With GANESH CHATURTHI right around the corner, the country is gearing up to welcome our beloved elephant god. RASHMI GOPAL RAO rounds up the temples of the South Canara belt and their different styles of celebration.
Come September and it is time for Ganesh Chaturthi. One of the most important festivals of the Hindu calendar is an ode to the birth of Ganapati, the lord of beginnings. Celebrated on the fourth day (Chaturthi) of the Hindu month of Bhadrapada, the festival usually falls in August or September; this year’s date is 10th September.
Lord Ganesha is especially revered as the epitome of knowledge in South India, with several temples dedicated to him dotting the South Canara region of Karnataka. These sacred temples see devotees flock to them, eager to learn of the unique customs and legends associated with the deity here. Here’s a look at some of these places of worship.
An Ode to the Lord of Beginnings
Anegudde Sri Vinayaka Temple, Kumbashi
Located in the Udupi district, this renowned temple is about 9 km from Kundapur and 85 km from Mangalore. Anegudde comes from ‘aane’ which means elephant and ‘gudde’ which means hillock. The temple is on a slight elevation, and this hillock is known as the abode of Ganesha. Khumbhasi comes from the legend of the demon Khumbhasura. It is said that Sage Agastya performed penance to appease the rain God, Lord Varuna, during a period of drought. The demon Khumbhasura tried to create trouble for the sages but was killed by Bheema of the Pandavas here. It is said that Bheema had taken the blessings of Lord Ganesha for himself and his weapon before destroying the demon. Hence, this place is known as one of the Mukthi-Sthalas (place of salvation) in Karnataka.
Quick take: There are several poojas conducted here that are religiously significant. Of these is the special puja done every Sankashta Chaturthi as well as the car festival (Rathostava) of the temple, held every year during the first week of December. The offering of the “mudde akki kadabu” – savoury dumplings of rice and urad dal steamed in pine screw leaves – is done with great devotion and considered to be sacred.
Shri Siddhi Vinayaka Temple, Hattiangadi
Within 15 km of Kundapur, a stone’s throw from the Anegudde temple lies yet another place of devotion for Lord Ganesha. This region was once ruled by the Alupa kings and Hattiangadi is believed to have been their capital. The temple is on the banks of the river Varahi and the idol is of Bala Ganesha, in a standing pose. The idol is unique, with curly hair, and has been conferred the title of ‘siddhi’ since locals believe in the god’s power of wish fulfilment here.
Quick take: The highlight of the temple’s rituals is the Sahasra Narikela Ganayaga, a special puja conducted with the offering of 1008 coconuts. The offering of the local inflorescence of the areca nut palm is considered extremely sacred to this temple.
Guddattu Shri Vinayaka Temple, Yedadi Matyadi
The idol this temple hosts is believed to have been self-manifested, resting on a granite rock. The deity is visible only through a small opening from outside and is in a sitting posture. Most of the idol is always submerged underwater. It is believed that Lord Ganesha once consumed excess honey which created a burning sensation in his body. Lord Shiva then asked his son to stay in the waters to cool himself down. Just like at the Anegudde temple, the offering of the “mudde akki kadabu” is also very popular here.
Quick take: Even today the ritual of bathing the idol with one thousand pots of water drawn from the well in the temple complex is considered sacred and done regularly.
Kallu Ganapathi Temple, Shiriyara
Overlooking lush green paddy fields, this temple of Lord Ganesha is located within a cave and is about 27 km from Udupi. The temple houses the idols of not just Lord Ganesha, but also of his parents Lord Shiva and the Goddess Parvati. The ambience is peaceful with the whole area surrounded by caves replete with thick vegetation. Sunlight penetrating between the cracks of the cave makes for a lovely picture. One needs to tread along the tiny pathways within the cave to reach the shrine that is beautifully decorated with flowers.
Quick take: A climb up the caves leads to some panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
Sowthadka Sri Maha Ganapathi Temple, Kokkada
This temple is in Belthangadi Taluk, 20 km from the pilgrimage site of Dharmasthala. The temple complex is unique, decorated with bells of different shapes and sizes and hung from all available surfaces, be it railings, trees or even enclosures. These bells are offered by the devotees as part of the fulfilment of their wishes. This 800-year-old temple derives its name from the nearby fields of cucumber. In Tulu, sowthe refers to cucumber and adka to field. These tender cucumbers have been traditionally offered to the deity as part of the naivedhya ritual.