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Durable Link to this BlogMonday, November 6, 2006

Nuances of Nanjangud History Conference - II

Notes from Nanjangud History Conference(Sept 9th to 11th 2006)

Every year Karnatak Itihas Academy, (founded 1985) organises Three day conference at a historical of religious place with monuments round about, or archaeological sites. This year it was at Nanjangudu, a temple-town. 25 km from the erstwhile Royal city of Mysore.

The main deity of the famous temple of Nanjangud is Shrikantheswara, also called Nanjundeshwara or Ishwara who gulped down poison (nanju = poison, unda = swallowed). Local legend says, this is the place of churning ocean by gods and demons to obtain nectar. Before obtaining nectar, deadliest poison gushed out, which would have destroyed the entire universe. Shiva the saviour came to rescue and himself gulped down the venom, to save cosmos. Most of it got struck in his throat which turned green or blue. Hence he is also called Vishakantha (poison throated) or Neelakantha (blue-throated). His consort Parvati prevented the poison from entering Shiva's system by hugging him and clinging to his throat which otherwise would have been disastrous. Hence he is also called Shreekantheswara (Shree = Goddess Parvati).

The shrine, cosmic Linga representing Shiva is very ancient one. Earliest records are available from the reign of Gangas who ruled this region for more than seven hundred years (325 - 1000 C.E). The original temple is of early Ganga period. Innovations were made during the reign of Hoysala, Vijayanagara (1339-1565 C.E) and Wodeyars of Mysore. It is a big temple complex, housing several deities like Narayana, Sharadamma (Saraswati) Anjaneya and the Eight guardians (Ashtadikpalakas). The main deity however continues to be Shiva and a number of smaller lingas, are installed on either side. Some sculptures carved during the period of Mummadi Krishnaraj Wodeyar are exquisite. This king also figures in a corner along with his four queens. They appear to be more symbolic as royal devotees. Nanjundeshwara was a family deity of Wodeyars and the kings were very liberal with donations to the agrahara at this place. A good number of engineers, doctors, advocates, literati and researchers of Karnataka State, hail from Nanjangud.

Hakim Nanjundeswara!

Tipu Sultan also features in the annals of this great temple. Tippu's favourite elephant lost sight all of a sudden. The worried king prayed Nanjundeshwara as per the advice of the courtiers and arranged for special rituals. The elephant regained eye-sight after 48 days. The grateful Sultan granted a Shivalinga made of jade along with a costly necklace. He also bestowed(!) the title of "Hakim" on Lord Nanjundeshwara. The cute Linga receives worship every day. The ornament is exhibited on special occasions.

The town of Nanjangud (pop. 35,000) is a clean, green and comfortable place. But the temple area is constantly busy with itinerant tourists. A meeting place of Kapila, (Kabini), Kaveri and Gundlu rivers, the place attracts devotees from different parts.

The History conference was hosted by the Raghavendra math which itself is three hundred year old. The dynamic, enlightened, young and enthusiastic trustee, and personal secretary to the main pontiff of Raghavendra Math of Mantralaya, Raja Rajagopalacharya, turned out to be a wonderful host. We had festive breakfast, lunch and dinner on all the threedays with special delicacies of old Mysore state. We received rebate from even payment of nominal fees of Rs 125/- of delegate fee! Mr Rajagopalacharya looked to it. In addition we received a 'blessing-scarf' (shawl) and Raghavendra Swamiji's postract as gift from Math.

Nanjangud trip was the most memorable one, with plenty of good food, for thought and for the body!

Amma's Column by Jyotsna Kamat

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Jyotsna Kamat

Jyotsna Kamat Ph.D. lives in Bangalore.


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