I wanted to start with my district and the first place came in front of my eyes was Adichunchanagiri and its seer Sri Balagangadharanatha Swamiji, who has immensely contributed to the field of education, medicine and other fields through the mutt. The seer’s contribution to the district and the community is immense and not only Mandya district, but also Vokkaligas are fortunate to get a person who dedicated his life to the upliftment of the community and the district.
Adichunchanagiri in Nagamangala taluk of Mandya district is the holy land, engulfed with divine resonance and vibration. While the mutt is famous as ‘Panchalinga Kshetra’ and ‘Annadani Mutt’ among devotees, nature lovers find the ‘Mayura Vana’ of the mutt attractive.
Folk legends say that Lord Shiva performed penance here, during which he devoured two demon brothers — Chuncha and Kancha — who were pestering people in the nearby villages for a long time. Thereafter, the place came to be known as Adichunchanagiri and Chunchanakote.
At the end of his austerity, Lord Shiva entrusted a Siddhayogi, establishing a Natha tradition. Lord Shiva also assured him that he would reside at Adichunchanagiri in the form of Panchalingas — Lord Gangadhareshwara, Chandramouleshwara, Malleshwara, Siddeshwara and
Someshwara — of which Lord Gangadhareshwara is known as the presiding deity and Chandramouleshwara is known as ‘Atmartha Devatha’. The place thus, came to be known as ‘Panchalinga Kshetra’.
Sri Kalabhairaveshwara, the manifestation of Lord Shiva, is the protecting deity of the Kshetra. Goddess Parvati resides here in the form of Stambambike or Kambadamma.
There is ample folk literature available about the place. Inscriptions say that Ballalaraya of Halebid, Salva Narasimharaja Wodeyar, rulers of Cholas, Hoysalas, Ballalas and Vijayanagar dynasties were devotees of Lord Gangadhareshwara and Kalabhairaveshwara.
People who do not have children and who are not married come to the temple to offer pooja to Kambadamma. They believe that wishes of devotees are fulfilled after praying here.
The place where Lord Shiva sat and did penance is known as ‘Jwala Peetha’ or ‘Agni Peetha’. Millions of devotees worship the place and peethadhipathis of Sri Kshetra will assume the Jwalapeetha thrice in a year — on Shivaratri, Navaratri and Jatrotsava.
Being one of the five Lingas, the temple of Lord Someshwara is amidst huge rocks on the hill. The Linga is situated in such a dark place that devotees take lamp to have darshan of the Lord even during noon.
Lord Gavi Gangadhareshwara’s temple is situated atop the hill and there is a Nandi statue weighing about 10 kg near the Linga. Lakhs of people come to lift this Nandi and is called as ‘Kallu Seve’.
On the way to Gangadhareshwara temple, there is Malleshwara temple.
‘Jwala Peetha’ is situated at Lord Chandramouleshwara temple. There is a cave inside the temple and folk tales tell that several sages did penance inside it.
There is a bamboo cradle tied over the Linga at Lord Gangadhareshwara temple.
Legends mention that there was a kingdom of Aarani Palegars near Chunchanagiri. The ruler did not have children for several years and prayed Lord Shiva that he would offer a bamboo cradle if he is blessed with a male issue. He sent his soldiers to get bamboo from Chunchanagiri and the men found a bamboo bush. When they cut a bamboo tree, blood oozed from it and the soldiers heard a voice telling them that Lord Shiva was doing penance under the shade of the bamboo bush. The voice instructed them to tell about the incident to the ruler and ask him to construct a temple and cautioned them not to turn back. But unable to control curiosity, the men turned back and died there on the spot. Still, there are two stones resembling human heads at a mantap near the temple and people believe them to be the heads of those soldiers.
Normally, every Shiva temple will have a statue of Nandi, but in the temple of Lord Kalabhairaveshwara, there is a statue of a dog, considered to be his vehicle.
There are two large ponds near the temple. There are several mantaps and caves and every stone and cave has a story to tell. Other interesting places are ‘Koogu Bande’ where echoes are heard and the ‘Sappeswami Mutt’ where a saint lived for years on bland food. Adventurists can also climb the gigantic boulders behind. On the top there are three pillars – ‘Chelur Kamba’ to the south, ‘Madhya Kamba’ in the centre and ‘Akasha Bhairava’ to the north. Climbing the hill is can quite scary, as one has to negotiate steep boulders holding small iron rods embedded in the rock. Even more challenging is reaching ‘Akasha Bhairava’ on a vertical rock holding a long iron chain. The crevices between boulders are unfathomable and very dangerous.
Last year, a magnificent temple dedicated to Lord Kalabhairaveshwara was constructed at a cost of Rs 85 crore by Sri Balagangadharanatha Swamiji. With the construction of the temple, Adichunchanagiri has become one of the most prominent places of worship for Shaivites in south India.
Locally available stones as well as black stones brought from Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu have been used in the temple. As many as 1,200 people, including sculptors, toiled round-the-clock over nine years to make Swamiji’s dream temple a reality.
The main sculptor of the temple is Padmashree awardee Mutthaiah Sthapati. This temple is the only one dedicated to Lord Kalabhairava in south India and no such temple has been constructed in the past 500 years.
The temple is 275-feet wide and 175-feet long. It has four massive towers. While the main tower, which is the main entrance for the temple, is 100 metre in height, the other three towers are 57-feet high. The east-west length of the temple is 275-feet and north-south 175- feet. The temple has four beautifully sculpted gopuras. While three of them are 57-feet high, the Raja gopura, facing east is 100-feet tall.
The uniqueness of the temple is it is entirely constructed using stones. Doors, pillars, ceiling, everything at the temple is in stone. There are about eight 11-feet tall statues of Lord Bhairava, a 10-feet tall statue of Lord Ganesha and 11-feet tall statues of Shivatandava and Lord Subrahmanya at the temple. In all, there are about 64 different varieties of Bhairava statues measuring 4.5-feet in height.
The temple also has 172 beautifully carved pillars. Each pillar took almost 250 days to carve. While each pillar cost almost Rs 2 lakh, statues cost between Rs 3 and 4 lakh.
The main attraction of the place is the 23-feet tall statue of Nagalingeshwara carved out of a huge white rock.
Both the temple and the statues comply with the rules laid down by the science of sculptures. There are four idols in four different corners of the temple. While a 7-feet tall idol of Ganesha adorns the south-west corner of the temple, a six feet tall idol of Subrahmanya is in the north-west corner, and the 23-feet tall idol of Nagalingeshwara in the north-east. The 25-feet tall ‘Dhwaja Stambha’ of the temple is polished in gold.
While the temple is in the Dravidian style of architecture, the ‘Vimana Gopura’ is in the style of the Cholas.
The foundation stone for the massive temple structure was laid on August 22, 1993. While the cost was estimated to be Rs 10 crore when it was first conceived, it ultimately crossed Rs 85 crore on completion. The temple was opened to devotees on February 17, 2008.
There is a guest house at Chunchanagiri which can accommodate 5,000 devotees.