Badavilinga is the largest monolithic Shivalinga in Hampi. The name and the story behind it makes an interesting read. Badavilinga is said to be combination of two words — Badava and Linga. Badava in the local language means poor and we were told that this temple was commissioned by a poor peasant woman, hence the name. All other temples, sculptures dotting Hampi are said to have royal patrons, either kings or their chieftains.

The huge Shivalinga stands inside a small stone chamber occupying almost entire chamber. The Shivalinga is placed on a large circular pedestal which in turn stands submerged in water. The chamber is always filled with water as a water channel flows through it. This is a kind of symbolic representation of the holy river Ganges coming down on earth and it’s flow being controlled by  Lord Shiva.

The mythological story related to River Ganges coming down to earth

Raja Bhagirath did great penance for years and years to bring the Ganges down to earth from heaven. It is said that the holy river Ganges was born in the Kamandal of Brahma. Raja Bhagirath was doing this penance to provide moksha/liberation to his sixty thousand ancestor who died due to curse of………… Ultimately when Goddess Ganges was convinced to come down to earth, it was feared that the entire creation would be washed away due to her tremendous power and force. Hence Lord Shiva was requested to  control her flow by making her descend on earth via His long, matted tangled hair.

Another attractive feature of this Shivalinga is the three eyes etched on it, representing three eyes of Lord Shiva.

The stone chamber around Shivalinga has no ceiling and sun rays enter through open space to bathe the Linga in golden light. The entire concept of it is beautiful. The huge black stone Shivalinga bathed in golden sunlight and swaying water ripples at the bottom. All the Panch Tatva as if congregate at one place — the sky, air, water, the warmth of sunlight and earth.  Besides that to be on the spot while sun rays enter the enclosure is kind of living a divine moment. Occasionally the sun light  reaches water below and the flickering light on water surface looks like lighted lamp. The almost inaudible murmuring of ripples sounds like mantras.

 

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Badavilinga bathed in celestial light

 

Laxmi Narasimha or Ugra Narsimha is located near  Badavilinga. This is said to be the biggest statue/ idol of any deity in Hampi. Both these temples are located on the road that connects royal area to the sacred area.

As per Hindu mythology Narsimha is another form of Lord Vishnu. Lord Narsimha is depicted having human body with a face of lion. He is considered to be a great protector of his devotees. Story of Prahlad in Hindu mythology is associated with this avatara of Lord Vishnu.

In this temple Lord Narsimha sits  cross legged in yogic  mudra  with a serpentine hood over his head. He is shown seated over coils of snake, the Sheshnaga, whose seven heads are clearly visible in the hood above deity’s head. It is said that originally Goddess Laxmi was depicted sitting on His lap. The temple was severely damaged during attacks by invaders. Now only a hand of Goddess can be seen. In Hindu mythological images Vishnu is seen lying on Sheshnaga, floating in the ocean and Goddess Laxmi is invariably with him. Though in those images Lord Vishnu is not shown in His Narsimha form.

Standing before the giant, magnificently chiselled statue I felt humbled not just by the divine aura but also by the stupendous creativity and unfathomable imagination of those artist of the times bygone. I tried to imagine Goddess Laxmi sitting there beautiful, delicate, decked in/ with all finery and ornaments  and the irreparable loss saddened me. At the same spot, at the same moment the realization hit me forcefully how creative and how destructive humane mind can be. It all depends  on what we believe in and what we want to leave for posterity.

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Laxmi Narsimha and Badavilnga, both the temples in one frame

All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.

We started from Bangalore at about 6 A.M and reached Lepakshi by 8 O’clock.Lepakshi is a small non-decrepit town in Anantpur district of Andhra Pradesh Veerbhadreshwara temple at Lepakshi  is one of the finest example of  artistry of craftsmen of that era.Grand, massive sculptures, delicate, intricate carvings on stone, ceiling adorned with murals depicting mythological tales…this temple has a lot to offer to leave us spellbound.

Standing below the high raised platform on which the huge splendid Shivlinga is carved, is a humbling experience.Three coils of Naga around Shivlinga led to its seven hooded magnificently carved head stretching over Shivalinga.Craning my neck as I tried to look at the topmost point of the entire sculpture, i had a sudden feeling as if the  canopy of those seven hoods is descending directly from the bright blue morning sky overhead. The Linga transformed into that mythical  pillar of light connecting the earth and the heaven, the  manifestation of limitless Shiva energy. Perhaps it is not just the grace, the magnificence of masterpiece carved by the great artists of yesteryear but all their commitment and devotion which to this day start resonating in our hearts once we stand there silently with our   heads bowed, imbibing the  sacred spirit.The open courtyard bathed in soft morning glow gave the entire scene a haloed touch. Shadows in the covered verandah walking along the courtyard appeared to be harboring many untold stories. Such are the moments when you feel at peace with yourself.

 

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Chiselled on the other side of the huge rock behind the Nagalinga is  Ganesha, calm, quiet and peaceful.I love Ganesha idol in this form – the big belly resting on the ground, the legs denoting the sitting posture and his small vahan mouse in front.  Various symbolical interpretations are available for His body parts and His Vahana but to me He radiates substance, faith, confidence and dignity, He always fills me with a kind of intrinsic joy, a kind of happiness you feel on being comfortable with your own being. And the tiny Vahana– more than anything else it’s our faith that make us traverse through the life.

 

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The Natya Mandapam of Veerbhadreshwara temple at Lepakshi is a sculpted ode to the artistry of carvers and chisellers of sixteenth century Southern India.Impressive sculptures of divine dancers, drummers and other musical instrument players in half-reliefs on the granite pillars are so intense and alive that you almost feel them in actions. The rhythm in shapes, palpable emotions, glorious manifestations impart the stones a dream like feel. Early morning sunlight tip toes the mandapam from one side and the shadows in the pavilion simmer, the dark corners get suffused with golden dust and the bygone era as if awakens…..

 

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This Natya Mandapam has about seventy pillars and one of these is an architecture wonder beyond comprehension.The hanging pillar– this pillar like all other pillars is attached to the ceiling but does not touch the floor below. Such heavy granite pillar…how can it hang ! Presently it stands a bit dislodged from it’s original position. It is said that during British times certain enthusiastic engineers tried to fathom the secret behind this marvel and in turn, the pillar suffered. However faith of people put it on divine pedestal. It is believed if you pass any cloth underneath it,the wish you sought will be fulfilled.

 

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All pictures by Sunder Iyer

 

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As we approached the gate of the enclosure inside which stands the cluster of Jageshwar group of temple, we could hear the Sholakas, mantras echoing in the premises. A family was conducting pooja in Mahamrityunjay temple. Mahamrityunjay temple is  the oldest and the biggest one in the group. Stately Devdars on the other side of the river gliding behind the temples stood silent and meditative. Dotted with many Nagara styles of temples of different sizes, the place enticed me to travel into the era long back. Why so many shrines were erected in such a small area? The temples are said to be erected between 8th to 18th century i. e. from Katyuri king’s time to Chand dynasty period. Did different kings built different temples to pay homage to God? Did they get it built for fulfillment of their wishes or to commemorate their victory in any battle? Did any of them got erected any of the temples as penance? These Devdars, the river, the mountains…are they witness of the those times? So many questions rushed through my mind but none of them lasted more than a second. They evaporated sooner than they were generated. Such was the magical impact of the tranquility spread all around that all thoughts and curiosity vanished and calmness spread within.
There are about 123 temples in the cluster and every shrine has a shivlinga inside it. Though the stone plaques in front of some temples displayed the names of Surya temple, Navgrah temple but these too looked like other temples. Some of the statues found here are now kept in the museum at Jageshwar. The museum has two galleries and some rare sculptures are displayed here. The temple of Navdurga and Pushtidevi were locked at the time we visited so could not see them from inside.

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Bal jageshwara/ Tarun Jageshwar temple in the premises is considered to be one of the 12 Jyotirlingas.

सौराष्ट्रे सोमनाथं च श्रीशैले मल्लिकार्जुनम् ।
उज्जयिन्यां महाकालमोकांरममलेश्वरम् ।
परल्यां वैद्यनाथं च डाकिन्यां भीमशंकरम् ।
सेतुबंधे तु रामेशं नागेशं दारूकावने ।
वाराणस्यां तु विश्वेशं त्रयंम्बकं गौतमीतटे ।
हिमालये तु केदारं घुश्मेशं च शिवालये ।
ऐतानि ज्योतिर्लिंगानि सायं प्रातः पठेन्नरः ।
सप्तजन्मकृतं पापं स्मरणेन विनश्यति.

In the above shloka mentioning all the jyotirlingas, the eigth one— Nagesham Darukavane is said to be referring to Nageshwar/ bal jageshwar at present day Jageshwar in Almora district of Uttarakhand. Darukavane means forest of devdar and the dense forest  of devdars around the temples justifies the explanation.
This temple faces west. Outside the entrance on either side are two well sculpted images of dwarpals Nandi and Skandi with all their arms and armaments.

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The Shivling in the sanctum sanctorum is swayambhoo and appears to be divided in two parts.  The larger part depicts Lord Shiva while the smaller one devi Parvati.  There are two Ashtdhatu statues of Chand kings Deepchand And Tripal Chand in standing posture behind the Shivlinga. There is a burning light[jyoti] in cupped hands of the statue of King Deepchand, reputed to be burning  incessantly from times immemorial.

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Mahamrityunjay temple is perhaps the only temple of Shiva called by this particular name. As is evident from the name devotees come here to perform the life saving pooja. This is east facing temple and the unique Linga here has an eye shaped opening. God here is worshiped as savior from death. Chanting of mantras and their reverberation leave a very powerful impact.
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Almost all the temples have carved stone gate with images of dwarpals on both sides. On the shikharas of temples various images of Gods, mainly Shiva with ganas are etched.

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The temple has an interesting legend attached to it. It is believed that Lord Shiva had come to this site for meditation. So when the women folk of the village came to know that  a young yogi with haloing aura  has come to meditate, they all gathered to catch a glimpse of him, making the men folk infuriated and to control the situation Shiva converted himself into a child and since then he is worshipped  here in his child avatar.
Many years ago Jageshwar used to be a pilgrim halt enroute to  famous Kailash Mansarovar yatra. It is also said that Adi Shankaracharya stayed here and worked towards restoration of the temples before moving towards Kedarnath.
Though normally in the month of march it is not very cold in the valley but this year weather showed different patterns of  mood. We were told that till a week ago the road to the temple was covered with snow.  Thunderous rain and hailstorm two days ago too contributed in  bringing the temperature considerably down. It was very early in the morning. The sand stone floor of temple premises was bitingly cold. The carpets spread to make pradikshna easier for devotees were drenched with the moisture, water literally oozing out.
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Logs burnt in open courtyard. One  pujari sat near it. Yellow, orange flames leapt and danced in air. Harmonious echo of chanting of prayers, blowing of conch, peeling of bells, murmuring of river Jat ganga transported me in a trance like state. Rising column of smoke as if invited to accompany it to the mystique horizons.The Devdars around the temples stood close giving ample shade to let the silky , tender blades of green grass flourish while few sunrays haltingly stepped in to kiss the glistening dew drops and droplets on leaves and grass.
If at all the moments could be frozen………………….
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All the pics by Sunder Iyer