Garuda Temple at Koladevi ©Sangeeta Venkatesh 

One of the most popular articles on my website is the piece on the Vainatheya Temple at Bindiganavile, where I get a number of visitors everyday. I had written that the place was 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. However, it turns out that there is another temple dedicated to Garuda or Vainatheya in a small village called Koladevi in the Mulbagal district. This was the next stop after we visited the Kolaramma temple.

The temple with a 5.5 m sandstone figure of Garuda is an ancient temple, that has a history dating back to the Thretha Yuga. If one was not told about the history, one would easily miss this temple which is an ordinary structure from the outside and is sandwiched between village houses and shops with dusty surroundings. It was a Sunday, and there were no dearth of devotees who waited for the shrine to open as the Garuda idol was being decorated by flowers by the priests.

The doors finally opened and as if by miracle we could enter the sanctum immediately. What’s more, I was amazed to get a vantage point to see the Garuda idol. The priests started the pooja and then explained the origin of the temple. The idol is supposed to have been installed by Sage Bhrigu Maharaj and later Sri Ramanujacharya established the temple and the methodology of worship in the 11th-12th century. The idol has Garuda kneeling on one leg and he is shown carrying Lord Vishnu (who holds a bow and arrow) on his right hand and Goddess Mahalakshmi on his left hand. It appears as if both Lord Vishnu and Garuda are looking at the goddess, while her gaze is towards the devotees. What’s more, she is at a higher elevation than Lord Vishnu himself – and all these factors signify that as the Goddess of prosperity, she wants it for her devotees. The idol also has eight serpents adorning Lord Garuda as jewels.

Adjacent to the Garuda shrine is a shrine for Lord Hanuman – so both the ‘thiruvadi’s are enshrined in this temple, – (the one who serves as a humble servant to the great almighty). Lord Hanuman has his his tail curving towards the top of his head, and the vajraayudha (a weapon that belonged to Lord Indra) tied to his hip.

Periya Thiruvadi refers to Lord Garuda, since he serves as a vehicle or vahana to Lord Vishnu, and he lives in the Vaikunta along with Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi Devi. Siriya or Chinna Thiruvadi refers to Lord Hanuman, a sincere Sri Rama Devotee. Hanuman served as a vehicle or vahana to Rama and Lakshmana during the Treta Yuga, and since he served as a Vahana to the Vishnu Avatar, Lord Rama, he is called as Chinna Thiruvadi. Devotees throng this temple to get remedies of ‘Kalasarpa dosha’, ‘Rahu-Ketu dosha’, and other astrological maladies in their birth charts. This comes from a story from the Mahabharata (in the Dwapara Yuga), that during the exile period of the Pandavas once Arjuna- the Pandava prince went hunting and set a forest on fire that resulted in the death of several snakes. As a result he was afflicted by ‘sarpa dosha’. Arjuna was advised to pray to Lord Garuda to free himself from this affliction. Lord Vishnu asks Garuda to free Arjuna of the dosha and Garuda agrees on the condition that he could carry Lord Vishnu and Mahalakshmi in the same manner as Hanuman carried Lord Rama and Sita Devi. And hence you find the idol of Garuda in this temple doing exactly that.

The Mythology of Koladevi: You may know the episode of Jatayu in the Ramayana. Jatayu was the son of Aruna, the brother of Garuda. Jatayu, the mighty eagle, tries to save Sita from being abducted by Ravana- the Asura king of Lanka. In the tussle, Ravana cuts off Jatayu’s wings and the mighty eagle falls to the ground. Hanuman arrives almost immediately with the vajrayudham or bramastra to help Jatayu (hence you see this in the temple too). Jatayu keeps himself alive by shouting the name ‘ Rama- Rama’. Rama and Laxman who were searching for Sita in the forest come running and see Jatayu in a pool of blood. Jatayu tells the brothers that Sita was abducted by Ravana and that he tried to save her from Ravana’s clutches and indicates the direction that Ravana went. Having done this duty, Jatayu leaves his mortal body. Lord Rama performs the last rites at that place and pind daan (ritual to pay homage to the departed) at the place.

It is believed that this episode happened at Koladevi and hence the place gets a lot of importance, as it presents a location of great karma. Jatayu had the good fortune of having Lord Rama by his side when he left this material world. He was blessed that the Lord himself performed his last rites and cried over his demise. Rama penetrated the ground with his arrows to call the seven sacred rivers so that Jatayu’s soul gets Moksha.

Happy Ramanavami (30/3/2023)

Temple timings: 6 am -6 pm.

You can also visit the Sri Chowdeshwari temple, Koladevi in the vicinity

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