There are temples that have taken me on a mythical trail or on a spiritual path, narrating stories of deities and demons, of miracles and morals, of believers and non-believers. I hear stories about how the shrines were built or plundered, of legendary kings who left their stamp behind 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 Gopura tried its best to attract the wayfarer who was driving past the Bangalore Mysore highway in a hurry. The air brought in with it a strong culinary flavour as multiple eateries interrupted my journey , tempting me to stop by. Mac Donald’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 signs.
Strains of Carnatic music caught my ears the moment I entered the portals of this temple , built in a small town called Doddamallur, located in between Chennapatna and Maddur. The name “Doddamallur” may have been a misnomer, unless there was a “Chikkamallur “ somewhere as this was an absolute little village in itself with just a cluster of homes and shops. (Dodda refers to big , while Chikka is small) . It was however once a Vedic town, referred to as Chaturveda Managalapura, where scholars resided here and learnt all four vedas.
The priest called it the Ayodhya of the South as this temple, more than 1500 years old has a mythical connection to Rama , who came here to worship Vishnu and lived here for a while. The deity is referred to as Apramaya and his consort , Arvindavalli. The temple’s showstopper is however Krishna as the shrine is popularly referred to as Navaneetha Krishna temple.
It is then I heard the story of legendary composer , Purandharadasa as I walked towards a mandapa named after him. I learnt from the priest that the composer who had apparently goaded the local ruler to build this temple, was mesmerised so much by the beauty of the idol here that he composed his “ Jagadodharana Adisidale Yashodha” in this shrine. A small stone stood here as a testimony to this, as the priest mentioned that it had the composition marked in Kannada. The musical strains now sounded familiar as a group of singers joined in the fray humming the song, referring to the innocent Yashoda who played with her son Krishna, oblivious to the fact that he was the Lord. A few devotees walked past with me with cradles in their hand as a bonny baby looked at me with wide eyes as I left the shrine.
Here is a video of the legendary MS Subhalakshmi singing Jagododharana …If you go through the comments section, the lyrics have been translated to English. This article was published in The Hindu, in my column, Inside Story.