The story of Magadi Ranga

Magadi, now a small hamlet near Bangalore, was once the home an refuge of Kempegowda – the man who built a fort in Bengaluru and placed it on the map as an important trading centre.

However, Magadi, just like Bangalore is much older. It is famous for a temple built for ‘Magadi Ranga’, the Lord Ranganathaswamy, built during the time of Cholas.

As one enters Magadi, a street on the right lazily meaders towards the temple. The temple complex is typical of those times. At the right of the entrance is a kalyani with steps leading to the water. The courtyard is quite spacious, reminds one of the bygone era, where temples just like any public buildings were built with much importance to its design and architecture; unlike the temples that spring over footpath in the city today. 

One has to leave the footwear near the entrance. Don’t expect old world charm from the folks here. They are very wise and would be happy to share the money that a city dweller brings in. 

Everyone from the lady who ‘guards’ the footwear to the gurkha and finally even the priest is out to get a few rupees. Only the Lord stands mute amidst this religious marketing.  

As I entered the inner courtyard, the inner gopuram was clearly old styled and different to the colourful outer one. Many temples have mixed architectural styles that show how the temple evolved during the patronage of kings during different periods. 

Inside the garbhagriham, to my surprise the usually reclining pose of Lord Ranganatha is standing upright here! The priest then enlightened me that this Lord was ‘Pashchima Venkateshwara’, ‘west facing Lord Venkateshwara’.

The Lord here, however, was alone. The Goddess, Padmavathi was worshipped in a different garbhagriha. At the back of the main deity was a small reclining deity of Lord Ranganatha, who has made the place more famous than the standing lord.

 A boy priest gave me theertham (holy water) and mentioned that the idol keeps growing – atleast that’s what he has heard from the older ones. Hence the name ‘Belayo Ranga’ (growing Ranga). The explanation seemed to me more convincing about the priest than the Lord! The idol is so small that even the lord here has one leg folded!

No one knows the reason why this temple is more famous for the small idol of Ranganatha rather then the main deity. There is a story that this place was hastily renamed during the time of Tipu Sultan’s reign who knew only the famous Ranganatha who presided in Srirangapatna, his capital! Of course like all charming stories, it has no facts, atleast not that I know of. Here’s a link from Alemaari‘s blog that i liked.

Once a bustling town that flourished under Kempegowda, the place Magadi is now a sleepy town famous for its history. Don’t expect a flourishing tourism industry here like Hampi. Its an ideal place for a picnic or a hike in the nearby hills of Savandurga. For a decent meal, one has to come back towards the Bangalore City which is not more than an hour by car. One could also try Ruppi’s Resort off Magadi road, near the Dodda Alada Mara (Big Banyan tree).

(This post was originally written in Apr. 2010 for my personal blog,  http://coffeenirvana.in/)

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