Spring cycles in Vasantapura

High up on a hillock off Uttarahalli Main Road, an old stone shrine huddles in the shadow of the more well known Vasantha Vallabharaya Temple. Once upon a time, its priests would have looked out at a horizon dotted with five sacred lakes or tirthas- Devatirtha, Shankatirtha, Chakratirtha, Plavatirtha and Vasanthatirtha where, according to Suryaprakash, a long term resident of Vasantapura, Lord Vishnu (also called Vallabharaya) is said to have bathed with his divine consort, Goddess Lakshmi in spring. The ritual immersion followed their wedding said to have been at a sacred site close to Tirupati. The area is also a Hari-Hara Kshetra since temples dedicated to Hari (Vishnu) and Hara (Shiva) are located here.

As he circumambulates a wrinkled tamarind tree in the temple forecourt, he says the hillock was once surrounded by a jungle with caves where Sage Mandavya is said to have meditated. But the suburb of Vasantapura is now a crammed housing layout and of these sparkling lakes, there is no sign. The Devatirtha still exists but the Vasanthapura Kalyani (stepwell) is now dry and filled with weeds. Our sacred mythologies too, are often vulnerable to development.

??????????

Goddess Prasanna-Parvati

While the ancient Vasantha Vallabharaya Temple is familiar to locals and devotees alike, the lesser known Bhavani-Shankar Temple, according to its head priest (archaka) Balachandra Shastry, was built by the Maratha leader Shivaji’s Guru, the 17th century saint and Advaita Vedanta poet, Sri Samarth Ramdas. It was earlier dedicated to their patron deity-Amba Bhavani, now worshipped here as Prasanna- Parvati. The ashta-bhuja (eight armed) form of Bhavani worshipped elsewhere across India represents the `Ugra’ (fierce) aspect of Goddess Parvati, a personification of `Shakti’, the primal feminine energy. Shivaji also named his sword,  the iconic `Bhavani Talwar’ after this family deity.

According to the priest, Maratha soldiers were once stationed here and the temple is also where the traditional`Sakhar Puda’ engagement ceremony for their commander, Shivaji’s father, Shahaji Raje Bhonsle was performed. Since Bangalore’s growth has attained mythic proportions only recently, the temple would have been located at a considerable distance from the city back then.

DSC_0355

Balachandra Shastry’s family, originally from the Sringeri Sharada Peetham, has presided over the temple since 1927. Sunlight trickles onto the cool stone floor as I enter the modest stone structure. It has no special architectural highlights but is warm, intimate and old. He guides me around the granite pillars that surround the sanctum. On the left of Sri Bhavani Shankaraswami is a Maha Ganapati shrine and on his right is Goddess Prasanna Parvati. A special corner shrine built by his family is dedicated to the venerated saint- composers, the 16th century Purandara Dasa and Thyagaraja (1767 – 1847).  It is where a five day Thyagaraja Aradhana celebration is held in the first week of January during Pushya Bahula Panchami. The celebration includes a popular Carnatic music concert on the last day where the Pancharatna Kritis are sung in his honour. I am invited to attend it.

Amba Bhavanai

The tiny temple accommodates over 2000 music aficionados who attend performances by well known musicians. “Ranjot Barot has also come” says the priest knowledgeably, as he mentions the contemporary musician. The gathering is a far cry from the massive Thyagaraja Aradhana at Tiruvaiyaru in Thanjavur district, one of the largest music festivals in India.

The circle of associations tightens. The festival is connected to the noted Carnatic vocalist, our very own Bangalore Nagarathnamma who inaugurated it in 1926, just as Thanjavur is where Shivaji’s brother Venkoji (who once owned Bangalore) moved to establish his new dynasty, the Marathas of Thanjavur.

I am invited into their quarters where his son, the young priest-in-training offers me majjige (buttermilk). We now talk of worldly matters including the cricket match on television. The ease with which we move from one parallel universe to another in India never ceases to amaze me. I take leave, only after promising to return when `Endharo Mahanubhavulu’  will be sung in Vasantapura as spring arrives next year.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Find it at: A little beyond the Shirdi Sai Baba Temple, Uttarahalli Main Road, next to the Vasanta Vallabharayaswamy Temple, Vasantapura.Go past the Metro station on Kanakapura Road and turn right at the Konanakunte Cross into Vasantapura. 

When: 7:30am-12:30pm. 4:30pm-8pm

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

This story was originally published in the Bangalore Mirror, July28th, 2014.

All images courtesy: Nirlek Dhulla for Native Place at http://www.dejaview.in/

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: