Friday, September 21, 2012
This Skywatch, we visit Coorg to hear a haunting tale behind an ancient temple. For more lovely skies around the world, do visit Skywatch every Friday.
I was gazing at the reflection of the dome in the waters when the temple bells shook me out of my reverie. It has now become a habit with me. Almost at every portal of a temple, I stop by to hear sagas of intrigue and passion and tales of Gods and demons. I often lose myself in these myths that lend an air of mystery to these monuments. A haunting tale , I believe echoes from the silent walls . But I wasn’t prepared for this story. “ This temple was built because of a ghost ! “exclaimed my driver a while ago as he pulled into the parking lot of the Omkareshwar temple.
It was dusk in Madikeri and there was a slight nip in the air .” You mean, its haunted ? “ I asked giving him a quizzical look and looking up at the domes of this early 19th century temple built in the Indo sarcenic style. The lights came on giving it an ethereal feel as the reflections danced in the waters of the tank below. I felt a slight shiver although I dismissed the ghost story and went right in.
The temple dedicated to Lord Shiva , however did resonate with a tale of a king haunted by a ghost . It was the early 19th century, when Coorg was ruled by the Haleri king Lingaranjendra, whom the history books paint as a tyrant. Violent, whimsical and with an eye for women, the king hardly fought wars during his reign. Instead he hunted tigers and women with equal vigor and was known to have a veritable zoo in his court and an ever increasing harem.
Our story starts one summer morning when a poor Brahmin comes to Madikeri with the intention of giving his daughter away to the Raja’s harem, as he was unable to take care of her. He however changed his mind and left Madikeri after listening to stories about the king from Subarasaiah, another Brahmin who lived in the town. When the king heard about the incident, he mercilessly beheaded Subarasaiah’s sons besides slaughtering the Brahmin as well.
Lingarajendra went to sleep that night only to be woken up by Subarasaiah staring at him .The visits continued as the king became distraught as the spirit hovered around him. The dead Brahmin had become a demon or a Brahma Rashasa . Tantriks finally advised the king to build a Shiva temple and bring a linga from Varanasi to appease the demon . The king however did not recover fully and died within a year.
The temple built in IndoSarcenic style has domes and turrets and overlooks a beautiful pond with a mandapa in the middle. A light they say perpetually glows from the sanctum. Even today, I hear, the spirit of the demon roams freely in the sacred grove within the temple premises where the Brahma Rakshasa resides.
The twilight hour slowly turned dark as the starry night sky reflected in the waters as I left the temple. The story left me wondering why mortals sometime behave more like demons.