The Glory of the Ummaturu Temple Heritage Eclipsed by Official Neglect in Independent India

The concluding part of our series on the grand temple heritage of Ummatturu describes how the centuries of glory today lies in utter ruin thanks to decades of Government apathy and neglect.
The Glory of the Ummaturu Temple Heritage Eclipsed by Official Neglect in Independent India

In this series

The Glory of the Ummaturu Temple Heritage Eclipsed by Official Neglect in Independent India
The Grand Universe of Ummatturu Temples: Where Sri Krishnadevarya Began his Digvijaya
The Glory of the Ummaturu Temple Heritage Eclipsed by Official Neglect in Independent India
The Magnificent Temple Heritage of Sri Bhujangeshwara at Ummatturu

Lined up along the rear wall of the spacious temple boundaries, are the astamurti shrines in a row. The big and beautiful shiva-lingas are all accompanied by their consorts symbolically. Only the Aghora carries his consort Ganga visibly. The form of Ganga unusually comprises four arms and is seated amidst the well-carved jata (thick locks rolled up) on the Aghora linga. A similar ganga-linga pattern is seen only in the Gangadhara temple at the Turuvekere taluk. The Chaturbhuja-ganga is said to bestow boons to farmers by enhancing their water resources. The right end of the row houses a shrine of Adishakti. A Trishula rides over a big face of the Mahisha (Buffalo representing Mahishasura, the embodiment of tamas). A special bali of pumpkins is offered on the Mahanavami day of Sharannavaratram (Dasara festival), and the Vijayadashami procession used to begin with the blessing of this Adishakti every year.

There is a small Nandi (called Basava in Kannada) sanctum between the shrines of Bhuvaneshwari and Subrahmanya. He is called Huliyuri Basava. It is believed that if people affected by a certain skin disease offer uruli grains and pray to this Basava, they miraculously get rid of the ailment.

The Temple does not possess many intricate sculptures typical of Hoysala temples, but the few sculptures on the pillars do capture our attention. The whole temple is surrounded by a tall thick stone wall that bears a regal look.

The Garudastambha in front of the temple comprises the figurine of a Bhakta. It probably represents the ruler of Ummatturu. Local people believe that the figurine of a female there is that of Queen Chinnadevi, the consort of King Krshnadevaraya. However, the missing royal emblems around the bust suggest otherwise. As mentioned earlier in this series, the Garudastambha pillar also possesses a bust of the betala (Ghost) with canine teeth, fierce eyes, disheveled hair. He is bound by chains to the pillar.

The Glory of the Ummaturu Temple Heritage Eclipsed by Official Neglect in Independent India
Sri Krishnadevaraya’s Empire of Fragrance and Food

An inscription belonging to Sri Krshnadevaraya mentions grants donated to this temple. The Vijayanagara Venkatapatiraya inscription mentions that a certain Devappa Gowda gave the kola-goudana-pura in charity to this temple for the Lord’s service.

With the rule of the Ummatturu principality coming to an end, the Bhujangeshwara Temple too, was on the verge of destruction. Fortunately, the villagers have managed to renovate and maintain some parts the temple.

The Present Condition

Like in every other part of India, after the rights of maintaining Hindu Temples were cruelly usurped from the royal families and the larger Hindu community, the terrible apathy of the temple authorities, has led to a gradual decay of all these temples as well as the grand festivities they hosted. Negligence and lack of maintenance has led to substantial damages to the main structures and movable property. The musical instruments either lie in dust or are totally missing. Many portions of the walls and roofs, even in the garbhagrham leak when it rains. Lack of funding has led to a discontinuation of all the spectacular events mentioned so far, depriving the temple of the festive charm that it carried for centuries in the past.

The Purohita is paid a meager monthly salary to sustain his livelihood, puja expenses as well as the temple maintenance. The only means of income for the priest or the temple is some dakshina money collected during the first Tuesday of every month and during annual festivals. Naturally the priest has no choice but to resort to other means for livelihood and merely manages the daily puja, as a sacred duty for limited hours during the day.

Ummatturu Sri Ranganatha Temple

It is said that the one of the Ganga rulers had two sons whom he named Bhujanga and Ranga. He built the Ranganatha temple right behind the older Bhujangeshwara Temple. Interestingly, this beautiful temple built during Vijayanagar times resembles the trikuta-devalaya style of the Hoysalas. The Trikuta-devalaya is a structure where a single navaranga-mandapa with one entrance houses three shrines. The temple consists of three garbha-grhas that open from a single Navaranga. Wide steps bordered with stone elephants lead to the broad praveshadwara of the navaranga. A big, thick wall borders the temple premises.

The main shrine in the middle houses the Murti of Sri Ranganatha Swamy. The life size murti of the Lord lies on his shesha-shayya (snake bed) as Sridevi and Bhudevi serve at His feet. The intricately carved moola-moorti as well as metal utsava-moortis are excellent pieces of art. They display intricate decorations and divine symbols. Sri Ranganatha’s garbha-grham has a spacious antarala, with a small bust of Sri Ramanujacharya, the pioneer of the Vishistadvaita philosophy.

Dhwajasthamba of Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple
Dhwajasthamba of Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple

To the left of Lord Ranganatha, facing inwards, is the shrine of Goddess Ranganayaki. Her life size form, facial features and ornamentation are very attractive. To the right of Sri Ranganatha Swamy, facing inwards, is the shrine of Navaneeta Krishna (Navaneeta in Sanskrit means butter).

Here, Sri Krishna is an eight-year-old boy seated on a high pedestal, holding up a big shining scoop of butter in his right palm. The form, posture, body language, smile and ornaments all reflect the innocence of a child. A huli-uguru (a necklace with tiger-claws as the locket) is seen on his chest. It is a tradition in south India to tie a huli-uguru on to little children, so that they overcome the fear of darkness, animals and bad dreams. Navaneeta Krishna is sculpted on a rare stone variety that is not found in the region. The stone is supposedly of a very high quality and gloss. It was brought from elsewhere and installed here by the Vijayanagara kings. But the exact history of this is not yet clear.

The Glory of the Ummaturu Temple Heritage Eclipsed by Official Neglect in Independent India
Sri Krishnadevaraya Reduced to a Footnote: It’s Time to Bury Such Politics of History

Some interesting sculptures are engraved on the pillars of the mukhmantapa of the temple entrance. The Kalinga-mardana sculpture here is unusual. Krishna, small in size, dances upon the hoods of two large snakes. The garuda and bhakta busts carved on the sides of the dhvajastambha stretch their folded hands sidewards to reach up in order to bow to the Lord. There is the figurine of a bhakta as well. The dress and jewelry suggest that it represents the ruler of Ummatturu. Local people believe that it is the bust of King Krishnadevaraya. However, the lack of royal emblems do not wholly support this conclusion.

Another interesting feature of Ummaturu, Yelanduru and many other temples of this region is the presence of one or more sculptures that depict a male or female monkey worshipping the Linga. More research could reveal the connection of this legend, if any, with the region.

Ummatturu Sumukha Anjaneya Swamy

Sumukha Anjaneya swamy was formerly called Kote-Anjaneya, as he stood as the guardian near the fort wall. Kote in kannada means ‘fort’. The modest temple houses the Moolamurti of Anjaneya in a jubilant mood. It represents the Anjaneya who returned from Lanka after knowing the whereabouts of Sita Devi. The episode in Srimad Ramayanam, describes how the jubilant vanaras (monkeys) rejoiced in the maduvana garden of Sugreeva. Unable to contain their joy, they feasted heavily upon the inebriating fruits. Then they went crazy and sung, danced, ran and jumped around wildly, creating havoc in the garden.

In this temple, Lord Anjaneya’s face displays a notably big smile revealing his teeth. Probably this is why he is named ‘Sumukha’. The Lord in this temple doesn’t wear his usual crown, nor does he hold his gada (mace). He also does not display the abhaya-hasta (blessing with the palm) gesture. His tied-up locks are slightly loosened and fly high on his head. His legs are apart suggesting that he is rushing forward. He holds a fruit laden branch of a tree in his left hand. His long tail has a bell tied to it and waves above his head. This is a clear depiction of hasyarasa (the emotion of joy) in Lord Anjaneya.

Ummatturu Urikateshwari

Urikateshwari is the gramadevataa, the guardian goddess of the village. Uri refers to fire. The name literally means ‘The goddess who burnt’. Legend says that she was the princess of the town. When enemies usurped power and barged into the harem to abduct her, she immolated herself to protect her honour as well as the dignity of her family. Therefore, she is adored as an icon of purity, sacrifice and courage. We have already seen how many families in and around Ummatturu regard her as their kula-devataa and offer monthly and annual puja to her.

Then there are many small but extremely popular temples all around Ummatturu.

The Glory of the Ummaturu Temple Heritage Eclipsed by Official Neglect in Independent India
An Unknown Anecdote of an Old Woman and the Brihadeeshwara Temple

Kolada Basaveshwara Temple

Kola means tank or pond. There is a temple of basava (nandi) next to the pond. Some say that there used to be an idol of Ganesha there which was damaged for unknown reasons. Thereafter Nandi took his place.

Veerabhadra Temple

The Veerabhadra temple close to the Ranganatha Temple is also popular in the village. He is considered to be a divine doctor just like Dhanvantri. We have already seen how this Veerabhadra has the exclusive honour of leading the procession of the nine deities during the bandi-katto-utsava during Sankranti festival. Inside the garbhagrha is also the murti of Bhadrakalamma facing southward.

Kalamma Temple

This temple belongs to the Uppar community. The community has preserved the folk music and dance forms of this region from centuries. Apart from offering the seva of song, dance and instrumental music during all the village events, the Uppara people have the exclusive royal rights to carry their birudus (flags, banners and plaques with royal signature and seals) and shout the conventional slogans of “Parak! bahuparak!!” during the processions. Their ancestors were formally recognized for these services during the era of Kings and Emperors.

Moodala Basaveshwara

The Nandi here faces eastward (moodana or moodala in Kannada refers to the eastern direction). There is another Nandi bust on the temple wall, which, is believed to be ‘growing’ day by day.

Makkala Mahadeshwara

The Mahadeshwara Deity is regarded as the giver of Santana-bhagya (the boon of children) to childless couples. Accordingly, such childless couples offer seva here to obtain progeny.

Kotturu Basaveshwara

This Nandi murti originally hailing from Kotturu near Koodala-Sangama in the Bagalkot district of North Karnataka, is believed to have migrated to Ummatturu along with a jangama family. The Nandi as well as the family head is addressed as ‘Kotturappa’. It is said that long ago, when the ancestors of this family were loading ragi grains from a huge guli (a granary carved into the earth), a shiva-linga emerged from the earth. The family still treasures the linga in the household.

Kalabhairava Temple

This little temple at the south facing the Kalabhairava murti is close to the Siddeshwara Temple. The Lord stands nearby a huge garden and is therefore addressed as totada Siddeshwara. (Tota in Kannada means ‘garden’).

Maraleshwara Temple

The temple and deity were formerly maintained by the kuruba (shepherd) community for several centuries. After some internal feuds between the villagers some decades ago, the family in charge of the worship migrated to another village along with the main murti. The temple stands deserted now.

There are small hillocks scattered in the region. They carry names like Kunti betta (or konti betta), kulla betta (short hill), Tirumala betta and Basavana betta.

Basaveshwara Gudda

This hillock houses a small temple of Nandi and is popularly known as the Ennegumbada Basava. Enne-kumbha or ennegumbha means an oil jar. The round face of the Nandi supposedly resembles the conventional oil jar and therefore the name.

Tirumala Gudda

There is a small temple on top of this hillock which once was the shrine for Lord Venkateshwara. After wild bears in the region repeatedly damaged the moolamurti, it has been now replaced by a Gopala-murti. The priest of the Ranganatha temple performs regular puja here.

There are two freshwater pools on this hillock called Shankha-teertha and Chakra-teertha which never go dry at any time in the year.

Saptamatruka Temple

The saptamarukas are also addressed by one name: Maramma. It is believed that long ago, there used to be a monastery named Upparike Mata, where the seers used to perform intense Shakta-upasana (worship according to the Shakta sect) of these saptamatrukas.

Mente swami temple is another small but popular temple in the village.

Jain Basadis

There are two beautiful Jain basadis in Umatturu. One shrine is dedicated to Adi Teerthankara Vrshabhadeva and the other to the Antya Teerthankara Vardhamana Mahaveera. (Adi means the first and antya means the last). This is the only place where the first and the last Teerthankaras reside together. The Jains in and around the village and even from far off regions frequently visit these Basadis. Both are very well maintained and the annual utsavas conducted are spectacular.

Closing Notes

Ummatturu is truly a platform for many socio-religious-cultural traditions. If our Governments have any pride left at all, our Kannada and History textbooks must have dedicated chapters to Ummatturu. The unfortunate reality is otherwise. Except for the people living in and around Ummatturu, most Kannadigas are blissfully ignorant that such a place even exists in their own state. A whole beautiful saga lies unforgivably neglected and forgotten.

Can we wake up and do something about Ummatturu and many other such great temples before they vanish into oblivion depriving us of everything truthful and beautiful in our long Sanatana heritage?

Concluded

Acknowledgements

I gratefully acknowledge the substantial firsthand information supplied to me about this glory of Ummaturu by

  • Sri Kengeri Chakrapani, independent researcher and photographer

  • Sri Lakshminarayana Bhatta Iyengar, Ummatturu, Purohita of the Ranganatha temple

  • Sri Darshan, Purohita from Chamarajanagara

  • Sri Chidambaram, Purohita of the Bhujangeshwara Temple, Ummatturu.

I would also like to acknowledge the contribution of the Ummatturu photographs by

  • Sri Anath M

  • Smt Srilakshmi Simha

  • Sri Mahesh Hiremath

  • Sri Lakshmi Narayana Bhatta

  • Sri Vibhu Sharma

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