HISTORY OF SRI SHARAVU SHARABESHWARA - MAHA GANAPATHY TEMPLE
Since time immemorial, Lord Kumaraswamy (Subrahmanya) had been residing at the foot of Kumara mountain, along with his elder brother, Vigneshwara (Ganapathy), where river Kumaradhara, originating from the peak of Kumara mountain, was flowing. He had been protecting His devotees in and around that place, which is now called Subrahmanya. Kumara mountain nestles in the vast Sahyadri range of mountains, stretching from Gokarna to Kanyakumari. Lord Ganapathy, once, expressed His desire to His brother Kumaraswamy, to move to the west and take birth in a place, where rivers Nethravati and Falguni were flowing, and joined together, before merging in the Arabian Sea, with a view to fulfilling the wishes of His devotees. Lord Ganapathy was awaiting the arrival of that auspicious moment.
More than 8oo years ago, King Veerabahu, born in Sun clan, was ruling the Tulu kingdom. He was a brave Kshatriya king, besides being a scholar, and paid due attention to the welfare of his subjects, and was engaged in religious pursuits. Like rulers in those days, he was fond of hunting wild animals. One day, Veerabahu along with his family and attendants, went on a hunting expedition. He moved from forest to forest, hunting and killing wild animals that devastated the crops cultivated by farmers and, at last, came to a vast forest area near the Arabian Sea. A famous Shiva temple existed at a place called 'Kadali Kshetra' (now called Kadri), lying to the east of the above forest. It is believed that this place was 15 square miles in area. Three miles to the east of 'Kadali Kshetra' was the "Gupta (secret) Kadali Kshetra'. To the south of Kadri, there was 'Gorakshak Kshetra' or 'Goraknath Kshetra', and to its south, on the bank of the river Nethravati, existed a holy place called 'Jalashivalaya'. To the north of Kadri, on the bank of river Falguni, there was a Vishnu temple called 'Vishnu Sthan'. On account of these holy temples, the area surrounding the Shiva temple was considered very sacred. The king Veerabahu, after destroying wild animals, at several places, came to 'Swarna Kadali Kshetra' (Kadri), along with his family, and worshipped Lord Manjunath, with intense devotion. He was surprised to see a thick forest to the west of temple wherein, he thought, existed a large number of wild animals. In the said forest, there were several hermitages (Ashrams) of holy rishis including that of Bharadhwaja. In the middle of that forest, the king witnessed a strange sight of a tiger and a cow standing close to each other, and thought that the tiger was about to attack the cow. Fearing this, in a hurry, the king shot an arrow from his quiver, at the tiger, in order to protect the cow. Unfortunately, the arrow hit the cow, instead of the tiger, killing it on the spot. Upset at this incident of killing the cow, resulting in 'gohatya', the king ran around aimlessly, crying aloud why such a sin had been committed by him, though unknowingly, till he encountered sage Bharadhwaja living in that forest.
When the king narrated the incident to him, with anguish, seeking remedy for his sin, Bharadhwaja consoled him thus:" O king! You are really noble and lucky. This place is sanctified by the presence of Lord Shiva, owing to which all animals live in this forest, in love and harmony, devoid of hatred for one another. This is due to the sheer grace of Shiva. Have you not noticed a tiger and a cow, the habitual enemies, standing side by side? This is the land created by Parashuram, and holy Kashi (Varanasi) lies to the north, at a great distance. By the will of Shiva, who is compassionate, you killed the cow by oversight, resulting in 'gohatya'. Worry not. I am going to suggest an appropriate remedy (solution) for the sin committed by you, by implementing which not only will you be absolved of the sin committed by you, but will also contribute to the well-being of thousands of devotees visiting this place, until the sun and moon hold sway upon this earth. No doubt, what you have committed is nothing but sin, but the sin committed, deliberately, does not go unpunished, while the one committed, unconsciously, is entitled to 'prayashchitta' (atonement). Sage Bharadhwaja continued further:" O king! I advise you to construct a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva at the spot where 'gohatya' was committed by you, and install a Shiva-ling there, by doing which you can ensure uninterrupted worship of Shiva, so long as the sun and moon exist. This will not only expiate your sin, but also will ensure the prosperity of coming generations. Now that the four-square mile area wherein your arrow has fallen, and caused the death of the cow has already acquired the name, 'Sharapattana' or 'Sharavu', people will soon inhabit this place. With the passage of time, there will be a king's palace, houses of people and shops of merchants, and this place will, one day, become the central part of a beautiful town." Rishi Bharadwaj added: " O king! The task of undertaking the construction of a Shiva temple is, by no means, an easy one. First, before you begin the construction of the temple, you have to construct a tank to the north of the temple. To its south, you install a stone idol of cow. By the power of my tapas (meditation), I will see that the water of the Nethravati river flowing near the 'Gorakashram' emerges from the 'gomukha' as 'theertha'. The Shiva-ling installed at the spot where the arrow has fallen, will be known as 'Sharabeshwara', and the tank will be called 'Sharabeshwara thatak' (Sharabeshwara tank). Once you have constructed the sanctum sanctorum, 'mukha- mantap' in front of it, 'paulis' and the front 'gopura', at an auspicious moment, I will install the Shiva-ling. But, look! In order to earn the grace of Shiva, you should feed one lakh Brahmins, compulsorily, though it might seem a formidable task. In future, the deity Sharabeshwara will be known as 'Kashi Vishwanath' (presiding deity of Kashi) Himself, Sharatheertha will be called 'Ganga-theertha' (holy water of Ganga), and Sharapura will become famous as 'Kashi Kshetra' (abode of Kashi Vishwanath). Later, one day, Gajanana (Lord Vigneshwara, or Ganapathy) will visit this place, and on the southern wall of the temple will manifest Himself. In view of His proximity to Sharabeshwara, this temple will be known as 'Sri Sharavu Mahaganapathy temple', in course of time." Hearing the words of Rishi Bharadwaj, Veerabahu became happy, and started constructing the Shiva temple.
As instructed by Bharadwaj, the king constructed the tank, first, followed by installation of the stone idol of cow, construction of 'gopura', 'pauli', 'mukha-mantap', sanctum-sanctorum for Shiva, inner courtyard and outer courtyard. Then, rishi Bharadwaj prayed to mother Nethravati, with intense devotion, and She emerged from the 'gomukha' of the stone idol of cow. In the temple situated to the south of the tank, Bharadwaj himself installed the Shiva-ling. This was followed by a feast for one lakh Brahmins, arranged by the king. This is the story of how Shiva temple came to be built at Sharavu. Undeniably, it is mesmerizing, and auspicious.
Veerabahu did not have a male heir, so he decided to stay at Sharapura for some time, along with his wife. He used to pray to Shiva daily, with great devotion. During this period, the chieftain of Gangawadi, (or Bangawadi, and now known as Bangadi), Chandrashekhar Jain, was harbouring hatred towards Vishnuvardhan, the Hoysala king. Though Chandrashekhar Jain was only a subordinate ruler of Vishnuvardhan, he hated the latter, as he (Vishnuvardhan) had deserted the Jain faith and converted himself to be a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Chandrashekhar Jain fought an unsuccessful battle with Vishnuvardhan, and was killed by him. His son, Veera Narasimha Bangaraja, deprived of means of livelihood, approached king Veerabahu and sought his refuge. At the instance of rishi Bharadwaj, Veerabahu was pleased to accept him as his adopted son, and donated all his wealth and properties to him, besides making him the legal heir to his Tulu kingdom. Later, Veerabahu and his wife took to 'vanaprastha' (living in the forest for the purpose of tapas / God-realisation), while his successor, Veera Narasimha Bangaraja, built a palace to the east of Sharavu Shiva (Sharabeshwara) temple and lived in it.
During the reign of Veera Narasimha Bangaraja, Lord Ganapathy, with an intent to manifest Himself, on the southern wall of Sharabeshwara temple, was praying to His Mother Auspicious (Mangala Devi), thus:" O Mother! I appeal, fervently, to You, to grant 'darshan' (appearance) to king Veera Narasimha Bangaraja in his dream, and instruct him to construct a temple for You to the west of 'Goraknath Ashram', for the welfare of mankind. May the king worship Your idol, and the place where the temple will be located, known as Mangalapur (now called Mangalore). I would like to take birth at an auspicious moment, along with 'Siddhilakshmi' (Goddess of prosperity), on the southern wall of Sharabeshwara temple, so that I could keep gazing at You, always, Who are located at a little distance from me, in the southern direction. My only desire is to grant prosperity to My devotees, over here." Acceding to the request of Lord Ganapathy, Mangala Devi appeared in a dream to king Bangaraja, and told him to look for a stone idol to the west of 'Goraknath Ashram'. She instructed the king to construct a temple at the spot where the idol will be found, and name it as "Mangala Devi'. She also ordered the king to name the area between Sharavu and Mangala Devi temple as "Mangalapur', and assured the king that She would grant prosperity to anyone praying to Her, with unflinching faith and devotion. King Bangaraja was ecstatic, when Mangala Devi appeared to him in his dream, with Her eight hands, and vanished. Though a follower of Jain faith, he rejoiced at the opportunity given to him of constructing a temple for Mangala Devi, in addition to the opportunity got by him earlier, to look after the affairs of Sri Sharabeshwara temple and Tulu kingdom. In fact, he thought that he had been twice blessed to get such an opportunity to construct Mangala Devi temple. Veera Narasimha Bangaraja, along with his ministers and subjects, visited the spot indicated by Mangala Devi, and found an idol in which Mangala Devi had enshrined Herself. He constructed a temple in that place, and installed the Mangala Devi idol, by following the prescribed rituals, with the help of holy rishis. The king also employed priests for conducting regular 'pujas' (worship) in the two temples (viz., Sharabeshwara and Mangala Devi temples). Soon, people engaged in different vocations, and from different places, came to reside in the town, and trade and commercial activities started. Many shopping centres also sprang up, and the town extended up to the seashore. King Bangaraja's palace lay in the centre of Mangalapur town. As per available records, king Veera Narasimha Bangaraja ruled the Tulu kingdom from 1157 A.D. to 1208 A.D.
After the death of Veera Narasimha Bangaraja, his son, Chandrashekhar Bangaraja, ruled the Tulu kingdom, happily, from 1208 A.D. to 1224 A.D., in the palace close to the Sharavu temple. During the reign of Chandrashekhar Bangaraja, there lived a Brahmin by name, Keshava, in Badaje village, near Manjeshwar, who was a scholar, 'mantravadi', and man of wisdom, and who belonged to Padakannaya clan, and did not have enough means to eke out his livelihood. He was deeply immersed in tapas of Lord Vigneshwara (Ganapathy) at the Jalashivalaya temple on the bank of Nethravathi river at Vasapur (now called Hoige Bazaar). His only aim was to achieve prosperity for his family, by undertaking 'mantravada' and tantric rituals, and invoking the blessings of Lord Ganapathy. Lord Ganapathy was moved by the tapas undertaken by the priest, and informed him that the time was now ripe for Him to manifest, and that He would grant prosperity not only to him and to his family, but also to his future generations. So famous was Keshava in his devotion to Lord Ganapathy that when he conducted 'Ganahoma' to the Lord everyday, He used to partake of the 'purnahuti' of 'Ganahoma' by showing off His real trunk (Ganapathy is the elephant-headed God, having a trunk).
One day, when Bangaraja was seated on the balcony of his palace, he saw a fleet of seven Chinese ships sailing along the coast of Mangalapur town, laden with golden ores and valuable jewels, to a far-off land. The king thought that if these ships were made to touch the port of Mangalapur town, he could confiscate the goods and become rich, overnight. However, this, he felt, was not an easy task, and was worried about how he could achieve it. When he was pondering over this, his subjects proposed to him to utilize the services of priest Keshava. Thereupon, the king called for the priest to his palace, and discussed the matter with him. The priest told the king that he could, by using the power of his mantras, make the ships sailing along the coast (without touching the town) land at the port of Mangalapur. The king was happy to hear the priest's words, and requested him to fulfill his wish. Soon, the priest started reciting the mantras, invoking the blessings of Lord Ganapathy who, in turn, ordered 'Vayudeva' (God of wind) to cause a storm in the sea. Suddenly, a violent storm took place in the sea, and all the ships were tossed ashore, to the surprise of everyone, without causing any damage either to the ships, or the crew. The king was overjoyed when the ships landed ashore, and he confiscated all the valuables in them, letting the crew unharmed, to proceed on their voyage. His wish having been fulfilled by the priest, the king asked of the priest what he expected from him, in return. The priest requested the king to provide him enough materials to conduct a 'Ganahoma' to the Lord, using 128 coconuts. The king, gladly, granted him the required materials. The priest went to his village, Badaje, and performed 'Ganahoma' to the Lord to please Him. To his astonishment, Lord Ganapathy refused to accept the 'purnahuti' offered by the priest, this time, by stretching His trunk. Upset at this happening, the priest rushed to Vasapur to undertake tapas and please the Lord. The Lord immensely pleased with the tapas, gave 'darshan' to the priest and told him that it was wrong on his part to measure His grace in terms of 'Ganahoma', using 128 coconuts, and that the Divine grace could not be measured in terms of worldly things. That is why He had refused to accept the 'purnahuti' offered by him earlier. Lord Ganapathy also told the priest that He would take birth along with 'Siddhilakshmi' on the southern wall of Sharabeshwara temple, shortly, and that he should worship (conduct 'puja' to Him) Him daily. So saying, Lord Ganapathy disappeared from the scene.
If one goes through the "Ganesh Purana' (mythological story of Ganapathy or Ganesh), in 'Krita Yuga', Lord Ganapathy was seen with ten hands, and had lion as His vehicle. In 'Treta Yuga', He had six hands, with peacock as His vehicle, and was married to 'Siddhi' and 'Riddhi', mental offsprings of Lord Brahma. In 'Dwapara Yuga', it seems Lord Ganapathy had four hands, with mouse as His vehicle. It looks strange that Lord Ganapathy decided to manifest Himself along with 'Siddhilakshmi' on His left side, in the present 'Kali Yuga'. According to 'puranas', it is possible that He may assume different forms in 'Kali Yuga', and subsequent Ages. It is believed that Lord Ganapathy at Sharavu (with 'Siddhilakshmi' seated on His left side) had manifested Himself in order to grant the wishes of His devotees People in 'Kali Yuga', generally, are not interested in 'tapassiddhi' or 'moksha', but only in material things. That Lord Ganapathy had chosen to appear along with 'Siddhilakshmi', assuming His beautiful form, on the southern side of Sharavu Shiva temple, does only indicate that He did so only to remove the obstacles of His devotees and make them successful in life, and also bestow wealth and prosperity on them.
Keshava, the priest, told king Bangaraja about the 'darshan' of Lord Ganapathy in His dream and His instructions to him to take over the responsibility of conducting 'puja' at Sharavu Shiva temple, from the king. The priest was eagerly looking forward to the impending manifestation of Lord Ganapathy on the southern wall of Sharavu Sharabeshwara temple. As expected, one fine morning, on an auspicious day, Lord Ganapathy, with ten hands, with 'Siddhilakshmi' on His left side, appeared on the southern wall of Sharavu Shiva temple, situated in the Bharadwaj Ashram, in order to ensure the welfare of the world. Priest Keshava was lucky to witness the manifestation of the Compassionate Lord with his own eyes, with a sense of awe. Moved by the wonderful sight, the priest rushed to the king himself, and brought him to the temple to show him the Divine form of Lord Ganapathy. The news of Lord Ganapathy's manifestation spread around like wild fire, and people in thousands, thronged the temple, to witness the miracle. Everyone was mesmerized, and blessed by the Lord to witness the strange event. From that day onwards, this place became famous as 'Sharavu Mahaganapathy Kshetra', and this place, along with Tulu kingdom and Mangalapur town, went on prospering, day by day, by the grace of two deities, viz., Lord Ganapathy and Goddess Mangala Devi. On the day of manifestation, Lord Ganapathy also appeared in the dream of Bangaraja, and instructed him to build a sanctum sanctorum, 'mantap', 'gopura', etc., and have the 'puja' conducted by the priest Keshava of Badaje village, which the king faithfully implemented. Priest Keshava was given a piece of land to construct a house close to the temple, by the king, and he began living in this house. Bangaraja also undertook renovation of Sri Mangala Devi temple, and built a fort in front of the estuary of the sea. That Lord Ganapathy Who had manifested on the southern wall of Sharavu Shiva temple, and is, still, being seen in His full glory by the devotees visiting the temple, and that He showering His blessings on them for their prosperity is, indeed, due to the meritorious deeds committed by them in the past.