By the time we reached Omkareshwara temple the sun had set . Few bunches of small white flowers on the side of mud path leading to temple entrance were twinkling, wrapped in dusky haze of evening, First thing one encounters on entering the premises is a water tank encircled by wide pavement. In the middle of the tank is a mandapam connected by a causeway. I could not get any detail relating to this structure. Why the structure was erected in the middle of tank etc?

On the left side were steps leading to main temple.The temple is unique in it’s structure.On first look it does not look like usual temples.The gate looks more like a gate of fort and the boundary wall extending on either side of gate has tiled canopies. Roof of sanctum has a dome and four small turrets on four corners.The temple is said to be an example of Indo- Islamic architecture. Similar kind of roof we had seen over the tombs of royal families at Raja’s tomb.
The temple was built by King Lingarajendra -2. It is said that the king killed an honest and pious Brahmin as he opposed certain acts of the king. The spirit of Brahmin turned into Brahmarakshasa and started torturing the king. The king then consulted religious men and on their advice brought Shivlinga from Kashi and built this temple. It is believed after this act of atonement the spirit stopped tormenting the king. There is a Tamr Patr nailed on the door just after the linga. The history of the temple is inscribed on this patra and we were told that king Lingaraja himself ordered to place that Tamr Patra there. This story is written on the plaque near the steps to the temple.
There was pitch darkness behind Linga. Flame of the lamp in front of Linga burnt steadily. As the priest narrated the legend to me I almost felt like being transported to another world. I don’t know whether it was impact of darkness slowly enveloping us, the utter silence around us or the interesting mix of architecture and an equally intriguing tale, may be all of these together or throbbing presence of Shiva but I stood there spellbound and like tiny droplets of light an assurance trickled down deep within —– there are forces to set the things right.

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Above three pictures are of temple at Bhagmandla. On way to Talacaveri from Medikeri, this temple falls on route.  One need not take any diversion to visit the temple. The distance between Bhagmandla and Talacauveri is about eight kilometer. Bhagmandla is a sacred place of great importance. It is located at the confluence of three rivers  Cauveri, Kanika and Sujyoti. Sujyoti like Saraswati at Ganga Triveni Sangam in Allahabad is invisible/ antarvahini. People of Kodagu visit here to take a dip at the sangam and offer oblation to their departed relatives, ancestors.
It is said that this temple has it’s reference in Skanda Purana. Bhagmandla is said to derive it’s name from Rishi Bhaganda, who did severe penance here to please Lord Shiva and Lord Subramanya. This temple houses shrines of lord Subramanya, Ganpati and Lord Shiva. Shiv Ling here is known as Bhagandeshwara.
We visited this temple on our way back from Talacauveri. The moment I got down from taxi and started walking towards temple entrance I wished I could have more time in hand to spend there. No, it was not the stately, four storyed tiled gopuram but something powerful, purifying in the still air that asked to sit silently and imbibe the positive aura of the place. Once inside the wide, clean open courtyard of the temple my urge intensified. Some priests in yellow garbs were performing puja, archna at shrines, others sat at some corners chanting and reading, devotees paid their homage from one to another shrine, fragrance of flowers mixed with dhoop wafted in the air, mellow blue sky of closing day stretching over the open courtyard appeared to lean closer to caress with blessings and benevolence while far off hills wrapped in mist and haze beckoned to land beyond. I wished to sit there under the openness till the night descended with all it’s dark velvety grandeur and the lamps of sky were lit while the glow of lamp from the dark sannidhi flickered to dispel all the darkness inside.

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We saw these idols behind Marriamma temple near Raja’s seat. We had earlier seen such idols in the courtyard of Medikeri fort. It aroused my curiosity and thanks to Google, I gathered that Dasahara festival in Medikeri is celebrated with many local rituals and rites and  these idols are taken out during those ten days of religious fervor and festivity. Many mythological anecdotes are carried out through these huge figures, mainly victory of suras over asuras. In one of the articles I read, it was said that earlier these images were carved out of wood but now with the advancement of technology the form,texture of the idols and the procession have greatly changed. Reference of huge wooden images made me remember two gigantic figures of asuras and one life size horse all carved out of wood kept in the big hall in front of our village home. As a kid I used to visit my native place during summer vacations and heard a lot about the grand Dasahara procession of our village when all those idols were draped in costly royal attires and shinning ornaments and a procession was taken out, many stories enacted. That is the beauty of our land…..a small village in northern India and small place in Karnataka, I am sure nobody from one place would have visited another in those far off times yet the cultural throbbing was so identical. What an enriching feel of bonding such chance encounters provide.

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This is exterior of  Kundurumotte Sri Chowti Mariamma temple near Raja’s seat. Mariamma in Kodagu is worshipped as Goddess of Shakti.

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This temple is some where in the vicinity of the Omkareshwara temple. While taking a round around the pond in front of the temple we saw it and clicked the picture. The temple appeared to be quite old and it’s architecture and aura beckoned us  but we could not visit it…….may be some other time….

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This huge Ganesha idol and many others were kept in a verandah in front of the small temple in the courtyard of Medikeri fort. The idols were not kept in any proper order rather they appeared to be dumped, leaning upon one another. I presumed that these idols were taken out, draped and decorated at the time of a particular festival etc.

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emple inside Medikeri fort. At present Medikeri fort does not look formidable but is nice open,  neat and clean space where tourists can roam about having a feel of era bygone. Some government offices are housed in fort. Boundary wall and gates are intact. There is a church too in the premises and a museum. At the time we visited fort, the museum was closed hence could not explore that.
This temple is of Lord Shiva and appeared to be recently renovated.

I would love to end my this blog by this quote from James E. Faust.

All the pictures by Sunder Iyer.

Raja’s tomb— does not that make one curious? It definitely intrigued me. A Hindu king and buried ? And that’s not the only interesting fact, feature about this place of tourist attraction at Medikeri town of Coorg, Karnataka.
We visited Raja’s tomb in October 2014. It was a balmy afternoon with clear blue sky and cool breeze, As I got down from the taxi in front of high gate of iron bars,  these kids trying to ride the elephants sculpted on platforms on either side of the gate made me smile. Their innocent laughter and mirth gave a perk to my holiday mood.

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Inside the gate stood three structures in a straight line, distanced from one another by the green lawns in between. These structures are raised on square platforms, skirted by parapet. I was facing the back of the buildings. I started walking towards right side on the narrow, meandering gravel path running through the grassy patches. Bushes of various colored flowers in between the soothing green brightened the scene. After covering some distance I reached a small iron gate which was locked from inside. On the concrete square were two rectangular platforms . An idol of Nandi sat on each of these. On the side walls of platforms on black stone, I could see that something was engraved but from that distance it was not possible to read it. At that moment I could not know what these platforms denote. Why the statues of two Nandi were carved there? Rustling leaves  tried to whisper some tales of bygone era but alas that could not satisfy my curiosity rather ignited it a bit more.

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moving forward on the circuitous path I reached the front of the tomb buildings.
Here in front of the middle tomb is a plaque that imparts certain information about the buildings, the tombs and other structures.
The central structure houses the tombs of Kondva king Dodaveerrajendra and his wife. Door of this structure was open when we visited. Inside was a Shivling and Nandi. Isn’t it fascinating— a temple within the tomb building.On the roof of the building is a dome in center flanked by minarets on the four corners. Well, these are the usual features of most of the sepulchral structures of Mughal time but what contributes to the uniqueness of these tombs are the Nandis sitting besides every minaret. what a fascinating amalgamation of two different cultures. The walls of tomb buildings are lined by windows and the side panels of these windows have carvings of various images of mythological and folk relevance and importance, each telling it’s own tale. Every time I visit a historical monument with such images carved, I feel curious to know what it represent, what it depicts.

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A view of the back of Raja’s tomb.

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An overview of a part of Medikeri town from a small hilly portion inside the campus.

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Tomb of the royal priest.

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Inside view of Raja’s tomb. The hanging lamp, the Shivalinga and other idols can be seen.

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This one was interesting…..two bodies one face. Was the sculptor trying to engrave something symbolic…separate body, soul in unison or just because he had limited space on stone slab and that was the solution found for symmetry. Who can reach the nooks of a creative mind?

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This certainly is Ganesha and in the center …is it depiction of Om…. and the figure in right ? Is it Ma Laxmi?_MG_0323

Figures engraved on upper side of the window on the wall of tomb building. What or whom can these be representing? The figure on the left, the one with bow does that represent Rama or a Kodwa warrior and that on right—- is it some Rishi, praying but then why is he sitting on a boar. Is it representation of some folk tale or a mythological. So many thoughts race through minds. What you have to say about it?

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 These two figures stood on the gate of the central sepulchral structure. Dwarpals they could be representing . But the Trident  annd Damru in the hands of one figure suggests that it could be Shiva’s representation. Quite logical too it appears as Lingayats are great worshipper of Shiva but do they subscribed to this avatara of Shiva or adhered to Linga form only. More over foot above snake ? We are used to snake on Shiva’s neck. The symbols, signs and manifestations of the art and sculpture schools of that era had their own expressions, own language. We, as common tourist can interpret the same as per our own thoughts.
To the right of this tomb is the tomb of Lingarajendra built by his son Cheekaveerrajendra in A.D.1820. to the left is the tomb of royal priest Rudrappa built in  A.D. 1834. The two platforms with Nandis on them are tombs of two royal officials Biddanda bopu and his son Biddanda somaiah. Boddanda Bopu died fighting Tipu Sultan.

These kings of Paleri / Haleri dynasty ruled over Kodagu for about 200 years.[ 1580-1834]. From Haider Ali to Tipu Sultan these kings fought with the powers of Mysore to retain their individual and free identity. Kodwa people of Kodagu were brave, full of valor and were very loyal to their kings. After every defeat they rose with fresh strength .
Throughout the history of Coorg, no ruler has held direct sway over the region. Coorg has always been under the influence of local chieftains. The culture of Coorg has never been assimilated with the neighbors and has always maintained their unique identity.

Kodwa kings worshiped Shiva yet they were buried unlike all other followers of Hindu Dharma , whose body is burnt after death, this fact led me to search for an answer. Well, I came to know that these kings were Lingayats i.e. followers of Veershaiva faith.  Followers of this faith  wear a  symbol of Linga encased in a pendant around their necks. The faith preaches that Shiva is within every body and urges to worship the God within. Followers of this faith have their own unique customs, rites and traditions. During pregnancy of a woman on a certain month a  Guru gives the would be mother the pendant encasing Linga, tied to a thread ,which is to be worn by the child on the day of the birth itself and throughout his/her life that pendant with ishtlinga is on the body. May be the presence of Shivling and nandi inside king’s tomb has something to do with this belief. Alive or dead God is with us, within us.

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All pictures by Sunder Iyer