Sunday 17 February 2013

The temple near a hill and mysterious flowers for Lakshmi

A few centuries ago, it was an important fort and trading centre during the Vijayanagar period. It was also the provincial headquarters of a Vijayanagar province which stretched as far as  Salem, Arcot in Tamil Nadu and parts of  Karnataka.
Today, the olden glory is a thing of the past. The Vijayanagar Kings have long gone and so has the empire disappeared. The once thriving city has now shrunk into a small village.
Historical records indicate that the city once was known for 101 temples, 101 wells and 101 cannons. Those many structures and cannons seems to have disappeared into history.
This is also the place where Brigu, a saint, still comes calling on Goddess Lakshmi and offers her flowers. These flowers can still be seen when the temple doors open in the morning. Incidentally, these flowers are not there when the temple closes its door in the night.  
Who and when do these flowers collect before the Lakshmi shrine. This is mystery even in this modern era for rationalists.      
The fort, once double walled, is in ruins and the only signs of life are when groups of trekkers and climbers land up at the two hills here. The nearness of this place to Bangalore and the innumerable hillocks dotting the landscape have transformed this village into a trekkers’ delight and a climbers’ paradise.
This is Tekal, a small village on the Malur-Bangarpet road in Kolar district of Karnatala. This village which was so steeped in history a few hundred years ago is now a Nature lovers’ haunt. It is all the more alluring as it is just 65 kilometers from Bangalore.
You can make out you have come to Tekal when you observe twin peaks towering over a village. The village once had 101 wells, 101 temples and 101 cannons. Today all of this would be hard to find and harder to come by.
There are the ruins of a few temples and wells which speaks about Tekal’s connection with the ancient ages. The double walled fort, which is now in ruins, was built by Goparaja who also developed Tekal into a commercial hub of the area. He also commissioned a large tank which today is called Gopasagara 
The hills are called Kurmadri and Hemadri. The smaller of the two is the Hemadri while the northern hill is the Kurmadri. Both the hills are actually huge boulders with odd shapes. Both these hills are part of the Shathashringa ranges of Kolar. The ranges have scores of hills and many of them are still to be explored.
The Kurmadri can be easily accessed from its southern side which can be reached by a narrow mud road. It is from here that steps are cut into the rock and they lead directly to the cave temple of Bhoo-thamma. There is also a Shiva temple and an underground cave with a perennial spring. On the left, there is another cave with an earthen image of Muneshwara and a small but beautiful pond.
The Rokkada Gavi, also called cave of money, lies atop the hill . It is set amid some boulders.
 There is an interesting legend behind a rock depression found here. The depression is a natural cauldron. A huge wick is placed here and a lamp lit on Ugadi every year. This is a tradition that has been followed for years and the Department of Muzrai donates five tins of oil and black clothe to be used as a wick for lighting the lamp.  
The other hill, Hemadri, looks small but is quite difficult to climb. There are no steps here and you have to clamber to the top, marking your way amid the steep rocks.
The for, which once encircled the hill is long gone and the only remnants are two hills that dominate the place are actually colossal boulders circular bastions. There is a water tank here whose channel leads to the Shiva temple below.
There is a pretty huge cave called Bheemana Garadi or cave of Bheema.  This a natural cave formed by giant boulders coming together. Legend has it that this is the place where Bheema practiced wrestling.
This place is very dangerous for children and the old. You have to be careful while negotiating the many turns here and the rocks are pretty slippery. The terrain too is dangerous.
Locals will tell you that this area is home to panthers and wild bees. Once upon a time Tekal was supposed to have several tigers. There are no tigers to be seen but the panthers, villagers say, are quite a handful. King Goparaja was said to hunt the tigers here.
Of the 101 temples, only a few still remain. The Anjeneya Swamy temple here has a beautiful image which is seven feet in height. The Someshwara Temple is a marvel of architecture. The Lakshmivaradaraja Swamy temple is built in Chola style. The Varadaraja, which is the main deity, is four feet in height and it has a gulaganji seed-a seed of the red reed tree-on its thumb.
The temple is all the more important for Hindu as Brigu is said to have consecrated Varadaraja here. There is s small stone at the base of the idol and it is called Brigushila.
The priest told me that the deity holding the gulaganji signifies that he is more powerful than the Varadaraja temple at Kanchi.
Since this temple is believed to be similar to the one at Kanchi, people began calling it Tenkanchi, meaning Kanchi of the south. It then became Tenkachi and finally Tekal.  
The temple has an idol of Lakshmi, which sage Brigu worshipped. Brigu reached the temple through a tunnel from the other hill where he is supposed to have lived for several years.
The Goddess is sculpted in Chola style and every morning when the temple doors are opened, fresh flowers are found at the shrine. This is so as Brigu is still said to be worshipping the goddess. Unbelievable. Then check it out for yourself.
The temple is an epigraphist’s delight. There are inscriptions in old Kannada and Tamil at its entrance and there are twenty five of then dating from 1310 to 1499 AD.
The hills of Tekal can also be accessed from Ullerahalli, which is three kilometers away. Tekal is in Malur taluk of Kolar district and it is 65 kms from Bangalore and is easily approachable by road.
It is 15 kms from Malur and 18 kms from Kolar.  
Tekal is approached either from Hoskote or Malur. It is also on the railway map and is on the Chennai-Bangalore main line
You can easily identify Tekur from the twin hills that welcome you on the Malur - Bangarpet Road.