The Kote Venkataramana Swamy Temple, near the K R Market, Bangalore, brings back a lot of childhood memories of when I would accompany my grandmother during many Vaishnava festivals, especially Vaikuntha Ekadasi. One of the oldest temples of Bangalore, it has a lot of history associated with it.
In 1686, the Mughals under Aurangzeb won Bangalore by defeating the Marathas. The Mughal general captured all the surrounding areas in three years, but in 1689, sold Bangalore to Chikka Devaraya Wodeyar for a sum of Rupees 3 lakhs! It was in the same year that Chikka Devaraya built Kote Venkataramana Swamy temple (also called Kote Srinivasa temple) around the mud fort built by Kempegowda – a chieftain under the Vijayanagara kingdom. It is said that the temple became a favorite with Tipu sultan as during the 3rd Mysore war in 1791 , under the instruction of Lord Carnvalis who was the Governor General of India , a bullet aimed at Tipu Sultan by the British army hit the temple Garuda Gambha / pillar and saved Tippu’s life
The history of the temple has been documented in detail by historian Yashaswini Sharma. The Documentation Report was released during India Heritage Week in 2018 by the Maharaja of Mysuru, HH Yaduveer K C Wadiyar.
The temple, as is evident by its name is dedicated to Lord Venkataramana or Lord Srinivasa. As soon as you enter the arch of the temple, you are greeted by the dwajasthambam, or the flagstaff, which is typically seen in Vishnu temples.
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The temple consists of a sanctum (garbhagriha) which is connected to a central hall (mantapa) by a vestibule. The walls of the sanctum and vestibule are quite plain, except for a row of deity sculptures at the base.
Though the decorative work is modest compared to other temples built during that period, it exudes a quiet beauty. The hall ceiling is supported by pillars that have alternating pillars with yalis ( A Yali is a Hindu mythological creature, portrayed with the head and the body of a lion, the trunk and the tusks of an elephant, and sometimes bearing equine features).
The walls have been painted at several places with the ‘Namam‘ or ‘Thirunamam‘ (also called Thiruman/ Srichurnam) inscription, which looks dramatic. The Shri Vaishnava sect accepts Sriman Narayana’s supremacy and devotes themselves to the services of the divine couple. As a mark of this acceptance, they sport the Thiruman-Srichurnam on their forehead and 11 other places on their body. Each of these signifies the presence of Sri (Lakshmi) and Narayana (Vishnu). The white Thiruman represents the two lotus feet of the Lord Sriman Narayana. The red/yellow Srichurnam represents Sri Mahalakshmi – the consort of Narayana.
The main deity is of course Lord Venkataramana Swamy. There is a separate sannidhi or Goddess Padmavathi, the Lord’s consort. There is also a sannidhi for Lord Hanuman. A beautiful brindavanam can also be found in the courtyard. There are many carvings of animals and scenes from Hindu mythological stories found on the walls.
The temple also has a hall for devotees to conduct poojas. We were not very surprised to see the Gandaberunda insignia on the lock, as it is the insignia of the Wodeyar kings. The Gandaberunda mythological two headed bird believed to possess immense strength.
The Gandaberunda or Bheruṇḍa, means the two-headed terrible one. The bird is generally depicted as clutching elephants in its talons and beaks, demonstrating its immense strength. According to the historian, P V Nanjaraje Urs, the Gandaberunda was first used as a sign on coins in Vijaynagar mints, many of which still exist. The Wodeyar dynasty of Mysore, namely Chamarajendra Wodeyar, the 23rd Maharaja of Mysore, established an award called ‘The Order of Gandaberunda” in 1892 to honour exemplary service and talent to artists, writers, and other eminent citizens of Mysore.
Outside the temple, right on the footpath is yet another sthambam, that has Shankham (Conch) and Chakra (the disc) on opposite sides; and Hanuman and Garuda on opposite sides. I have discussed these symbols in many of my previous articles on the Sri Vaishnava temples.
What exactly is the importance of Shankham / Conch? Vishnu holding the conch represents him as the God of sound. The Brahma Vaivarta Purana declares that Shankha is the residence of both Lakahmi and Vishnu. Lord Vishnu’s shankha is called Panchajanya and was supposed to have emerged during the Samudra Manthan. In the pancha Mahayudha stotram, it is described as formidable shell shaped weapon, that is the terror of Asuras. It is supposed to be ‘shashi koti shubram‘ – bright as 10 million moons. While the Sudarshana Chakra is equal to 10 million Suns. So the Shankha represents the female force of the Lord and is held in the left hand. Also on the left breast is his consort Lakshmi.
It is a matter of interest that the Maharaja of Mysore – Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar unveiled a replica of the Kothanur inscription stone at the Kote Venkataramana Swamy Temple in 2018, during the World Heritage week.
The inscription at Kothanur records a donation of 4 villages including Kothanur, made by the erstwhile king Kantirava Narasaraja Wodeyar in 1705 towards the requirements of the Kote Venkataramana Swamy Temple which had been reinstated by his father Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar. Eleven generations of Monarchy since the original inscription was installed, the current custodian of the Royal House of Mysore created history with the addition of a replica to the temple.
Address: 39, Krishna Rajendra Rd, Kalasipalya, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560002
Timings : 8 am- 12 pm & 6pm -8.30 pm
Pictures Courtesy: Srilakshmi Dorairajulu (Bangalore)