Our journey took us on another spiritual quest as our next destination was Bhagamandala, which is sacred as there is the confluence or kudla or sangama of the three rivers, Cauvery and its tributaries Kanika and Sujyoti . Interestingly Sujyoti is largely mythical as its meant to be flowing underground and joining the main river as she spreads herself and flows along .
Bhagamandala comes from the name Sri Bhagandeshwara temple, which houses the deities Bhagandeshwara (Lord Shiva), Subramanya , Vishnu and Ganapathi . Known as Bhagundeshwara Kshetra .the temples are built in kerala style and each sculpture tells a different story.
We met a priest who offered to be a guide as well and he told us about the significance of the scultures . Carved in stone, they depict the Dasavatharam or the ten avatars of Vishnu , stories from mythology ,Indian customs and festivals .
A customary dip in these waters is said to purge you from all negative influences. An inscription here talks about how Bhagamandala was captured by Tipu Sultan who renamed it as Afesalabad and it was retrieved by Doddaveeraja after a fierce battle which lasted for about a week.
We move on to the Brahmagiri hills to Talacauvery where the river originates and flows down 800 kms down to Poompuhar in Tamil Nadu. .The weather changes as the sun retreats as the mist takes over.The entire mountains are enveloped .
An enclosure around the spring called Gundige is connected to a small pond .which flows underground and emerges after about a kilometer down the hill. There are shrines above the spring and temples dedicated to Agasthyeshwara and Ganesha. It is believed that the Saptha Rishis had performed a penance here to get immortality. The priest inform us that the Agni Kundas can be seen there.
A plethora of legends flow down the Cauvery, but the most interesting that we heard is the legend of the river itself. Cauvery prayed to Lord Vishnu that she should become the most sacred of rivers and Vishnu granted her the wish saying that the while Ganga originates from the Lord’s feet, Cauvery will be worn as a garland by the God. It is believed that Ganga flows underground and even cleanses herself in the Cauvery and remains here for a month .
Pilgrims flock to Talacauvery in mid Oct where the river gives Darshan to her devotees.The water from the spring overflows and it is called Tula Sankramana .It is believed to be the rebirth of the river itself and the priests tell us that Goddess Parvati comes down to earth on that day. The holy water is taken home by all pilgrims after a dip in the river .
Interestingly the River Cauvery is behind the Kodava style of draping the saree. If you notice their saree knot is always placed behind. I asked a Kodava lady , Daisy Karumbiah whose son , Bopanna runs a homestay in Madikeri. She told me this story . Cauvery who was married to the sage, Agasthya had asked him to promise that he will let her know whenever and where ever he stepped out. She said that she will leave him if he ever broke the promise. One morning the sage went apparently for a stroll without informing his wife, who decided to leave him as he had not kept his word. Despite pleas and requests, the river decided to flow underground.
While the Hindus , especially the Brahmins supported Agasthya, the Kodavas supported Cauvery . Hence this created a divide between the communities. It is said that Agasthya’s supporters cursed the Kodavas saying their crops will fail and the women will become barren as well. The aghast Kodavas ran to Cauvery who had emerged at Bhagamandala. She apparently removed her saree pleats and tied them backwards saying that ” you are not the women who are cursed…you now have a new life..” She also instructed the Kodavas to remove the saplings that were planted and replant them..It is said that till today the Kodavas continue the same style of cultivation and the women tie their saree knot behind and not in front .
We see a lot of trekkers climbing down the Brahmagiri Hills to see the panoramic view of Karnataka and the coast as well. As we prayed to the river, the mist suddenly touched our cheeks and before we knew it, we were wrapped in it .We were lost to the world as a thin white layer took us in its fold and gently lulled us to sleep.