam will easily explain the sands, what scientific explanation can one give to the Wodeyar Emperor’s inability to produce a male heir. If a Wodeyar King has a son, the son will have to adopt a male as he will not be able to produce a son. This has continued for centuries after Raja Wodeyar.
Whatever the curse, Talakad is best explored for its temples that lie scattered across sands. The temples are worth a visit and each one of them is an architectural marvel. Apart from the Gangas, the Cholas and Hoysalas have also contributed to the temple construction. By the way, it was the Gangas that gave us the Gomateshwara statue in Shravaanabelogala.

The swirling Cauvery at Talakad makes for a great boat ride. The royal city of Mysore is a little more than a hour away. All in all, Talakad makes a great picnic spot.   

1 comment:

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