Temples of Bangalore (Rajarajeshwari Nagar) ©Sangeeta Venkatesh

Shrungagiri Shanmukha

It had been ages since I had driven up to the neighbourhood of Rajarajeshwari Nagar, located in the southwestern part of Bangalore, but after seeing the pictures of Shrungagiri Shanmukha Temple, I knew I had to visit as soon as possible.

Shrungagiri Shanmukha Temple: This temple is dedicated to Lord Murugan, whom I have written about in detail in an earlier post. He is also known as Kartikeya or Saravana , as he was born to the Krittika sisters as six babies in the Saravana Lake. When Parvathi and Shiva came to see the babies, Parvati took all six babies and hugged them into one being who had six heads, hence he is also known as Shanmukha. He is the deity of Planet Mars and is a warrior. He also rules matters related to blood, and I always wonder if that is the reason an astrologer had advised me to offer the blood-red pomegranate fruits to the Lord. Many of you would know the story of how Murugan got the name ‘Palani’, which is the contraction of the word ‘Palam’ – ‘Ni’ in Tamil. The late Czech scholar Kamil Václav Zvelebil, an Indologist and linguistic expert, interpreted it as: “Murugan is the fruit (paḻam) of his devotees’ devotion, much more delicious than any other fruit, mango or pomegranate”. Hence, I always like to take this fruit to offer it to Lord Murugan.

We arrived at the temple after an hour’s drive. There is a parking lot near the temple that is very convenient and we could see the temple that is perched on a hillock from there itself. I already had the fruit offering and so I bought some flowers at the base of the steps and then climbed the steps to the sanctum. Shrungagiri hill is around 240 feet high and the Shanmukha temple is built on top of it. The temple tower is about 62 feet high. The temple architecture was conceived and executed by Dr. Arunachalam under the guidance of Sringeri Sri Bharati Theertha Swamiji.

Steps leading to the top of the temple

Halfway is a cave temple for Lord Shiva, who is worshipped in the form of the ‘Spathika Lingam’ or quartz stone. There is a separate shrine for the goddess here too. Just outside are replicas of anthills and a huge ‘damaru’ (Shiva’s drum). In Vedic astrology, the damaru represents the ‘Dhanishta’ Nakshatra’ along with the bamboo flute. The damaru represents sound, the rythm and the energy of the cosmos. It is said that there was complete void before creation, and the damaru gave rise to the ‘nada’ or the first sound in the universe. It is also said that after Panini, the father of Sanskrit grammar, heard the sounds of the damaru, it still reverberated in his ears after it stopped, making him formulate the rules of Sanskrit grammar, syntax, and morphology in fourteen verses.

The “Damaru”

After a short climb to the top, you find a temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha on the left.

It was magnificent to see the six faces of lord Murugan that form the tower of the temple on six pillars. The pillars in cross section have the design of a star and provide cross ventilation inside the temple. The dome on top is a steel structure on which 3000 crystals were placed, and each crystal is supposed to weigh six kg which makes the weight of the dome 18 tonnes. Each crystal is powered by 27 watts of LED lights, and I can imagine how beautiful it would look at night. During the day, the crystals act as a prism and disperse white light into the VIBGYOR colours. There are solar trackers supposed to be attached on the roof of the temple, which direct the solar rays on the Lord at all times of the day. We tried to ask the priest about it, sadly, he didn’t seem interested in engaging with us.

In the sanctum sanctorum, Lord Shanmukha is with his consorts Valli and Deivanai and Murugan’s celestial vehicle, the peacock is in front of the dwajasthambam pillar. The Dwajasthambam has engravings of Lord Murugan and his ‘vel’ or staff (pictures below).

Inside the temple, around the sanctum are Dr. Arunachalam’s personal collection of Ganesha figurines. The walls of the shrine have some beautiful paintings of other famous Murugan temples found in India.

Painting of Thirupurakundram
The Adi Shankaracharya guru lineage

Timings : 6.30 am – 12 noon and 4.30 – 8.30 pm

Shrine for Adishankara: Sringeri Sharada Pitham was established by Adi Shankaracharya. No wonder you also find a separate temple for the guru just next door. I have written in detail about Adi Shankaracharya’s inspirational life in an earlier piece on Kalady, his birthplace.

Karumariamman Temple: Just adjacent to the Shanmukha Temple, is the Karumarriamman Temple. The main deity is, ofcourse, Karumarriamman or Karumari, as she is also known. Her original abode is in Thiruverkadu, Tamil Nadu, as she was a ‘Grama devi’ or village goddess. She is now considered a form of Goddess Parvati. Since time immemorial, she has been worshipped for good health and protecting humankind from the various ‘pox’ diseases. However, Mariamman is more than a goddess of maladies. She is understood by her devotees as the Mother and Shakti; goddess of fertility, rain and water. According to Perundevi Srnivasan, Associate Professor, Religious Studies, Sienna College, Mariamman is associated with snakes and anthills too. She observes, “Image of an anthill with holes and serpents strikes an obvious sympathetic correspondence with a body having ammai in the form of pustules.” The term ammai is used not just to describe the goddess, but also the auspicious qualities she bestows as well as the diseases she governs.

The temple also has a shrine for Kaala Bhairava, a manifestation of Lord Shiva, who wanders the Universe and guards the eight directions. He is also the guru of Lord Saturn or Shani Bhagvan.

Rajarajeshwari Temple: Our next stop was the famous Rajarajeshwari Temple, and the neighbourhood gets its name after this temple; in fact it grew after the temple was established in the year 1960 by the seer, Tiruchi Swamigal. It is said that as the seer was driving by the place, he observed three garudas (eagles) circling around, and he envisioned a reflection of the goddesses Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Durga in them. This made him stop there, and it was revealed to him that Sage Athreya and his wife Anasuya had lived here, and he decided to build a temple dedicated to Goddess Rajarajeshwari.

Tiruchi Swamigal, Picture from the internet

The sanctum has a 6-foot image or vigraham of Sri Jnanakshi Rajarajeshwari. The mother is seated on a throne with her right leg folded and placed across the seat, while her left leg is bent at the knee and stretched below to rest on a lotus flower that is fully blooming. It is said that on the 27th of March every year at sunrise, the rays of the sun fall directly on the Devi’s forehead and travel down to her feet. 

The temple of Raja Rajeshwari has been constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture and built as per the guidelines of Agama Shastra. The temple has a huge Raja Gopura at the entrance, which can be seen from a distance.

The magnificent gopurams

Our last stop was the Sri Shivaratnapuri Temple of Health, also called the Pyramid Temple of Health. The charges were Rs. 200 per person for a guided tour. The health centre is in the shape of a pyramid and has several floors inside. Without going into too much detail, I will just say that it was not worth the money or the time, and you can totally skip this.

All pictures: By the Author

2 thoughts on “Temples of Bangalore (Rajarajeshwari Nagar) ©Sangeeta Venkatesh

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s