Harihar, Belur, Halebid, Jog Falls,Mookambika, Shringeri, Udipi, Shravanabelgola

Harihar: On the line of Pune to Bangalore and the banks of Tungabhadra River is the ancient Harihara Kshetra known as Guharanya. In the past there was a Demon named Guha danava who used to often visit from the near by forests and harass and kill several cattle and men. The villagers and townsmen around  in their daily worship to either Vishnu or Shiva as per their own faiths intensified their daily prayers since there were increasing killings of domestic animals and residents; a combined Swarupa of Hari and Hara named Harihara appeared at the specific request of Devas and Brahma and terminated the Danava to the great relief of the residents who raised a Temple at the Place with the Sacred Idol named Hari- hara was installed and observed ‘Rathotsava’ or Chariot Festival on every Magha Purnima, having bathed the Murti with Tunga bhadra waters as per appopriate Abhishka-Puja Vidhana in the midst of Veda  Chantings. The Idol was prepared as per the Harihara swarupa that killed the demon viz. on the right side ashuiva with Rudraksha Makuta or head gear with hals naked Gaja Chama or elephant skin around the waist and the left side as of Vishnu Swarupa with two hands asa raised hand adorned by chakra and on the hand below with an ‘abhaya’ mudra. On the banks of Tunga bhadra are as many as ekleven Tirthas like those of Brahma, Bhargava, Nrisimha, Gaalawa, Chakra, Rudra paada, Papanaashana etc.
Belur is situated on Harihara and Bangalore with the famed Chenna Keshava Mandir set up by Vishnuvardhana Hoysala King with a shape of a Nakshatra or Star on the sky but with a squarish open ‘Mandapa’ before the Main Deity of Chenna Keshava of some seven feet height with Bhudevi on his righr side and Lakshmi Dev on his left of appropriate sizes and heights and the Lord has four hands adorned with Shankh- Chakra-Gada- Padmas. Besides the Main Mandir is that of Five Murtis viz. Ganesha, Sarasvati, Lakshmi Narayana, Lashmi Sridhar, and Mahashasuramardini.

Halebid Mandir or by its old name Dwara Samudra where on an elavated hill top, there is an awe inspiring, raised platform with a gigantic structure of 170 feet high, 122 feet width containing two Temple complexes dedicated to Hoyasaleshwsara and Kedareshwara standing on pedestals of five feet height. The exterior walls of the structures have exquisite carvings of endless variety of depictions of Hindu mythology of animals, birds and dancing damsels. Before the Hoyasaleshwara Temple are two monolothic statues of Nandi of small size and a few steps down to the right is an Idol of Surya Deva inside a beautifully laid stone carvings on side walls of a semi-closed chamber. Some two furlongs of distance down the hillock with steps and sliding rock floor of shine are three Jain Mandirs of Parshava nath and 23 Tirtha Murtis; the second Mandir being of Adi natha and the third one being of Jai Tirthakar Shanti nath. Additionally on the hill of Yeneguda are Karikala Rudra and of Veerabhadra Mandir. From a less than km. of distance in north west direction is a Bucheswar / Vishnu Pratimas as also a Narasimha Mandir, in North East is a Chatteshwar Mandir and so on.

Ambu Tirtha or the Jog Falls of great renown distanced by 30 km approx. from Shimoga, stated to have been caused by Shri Rama’s arrow to provide water to a Rameshwara Linga established him underneath the water flows for ever and thus named as such ie. The water flow from an arrow! At Jog Falls, thousands of Yatris arrive at this Place aptly called Abhisheka Sarovara at the period coinciding with Chaitra Navami celebrations of Shri Rama Navami, besides also Kartika Month’s Shukla Paksha clamaxing on Kartika Purnima. Stated to be the Largest Water Falls of the World. Originated from the Sharavati River, Jog Falls have the dimension of 160 ft.of height falling in a 132 feet of depth kunda, perhaps even th Niagara Water Falls of USA too in not of such dimensions.The falls are at four places the first one being the biggest, while the second one makes big sounds, the third one named as a rocket like of arrows throwing forceful waters and the fourth one like the soothing flow nice to look at and feel too. All these Falls are in the jungles only even as wild animals of deep forests too are scared of. Tala Kund is another water body where Pranaweshwara Shiva Mandir is stated to be the most ancient Mandir ever in the Mysore area.

Mookambika (Kollur): From Kundapur or Chikmagalur by some 20 km is the popular Siddhi Peetha and Shakti Peetha named Mookaambika Devi Mandir. It is also acclaimed as one of the Mukti Kshetras by Parashu Rama, besides Gokarna, Udipi, Subramanya and so on. The legendary background was that there was a demon named Kaumasura who spread terror in the region on the banks of River Souparnika and even Devas could not suppress his misdeeds harassing Rishis and obstructing them to perform Yagnas which indeed were the providers of Amrit as he was puffed up by the boons of Shiva and was invincible except by a woman. Devas approached Devi Parvati for help and realising that the Asura drew his strengh from his loud stotras to Maha Deva daily, she made him dumb to start with and eventually killed him, thus acquiring  the Title of Mookambika or Devi with the power of tongue. After the installation of her by Devas as Mookabmika, there was also a Swambhu Shiva Linga even as Devi resided in a Moola Chakra. Way back in the 12th century AD, Mookambika Temple was set up at the instance of Rani Chennamma and was further patronised by many Hindu Kings. Adi Shankara stopped over at Kollur to rejuvenate the powers of the Shri Chakra in which Devi Mookambika resides. The arthitectural beauty of the vast original Lakshmi Mandapa supported with four strong pillars of some 135 feet high are embellished with sculptures of figurines of Deities like Ganesha, Kumara, Mahishasura Mardini, Naga Devatas etc. A huge pillar called ‘Deepasthambha’ with hollow circulars with lit up lamps present a fantastic picture from a distance. In the Garbha Sthaana or the Santum, Devi Mookambika is seated in Padmasana pose with Shankha and Chakra in hands, before the Shri Chakra and the Swayambu Shiva Linga. Navaratri Festival for the Nine Days draws unmanageable crowds and even other wise there are Trikaala Pujas performed formally with recitations of Veda Mantras attracting devotees with orderly manner and lot of faith and devotion, some holding the signs of Sarpas to ward off Naga Doshas. The collection of invaluable ornaments gifted from ages right from Rani Chennamma who presented a priceless emerald which is ornamented to the Deity till date on special puja days, from Vijayananagar’s Monarch Krishna Deva Raya a golden mask, the earlier Chief Minister of Karnataka a silver sword, the earlier Chief Minister of Tamilnadu M.G. Ramachandran a golden sword and so on is indeed noteworthy.

Shringeri: Situated right on the banks of River Tunga and set up as a country wide chain of Shankara Mutts by Adi Shankaracharya who also built the Sharadamba and Vidya Tirtha Maheshwara Mandirs in the premises of the Mutt itself, Shringeri has come to be recognised prominently; the present Matha Chief too is the resident of the Mutt Complex connected with the other bank of the Temple Complex and regular Pujas of Chandramoulishwar are performed in the Mutt Complex. There is also a hillock at Shringeri with steps to reach a beautiful Shiva Mandir which was built by the father of Shringi Rishi named Vibhandak Rishi and it is said that the latter installed the Shiva Linga. From Shringeri within 5-6 km there is a Shringa Giri- its earlier name being Varaha Parvat- and that was the birth place of Shringi Rishi. This Parvat is the union or Sangama of four rivers viz. Tunga, Bhadra, Netravati and Vaarahi; actually, bothTunga and Bhadra Rivers at Shimoga itself. The above was the background of Shrigeri Mutt and today, the Samsthana is a vibrant complex of promoting Sanatana Vaidika Dharma with several branches and Temples all over Bharat under the control of the umbrella of the Main Shringeri Mutt Authority.
Udipi: Inside the long strech of Parashurama Kshetra right from Western Ghats of Bharat coastline down to the Arabian Sea, covering Gokarna to Kanyakumari, Udipi is also an important insider of the Kshetra where Chandradeva himself performed long Tapasya to Maha Deva and the latter granted his darshan in the form of Chandra sekhara Shiva Swarupa as at Udipi of the present day as Rajatapeetha pura, Roupya pitha pura and Shivali being nearest big Tirtha from Mangalore Railway station; from Mangalore to Udipi is of a distantce of 25 km approx. Udipi is the illustious Place of Madhvacharya Matha in the Ananteshwara Mandir as Achyutaprakashachraya the preceptor of Madhvacharya instructed the latter to be the Head of the Matha. Just as Adi Shankaraacharya propounded the Advaita Discipline of Hindu Thought that Paramatma is just One and Absloutely Singular, Madhvacharya deviated from that thought and distinguished Paramatma from Jeevatma or the Atma Within viz.the Soul inside a Being with a Life- Span or a perishable Entity without being ever Permanant which Paramatma is. The Madhva Matha is thus the nucleus of the Dwaita Thought essentially existent in the premises of the Ananteshwara Mandir. Krishna Matha is in the same premises being the North east of Aanantshwara Mandira. On the ceiling of Krishna Mandir are the hanging decorations of silver leaves and golden flowers in garland forms.As one enters, there is an Idol of Madhvacharaya and before that is Lord Krishna’s Shalagrama Shila as also of Garuda, besides the same brass vessels with which Madhwacharya performed puja himself. On the four sides of Krishna Mandir are eight Mutts of the Sishyas of Madhvacharya; the core sishyas of the Acharya are in what is called ‘Atyokrishta’ parampara or the lineage at Palimar Matha, while Admar Matha is for the sishyas of Nrisimha Tirtha and so on. Abjaranya Titha is significant as that was the Sacred Place where Chandra Deva achieved Maha Deva’s darshan as Chandra sekhara. Indrani Tirtha on a hill top some 2km from Udipi is stated as the Place where Shachi Devi secured the Darshan of the Five Faced Durga as a Swayambhu Shala grama and a Mandir was set up eventually. Also there is a chain of Durga Mandirs in four directions of Udipi at Belur in South, Kaanarpadi in west, at Puttur in North, and at  Kadiyali in South- all within a range of 1-3 km. Similarly there are four Subramanya Temples in the precincts of Udipi as Mangoidu, Tangodu, Mricchila kodu and Ariyodu- all being of repute. On the banks of Arabian Sea nearby, Madhvacharya also set up Badaa Bhandeshwara Bala Rama where Samudra snaanas are  performed at the timings of Surya- Chandra Grahanas, Amavasyas, and other festival days. It is stated that Parashu Rama set up Seven Mukti Kshetras on the banks of Arabian Sea at Rajhatapeeth, Kumaraadri, Kumbhha Kashi, Dhwajeshwara, Shankara Narayana, Gokarna and Mookambika.
Shravanabelgola: From Hasan some 20 km, Mysore some 40 km and Bangalore 65km, the most famed Jain Tirtha is Shravanbelgola called Gommut Kshetra where there are motor bus connections are available to other important Jain Kshetras like Mula Badari,Halebid,Venur and Karakal. This Kshetra is the ‘samaadhi’ of Shrutakevali Bhadra bahun Swami called Baahubali where there is a huge Memorial Murti of 57 feet high on a mountain peak which is visiblev from a mile distance, which is situated besides two other mountains named Indragiri and Chandragiri. To facilitate to reach of the huge Idol, some 500 stone steps are laid and one can come across a Mandir before reaching the mountain top and the Murti. On reaching the top of the mountain there is a partition wall and behind the partition there are many Mandirs like of Chandranath, Adinath, Neminath etc. Indeed the Bahubali/ Bhadra bahu as a Digambara Murti is world famous; on further ascent of theMountain his foot prints are recorded in stone and so are the foot prints of other Jain Munis as well signified on rock; indeed the architutural excellence at the Mountain Top is to be seen to be believed!

Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham

Kamakoti.org presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India The author can be contacted at raovdn@yahoo.co.in