Well, a path breaking topic on this blog. Driving the 800+ kms in the Figo was an adventure in itself, my liking of the Figo has increased ten fold since. Parents, Chiks and Srinidhi accompanied me on this travel.
Being a staunch brahmin, Mantralayam is an important piligrimage centre for the Madhwa community (followers of saint Madhwacharya and Guru Sri Raghavendra Swamy).
We did the Bangalore - Chippagiri - Mantralayam - Panchamukhi - Bichali - Chippagiri - Bangalore over 3 days. The ride on the NH 7 to say the least is just absolute fantasy drive till Guntakal, where the deviation needs to be taken. Being an orthodox family, parents do not consume outside food and are strict in their menu and I too avoid outside stuff on a piligrimage, so no much information on eateries on the way (and that's another reason for Chippagiri getting added to the itinerary both ways).
Panchamukhi-Gilisugur camp(449)-Bichali cross(455.5)-Bichali(457)-Gilisugur camp(465)-Madhavaram(470)-Adoni(512)-Aalur(536)-Chippagiri(564)-Bangalore(866).
The route till Guthi is excellent and a real pleasure; from Guthi, its a sort of a bad and bruised, broken single lane highway and takes time to cover up till Aalur, from aalur till mantralayam, the roads are better.
Just heard a direct Volvo Airavat service is started from Bangalore to Mantralayam by KSRTC which is good news.
From Bangalore, our first stop was at Chippagiri, where Vijayadasara katte is located. This is not a brindavana of Vijaya dasaru, but this is the place where he performed pooja of lord Sri Gopala Krishna.
About Vijaya dasaru - Vijaya Dasa (Kannada: ವಿಜಯದಾಸ)(1682-1755) is one of the most renowed scholars and philosophers in Dwaita philosophy as well Dasa Sahitya. He is revered as the spiritual heir of Sri Purandara Dasa. Vijaya means win and he is regarded as the one who knows how to win the heart of Hari and Hari Bhaktas, through his compositions. He was born in Cheekalparvi, a small village in Manvi taluk in Raichur District, Karnataka.
Sri Gopala Dasaru, his chief disciple, constructed a temple for Anjaneya (Sri Mukhya Prana Devaru) in front of the 'Katte'. There is a pond close by called 'Vijaya Thirtha'. It is believed that during his third visit to Kashi, Sri Vijaya Dasaru brought Ganges and installed it in that pond, for the benefit of his disciples.
More links about Vijaya dasaru here -
You can contact Sri Jaganatha Dasa at 9701894189 at Chippagiri.
Mantralaya - Mantralayam is the abode of Guru Sri Raghavendra Swamy (1595-1671), a 16th century hindu saint who advocated Vaishnavism and Sri Madhwacharya's Dwaita philosophy. He ascended Brindavanam at Mantralayam in present Andhra Pradesh in 1671.
I'm not getting into the details of the Guru Sarvabowma, as there is a whole lot of info on the net which links I have given below.
Every thursday the procession is carried on the temple elephant around the brindavanam. Its a splurge of people anytime of the year you visit here and participating in these rituals is itself something special.
After this, its the time of Pravachana (disclosures) and "Uyyalle seva" (credil/swing), where the Utsava moorthy is placed on an silver credil/swing and pushed to and froth with hymns and devotional songs being sung. Its a way of putting the lord to sleep by chanting hymns and devotional songs.
For 2 days, we had a dip in the Tunga river that was quiet (remembering the 2009 floods sends a shiver down the spine and few parts of the temple still bear testimony to that) and calm, multiple darshans of the Guru Sarvabowma and spending as much time in the temple premises offering our seva and prayers.
Also an visit to the "Sri Sushameendra Teertha" brindavanam is a must that is close to the main brindavanam. For people who are unaware, Sri Sushameendraru was the Peetadipathi (head Swamiji) of the mutt for more than 20 years and entered brindavanam just a couple of years back. The charm and prosperity in his face can't be forgotten for those who have been blessed by him. Also interesting fact is that Sri Sushameendraru took over Sanyasa from his predecessor at Bichali.
From here, our next stop was at Panchamukhi temple. Here Panchamukhi Pranadevaru (Pancha=5, Mukhi=faces, Pranadevaru=Lord Hanuman), as the name suggests is in the form that has 5 heads. The five heads are amalgamations of Lord Varaha, Garuda, Anjaneya, Narasimha and Hayagreeva. It is said the Guru Sri Raghavendra swamy did penace here for 12 years in a cave and lord Hanuman gave him darshan in the form of 5 avatars. Also interesting are the natural rock formations around the temple in the form of an aerial vehicle and an bed and a pillow. A must visit place for those visiting Mantralayam.
The house of Sri Appannachari is still preserved even today and many of the things that were used during that time are still visible as its been preserved by the family of the Sri Appannachari who look after the place even today. This place is on the banks of Tunga river, where Tunga is in full flow and was completely submerged in floods a couple of years back. Reaching this place is difficult as you need to have your own transport or depend on the autorickshaw's that ply and the ride is very bumpy! Still worth a place of historical importance not to miss when visiting Mantralayam.
Brief history and importance of Bichale as narrated by the priest himself-
Bichale village has the house of Sri Appannachari, one among the immense devotee of Rayaru (composer of Raghavendra stotra). Inside the house there are idols of
Either to reach Panchamukhi or Bichale from Mantralayam, one has to cross the temporary bridge that is constructed over the river Tunga, after Madhavaram village. This bridge gets washed away every time river Tunga floods and the route is cut off completely. Such is the apathy of constructing makeshift bridges, this particular bridge has been washed away numerous times :(. At last, when we were passing by, we could see a new bridge being constructed at a good elevation, hopefully it remains good and bears the fury of river Tunga with calmness and survives.
After this, we proceeded straight to Chippagiri via Madhavaram, Adoni and Aalur and from there to Bangalore by 9pm.
"Nambi kettavarillavo Gurugala, nambade keduvudunto"
"ನಂಬಿ ಕೆಟ್ಟವರಿಲ್ಲವೋ ಗುರುಗಳ, ನಂಬದೆ ಕೆಡುವುದುನ್ತೋ"
(those who have believed in Rayaru has never been let down, and those who do not may go wrong)