Thursday, 11 July 2013

Vakkaleri Markandeshwara Swamy Hill Temple, Kolar

Local Highlight this week: Vakkaleri Markandeshwara Swamy Jayanthi , June 30, 2014 

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Markandeya, the name of a sage, is the name of a well-known waterfall in North Karnataka. But a hill, a temple, a reservoir and a fish farm by the same name are in Kolar district too and they make for an interesting visit.

Two streams, one from Vakkaleri Hills (Kolar taluk) and the other from Tekal Hills (Malur Taluk) join near Budikote to form the Markandeya river. Its course is interesting.  It flows southwards into the descending ghats forming a waterfall near Thamatamakanapalli, joins the Vrishabhavati and leaves Karnataka to enter Hosur Taluk of Tamil Nadu. Ultimately it joins the Pennar (Ponnaiyar).

Once upon a time, River Markandeya was flowing over a distance of around 50 km. There were also 274 tanks of which the Markandeya Tank was the biggest. And the Markandeya Halla was one of the important streams of the Palar-Pennar basin.

Though the board giving details of the dam here is not clear, the name of Sir Mirza Ismail and the year 1940 on a plaque are visible. It is a masonry dam, constructed between 1939 and 1944. It is 61 ft high from the foundation and 1050 ft long. On a clear day, a view of the two streams with the hills in the backdrop and the water surface of the reservoir in front can mesmerise you.

The fish farm was established in 1942-43. Exotic and backwater fish varieties are bred here.

Legend of Markandeya - the ardent devotee

Markandeya is an ancient sage born in the clan of Bhrigu rishi.  Mrikandu rishi and his wife Marudmati did not have any children for a long time. They then worshipped Shiva and sought from him the boon of begetting a son. As a result he was given the choice of either  an exemplary gifted child who lives only for 16 years or a child of low intelligence who would live for 100 years. Mrikandu rishi chose the former, and was blessed with Markandeya, an exemplary son, destined to die at the age of 16.

Shiva protects Markendeya from Yama
Markandeya spent his childhood in the town of Shahabad Markanda on the banks of river Markanda in the Haryana state. He grew up to be a great devotee of Shiva and had mastered the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra by the ago of 12. When he reached the age of 16, he started praying to Shiva to get rid from the clutches of Yama, - he was not ready to leave Shiva. On the day of his destined death he continued his worship of Shiva in his aniconic form of Shivalingam.  The place where he prayed and the further happenings took place at a hill named Markandeya Betta, 2 km from Vakkaleri town and 18 km from Bangarpet in Kolar district of Karnataka state.

When Yama came, Markandeya was praying to a Shiva Lingam. When he saw Yama, out of fright, Markandeya grabbed a hold of the Shiva Lingam and asked Lord Shiva to protect him. When Yama forced him, he grabbed the Shiva Lingam. Yama threw his pashana (Yama’s whip) and sprung his noose around the young sage's neck. By accident or fate the noose mistakenly landed around the Shivalingam. Suddenly the Lingam burst open with majestic sound and , Shiva emerged in all his fury attacking Yama for his act of aggression.. He threw his Trishula (trident) on Yama and defeating Yama in battle to the point of death. Shiva then revived him, under the condition that the devout youth would live forever. For this act, Shiva was thereafter known also as Kalantaka ("Ender of Death"). This was said to have happened inThirukkadavoor in Tamilnadu. Shiva was very much pleased with the boy and gifted the boon of being Chiranjeevi (who has no death). 

Thus Maha Mrityunjaya Stotra is also attributed to Markandeya,  and this legend of Shiva conquering death is inscribed in metal and worshipped at Thirukkadavoor in Tamilnadu. A similar account is also given in Narasimha Purana, although in that version Markandeya is rescued by Vishnu after he recites the Mrityunjaya Stotra.

Markandeya Hill Temple

If you want to pursue the Markandeya story further, you may visit the typically Dravidian Markandeya Temple on the Markandeya Betta, two miles South East of Vakkaleri. The Markandeya jalashaya can be quiet a weekend picnic spot.

Markandeshwara temple atop the Markandeshwara hill is a 15th Century Ganga monument, that stands on a beautiful hill top. It is said that the great sage Markandeya meditated to escape the strong clutches of Yama(death) with great devotion to Lord Shiva, here. A temple stands as a testimony to it.

And strangely enough, here is a well that has a black striped mark inside, which is said to be a mark of Yama paasha(God of death) that is extended till the Shiva linga inside the Garbhagriha. The temple also has intricate carvings on all the pillars with stories from Hindu mythology. Durga, Ganesha and Kartikeya temples are around the main temple of Shiva. Linga inside the Garbhagriha is made of Saligram stone, and is worshipped every Monday, with abhishekha.

The temple is on the hill and has many things that give us the proof. Currently are a three finger mark on the Lingam and a mark of the whip inside the well situated in the temple. Earlier there were footsteps of the Bull on which Yama had come, Yama’s body prints when he got faint and the marks of whip from where Yama threw till the Lingam. Unfortunately due to the renovation and temple developmental activities stones have been paved everywhere, in the compound and inside the temple which has buried the prints.

The temple is open only on Mondays. For pooja at any other time one can contact the priest who usually stays at Vakkleri town. 

Markandeya Purana

Painting of Markandeya by Raja Ravi Varma

Markandeya is celebrated as a devotee of both Shiva and Vishnu and is mentioned in a number of stories from the Puranas. The Markandeya Purana especially, comprises a dialogue between Markandeya and a sage called Jaimini, and a number of chapters in the Bhagavata Purana are dedicated to his conversations and prayers. He is also mentioned in the Mahabharata. Markandeya is venerated within all mainstream Hindu traditions.

Today, Markandeya Tirtha, where the sage Markandeya wrote the Markandeya Purana is situated on a trekking route to the Yamunotri Shrine in the Uttarkashi district, Uttarakhand.

The Devi Mahatmya section of the Markandeya Purana is one of the most important texts of Shakti tradition 

Markandeya in Bhagavata Purana

Markandeya prays to Shesha Shayana Vishnu
A tale from the Bhagavata Purana states that once sage Narayana visited Markandeya and asked him for a boon. Markandeya prayed to sage Narayana to show him his illusory power or maya since sages Nara-Narayana are incarnation of Supereme Lord Narayana. To fulfill his wish, Vishnu appeared in the form of a child floating on a leaf, and declared to the sage that he was Time and Death. Sage Markandeya entered into his mouth and save himself from the surging water. Inside the boy's stomach Markandeya discovered all the worlds, the seven regions and the seven oceans. The mountains and the kingdoms were all there. So were all living beings. Markandeya did not know what to make of all this. He started to pray to Vishnu. No sooner had he started, than he came out of the boy's mouth. Vishnu now appeared before him and blessed him. The sage spent a thousand years with Vishnu. He composed the Bala mukundashtakam at this moment.

How to get there

Markandeya is 17 km from Bangarpet beyond Budikote. It has a good motorable road. There are two villages on the river bank, Toralakki and Gollahalli.

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