Wednesday, April 4, 2012

An invisible Temple at Talkad

Two days before the official inauguration of the Panchalinga Darshana at Talkad, I visited Talkad in a leisurely way. As I had conducted excavation at Talkad with others, every inch of Talkad was familiar to me. There was Mr. Nischith, a brilliant KAS officer of the Asst. Commissioner rank, moving about briskly making arrangements for which he was drafted. I congratulated him for excellent arrangements and immediately he said it is because of the guidance from DC Manivannan.

A good government works through its good officers. On the whole, this year's Panchalinga Darshana went off peacefully. Iswara blessed everybody, Chief Minister, Ministers, Legislators, officers, small and big leaders and above all the common people who had come all the way. For He does not make any differentiations between the poor and rich, haves and have nots, rulers and the ruled. That is why we worship Him.

When I was moving about on the sands of Talkad, an old man asked me a question. He appeared highly agitated. “Sir, when I came here about ten years ago, I had seen a huge Vishnu temple: two eyes were not sufficient to look at that Vishnu image, four hands, sanka, chakra, gada; I also saw Lakshmi; I am searching for that temple now; no Policeman could give me a proper reply; the young volunteers have not even heard of that temple; you are an old man like me and I am sure you must have seen it. My real apprehension is if it is destroyed for some reason or the other”.

If you allow me to speak, I will give you the correct explanation. That temple of Vishnu called Kirthinarayana was on the verge of falling down. The government took precaution instantly, dismantled every part of it and they will shortly re - assemble all the parts and renovate the temple to its original glory. Next time you will see it for yourself, I assured him. The old man not fully happy but walked away.

There were some other reactions too. Somebody thought that the government has given the temple on lease to a corporate body or a Vaishnava Swamiji: the temple will be rebuilt outside the town Talkad etc.

Now let us go to the history proper. The Cholas had occupied parts of Karnataka including Talkad. Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana waged a series of wars against the Cholas and at a battle held at Talkad, Vishnuvardhana not only defeated the Cholas fully and drove them out of Karnataka for the first time but they did not venture to come back to Kannada land after this insult inflicted by Hoysala Vishnuvardhana.

This became great news at the contemporary period in 1116 AD and the prestige of Vishnuvardhana went up by hundredfold. To commemorate this great victory, Vishnuvardhana assumed the title “Talkadugonda”, meaning the conqueror of Talkad. Not satisfied by this title alone, Vishnuvardhana minted gold coins with the title “Talkadugonda” in Kannada and perhaps offered them to the gods and also distributed to his Ministers, generals, officers and religious gurus as a souvenir.

His excitement did not subside. He immediately built three Vishnu temples one at Talkad by name Kirthinarayana, one at Belur called Channakeshava and another at Tonnur, all in 1117 AD. It is a granite temple (not soapstone) with soapstone pillars in the navaranga. It has a garbhagriha and Mandapa and has three entrances.

The garbhagriha has a fine standing soapstone image of Vishnu as Kirthinarayana. It is a fine imposing structure of ten feet in height. The god stands erect with four hands holding conch, wheel, club and lotus. The prabhavali has ten avatara panels. That this temple played an important role in Talkad is attested to by the presence of over 20 stone records. A separate Lakshmi shrine was erected at a later date at the southern part of this temple. Thus this is the most important Hoysala temple at Talkad.

When sand dunes claimed part of Talkad during the middle of 16th - 17th century, the worst affected temple was Kirthinarayana and others. The temple was buried under the sand dunes. The attempts made by the Maharajas of Mysore did not bring the desired result. In 1912 under the direction of State Archaeology Department, part of the sand was removed, and the temple became visible. As the temple was leaking, some repairs were undertaken. People used to visit and even worship at the temple till about 15 years ago.

Further repairs were almost impossible and hence the government thought of dismantling the temple part by part and rebuild it according to archaeological conservation after recording even the minutest details. Each piece has been given a code number. In the meantime, a stone gopura in front also came to light.

Thus the Government of India, Department of Archaeology, has been very busy with the conservation work. But the work is slow by nature.

Hence the politicians should use their influence with the government at Delhi and see that the pet Kirthinarayana of Hoysala Vishnuvardhana comes back in all his glory and continue to bless not only the local population of Talkad but also the thousands of local visitors from different parts.

Till then we may be content with this photograph of a nonexistent temple at Talkad.

Prof. A. V. Narasimha Murthy,
Former Head,
Department of Ancient History & Archaeology,
University of Mysore

Courtesy: Star of Mysore


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