Visit to Sonda – Sirsi – Yana – Gokarna
This is a part of my 3 part article on my recent 3 days visit to Badami – Banavasi – Sirsi – Sonda – Yana – Gokarna
- Visit to Banavasi Sri Madhukeshwara Temple
- Visit to Badami – Pattadakkal – Aihole – Mahahut
- Visit to Sonda – Sirsi – Yana – Gokarna
We checked out from Hubli lodge and started towards Sirsi / Sonde by around 8:30 AM after breakfast at the nearby Hotel Kamath. On the way, we briefly stopped over at Sri Gayathiri Tapo bhoomi at Tadas which is an ashram cum temple built new and then reached Banavasi Madhukeshwara Temple. Originally I thought of skipping that temple since it’s a diversion for about 25 kms / 45 minutes from the Sirsi route. Luckily I changed my mind since I thought I have enough time to reach Sirsi. Had I skipped that temple, I would have felt very bad indeed. I have already released a separate blogpost on the Banavasi Madhukeshwara Temple and the places around.
My main purpose of writing these travelogues is that I was about to miss that great temple because I thought it’s just another temple. There are bits and pieces of info about these places in many sites but there is no single source of complete info. I had some great difficulty in putting out a schedule for my complete trip. I thought I should make it easier for the future planners.
1) Sirsi Sri Marikamba Temple
After Banavasi, we reached Sirsi Marikamba temple by 12:45 PM. There was a significant crowd waiting for the aarthi and we had the nice mid-day Arathi dharshan at exactly 1 PM. The Goddess was very beautiful in her alankaram. Some devotees directed us towards free bhojan and we took the delicious lunch served by so many volunteers.
Banavasi to Sirsi
My wife bought some Kashmiri (red) chilly at Rs 120 per Kg and started towards Sahasra linga, a 20 minutes drive from Sirsi.
From a fellow blogger:
Sirsi is famous for a product called “Joni Bella”, a liquefied form of Jaggery, and the following shop is good for Bella and other organic products (I haven’t tried):
2) Sirsi Sahasra Linga
I had seen some great photos of the place and so had some beautiful imaginations about it. Indeed it is a beautiful location of a river stream inside a forest but unfortunately spoiled by the visitors.
It has become a picnic spot and sad to see people taking bath and drying clothes all over the place where the lingas and Nandhis are spread out. Some thatched sheds have also been put up for some lingams to do worship. I was told that the Sahasra linga is spread over 10 kms and so I can recommend you to check with the local people whether there are any other remote places where we can see the lingams. After a brief stop over there, we reached Sodhe Sri Vadiraja Mutt in about 15 minutes.
3) Sonda Sri Vadiraja Mutt
The place is called in different names like Sodhe, Sodha, Sonda.
Life of Sri Vadiraja
Sri Madhwacharya installed Sri Krishna idol at Udupi and it is headed and governed by Ashta Madhwa Matha (Mutt) to date. Each of the Ashta Mathas performs temple management activities for two years in a cyclical order. Sodhe Mutt is one of those Ashta Mathas. Sri Vadiraja Thirtha was the head of the Sodhe mutt in the 15th and 16th Century.
He was born at Hoovenakere, 25 miles North of Udupi in the year 1480 in a paddy field and his birth place is now a temple called Gowri Gadde. Bhuvaraha was his initial name he became a Sanyasi at the young age of 8.
It was Sri Vadirajateertha who changed the Paryaya system of Udupi to 2 years from the earlier practice of 2 months because of many issues in the 2 months system. He lived a life of 120 year and performed Lord Krishna’s Paryaya at Udupi 5 times. He entered the Vrindavana alive in the year 1600 after worshipping that for nearly 3 years. The only other saint to have followed similar way of leaving this materialistic world is Sri Raghavendra Swamy. While Sri Raghavendra Swamy is better known as Rayaru, Sri Vadiraja Theertha is known as Rajaru.
Lord HayagrIva (also known as Hayavadana) was his ishta devatha and he had a special process of offering naivedya to his favourite deity. After regular worship, Sri Vadiraja would close himself in a room and meditate on the Lord with utmost devotion, holding a plate full of HayagrIva, also called muddy, a preparation consisting of jaggery, almonds, ghee and cooked bengal gram, held over his head. Hayavadana would emanate from the icon in the form of a pure white horse, put His forelegs on Vadiraaja’s shoulders and eat the Naivedya, leaving a small portion as prasada. It is said that Vadiraja would sing the ‘dashavatara-stuti’, to please the Lord and the latter would dance to show His appreciation. Amongst pictures of Sri Vadiraja, the one showing him offering Naivedya to the Lord as described above is the most popular.
Vadiraja had a disciple called Narayanacharya, who was very intelligent but ill-mannered. One day when he crossed all limits, Vadiraja cursed him to be a brahma-pishachi (a type of ghost). Narayanacharya became a ghost and started haunting a forest near Hampi. He would stop all wayfarers and ask them a cryptic question “A ka ma vy ko na snata ha?” (meaning ‘who does not bathe in A ka ma vy?’). When nobody could answer this, he would then harass them and cause a lot of pain and suffering.
The inner meaning of the question is this: The months of Ashadha, kartIka, marghashira and vyshakha are very holy and so everyone takes bath to perform special poojas. The ghost was really asking “who are the evil people who do not bathe in the holy months of Ashada, kartIka, marghashira and vyshyakha?”
Once when Vadiraja himself was passing by that forest he was also confronted and put the same question. Vardiraja gave the following reply to the question: “Randa-putrah tvam na snata ha!” (son of a prostitute, you don’t bathe in these holy months). Since this answer was correct, the ghost lost and hence had to serve Vadiraja for life as per pre-agreement. From that day onwards, he faithfully served Vadiraja and is fondly called as Narayana Bhuta or Bhuta-rajaru.
Dharmasthala, a popular pilgrimage centre in Dakhina Kannada, was once an inauspicious place where people used to practice witchcraft and worship devils and demons. It was Sri Vadiraja who consecrated Sri Manjunatheshwara brought from the Kadiri temple and from that day on, Dharmasthala lost its bad reputation and became renowned as an important pilgrimage center It is a unique temple where the worship of Lord Shiva is done by priests of Shivalli Madhva community (Vaishnavites) and the administration is in the hands of the Jain (Hegade) family.
Sri Vadiraaja also helped the Vijayanagar Emperor Devaraya financially by helping him obtain the wealth secreted within a huge boulder by (Ramayana) Sugreeva and the other Vanaras of Kishkinda near Hampi, the capital of the Vijayanagar emperors.
He has documented the pilgrimage centers visited by him and their greatness in a travelogue called ‘TIrtha prabhanda’. This is a unique work without a parallel and provides an authentic description of several pilgrimage centers.
There are numerous incidents & miracles related to Sri Vadiraja and the following article gives a detailed view of his life. Anyone intending to visit Sonda is advised to read this completely to prepare themselves well for the holy trip:
As you reach the Sonda Mutt, you will be passing through a lake known as Hayagriva Samudra. There are many rooms available in the mutt and they are given on first come, first served basis without any advance booking. Rooms provide only the very basic facilities of a double cot and a small mat, nothing else. So you have to take care of bedsheets atleast since it will be cold most of the time. I’m told bedsheets and mats are being rented out in nearby shop (the only one available) but we didn’t try. No mobile phones worked except BSNL (this is one more place where we saw that nothing except BSNL worked). So it was a nice experience to be in the middle of a forest in a non commercial / unpolluted sacred place without any outside connectivity! Temple provides free lunch at 11 AM and dinner at 7.30 PM. No coffee or tea is available.
The mutt premises are spread out in 3 tiers. In the car parking area are the Rama Trivikrama temple and the mutt rooms.
24 steps down the level of Trivikrama temple, is the Rajangana where the mutt offices are located. Here you can buy coconuts and pay for various sevas. The temple has a tradition wherein every devotee visiting the temple needs to offer coconuts to Lord Bhutaraja.
Further down a flight of 24 steps, will take us to the main Vadiraja / Bootharja temple premise with “Davala Ganga” sacred temple tank and various other shrines.
Sri Trivikrama Temple
It is said that during his visit to Badari, Vadiraja had met with Acharya Madhva and Vedavyasa. He had expressed his desire to establish a grand temple to Lord Trivikrama and had requested them to provide a suitable icon. Also, Arasappa Nayaka, the local chieftain, had a long standing desire to set up a major temple in Sodhe and so Vadiraja asked Arasappa Nyaka to construct the temple.
As the temple started approaching its final shape people were worried that the main deity was not ready but Vadiraja assured them “This is not a regular icon that needs to go through the normal process of consecration. It is already being personally worshipped by Acharya Madhva. So the only consecration needed is to perform the maha pooja in Svadi. Our Lord Trivikrama will come in his own special chariot”.
He then sent Bhutaraja to Badari to fetch the icon. When Bhutaraja was on his way back with the icon in a chariot he was attacked by some demons. He used one of the wheels of the chariot to fight and defeat them. He reached Sodhe in time for the maha pooja with everything intact except for one missing wheel on the chariot. Even today one can see only 3 wheels on the chariot in Sri Trivikrama temple’s garbhagudi
Apart from the smaller Sheethala Ganga tank, the main “Davala Ganga” is the main sacred pond where pilgrims take bath in the mornings (in Deva Prayaga, when Ganga starts coming from the Himalayas, it is first called as Davala Ganga). The pond has four corners and is available for pilgrims only at 2 corners. One corner of the pond is prohibited since it is believed that Lord Bhutharaja uses that corner even now. Around the temple pond there are many shrines consecrated by Sri Vadiraja – Sri Chandramouleshwara on the south, Sri Veera Anjaneya on the west, Sri Venugopalaswamy on the north. Towards the east of the Tanks we can see the Pancha Vrindavans with the vrindavan of Sri Vadiraja Teertha situated in the centre surrounded by four more vrindavans of Vishnu, Brahma, Vayu and Rudra, forming a perfect square. The shrine dedicated to the Kshetrapala – Bhootharaja is on the right side of the Vrindavan. Naga Vana is in the North. Sri Vedavyasa temple can be found opposite to the Pancha Vrindavans.
There is a big jackfruit tree near the temple pond under which Sri Vadiraja used to teach his disciples. When a bolt of lightning struck this tree, Sri Vadiraja revived it back to life. It is still alive and its fruits are offered as naivedya to Lord HayagrIva.
The sincerity of the Madhwas in worshipping their Gurus is unparallel. The Sankalpa Seva is a seva done in many Madhwa peetas for some prayers which can be done only by the determined and sincere devotees.
Sankalpa Seva at Sonde is different from Mantralaya and is done as follows:
First buy a ticket for Sankalpa seva in the mutt office by specifying whether the seva is for 3 days, 5 days or 7 days along with a coconut.
Take 7 times dip in the Davala Ganga, wear a madi or new vastra (changing rooms are provided for ladies), apply haldi / kumkum / Gopi chandan as applicable, go to the Archakaru in madi or new vastra with the coconut and take the sankalpa for the seva and receive the coconut back from the Archakaru. Sankalpa is done in a group in the morning at 6.30 AM and at 10 AM. I’m not sure whether you can buy the sankalpa seva ticket in the mornings before 6:30 and so if you have arrived the previous day, buy the sankalpa ticket on the previous day itself and take the sankalpa at 6:30 AM, else if you arrive in the morning, you can take sankalpa at 10 AM.
From then on, you have to be very careful that the coconut doesn’t touch the ground till the parikrama is completed.
During the parikrama, you have to tie the coconut around your waist with a long towel such that it doesn’t touch the ground while doing namaskars.
With the wet vasthra, then start the outer pradhikshana of the sub shrines around pond like Tulsi, Veera Anjaneya, Venugopalaswamy, Nagavana, Vadiraja Vrindhavana, Bhootharaja and Chandramouleeshwara with namaskars in each shrine.
After each pradhikshana, repeat the process of 7 dips in the Davala Ganga, apply kumkum or Gopi chandan, do the outer pradhikshana with Namaskars to each sub shrine.
After completing 7 pradhikshanas, then climb 50 steps, go to the Trivikrama temple and do 7 pradhikshana there with Namaskar after each pradhikshana.
Once this is completed, change to dry vasthra and start the inner pradhikshana of the Vadiraja Vrindhavan and Bootharaja shrine doing namaskars to both the shrines (total of 2). You have to complete 108 inner pradhikshanas on each day. While doing seva, chant your favourite daily sloka or simple mantras like “Vadirajaya Pahimaam, Bhootharajaya Rakshamaam”.
After completing all these, tie the coconut with the towel in the Pranadevaru temple in the specially provided place for this purpose.
Next day morning, take the coconut and start again with the dip in the pond, outer pradhishna with the madi vasthra and then the 108 inner pradhikshana with the dry vasthara.
Repeat the seva for 3 / 5/ 7 days
On the 4th / 6th/ 8th day morning at 6.30 AM Krishnarpanam is performed and the coconut is given to you as prasad by the archakaru.
You can carry madi vansthra or buy it in the only shop available near the temple.
During the Seva time, follow simple lifestyle like sleeping on mats only, eating only the food provided in the mutt, avoiding tea and coffee etc.,
It goes without saying that any prayer with such an austere measure to a powerful Guru like Sri Vadiraja does not go without getting attended.
People who are not on Sankalpa Seva, try to do a minimum of 22 inner pradhikshanas with 5 namaskars for each round so that atleast 108 (22×5) namaskars are done.
Even though Sri Vadiraja is not visible physically, he continues to bless his devotees from his Vrindavana. People who visit Sodhe and perform service with devotion and sincerity have their wishes fulfilled. Mrithikas taken from the Brindavana have miraculous powers and heal ailments of body and mind.
For more details:
We attended the evening poojas at Sri Vadiraja shrine, Sri Trivikrama temple and finally the Bootharaja pooja in open space at night. The Bootharaja pooja is very special here to ward off the ill effects of Dhrushti and evil forces.
Note: The same Bootharaja pooja is conducted on every new moon day at Chennai Triplicane (Udipi) Krishnan Temple from 6:30 PM to 8 PM.
A calf was also among the devotees attending the Bootharaja pooja
My video on Sri Vadiraja Vrindavan is here:
We got up early in the morning, took a dip in the Davala Ganga did the outer and inner pradhikshana and attended the morning pooja at the Vadiraja Vrindavan. We then checked out from the room, took breakfast in a small hotel Ganesh Bhavan just outside the entry gate where homely Dosa is served at Rs 10 (yes, only ten) and started the trip for the day.
4) Muttinakere Sri Venkataramana temple
We first went to Muttinakere Sri Venkataramana temple, a 10 minutes drive from the Vadiraja mutt. It’s an ancient temple and the archakar gave us warm welcome, dharshan and a special coin.
Contact of the archakar: 94834 84045 / 91487 40245
Sri Vadiraja Mutt is surrounded by a number of other places of historical as well as religious importance and spots of scenic beauty attracting tourists. They are:
- Tapovana where Sri Vadiraja Swamy used to meditate – a very beautiful and serene place but requires about 2 kms of walk.
- Sri Swarnavalli Mutt
- Shri Shankara-Narayana Temple of Haleyur
- Shri Venkataramana Temple of Hunasehonda
- The Jain Matha
- Gaddige Mane (or Matha)
- Sodhe Kote (Fort) – a small collection of canons
- Sri Vyasarajaru spent few of his days during the invasion to Vijayanagar, at a place called Hullekal which is around 7 kms from Sodhe. There is still his mrithika brindavana with one of the moola brindavana of yathigaLu of Kundapura Vyasaraja Mutt.
5) Manjuguni Sri Venkataramana temple
We then went to Manjuguni Sri Venkataramana temple on the way to Yana caves.
The deity here was worshipped by Sri Vadirajar and he has composed two verses on this deity in his work TIrtha prabandha. Sri Vadirajar describes Sri Venkataramana as:
“Lord venkatesha, mukumda, who has beautiful feet adorned with padukas, holding an arrow, disc (chakra), conch (shankha) and the great bow, hunting wild animals called durjanas traversed round the globe and settled down in this beautiful temple at Manjuguni”, i.e., Lord at Tirupati who set out hunting settled down at Manjuguni.
This place has been mentioned in Skanda purana (Sahyadri khanda).
Preparations were going on for a grand function in the evening and we could not see the main deity since alankaram was going on and would take more than half an hour. We had the dharshan of the replica of the moolavar in a pillar and started for Yana caves.
6) Yana caves
We then proceeded towards Yana caves, which is a beautiful religious cum tourist spot, known for the two unusual massive rock formations composed of solid black, crystalline Karst limestone. We have to walk for about slightly less than a km from the car parking. A large group of school kids had been there to our company.
The first sight of the hillocks:
Yana is also well known as a pilgrimage centre because it is linked to Lord Shiva’s famous legend connected with the demon Bhasmasura. The demon, by austere penance got a boon from Shiva that whenever he touches anyone’s head, that person will be burnt into ashes. The demon then tried to test the boon on Shiva’s head itself and Lord Vishnu came to help Him. Lord Vishnu, in the form of a beautiful damsel named Mohini, challenged Basmasura for a dance competition. As part of the dance Mohini put her hand on her head. Without realising the foul play, the demon did the copycat and got perished into ashes himself.
It is believed that the limestone formations of the Yana caves were blackened due to the intense heat during this act. Also it is believed that the loose black soil in the area is nothing but the ashes of the demon.
The two hillocks are named after this event: the talller peak is called as Bhairaveshwara Shikhara (“Shiva’s hill”), and the slightly smaller one as Mohini Shikhara. A cave temple is present below the Bhairaveshwara Shikhara where a Swayambhu linga has been formed. Water drips from the roof over the linga, adding to the sanctity of the place. In the Mohini Shikara, an idol of Goddess Parvathi is installed. There are also several other small caves nearby. There is also a Ganesha temple in the vicinity.
In the Bhairaveshwara Shikhara, a large cave path has been formed naturally for about 500 meters at an elevation above the Shiva shrine. Approach railing steps have been setup for entry and exit and people can enter in one way and come out in the other way. Since it becomes a cicumamubulation of the Shiva shrine and is above it, people are not allowed to wear slippers inside the cave path.
My video on Yana caves is here:
From Yana caves, we then set out for Gokarna and reached by about 2:45 PM but the temple opens only by about 5 PM. We were given the wrong information that the temple will be open throughout the day and so we had to wait. There was no good hotel and so took lunch at some available hotel. The streets around the temple are very narrow and have been made one way (not possible for two way at all). We had to walk for half a km for the (nasty) toilets at the beach (they were the only available ones). After reaching the toilet, he shocked me saying there is no water! but then let in to one where water was available. There were more foreigners roaming around than the pilgrims. We roamed around a bit and then settled inside the temple.
A massive and very beautiful white bull welcomed us inside the praharam. As time goes on, the archakars arrived one by one and started intense lobbying for various sevas. We bought a ticket for special abhishegam for Rs 150/= and by 4:45 PM, we were allowed inside the garba graham itself. There was no crowd at all and did the abhishegam ourselves. It was a very quick and satisfying dharshan and came out in 15 minutes.
We reached the Gokarna station by 5:45 PM which is about 10 kms and 20 mins drive from the temple. We settled the account with the cab driver and sent back. The total kms involved was little less than 800 kms including the kms for the return trip of Gokharna to Hubli. At the rate of 7:50 per km for a Tata Indica, it came to around Rs 6500 for the 3 days trip.
Gokarna station has 2 tracks but only one platform. Some other passenger train that arrived before ours got locked up in the track due to some engine problem and so the entire train traffic through the station came to a standstill. After yelling and shouting, our train to Mumbai, which was to come by 6:40 PM, finally arrived at 8:10 PM at the track without platform. Some passengers inside the train not only received our luggages but enquired our seat no, went straight to our seat and kept there before even we boarded the train! Thus, a pleasant trip ended with a pleasant gesture.
All in all, it was a just a sort of “get to know of the places” trip only especially when I’m coming to know more and more about the places while writing these travelogues. For sure, I’m longing for another trip at the earliest possible especially for the missed out places around Banavasi.
Timing and distances:
8:30 AM – Started from Hubli after breakfast
9 to 9:10 AM – Tadas Gayathri Tapo bhoomi
11: 10 to 12:15 AM – 105 kms from Hubli – Banavasi Madhukeshwara temple
12:45 to 2 PM – 23 kms – Sirsi Marikambal temple with lunch at the temple
2:20 to 2:35 PM- Sirsi Sahasra lingam
2:50 PM – Arrived at Sodhe Vadiraja Mutt
9 AM – Started after breackfast at Sodhe hotel
9:10 to 9:30 AM – Sodhe Sri Venkataramana Temple
10:50 to 11:15 AM – 37 kms – Manjuguni Sri Venkataramana temple
12 to 1:30 PM – 38 kms – Yana caves
2:45 – 5:25 PM – 48 kms – Gokarna Mahabaleshwar temple
5:45 PM – 10 kms – Arrived Gokharna railway station