Abode of an ascetic, MANTRALAYA

11th Aug 2023
Photo of Abode of an ascetic, MANTRALAYA by devarajan

Abode of an ascetic - MANTRALAYA

Raghavendra Swamy, a spiritual Guru from the Dwaita philosophy in Hinduism - though not its profounder - is worshipped not merely by followers of this sect, but others too since the past three and half centuries. Said to be an ‘avatar’ (bodily manifestation) of Lord Prahlada, a staunch devotee of one among the Hindu Trinities Maha Vishnu, he was born in a village Bhuvanagiri, near Kumbakonam (T’nadu), and later, toured many holy shrines. While in Gaanadala, a non-descript village in the present Raichur district of Karnataka, he undertook deep penance at a nearby cave for 12 years, where Lord Hanuman, Lord Srinivasa & Maa Mahalakshmi all appeared in his dreams & blessed him. It is also believed that Hanuman, besides manifesting at Gaandadala as Panchamukhi (five-headed) Anjaneya. directed Raghavendra Swamy to settle in Manchale, a small village on the right bank of the river Tungabhadra - around 16 KMs from here, which he did.

At the ripe age of 76, on realizing that his earthly tasks ended, Raghavendra Swamy decided to attain ‘Brindavan’, in other words, physically entering the burial place OR emancipating the body from worldly affairs / attachments. The decision came as a blow to his followers. But the Swamiji was firm on his decision and entered the Brindavan’ on the 2nd day of Sravana Krishna Paksha in 1671 that normally comes in the last week of July or beginning of August each year. On this day, not only in Mantralaya Mutt, but at hundreds of replica Brndavanas established at many places in South India, the occasion is revered as a sacred activity and devotees from near and far visit them to be part of the occasion & get His blessings.

This Is a brief on the background of the place. Coming to the travel part, two days are enough to visit Mantralayam from Bengaluru – distance : around 370 kms. Better to traverse by train which are available in plenty. Road journey looks tedious, especially for aged like me. The KSR Bengaluru – Nanded Express that departs at 11.30 PM daily, is apt, as one can save time, besides comfort. This train touches Mantralaya Road station @ 7 next morning. From there, Mutt is around 14 kms; one has to inevitably take a share-auto or a cab, as no public transport is available here. Lodges are plenty, besides the Mutt’s choultry. I booked one online, which is a better option; reached the hotel, threw my luggage & after freshening up, had breakfast at a nearby hotel before starting off. Firstly, I visited Manchalamma temple – the local deity on whose name the place is now called. It is adjacent to the Brindavana. Post this, I joined the queue to the Swamiji’s Samadhi. Despite the crowd, situation is not like what we see at Tirupathi / Shirdi. Within an hour, I got access to the sanctum sanctorum. I could see people doing Urulu Seve – rolling the body around the Brindavana – a normal scene we see around temples of South India. Happy to see a Muslim flower vendor wearing white cap on his head and neatly trimmed black beard, stringing flowers & calling devotees in pure Kannada to buy one. Secular SCENE indeed (pun intended).

Once out, had a foot-dip at the Tungabadra river that flows closeby; sipped a cup of brewing tea at an open outlet, relaxed a while and as it was lunch time, wished to have it at the Mutt’s choultry but lo, it was closed as the day was Ekadasi. Could’nt even buy the branded Parimala Prasadam at their counter as this too was shut. With no alternative, gabbled something at a nearby hotel.

It was time to query on other worthy spots around. I was advised about Panchamukhi Anjaneya temple (20 kms) and Bichale (with slight deviation enroute). Engaged a share-auto bargaining for Rs.1,200 (for six). Reached Panchamuki temple after an auto trek (?) for almost 45 minutes. Strange thing is this place (Gaanadala) is in Karnataka (Raichur Dist) while Mantralayam is in Kurnool Dist of Andhra Pradesh. Anyways, am proud I could visit two states in such a short time !!!. Entering the shrine at the small hillock there, visualizing a giant sized five-faced Anjaneya but could only see a flat stone with few flowers strewn here & there over some chisel-like markings. I was told the markings denote the five faces of Hanuman, other four being Hayagriva, Narasimha, Garuda & Varaha, who grants purity, knowledge, victory, relief from black magic and prosperity respectively. Had good darshan there, and also of Maa Mahalaxmi at another rocky cave behind it.

On the way back, had a short stint at Bichchale, a remote village, where Raghavendra Swamy lived for 12 years at his disciple Appannachar’s house; retained as it is till today. About 500 mtrs away from this place, is the majestic Tungabhadra river, where a small garden like structure is seen on its bank, with a monolitihic Brindavan for Raghavendra Swamy, constructed by Appannacharya on the advise of his Guru.

Lastly, do have a stroll around the main Brindavan AFTER dark. The three enclosure walls of the main Mutt bear beautifully painted cement structures of Hindu mythology, reflected in colourful lightings – a sight to behold. If you love cows, you have them in plenty. Well built people-friendly pious bovines munching banana or whatever is offered by devotees, roam around the area freely, followed by their small calves. They too look to have come for a darshan of the Swamiji (!). An unforgettable scene indeed for animal-lovers like me.



Date: 18.08.2023