METRO PLUS

The one-day speedy darshan

PILGRIM'S PROGRESS The best offering a devotee can give Ganesha is some garike grass. One can find it at the stalls at all the temples PHOTO: S. SIVA SARAVANAN

PILGRIM'S PROGRESS The best offering a devotee can give Ganesha is some garike grass. One can find it at the stalls at all the temples PHOTO: S. SIVA SARAVANAN  

M. Raghuram checks out the dawn-to-dusk Ganesha darshan along the west coast from Kasargod to Gokarna

The coastline stretching from Kasargod to Gokarna on the western seaboard is known not only for its spectacular natural beauty but also its unique culture. Not many know that these coastal residents are ardent devotees of Ganesha and as a result, a number of temples have been built for the deity all along the coastline.

The six temples that devotees throng throughout the year are — Madhur Mahaganapathy near Kasargod, Sharavu Mahaganapathy in Mangalore, Mahaganapathy at Kumbhashi (also known as Aane Gudde), Siddi Vinayaka Hattiangadi at Kundapura, Dwibhuja Ganapathy at Idagunji and the Ganapati at Gokarna in Uttara Kannada District. All these temples have their own distinct legends and it is said if anybody visits all these temples in one day between dawn and dusk with his family, he will receive special blessings.

The `Ganesha Coast', as people call it, is also known as the Parashurama Kshetra, which means, "re-claimed by Lord Parashurama from the sea". The legends go on to say that Lord Ganesha is protecting this coast from natural calamities.

References to this coast can also found in the Ramayana (Threta Yuga). Here the elephant god foiled the efforts of Ravana, the Asura king of Lanka, in carrying the Atmalingam of Shiva, which he won through severe penance. If he had taken the lingam to Lanka, then he would have been more powerful than all the gods put together. To stop Ravana, the gods sent Ganesha in the guise of a vatu (a young Brahmin) prevent Ravana from taking the Atmalingam. Ganesha uses his cunning to achieve his mission.

Even today one can see the Ganesha idol consecrated in the Mahaganapathi temple at Gokarna having a soft point on the head, which is believed to be the place where Ravana had hit him in a fit of rage after seeing that the Atmalingam had settled on the ground forever.

In this ancient town a devotee of Ganesha can perform abhisheka himself and every devotee is allowed to touch the idol and make personal offerings, which is rare in today's temples in the South.

The distance between Madhur and Gokarna is around 270 kilometres and the highway crosses 11 rivers including the Chandragiri and Sharavathi. The darshan can be accomplished in seven hours if one spends half an hour at each temple.

Madhur is five km from Kasargod, Sharavu is in the heart of Mangalore city, Kumbhashi is just 500 metres from National Highway 17, Hattiangadi is 8 km from NH 17, Idagunji is seven kilometres from NH 17 and Gokarna temple is about 10 km from the highway.

It is better to start the journey early in the morning from Madhur temple. (An overnight halt in Madhur might be necessary and there are plenty of hotels in Kasargod.) The temple opens at 5 a.m. but the temple office only at 7.30 a.m. Madhur to Mangalore (Sharavu) is just a 50-minute journey as the roads are excellent. Sharavu to Kumbhashi is about 78 km. Kumbhashi to Hattiangadi is about 20 km and Hattiangadi to Idagunji is about 45 km. All the three temples close at 1 p.m. and Idagunji has an afternoon annaprasadam.

The drive is longer between Idagunji and Gokarna — 65 km. The roads are straight and beware of falling asleep on the wheel. There are no good chai shops on the road, which makes it difficult for the both drivers and passengers.

The best offering a devotee can give Ganesha is some garike grass. One can find it at the stalls at all the temples. A number of poojas can also be offered. At Madhur it is Appada Seva, at Hattiangadi and Kumbhashi it is Moode Seva, while at Gokarna it is just the water and milk abhisheka along with garike. At Gokarna remember to visit the atmalingam, Parvati temple and Kubereshwara temple (all Shiva family temples).

Oh, now that you are done with the darshans soak in some sun on the beach at Marvanthe after Kundapur.

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Special attractions

Souvenirs are aplenty. Ganesha idols in all shapes and sizes can be bought at these temples. Cassettes with devotional songs are also available.

At Gokarna, brass pooja items are a speciality. But look out for crystal Ganapathi idols and Balamuri Shankas (conch shells clad in silver that are used to perform abhishekas for lingams) At Idagunji the Ganesha masks made out of lavancha ( sogade beru in Kannada or vetiver in English) make good souvenirs. Raw lavancha is also available in plenty. It has a pleasant aroma when soaked in water and has medicinal properties.

The main idols at all the temples have distinct features and they are explained in the Kshetra Mahatmeavailable in English, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil. The book is a good reference to learn more about the temples.

Sharavu Mahaganapathy temple

The history of the Sharavu Mahaganapathi temple in Mangalore can be traced back 800 years. Tipu Sultan and Krishnaraja Wodeyar of Mysore are said to have visited this temple. Tipu, after being convinced about the power of the Sharavu Mahaganapathi, returned to Mysore without engaging Bangaraja in battle. He also left a tasdiku (grant) of four rupees per day, which is even today being credited by the Government to the temple. The temple is now administered by Hereditary Trustees of the Shastry family who are also known as Ganapathias.

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