The Indian state of Karnataka is home to many famous temples, built during the Hoysala period, the Vijayanagara period, the Chalukya period etc.

However, there are also other ancient deities and temples, some of which date back even to Puranic times. In this new section of Gaudiya Touchstone, we will look at some of these lesser known temples and discover the history behind them.

If one were to follow the path of the sacred river Kaveri, from her origin at Talakaveri, before she reaches the state of Tamil Nadu, one would find many ghats and temples along her banks. One such holy place is the temple of Sri Manikarnika Gunja Lakshmi-Narasimha which is located towards the south of Baburayanna Koppal town, near the confluence of the Kaveri and the Lokapavani rivers.

It is said that at the yajna of Prajapati Daksha, Sati sacrificed herself due to the insults hurled by her father at her husband, Shiva. When Shiva heard that his wife had left her body, he became so enraged that he performed the tandava-nritya (dance of annihilation). While dancing, his necklace of rudraksha beads broke and some of the beads fell on the earth. Those places where the beads fell are known as ‘manikarnika-kshetras’. The Manikarnika-kshetras are Srirangapatna, Nanjanagud and T.Narasipura (situated in South India), as well as Varanasi, Haridwar and Badarinath (situated in North India).

It is also said that when Goddess Parvati and Shiva were searching for a place on earth to descend, Maha-Vishnu, with His Sudarshana-chakra, made two divisions in the Ganga and those tributaries were known as the Varuna and the Asi – that place then became known as Varanasi. On the banks of those two rivers Lord Vishnu made a deep well. Astonished by this, Shiva looked down at the well with admiration and while bending down to take a closer look inside, the jewelled earring that he wore fell into the well. This place then became known as Manikarnika Ghat (mani-karnika – ‘jewelled earring’) and is one of the most famous ghats in Varanasi.

However, even though Manikarnika Ghat in Varanasi has such importance, it is said that one attains even more punya (pious merit) at Manikarnika-kshetra, which is situated on the banks of the Kaveri, by the measure of one gunja bead. Thus, the Deity of Narasimha found at this temple holds a gunja bead in His right hand to signify the sanctity of this place.
There is also a temple to Lord Shiva here where a shiva-lingam is worshipped. The lingam is known as ‘Kashi Vishvanath’ due to the connection of this place with Kashi (Varanasi).

The Origin of the Deity
Long ago, all the great sages gathered together in order to perform a great fire sacrifice. As they prepared themselves to perform this ceremony, Narada appeared and asked them, “To whom is this sacrifice being offered to?” The sages became confused and requested Narada to provide an answer. Narada then requested that Bhrigu Muni should test the gunavataras – Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu and then worship one of them.

Bhrigu Muni started his journey and first visited Satyaloka, the abode of Brahma. Brahma was busy chanting the Vedas with his wife Sarasvati and failed to notice Bhrigu Muni. Offended by the negligence of Brahma, Bhrigu cursed Brahma that he would never be worshiped by anyone from then on.

Bhrigu then visited Kailasa, the abode of Shiva. There he found Shiva and Parvati dancing and thus Shiva failed to notice the presence of Bhrigu Muni. Feeling offended again, Bhrigu cursed Shiva that he would never be worshiped in the form of a deity, but only as a stone linga.

Bhrigu Muni then proceeded to Vaikuntha, the abode the Lord Vishnu. Vishnu was immersed in yoga-nidra (divine sleep). Angered that Vishnu was simply ‘sleeping’ and not tending to His guest, Bhrigu Muni kicked Vishnu on the chest. Maha-Vishnu woke up and asked the sage for forgiveness for neglecting him. Bhrigu Muni then understood the supreme position of Vishnu and begged His forgiveness. Vishnu then told Bhrigu Muni that he had become too proud and instructed him to go to Manikarnika-kshetra, situated at the banks of Kaveri, to perform penance. Bhrigu Muni accepted this instruction. After thousands of years, Lord Vishnu was pleased with Bhrigu’s austerities and manifested Himself to Bhrigu Muni at Manikarnika-kshetra along with Lakshmi-devi as the Deity of Sri Sri Lakshmi-Narasimha.

It is believed that about 900 years ago, when Sri Ramanuja came to reside at Melkote, he came to Manikarnika-kshetra and at his behest, the present temple was built. Many years ago, Manikarnika-kshetra was very famous and many festivals and ceremonies took place here. However, after a great flood, most of the temple was destroyed. Later the temple was renovated by the Manikarnika Sri Lakshmi-Narasimha Seva Trust who organise the Souramana Narasimha Jayanti festival every year.