Hoysala Temples, Part 7

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BY: SUN STAFF - 12.3 2020

Pralaya Varaha Swami with Bhoo Devi

A serial presentation of Vaisnava temples built by the Hoysala empire.

Pralaya-Varahanatha Swami Temple, Kallahalli

Today we complete our Hoysala temple series with another exceptional tirtha. In the village of Kallahali, Mandya district is a temple dedicated to the worship of Lord Varaha with Bhu Devi. This Varaha Deity is one of the most beautiful in all of Karnataka's Hoysala temples. As we have seen in previous segments of this series, Hoysala empire rulers had a fondness for very large deities, and this massive Pralaya Varahanath Swami is no exception. Standing 15 feet tall (with base), Lord Varaha holds a 3.5 foot high Bhu Devi on His lap.

Mandya district is home to numerous ancient Vaishnava temples, most under care of the Srivaishnava Sampradaya. Many of them are well known pilgrimage sites, such as Srirangapattana, Melkote, Maddur and Nagamangala. This Prayala Varaha temple at Kalahalli is not as well known, but is an equally important abode of the Lord. In His boar Form, Varaha avatara is saving Bhu (the earth goddess) from the demon Hiranyaksha in the swirling primordial waters of the pralaya, or dissolution.

Lord Varaha and Bhu Devi
Pralaya-Varahanatha Swami Temple, Kallahalli

 

Kalahalli village is situated on the right bank of the Hemavathi River. The temple sits high on a hill, with the Kaveri, Jemavathi and Lakshmanatheertha Rivers at its feet. Near Varaha Pralaya temple is the Venugopalaswamy Temple, which was relocated after the original site became submerged under the Krishna Raja Sagara dam's backwaters. Because of the height of the hill upon which Pralaya-Varahanatha Swami Temple sits, it was spared from the Sagar dam floodwaters, as if saved again by Lord Varaha.

Just beside Varahanatha's temple are the ruins of an ancient temple that was once the abode of Laksmi Devi. It is said that when the area was submerged in the backwaters of Kaveri river due to the dam project flooding the region, that Laksmi Devi flung open the roof of the temple and escaped to a nearby tirtha, Melkote. The hole through which she escaped is star-shaped, and a stone slab of the same shape and size was found lying in nearby Dodda Gadiganahalli village. Archaeologists have confirmed that it is the same stone as that of the temple.

Pralaya-Varahanatha Swami Temple, Kallahalli

The Varahanatha Swami Temple is very unassuming on the outside. There are no ornate carvings like many Hoysala temples, nor wide columned porches. But the disarmingly simple structure offers visitors darshan of a rare sight, in the massive Form of Lord Varaha.

Lord Varaha and Bhu Devi - Original Svaroopum
(Deity was re-polished a few years ago)

The presiding Deity, Varahanatha Swami was installed by the sage Gautama over 2,000 years ago. Today the mandir is under the management of the Parakal matha. Sri Venkatramaih, a Madhava brahmin from Bangalore discovered a record of this temple, stating that it was gifted to Parakala Mutt and Muzrai Department. Due to a limited budget, the matha could not take proper care of the temple and Deity. In the absence of regular worship, a fungus formed on the surface, which was later re-surfaced and polished.

Shilashasna (hero stone) dated Saka 1257

The history of the area around Kallahali starts with the Ganga rulers of Talakad. It was later taken over by the Hoysala, then the Vijayanagara and Wodeyar kingdoms. Only one shilashasna (shalashaska), or hero stone has been found on the temple premises, engraved with the date Saka 1257, which corresponds to the reign of Hoysala king Veera Bhallala III. It registers the gift of the village of Kalahalli, which was converted into a agrahara (village brahmin quarters) and renamed as Devalapura after Queen Devala Devi.

This region is said to be a punya-kshetra where sage Gautama performed penance and worshipped Saligrama. Many years later, it is said that King Veera Ballala got lost in these forests while on a hunting trip. While resting under the shade of a huge tree he saw a hunting dog chasing a rabbit. When they reached a particular spot, the rabbit turned back and started to chase the ferocious dog. Because of the strangeness of this event, the king was convinced there was some unseen power in the place. He dug up the whole area and discovered the idol of Pralaya Varahaswamy hidden under layers of earth. The king then installed it in a temple and began offering worship to the Deity. The current temple structure is the remains of that original temple.

Serving Sri Pralaya Varaha

 

Varahanatha Swami Temple stands on a high mound facing east, with a flight of steps leading to the main entrance. The temple consists of a garbhagruha, antardwara and navaranga. In the sanctum, Lord Varaha sits with Bhu Devi on His lap. His lower right hand is in abhaya mudra, with chakra and shankh in His upper hands, and His remaining arm around Bhu Devi. The paraphernalia held by the Lord is somewhat different from other Hoysala deity example; the conch, chakra and the Deity's hands are all unique.

Lord Varaha wears kirita-mukhuta, while Bhu Devi wear karanda-mukhuta, and she holds a lotus. The Lord's tusks are lighter in colour and His eyes have a red tinge. The Deity (moolamurti) is salagrama-shila, and has Sudarshana Chakra on His back. In order for temple priests to be able to bathe and ornament the towering figure of Lord Varaha, a wooden plank is placed in front of the Deity. Under Bhu Devi sits a small murti of Hanuman.

Lord Varaha's Appearance day is celebrated as Varaha-Masika Revathy, for which 1008 kalasa-abhishekam is performed.