Sunday 10 February 2013

The Dharmaraya of Bangalore

Every Bangalore, well almost everyone I have come across, knows that the city took shape during the time of Kempe Gowda and that he built towers to mark the points. These towers today are called Kempe Gowda towers and there are five of them.
But did you know that the coordinates of the five towers were drawn from a temple and this was the centre point of the city of Bangalore that Kempe Gowda built more than six centuries ago.
Both the towers and the temple exists even to this day. While the towers stand as silent sentinals, the temple lies forgotten by a majority of Bangaloreans except for one day and one night in an year when old Bangalore comes alive with a festival all its own.
This is the temple of Dharmaraya or Yudhistera in Bangalore. This temple is unique as no sch temple is found anywhere else in India.
Bangalore thus has the distinction of having a temple dedicated to the first of the Pandavas. Unfortunately, the exact date when the temple came to be constructed is yet to be ascertained. Other details of the temple are sketchy.
All we know is that the temple existed when Kempe Gowda planned to construct the city of Bangalore. However, a local legend says the temple was constructed by the Ganga Arasus. These people belonged to the Venniya Kula Kshatriyas and they had  migrated from Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Niligiri in north Tamil to south Karnataka or rather south Mysore. Some of them had settled down at Bangalore and built the Dharmaraya Temple.
The Archeology Survey of India says the temple is about 800 years old. When Kempe Gowda built Bangalore city, the Kempe Gowda Gopuras (towers) were built in the corners of the city keeping the Viamana Kalasa of  Sri Dharmarayaswamy Temple as a centre point.
The Ganga Arasus generally built towns near lakes or river beds and their temples at a lower level to the ground with a further lower level pradakshina patha.
The temple was built in the Sidhikatte lake bed area and it is below the land level that existed prior to current Bangalore. This areas then was called Kalyanapuri, or the land of  Temples and ponds. The temple closely resembles the architectural  style of the Gangas, Pallavas and Vijayanagar Kingdoms. The garbhagriha is in Ganga style, the vimanagopura is in Pallava style and the mukhamantapa is in Vijayanagar style. This shows the  development of this temple in three different ages. The fourth stage of development of rajagopura and sabhangana was taken up in 20th century.
The earlier rajagopura was built  before Kempe Gowda founded Bangalore in the year 1530 A.D. Kempe Gowda was an ardent devotee of this temple. Bangalore city was designed keeping this temple as its reference and the temple area was developed as Halasuru pete.
The temple had a vast area around with a Kalyani and  Dharmachatra, which however are not found today. The temple had Pallavas style carved chambers between prangana  and the newly built sabhangana. These carved chambers were removed and replaced by Ashtalakshmi Idols.
The vimanagopura which is in the Pallava style matches with that of the Magadi temples and  Halasuru temples built by Kempe Gowda
The temple records reveal that Immadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar of Mysore visited the temple in 1811 A.D. ,to ascertian the fame and real truth of Karaga Shakthyotsava since it was as famous as the Mysore Dasara even during those days.
The Mysore King brought two sharpened swords (Alagu) as presents to the temple, to perform the Aluguseva with these alagus and to test whether the Alaguseva was true of not. The Veerakumaras of the temple accepted the alagu and performed the Alaguseva.
The two swords broke into pieces when the Veerakumaras offered alaguseva to the Goddess. The king was overwhelmed by the incident and he became an ardent devotee of  Draupadi. After this incident, it is said that the king’s sick mother recovered from a fatal disease and the king also lead a peaceful and prosperous life. The king was happy and donated huge properties in the form of land and jewels to the temple.
The administration of the temple was taken up by the Mysore royal family. The Dharmadarshi committee managed the temple in the name of the Maharaja of Mysore. After independence, the temple was taken to Muzrai department with special community privileges. Interestingly, this temple is the oldest temple in the Muzrai records and it is maintained by it.
Some of the practices followed by the temple go back to antiquity. The sthothras or chantings recited during the Karaga Shaktyotsava are in the Aravu language, spoken prior to the historical period. This is so as the temple is closely linked to the Karaga festival which is celebrated to honor Draupadi. Karaga is the triumph of Good over Evil. It also symbolises the power of women and their role in society.
The temple is very easy to locate. It is on Dharmaraya Temple Street and its exact location is in Tigalarapet. Any Bangalorean will be able to guide you to the temple. If you want to find it, explore the petes and you will come across temples dating back to several centuries.  

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