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History of Sri Sharavu Sharabeshwara Maha Ganapathi Temple, Karnataka

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.

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