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Talakadu-Kashi of the South

Nestled on the banks of the River Kaveri, Talakadu in Karnataka is a mystical place steeped with a rich past and cultural heritage. It is famous for the Vaidhyanatheshwara Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. The town has been a witness to the rise and falls of several great kingdoms including Cholas, Pallavas, Gangas, Vijayanagar and Hoysalas.

Talakadu also Known as ‘Talakad’ is on the banks of the river Cauvery .The name ‘Talakadu’ was given after two hunters, who attained enlightenment by worshipping ‘Vaidhyanatheshwara’ and the place came to be called after them. The place was also known as Gajaranyakshetra. Talakadu is also known for the sand dunes which gives the town a desert-like appearance that has buried most of the ancient monuments in the sand. .

Talakadu is situated 24 Kms from Somnathpur, 32 Kms from Sivanasamudram 45 km from Mysore and 185 km from Bangalore on the bank of the Kaveri River.

HISTORY

Talakadu is a historically important place, as it was the capital of the Gangas for a long time. The Cholas called the place Rajarajapura as it fell into the hands of the Cholas from the Gangas and later when the Hoysalas conquered it. Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana assumed the title ‘Talakadugonda’. After the 12th century, Vijayanagar Kings and the Maharajas of Mysore patronized this place.

As historical site, Talakadu has a number of temples that are buried under the sand dunes. The most imposing temples here are Vaidhyanatheshwara, Pataleshvara, Maruleshvara, Keerthinarayana, Gourishankara and the Anandeshvara.

The Keertinarayana temple (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) is known to have been built by the Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana to commemorate his victory over the Cholas in 1117 A.D. The deity is 8 ft. in height flanked by Sridevi and Bhudevi.

The temples buried in the sand are opened up for ceremonial worship on the occasion when there will be five Mondays in the month of Karthika and a large number of devotees visit Talakadu to have Panchalinga darshan. The occurence is once in 12 years. The Vaidhyanatheshwara, the Arkeshvara, the Pataleshvara, and the Maruleshvara temples and the Mallikarjuna at Mudukuthore are together called as Panchalingas. It is believed that around 30 temples are still buried under the sand depicting an architectural stamp left behind by every dynasty that ruled Talakadu.

The Curse of Talakadu

Many historians and devotees of Alamelamma believe in the story of greed and desire for power that lead to the infamous curse. In the early 1600s, the then Ruler of Srirangapatnam was Sri Ranga Raya, an heir of the Vijayanagar family, was in the throes of an incurable disease and undertook a pilgrimage to Talakadu in the hopes of being cured of his affliction. In order to make the journey, he handed over the reins of his kingdom to his wife, Rangamma. When she heard that her husband was on his deathbed and would possibly never make the journey back to his capital, she decided to go visit him before he passed away. In order for her to make the trip, she handed the kingdom over to the Mysore Maharaja, Raja Wodeyar. The general idea, however, is the Wodeyar coveted the jewels that rightly belonged to the Queen Rangamma.

When the Mysore king sent troops to recover the jewels, the Queen in distress threw herself into the waters of River Cauvery and uttered the curse, “Let Talakadu become sand, Let Malangi become a whirlpool and Let the Mysore Rajas fail to beget heirs.” The curse cannot be logically proven or disproven, but the fact that Talakadu is a sandy desert like area is indisputable.

Panchalinga Darshan

Panchalinga temples of Talakad covers the five temples. Sri Vaidhyanatheshwara, Sri Pathaleshwara, Sri Maruleshwara, Sri Arakeshwara and Sri Mudukuthore Mallikarjuneshwara (Panchalinga) are worshipped during a festival called the Panchalinga Darshana, which attracts tens of thousands of pilgrims from throughout India. Indeed, the Arkesvara, Patalessvara, and Maralesvara actually have to be excavated from the dunes especially for the occasion, only to be quickly reclaimed by the sands once it is over.

The timing of the festival is calculated according to a complex astronomical formula with stipulates that it must take place not just on a new moon day of the Karthika (eighth) month of the Hindu calendar (this normally corresponds to November in the solar calendar), but also on a Monday and when the sun is in Scorpio. This means that the Panchalinga Darshana can occur at various intervals, though generally there is a gap of around twelve years between each one.

According to the tradition, pilgrims first bathe in the Gokarnatirtha Lake (where the elephants used to swim) and then make their devotions to the main deity at the Vaidhyanatheshwara after worshipping at the Chamundeshwari Temple. The pilgrims then go on to the other four Panchalinga temples, stopping off to bathe in stretches of the Cauvery River before praying inside each shrine and returning to the Vaidhyanatheshwara before visiting the next one. Finally, the pilgrims conclude their devotions at the Keerthi Narayana Temple.

Pilgrims have to complete the ritual in a single day and cover a distance of over 25km barefoot in what must be an exhausting trek. They believe that it will help them attain prosperity and peace.

Architecture of Talakadu Temples

As per the legends, 30 temples are buried in the mounds of sand. And it is believed that most temples were built by the kings of Vijayanagar kingdom. The Hoysalas, Cholas and others too contributed and added many features to the existing temples.

However, only a few temples have been excavated and among all the temples, the Vaidhyanatheshwara Temple is the most detailed. It is crafted out of granite in the Dravidian style of architecture.

The doors have ornate door jambs with huge dwarapalakas (doorkeepers) crafted out of stone on both sides. A stone chain and a five-headed snake are also cut out on the top corners. Along with the temples, you’ll also find stone pillars and square bases scattered around.

Popular Shiva Temples of Talakadu

Arkeshwara Temple 

Arkeshwara Temple is slightly away from the other Shiva temples. And here, you’ll find the idol of Bhairava, Durga and Abhayangara lingam, along with Lord Shiva. The temple also has a rock at the entrance, with a Vaastu yantram. And local people believe if you tie ill cows to this rock, they’ll be cured.

Mallikarjuna Temple 

Mallikarjuna Temple is on a hill in Mudukothare. And it offers a good view of the area. This temple has the idol of Lord Shiva and Goddess Brahmaraambika. The temple got its name from “Mallika” flower, which Arjuna (one of the Pandavas) used during his ritual.

Maraleshwara Temple 

Maraleshwara Temple has the largest Shivalinga among the Talakadu temples. And people believe Lord Brahma himself installed and worshipped it. You’ll also find the idol of Ganapathi, Maheswara, Thirumal and some other gods in the front mandapam.

Pataleshwara Temple 

Pataleshwara Temple is a cut stone temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. This is a cave-style temple which has different Shivalingas on the way to the main temple. And the main Shivalinga in this cave temple is said to have the ability to change colour. People say that the Shivalinga is red in the morning, black in the afternoon and white at night.

Vaidhyanatheshwara Temple 

Vaidhyanatheshwara Temple, as per the legends, is built where the tree cut by the brothers’ Tala and Kadu healed itself. Also, Vaidhyanatheshwara is known as the Lord of Doctors, and this temple is a popular place for Hindu pilgrimage.

Things to do in Talakadu

1. Being a part of the Panchalinga Darshana – The five Shiva temples are collectively known as Panchalingas. And once in 12 years, priests decide a day for the holy ritual of Panchalinga Darshana. The festivities begin at the exact time in all the temples with a dip in the holy water basin near the Vaidhyanatheshwara Temple.

2. Visiting Keerthinarayana Temple – Keerthinarayana Temple is another temple in the Talakadu temple list. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Talakadu Keerthi Narayana Temple was built by the Hoysalas upon winning Talakadu from the Cholas. Apart from the main temple, you’ll see a grand stone entranceway, pillars and stone inscriptions lying all over the place.

3. Exploring Somanathapura village – The small village of Somanathapura near Talakadu is known for the Chennakeshava Temple. It was built during the rule of the Hoysala dynasty. Another temple in the village built around the same time is Sri Venugopala Swamy Temple. Both these temples have beautiful wall carvings depicting various incidents from Indian mythology.

4. Boating in River Kaveri – Only a few metres away from the Talakadu panchalinga temples is a picnic spot on the bank of River Kaveri. Local people come here to spend time away from the chaos of the city. And you can also enjoy a coracle ride down the river.

How to reach Talakadu Temples?

Talakadu is situated 45 km from Mysore and 185 km from Bangalore. But the only way to reach Talakadu is by road. Booking a full-day cab from RideAlly would be the best way to take a trip to Talakadu. You can visit the temples in the vicinity and be a part of the other activities around.

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