Sometime ago, I was surprised to come across a pencil drawing on the internet by an anonymous artist, of the temple at Bhagamandala, dated way back in 1816-17. This made me wonder about this temple and what inspired this artist to sketch it, especially given the times.
A good old writer friend of mine, Sunder Muthanna, who hails from Coorg, told me interesting facts about the confluence of three rivers at Bhagamandala – Cauvery, Kanika and Sujothi: they are believed to meet at the bottom of the hill at Bhagamandala. His words and the pencil sketch lingered on in my mind- and I went to visit Bhagamandala in one of the many trips I made to Coorg.
And I realized there was more to Bhagamandala than meets the eye…
For one, the tributary Sujothi River is mythical as it is an invisible underground river. Two, this scenic place was once a battlefield, and three, the main temple is a beautiful portrayal of two distinct architectural styles; that of Kerala and Nepal.
While the River Sujothi flows underground, the name for River Kaveri is said to come from the Tamil word ‘kav’, meaning cave and ‘eri’, meaning climbed. This spot of the confluence of the rivers is considered sacred and called the ‘Triveni Sangama’ (meeting point of three rivers), or Kudala. One can see this spot a short distance from the main temple.
As for the battlefield, there is an inscription here which refers to how Bhagamandala was captured and occupied by Tipu Sultan in days of yore (1785–1790). A little reading up in this regard revealed that Tipu Sultan renamed the place Afesalabad, and in 1790, King Dodda Vira Rajendra got it back into an independent Kodagu Kingdom, after a fierce, week-long battle.
The main temple, known as the Sri Bhagandeshwara temple, is constructed in a large, stone courtyard. It possesses pagodas and multi-layered roofs that have a reddish hue. Each pagoda ends in the form of a silver hood of a snake. “Why the hood of a snake?” one might ask. Perhaps because Bhagandeshwara means Lord Shiva, who has a snake wound around his long neck. The temple also hosts idols of other Lords, like Subramanya, Mahavishnu and Ganesha.
Any temple has a legend or belief surrounding it. The belief here is that a visit to the temple will grant Moksha (purge one of all negative influences). Pilgrims throng to take a dip in the Triveni Sangama to perform rituals to their ancestors and participate during the Tula Sankramana festival in October.
As I came out of the royal courtyard of Bhagamandala, I thought about the inspired Artist. This is when I saw another element that could have inspired the artist – Mt. Thavoor. I stood face to face with this towering peak overlooking Bhagamandala, close to which the Mt. Koppatti (twin peaks) is located. And I realized that Bhagamandala can also inspire adventure lovers or anyone who wishes to savor the mesmerizing beauty of the Shola forest range!