The Holy Abode – Veerabhadra temple

10.12.2016:

While I was in the bus, I got to speak with the locals travelling along with me and when they heard me saying that I was here to see the Nandi, they asked me to visit the 16th century Veerabhadara (Lord Shiva) temple also.

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I walked back to the temple, one among the three famous shrines of Lepakshi which is just 10 minutes walk from the Nandi. There are few interesting legends associated with this temple. It is believed that this temple has been built on the spot where Jatayu (the bird God) fell after being injured by Ravana who was kidnapping Sita. When Rama reached the spot, he saw Jatayu and remarked, ‘Le Pakshi’ which translates to ‘rise, bird’ in Telugu and hence the name Lepakshi for this town πŸ™‚

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The temple is built on a low, rocky hill called Kumarasilam (Translation – Tortoise hill) and dates back to 1583 and was built by two brothers, Viranna and Virupanna, who were the royal treasurers of the Vijayanagar kings. The temple is built in the Vijayanagar architectural style and has beautiful sculptures adoring the walls. There is also a belief that the original temple has been constructed by Saint Agastya himself.After climbing some 30 or 40 steps, I reached the Dwajastamba and I entered the temple from the left side.

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The temple’s main deity is Lord Veerabhadra, the fiery god created by Shiva from his hairs in his rage after the immolation of Sati Devi during the Daksha Yagna. There are also other manifestations of Lord Shiva like the Kanakala Murthi, Dakshinamurthi (Guru of Gurus), Tripuranthaka or Tripurasurasamhara (vanquisher of demon Tripurasura), Ardhanareeshwara (the half-female, half-male form, where Shiva and Parvati are equally represented in one body). This temple also has the fiery goddess Bhadrakali. After the darshan, I walked around the Garbagriha and I noticed what made this temple stand apart!

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Those are the finest specimens of mural paintings of the Vijayanagar kings. It is said that the 24 ft by 14 ft fresco of Veerabhadra on the ceiling, before the main sanctum sanctorum is the largest in India. They are beautiful and the attention paid to their details is amazing. The colors are strikingly contrasted – black limework against an orange-red background with some green, white, black, and shades of ochre-gold and brown make for a stunning visual spectacle. It is said that most of those were natural dyes or pigments and the paintings depicts the scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Most of these paintings are now fading and are peeling off in many places. I think it’s time for the government to act for their better maintenance and expert restoration!

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Another important feature of this temple is the famous “Hanging Pillar”. This pillar doesn’t fully rest on the ground and to prove that, the guides over here executes a newspaper test and pass the newspaper from one end of the base to the other! There are about 70 pillars in this temple, but this one is the best known and is a tribute to the engineering genius of ancient and medieval India’s temple builders. However, it is a bit dislodged from its original position β€” it is said that during the British era, a British engineer tried to move it in an unsuccessful attempt to uncover the secret of its support.

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I entered the outer enclosure of the temple where there is a huge Ganesha in stone, leaning against a rock as well as a massive Naga (the Snake God) with three coils and seven hoods, which shelters the Shiva Linga. The temple is divided into three parts, the ‘Mukha Mandapa’, the ‘Artha Mandapa’ and ‘Garba Griha’ and the ‘Kalyana Mandapa’ with 38 carved monolithic pillars. Legend also has it that Lord Shiva and Parvati were married on the spot where Kalyana Mandapa now stands (the most photographed place in the recent times).

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There is also another legend attached to this temple. It is said that Virupanna, the royal treasurer, was accused of drawing funds without the king’s permission from the state treasury to build these shrines and is supposed to have blinded himself. And there are two red stain marks on the western wall of the inner enclosure and these are believed to be the marks left by his bleeding eyes. But I couldn’t find them :(. Might be next time! Time to go, as it’s getting dark and I have to reach Anantapur town!

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Seeking Divinity.. Being Secular..

12.11.2016:

The plan is to wake up at 5.30 hrs and start at 06.30 hrs, but as usual we were late 😦 It was only at 06.30 hrs we were up and only at 07.30 hrs we started. We decided to visit theΒ Siddhi Vinayak Temple which is quite famous as almost all the rich and famous, poor and needy, actors, politicians equally visit this temple. The only hope was that it won’t be too much crowded as it is a weekend!

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08.00 hrs – We are here! The temple has a tight security system and didn’t allow me to carry my camera and asked me to deposit it in a locker. Careful with these locker people, as they won’t care about the stuff. After depositing the camera, we made a move toward the inner sanctum to seek the blessings of one of the most powerful deities according to the Hindu tradition. As hoped, there wasn’t a big crowd, but it was decent. We stood in the queue and it took us around 10 mins to reach the main deity Lord Ganesha πŸ™‚ . The central idol in the temple is of Lord Ganesha and the inner roof of the sanctum is plated with gold. There is also Lord Hanuman in the temple complex.

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08.30 hrs – Breakfast time! For a change, we wanted to have our breakfast at one of the carts on the pavement. While Ryan ordered for a Masala Dosa, Mythri opted for Idli and I chose Misal Pav πŸ™‚ .Misal Pav is one of the traditional Maharashtrian dish and also a popular Mumbai street food! This dish is almost same as that of Pav Bhaji, except that Misal is a thick spicy gravy made with mixed sprouts or moth beans. It is said to have different variants like the Puneri Misal, Kolhapuri Misal, Nagpur Misal etc. My Misal is garnished with mix farsan and served hot. The food here tasted as good as that of a good restaurant. The idlis were served hot and the masala dosa ordered by Ryan is soft, crisp and yum πŸ™‚

09.00 hrs – Time for some juice too! We quickly had our juices from a outlet just beside the Ganesh temple and looked out for a Kaala Billi to continue our religious quest. It was in this car, an interesting thing unfolded. While we told our driver to drop us at the famous Haji Ali Dargah, the guy who is a muslim asked us whether we have visited the Mahalakshmi temple and we told him that we will do that after we are done with the Dargah. And further he was like how come you are visiting the dargah first and the temple next? Do visit the temple first as she is your deity and then visit the dargah. A perfect scenario of religious tolerance. Where else other than India can this be found?

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09.20 hrs – We were dropped at the famous Mahalakshmi temple on the Bhulabhai Desai Road. History says that the temple was built around 1831 and the main goddesses in the temple are the Goddesses Mahakali, Mahalakshmi and MahaSaraswati. There weren’t so many people and we had a quick darshan and headed towards the backside of the temple from where we can watch the Arabian sea as well as the Haji Ali Shah Dargah. On our way back to the road, we also visited a small old temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and the smaller Mahalakshmi temple.

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09.45 hrs – We started walking towards the Dargah as it is located just beside the temple. The mosque seems to be floating in the sea and is visited by people of all religions alike. What makes this a unique landmark in Mumbai is the pathway leading to the dargah from the main road and it is said that during the full moon and new moon days when the sea would be rough, this pathway would be covered by the sea water and it almost looks like the Dargah is inaccessible. History says that the Dargah was built in 1431 AD.Β Haji Ali Dargah has the tomb of the Muslim Saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari and also a Masjid (Mosque).

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There were lots of stalls selling the chaddars (shawls), flowers and food along the pathway and lot of photographers who could give an instant Polaroid photograph of yours with the dargah near the dargah. As we entered the complex, while Ryan and I were permitted to visit the tomb, Mythri was stopped as she was wearing a sleeveless frock! The person sitting there handed over her two shawls to cover her head and legs and I too was given one to cover my head πŸ™‚ .

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The Haji Ali Dargah is made of marble and the architecture of this monument reflects the styles and patterns of Mughal and Indo-Islamic architecture. It is said to occupy 4,500 sq. meters space and is 85 feet tall. A marble courtyard with the central shrine, and the main mosque brocaded with a red and green sheet welcomes us! Artistic marble pillars, mirror work with kaleidoscopic patterns and minarets sentinel the shrine in the center, making the monument a grand sight for all. We prayed for a while and made a move out of it to continue our quest πŸ™‚