Wednesday 31 July 2013

The legend of the Tulasi Thotha

Bangalore is synonymous with Ramanavami concerts. The festival to celebrate Lord Rama in Bangalore turns into a symphony of music and the entire city of Bangalore transforms itself into a virtual stage for artistes to perform.
Every locality and almost every temple organises music and cultural festivals in honor of India’s best known God, whose is touted as an ideal King and whose Kingdom symbolised  an ideal State.
Ramanavami arrives in April and the onset of  summer is soothed by music that resonated for almost a month. The Ramanavami celebrations have attracted national and international attention and musicians and singers vie with each other to participate in the celebration of Rama.
The Rama Seva Mandali of Chamarajpet and the Mandalis of Seshadripuram, Shankarapuram, N.R. Colony and other areas have attined cult status. These mandalis invite a host of Carnatic, Hindustani and a few other other streams of music and art such as Harikatha, Janapada, Gamaka to exhibit their talents.
However, what many do not know is that the first public and perhaps popular rendition of Ramotsava were not held by these mandalis but by a saint-mendicant in the early years of the 20 the century.
This mendicant, who was widely popular throughout India for his devotion to Rama and his celebration of  Rama as an ideal King and a God who embodied all that is good and virtuous, first came to Bangalore in 1908 and started the Ramotsava celebrations.
The mendicant settled down at the Krishna Temple near the almost dry Dharmambudhi tank. The locality where the Krishna temple was situated was called Tuilasi Thotha. Tulasi is a Kannada word and it is the holy Basil plant and Thotha means grove or garden. There were several temples such as the Krishna Temple, the Dharmaraya Temple, the Kote Venkataramanaswamy Temple, the Venugopalaswamy Temple, Anjeneya Temple apart from the Annamma temple and since they all needed Basil leaves for regular worship, a Tulasi Thotha had come up in the area which today is occupied by Chicka Lalbagh.
The Tulasi Thotha was surrounded by several chatras or halls which provided shelter to the poor and needy and also to those who visited Bangalore for a short stay. Since the Railway Station as just a few hundred yards away, Tulasi Thotha always looked busy and it had a fairly large floating population.
The saint-mendicant whose name was Tulasi Ramadas came to Bangalore in 1908 and he settled down at the 15th century Krishna Temple in Tulasi Thotha. A leading citizen of Bangalore then and four times president of the municipality and Mayor of Bangalore and a councilor for 36 years, Rao Bahadur Lokasevasakta B. K. Garudachar had just taken interest in developing the Prasanna Krishnaswamy Temple (Krishna Temple) at Tulasi Thotha Balepet.
Rao Bahadur was also one of the founding members of the State Bank of Mysore and he also built a free hostel in the temple premises. The sincerity and dedication of the Rao Bahadur attracted Ramadas who made the temple his home and commenced the Ramotsava celebrations.            
Though the main deity of this temple is Lord Krishna, Ramadas installed the idol of Rama and soon it came to be known as Rama Temple. The antiquity of the temple is a mystery and while some say it was built by the Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar in 1844, others say it is much older.
Ramadas saw the Krishna temple and he installed and consecrated the idol of Rama there itself on April 2, 1908 and began the Ramotsava celebrations. Since he was better known as Tulasi Ramadas, the area came to be known as Tulasi Thotha, says one legend about the name of the place. The other story is that there was a fairly big Tulasi Vana or Thotha, hence, the name.

Even today, the temple is maintained by the successors of  Rao Bahadur Garudachar who died sometime in 1948. There are a few houses in the courtyard for the people who work in the temple premises.

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