Today (July 25th, 2020) is Garuda Panchami, which is the 5th day of the waxing moon (Shukla Paksha) of the Indian month of Shravan (July-August). The day is dedicated to the vehicle of Lord Vishnu, Garuda, also the king of birds. This takes me back to the trip we made, back in 2011, to a small sleepy hamlet in Karnataka called Bindiganavile. 130 kilometres from Bangalore, it is located in the Mandya District.
This verdant and beautiful village has a small but important Sri-Vaishnava temple that is dedicated to Sri Channa Keshava Perumal and his consort Sri Sowmyanaayaki Thaayaar. But it is also famous for the fact that this is the only temple where there is a separate sannidhi for Garuda. In all other temples, Garuda is installed on the Dwajasthambam or flag post in front of the temple. The temple is over 1000 years old and was visited by the Vaishnava saint Sri Ramanujacharya during his travels. Garuda here is known as Vainatheya or son of Vinutha. ( I hope to update the story of his birth at a later date).
The stories associated with the temple are nothing short of miracles and goes something like this. The Chennakeshava temple at Belur had placed an order for a wooden Garuda Vahana to a sculptor in Kanchipuram. When it was ready, a group set out on a journey to bring it to Belur. During the journey, the convoy that was transporting the vahana decided to stop for the night at Bindiganavile. That night, the leader of the caravan had a dream wherein Garuda spoke to him and said, “We have arrived at Keshava’s abode. I would like to stay here to serve the Lord. Let us go no further.” The leader dismissed the request as just a dream and the convoy prepared to leave Bindignavile. But to their surprise, the Garuda vahana refused to move. The same night, the local village official also had a dream where he was asked to get the temple ready for installation of the vahana. In deference to Lord Garuda’s wishes, he was installed as the ‘Archamurthy’, which means there are daily poojas conducted for him.
However, over time the wooden statue of Garuda got covered by an anthill and snakes made it their home. And the daily poojas were stopped. It was in early 20th century, that Rao Bahadur B. K. Garudachar, the president of Bangalore Municipal Council and also a successful businessman had a dream where Lord Garuda instructed him to install a new idol or vigraha to resume the pujas at the Bindiganavile temple. The Rao Bahadur whose ancestral village was also Bindiganavile bought the best sandalwood and hired the best sculptor to start the work and they proceeded towards Bindiganavile. However, the sculptor simply could not progress with the work. Garuda once again spoke to the sculptor in his dream and asked him to resume his work in the morning. The sculptor got up in the morning and was amazed to find an outline marked on the sandalwood that made him start and complete the work. There was some left over wood that was used to carve a statue of Lord Hanuman. Together, in Sri Vaishnava parlance Lord Garuda and Lord Hanuman are known as ‘periya thiruvadi’ and ‘siriya thiruvadi’ respectively or those who are at the feet of the Lord. Garuda is referred as ‘Periya thiruvadi’ (a senior) as he has served the Lord in all his avatars and this confers a status that is unparalleled.
The temple architecture is typically Dravidian with a beautiful Rajagopuram that can be viewed from a distance. The worship of the Lord follows Agamas as prescribed by Ramanujacharya. In the sanctum sanctorum are the beautiful idols of Lord Chennakeshava and Goddess Sowmyanayaki along with Vainatheya and Anjaneya. These are the ‘moolavar’ idols. The original wooden idol is encased in a brindavanam. There is a ‘utsavar’ Kalyana Vainatheyar along with his consorts Rudra and Sukeerti. There is also a sannidhi for the Azhwars or Vaishnava saints. Along with them are housed Lord Dhanavantri, Lord Krishna, Lord Sudarshana, Lord Narasimha, Nathamuni, Vedanta Desikar and Yamunacharya.
The chariot at the temple is exquisitely carved and the ‘Rathothsavam’ festival that spans 10 days brings the village to life. The temple is of great significance to the Hebbar Iyengar sect.
Acknowledgements: The Shloka and explanation by Smitha Ranganathan