Thursday, 10 July 2014

Visit to Dharmaraya Swamy Temple

There is much history associated with this temple.  Pre-dating even Kempe Gowda, the founder of Bangalore - or Bengaluru from Bendakaluru - as it is colloquially known, this temple was supposed to have been used by him as a central reference point for erecting his four famous pillars marking the extent of the city.  

However it is most well known for its other association - the Bengaluru Karaga Festival.  Apparently this dates back to the days of the Mahabharata, according to the press release by the official Karaga website.  Draupadi, having fallen down during the Swargarohana episode of the Mahabharata, was assaulted by Timirasura.  When she prayed to Lord Krishna, as she did during the vastrapaharana episode, Krishna this time advised her to realise her own power - as that of Adi Shakti.  Having realised this, she created an army which helped her in destroying the asura.

Yagnaseni - the fire born Draupadi
After this, not knowing what to do, her sons from the army asked her what they should be doing in the future.  She ordered them to strive to maintain the honour of women, the cow Kamadhenu, Mother Nature, and to promote oneness in the society.  Further she also indicated that during the momentous occasion of the killing of the asura, which coincides with the Chaitra Pournima period, she would descend to bless her children.  This is celebrated every year as the Karaga festival during what is also considered to be the first Navaratri of the calendar year.

Due to this legend/history associated with the temple, and also due to the fact that this is probably the only temple where the Pandavas and their consort occupy the sanctum sanctorum, while the Gods are arrayed around the main temple, I grabbed this opportunity to visit this landmark when I had some spare time.  Besides, the temple and its main event, Karaga, are amazing symbols of communal harmony: the Thigalas who consider Draupadi as their main deity speak a combination of Tamil and Kannada, and the Karaga procession itself briefly stops at the Tawakkal Mastan Baba dargah in he neighbouring Cottonpet.

Arch on the main road leading to the temple complex
It is actually well connected by buses - the Corporation stop is a walking distance away from the site of the temple.  The area, called Thigalarpet, after the Thigalas, is a small one with narrow lanes.  Right at the beginning you encounter two temples - Parvathi temple with Shivling, Ganesh and Shirdiwale Sai Baba, and the Satyanarayana temple with Hanuman - on each side of the main street leading to the Dharmaraya temple.  It being a Thursday, Sai Baba pooja was going on in the Parvathi temple.

Satyanarayana and Hanuman temples
Parvathi, Shivling, Ganesh and Sai Baba temple
Nagadevatas in Parvathi temple

I reached there at about 8:30 am, and had the whole main temple to myself, if you leave out a few stragglers.  The main temple is flanked by two smaller ones: one for Ganesh on the left, and another for Muthyalamma on the right.  The sanctum houses the main deities who can be viewed through a rather narrow door, which obstructs the view of the deities on the extremes.  Even though it is named after Dharmaraya - Yudhisthira, Draupadi occupies the pride of place, and is flanked on either side by Yudhisthira and a mustachioed Bheema with his gadha - mace, a bit behind her by Arjuna and Krishna, and fully behind by the Madri twins - Nakula and Sahadeva.  All in all it is an impressive sight, and a very unique one; human-gods elevated to the status of godhood, much in keeping with the Vedantic principle of oneness and the omnipresence of Brahman - the formless God.  



The main Dharmaraya temple complex
Dhwajastambha inside the main temple
Hanuman on the left inner side of the main entrance
A priest was setting out the associated brass figures, presumably used during the Karaga procession, in between attending to visitors.  He kindly permitted me to take a few pictures.
Associate figures laid out by the priest
Closer view of the figures laid out

I went around the sanctum in a form of a pradakshina, but mainly to click pictures of the scenes depicted on the walls.  Both the sanctum and the murals are impressively carved, and those interested in temple architecture would be delighted to see them.

Adi Shakti above the entrance to the sanctum
Veerakumari, apparently giving birth - found on the side wall of the sanctum
Veerakumara on the side wall of the sanctum
Shiva and His family on the wall behind the sanctum
Wall behind the sanctum depicting scenes of the Dashavatar
The Muthyalamma temple has a woman priest - another unique feature, although she did not offer me the aarti or teertha when I went there, making me wonder if she was indeed the priest.  The Ganesh temple on the left was closed, but the deity was still visible, with school going children crossing the temple courtyard bowing their head before Him as they passed.  

Opposite to the main entrance is an ashwath katta - an area with a tree and an image of the Nagdevta, who had been anointed with milk.  As I approached, I startled a huge rat which was blissfully partaking of the sweet milk offering, quite unmindful of the irony - stealing milk from the snake god who is its natural enemy!  But then again, they do peacefully co-exist with Ganesh!



Nagdevta opposite the temple - the rodent is right behind the central figure
It was a very good experience over all, one which I highly recommend you undertake.  If you don't mind the crowds, then visiting the area during the Karaga festival would be a rare treat.

For further information consider these:
  1. http://www.bengalurukaraga.com (the official Bengaluru Karaga website)
  2. http://maheshbhat.photoshelter.com/#!/index/G00006iUkaLYG2SY (this has a terrific write-up with pictures about the temple-dargah association)
  3. http://bangalorepress.blogspot.in/2013/04/bangalore-karaga-bengalurus-oldest-most.html (about Karaga festival)
  4. https://www.flickr.com/photos/122366131@N02/13637919315/in/photostream (from the Karaga website)