We visit the temple that inspired legendary composer Purandaradasa's famous ‘Jagadodharana’
There are temples that have taken me on a mythical trail or on a spiritual path, narrating stories of deities and demons, miracles and morals, believers and non-believers. I hear stories about how the shrines were built or plundered, of legendary kings who left their stamp on a pillar, of gods and goddesses who decided to live here in these shrines. The temples have taken me on a heritage tour, an architectural trip, or a mystical journey, but for the first time, I visited a shrine that led me on a musical route.
I had almost driven past the temple. The nondescript gopuram tried the best it could to attract the wayfarer driving down the Bangalore-Mysore highway in a hurry. The air brought with it a strong culinary flavour, as multiple eateries interrupted my journey, tempting me to stop. McDonald’s burgers vied with maddur vadas, filter coffee competed with cappuchino. The highways turned into a food court as the eateries dwarfed almost every other sight on the street. No wonder we almost crossed the little board that said Aprameya Swami temple, distracted by the many food signs.
Strains of Carnatic music caught my ears the moment I entered the portals of the temple, built in a small town called Doddamallur, located between Chennapatna and Maddur. The name ‘Doddamallur’ may have been a misnomer unless there was a ‘Chikkamallur’ somewhere nearby, as this was an absolutely small village in itself with just a cluster of homes and shops. (Dodda means big in Kannada while chikka is small) . It was once a Vedic town, referred to as Chaturveda Managalapura, where scholars resided and learnt all four Vedas. Is that why they called it ‘big’?
The priest have another clue, calling it the Ayodhya of the South, as this more than 1500 years old temple has a mythical connection to Rama, who apparently came to worship Vishnu and lived here for a while. The deity is referred to as Aprameya and his consort Arvindavalli. The temple’s showstopper is, however, the Krishna idol and the shrine is popularly referred to as the Navaneetha Krishna temple.
As I walked down the corridor, I saw a small shrine behind the pillars, where a beautiful baby Krishna carved in saligram or black granite looked at me with a twinkle in his eye. I could almost visualise the Krishna Leela — the statue is of a crawling child, holding a ball of butter in his hand. Innumerable cradles offered by devotees crowd the shrine and the priest told me that childless couples offered these cradles once their desire to have a child is fulfilled by the deity.
It was then that I heard the story of the legendary composer Purandaradasa, as I walked towards a mandapam named after him. I learnt from the priest that the composer, who had apparently persuaded the local ruler to build this temple, was mesmerised so much by the beauty of the idol that he composed the famous ‘Jagadodharana Adisidale Yashodha’ in this shrine. A small stone stood there as testimony to this, and the priest spoke of how it had the composition etched on it in Kannada. The musical strains now sounded familiar, as a group of singers joined in, humming the song, referring to the innocent Yashoda who played with her son Krishna, oblivious to the fact that he was god. A few devotees walked past with cradles in their hand, and a bonny baby looked at me with wide eyes as I left the shrine.