Turuvekere is a panchayat town and Taluk in Tumkur district in the Indianstate of Karnataka. Turuvekere was once an "Agrahara" or "Rent-Free Village" granted to scholarly Brahmins in the 13th century A.D. Turuvekere is home to a number of Hoysala temples, including the Temple of Chennakeshava Temple built by Mahadandanayaka Somanna, the Gangadhareshwara Temple, Moole Shankareshwara Temple, and the largest, Beterayaswamy Temple. This is what Wikipedia says.
Turuvekere was called Shri Sarwajna Vijaya Narsimhapuri during the reign of the Hoysalaking Narasimha III[1263-1292]. Since it was well endowed with cows and water it was colloquially called Turuvekere = Turu + Kere, where "Turu" means cow and "Kere" is a waterbody in Kannada. Before becoming Turuvekere it was also called Dhenupuri. This is what my uncle, a resident says. So do the boards in the temples of Turuvekere.
When you take your in-laws to meet your natal family that is when your world completes. It is like taking your girlfriend home to your mother. And so, I took my relatives on my husband's side to see my Turuvekere. More then hundred years ago my paternal grandfather's father came here from Doddaghatta a few kms away and my grandfather was born in the house we were on our way to visit. And this is where I spent my holidays with grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, aunts, cousins, and a host of friends. Come with me dear reader and see Turuvekere with my relatives and I will tell you stories from my holidays here too.
We, the intrepid eight ladies left Bangalore early one Sunday talking and laughing as the Tempo traveller raced on the not so empty NH75. The NH75 goes all the way to Mumbai, maybe we should drive on I thought. At Yadiyur we took a right and dived under the bridge and half an hour later we were at Turuvekere bus stand. How many times haven't we got off or caught buses here? But Turuvekere has changed. It is no more the small Taluk of my childhood days. There used to be a line of shops here and my aunt would bring us to a bangle shop here for dark green/red plain [Saani in Kannada] glass bangles. How we loved them! They were our pride and clinked and sang on our arms until we left, or they broke. I did not see any of those shops as we crossed the bus stop. One Summer a cousin studying at IIT Kanpur not only got slippers from there but also introduced us to making a Kaleidoscope. We needed glass pieces for this, and another cousin's grandfather had taken us to a photo shop to fetch them. The Kaleidoscope had enthralled us. We had spent days holding it against the sun and admiring the shifting patterns made by broken glass bangle pieces inside them. That photo shop was also somewhere here.
Stone bell in the Mantapa
We took the new wide road to Gangadhareshwara Temple. The Ekakuta [single Vimana/spire] temple is built by Annayya Nayaka a Paligara. At its gate, my cousin received us. His grandfather and my grandfather were brothers and he still lived here. He had made all arrangements and Turuvekere knew we were coming to see her. We walked into the courtyard as my cousin went to fetch the priest. I took them to see the stone bell hanging from the roof. This is in an open Mantapa [Pavilion] on the western side of the temple. The Mantapa is supported by two pillars with Yalis in the front. A Yali is a mythical creature which is part Elephant, part Lion and part Horse and is found in many temples in South India. It is supposed to protect the temple. The bell when rung sounds like the ringing of a metal bell I said pointing at the piece of cloth covering the clapper at the centre of the bell high above. And I have never heard it I concluded. The Yali is standing on a boar and the rider was facing us, friend or foe he seemed to ask and I replied “maney magalu", daughter of the house. Did he say "Welcome"? I smiled. A daughter especially after marriage has the pride of place in all functions at her maternal home and is a maney magalu.
Was that the story of Bedara Kannappaon the pillar? Yes, that was Kannappa. He stood there with his big toe marking Shiva's eye even as he tried to gouge an eye. Kannappa, a hunter was a great devotee of Lord Shiva and he worshiped him with flowers and leaves from the forest and offered Him his prey. To test his devotion one day Shiva cried tears of blood. Distraught Kannappa gouged his eye and placed it in its place. Now the other eye too shed blood. Fully aware that he wouldn’t be able to place his other eye in the correct spot, Kannappa marked it with his big toe and gouged out his other eye. Moved by this Shiva restored both his eyes. The pillars had more stories carved on them and we walked around trying to decipher them all. As we walked towards the back, I looked up. One summer holiday we had climbed up to the base of the tower to see how it was crumbling. I smiled; it was still standing. I guess it has been repaired.
The priest was waiting for us at the Garbagriha [Sanctum] and welcomed us inside. My cousin had briefed him and my uncle who still claimed Turuvekere as home was well known. A bit hesitantly we entered. The priest was very kind and showed us Gangadhareshwara after whom the temple is named. Gangadhareshwara, one who is wearing Ganga is a black Linga consecrated here. This is a very elaborate Linga and has the hood of Snake sheltering it. And inside its hood sits Ganga, Shiva is certainly wearing Ganga. Carved in the hood are the Sun and Moon too. A very rare and unique Linga. I have never seen anything like this. Bhagiratha, ancestor of Lord Rama did sever penance beseeching Ganga to come down from the heavens to earth and liberate his forefathers. His forefathers had been cursed by Sage Kapila and had been burnt to ashes. Ganga agrees to come down, but she is afraid the Earth will be swept away in her tides. She says only Shiva has the power to channelize her. Bhagiratha now prayed to Shiva and Shiva untangled his hair and Ganga descended from Heaven into it and got entangled. Shiva pulls out a hair and lets her flow and that place is Gangotri in the Himalayas. Haven't seen Gangotri but luckily, I have been to Devaprayag where Bhagirathi river meets Alakananda and becomes Ganga. It is the prettiest of all Prayags, confluences. That story is for another day dear reader.
Utsava murthy, Shiva flanked by Parvati and Dakshayani
An eye carved on the right leg of Shiva
Moved by what we had seen we stepped out and stood reverentially in front of the utsava murthy, the form that goes out of the Sanctum in a procession to meet his devotees. Lord Shiva is flanked by Goddess Parvati and Dakshayani. Shiva is always seen with Parvati and/or with his Sons. This grouping with Dakshayani is again very rare. Dakshayani is Sati and Parvati is Sati reborn. Dakshayani is an incarnation of Adi Parashakti and incarnates as the daughter of king Daksha. She is married to Shiva, the ascetic. Daksha does not invite Shiva to a function Dakshayani goes uninvited saying I am the maney magalu. Daksha humiliates her and Shiva and Dakshayani immolates herself in the sacrificial fire. Hearing this Lord Shiva rains havoc and roams the earth with her corpse until Vishnu cuts it into 51 pieces and the place where they fell are the Shakti Peethas. Dakshayani is later reborn as Parvati. Parvati marries Shiva. An eye has been carved on Shiva's right foot. The priest moved Shiva's clothes a little to show us this. Was it Shiva's famed third eye? Why was it on his foot? Again unique. The priest performed Aarti and we came out after receiving it. I had never seen all this before. You know being a tourist in your hometown is good to discover and understand it better. Annayya Nayaka and his wife are carved on a pillar it seems. Go back and see it, note to self. I don't see a date for this temple. anywhere.
"Yes my Lord?", Nandi waiting for Shiva's orders
Nandi was waiting patiently for us in the open courtyard. He is resting with his legs neatly folded. Shiva's mount Nandi is patiently waiting for Shiva's orders from time immemorial but today he was waiting for us too. The highly polished Nandi made from Shaligrama stone is an attraction by itself and is Turuvekere's pride. It has a mirror finish and is wearing ornately carved jewellery around its neck, head and ankles. There is an immense necklace of bells with the biggest bell at the centre as the last layer. The hairs of the tail can be seen from the side too. Look at its folded and bejeweled feet. Proudly I showed it off. Someone had left a picture of a hooded Snake God near its folded feet. I thought Nandi had steel grills around it I said as we got our pictures with it. It was open now.
And as we walked out to the left of the courtyard is a small shrine to Goddess Bhavani. The idol is 5 feet tall and is that of a standing Goddess. At the bottom of the idol is carved a Lion and hence she is also called Durga Devi. Durga is Mahishasura Mardini, the Goddess who killed the Rakshasa/Asura Mahishasura. She is the warrior form of Goddess Parvati and Parvati definitely deserves her shrine in her husband Shiva's temple and deserves her devotees too.
The grass was growing in between the stones at our feet in the courtyard. I felt sad. This temple needs more care I thought. Do not judge a book by its covers, this temple is not an architectural marvel. Its treasures are its unique Linga, the stone bell, the highly decorative and polished Nandi and the standing Goddess Bhavani.
Gangadhareshwara maybe the Lord of the temple but it is Nandi [Basavanna] who rules the heart of the locals. "Basavannana Gudi [Nandi's temple]" is what this temple is fondly called. This is where my cousins had Sanskrit and Veda classes as children. Diagonally opposite it, is my maternal grandfather's house. Yes, both my grandfathers come from Turuvekere. His brother's children still maintain their house. And a visit to their house was a must do every time we were in Turuvekere. On one such visit my grandfather's sister in law had fed us Kobbari Mithai [Coconut Burfi], each piece was a rhombus 2 inches end to end. It was made of hand grated coconut and not the smooth mixie run version made today. I had relished it and had wolfed down two pieces. And that taste is still in my mouth. It tickled my mouth again in a rush as we stood outside the temple for a picture.
Agraharamshave lines of houses on either side of the road and the temple to the village god at the centre, thus resembling a garland around the temple, says Wikipedia. Continuing it says, Agraharams have a line of houses running North to South on either sides of a road and at one end of it is a temple of Shiva and at another end is a temple to Vishnu as per Hindu practice of Architecture and Town Planning. We were at the Shiva temple and towards its left is Chennakeshava Temple and towards its right is Beterayaswamy Temple. Turuvekere is rich, it has two Vishnu temples. Which one is to be taken as the Vishnu temple here as per the definition? We were now standing on Brahmanara beedi [Brahmins street]. Our house was on this road towards Chennakeshava temple. We would always be surprised by the name of the road when we wrote it down on the postcard. But that was how it was called. Now we headed towards Chennakeshava temple and our home.
Next: A sightseeing trip to Turuvekere meets my holidays there - Gangadhareshwara Temple - gallery