Local Highlight this week: 2 March 2013, Mahabhisheka to Kolar Varadarajaswamy
Reliving the golden days of Tekal
Tekal is a small town guarded by two hills on the Malur - Bangarpet Road. The northern hill is called Kurmadri and the southern hill is Hemadri.
Located 65 kms from Bangalore, it can be reached via Hoskote on NH4. Tekal was the headquarters of a large part of the Vijayanagar Empire that extended as far as Salem, North Arcot and South Arcot. It was Goparaja, the ruler of the Saluva dynasty, who developed this town and erected a well-structured two tier-fort surrounding the whole township. It is said that during its golden days Tekal had 101 wells, 101 temples and 101 cannons. Most of them are in ruins today. The king had also built a large tank called the Gopasagara.
The town got the name from the Tamil word Tekanchi, which means southern Kanchi and this became Tekal in later years. The temple of Lakshmi Varadaraja Swamy built in Chola style is the unique attraction in this town. The temple enshrines the deity which is more powerful than the Varadaraja at Kanchi. It will be a memorable experience to explore hills, caves, and temples around the town.
Tekal is renowned for its three important temples viz, the Varadaraja, Singaperumal and the Anjaneya which are all sights to see. Several others ancient temples exist here in their ruined condition. Tekal is well known for its huge picturesque rocks. It has a huge cave, more than 150 feet deep. Formerly the place was noted for the manufacture of earth salt.
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Steeped in history, Tekal invites trekkers and history buffs for an enjoyable and memorable sojourn. The two hills that dominate the place are actually colossal boulders of odd shapes.
Hemadri, the southern hill, is smaller but not quite easy to climb. As there are no steps here, scrambling up the steep rock face is the only way to get to the top. The two circular bastions that remain at the top confirm the existence of a fort. The dhone, which is dry, opens into a tunnel which is said to lead to the temple below. However, Hemadri is known for its large cavern, called Bheemana Garadi, with an unbelievably large area of more than 900 sq.ft. This cave, formed by gigantic boulders, is believed to be the place where Bheema practised wrestling. Watch your step here as this is treacherous terrain. Remember to use the services of a local guide.
From the Hemadri hill you can see the fort walls and the watchtower. There are no steps to climb and the rocks get very hot as the day progresses. Mid-journey, you see a small pond and a cave too. And at the hilltop you can see the ruins of the fort which was built by the Vijaynagara emperors, way back in the 14th Century. From here the entire town looks like something right out of a picture postcard. The Someswara and Anjaneya temples at the bottom of the hill are not to be missed.
On the other side of the town, which is about two kilometres from here, is the Kurmadri hill, full of caves. Kurmadri is the northern hill. It is the terminal point of Shathashringa range from Kolar. On the southern side of the hill, reached by a narrow mud road, stone cut steps lead to the cave temple of Bhoo-thamma. Besides the Shiva temple, a few narrow steps on the right descend to an underground cave with a perennial spring. On the left you will find another cave with an earthen image of Muneshwara and a pond.
Avid cave explorers can do some adventurous climbing over boulders to crest of the hill where ‘Rokkada Gavi’ (a cave of treasure) lies. An easier way to reach here is from Ullerahalli, 3 kms north of Tekal.
Also found on the crest is a rocky depression in the form of a large cauldron. A giant lamp is lit here on Ugadi day every year. The Muzrai department donates 5 tins of oil and 10 meters of black cloth for the wick.
Watch out for wild bees and the odd panther which could be lurking in one of the many caves. Fear of panthers prevents villagers from sending their cattle to graze on the hilltop. It is said that King Goparaja used to hunt tigers here and earned the title, Pulibetegaara.
Among the shrines at Tekal, the temples of Anjaneya Swamy, with a 7 ft image, and the temple of Someshwara are worth visiting.
Certainly not to be missed is the Chola style temple of Lakshmivaradaraja Swamy. The temple of Tekal is not as big as the Varadarajaswamy shrine of Kanchipuram. A narrow lane takes you to the shrine.
The Tekal Lakshmivaradaraja Swamy temple can be compared with the famed Varadarajaswamy temple in Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu and it was called Tenkanchi (Southern Kanchi) in ancient times. The local lore is that the deity, as a boon, fulfills the wishes of the devotees and that's why the name Varadaraja.
The unique feature here is the 4 ft high image that has a 'Gulaganji' seed on the thumb to signify that the deity here is that much more powerful than the Varadaraja at Kanchi. That is how the town got the name Tekanchi, which means southern Kanchi. This became Tekal in later years.
The temple complex is spacious with a pakashala and kalyana mantapa on the premises. There is a shrine of Lakshmi in the south west corner. The story goes that sage Bhrigu, who lived on the adjacent hill, used to reach here through a tunnel to worship the goddess in the night because every morning garlands of fresh flowers were found at the shrine. It was he who consecrated the lord here and the small stone ‘Bhrigushila’ at the foot of Varadaraja symbolises it.
On the left side is a hall surrounded by the stone mantaps and there are some inscriptions on Tamil in front of it. On the right side are shrines of Lakshmi and the Navagrahas which are almost in ruins.
Like other temples in this area, the statues on the top of the 50-foot Gopura are either missing or the structure was incomplete. The reason is unknown. The inscriptions in old Kannada and Tamil at the entrance are the most intricate among the 25 inscriptions of the period 1310 to 1499 AD.
The Vaishakha Shuddha Poornima car festival and Saturdays of Shravan draw a large gathering of devotees.
Tekal is 65 km from Bangalore. To reach here, take the Bangalore Hoskote road (NH 4), and then travel to Malur (18 km from Hoskote). Tekal is situated on Malur-Bangarapet road. Malur is six kilometres from Tekal.
Whether you climb the hills, explore the caves or worship at the temples, your visit to Tekal will surely be a memorable one.
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