cholatemplesI have passed by the temple at Marehalli so many times without even noticing it. Located just outside Malavalli town, the large temple complex is easy to miss as it is hidden amidst emerald green paddy fields and ancient banyan trees. Marehalli was an agrahara (Brahmin Settlement) during the rule of the Gangas and the idol was consecrated 1200 years ago and the existing temple was built by the Cholas. The agrahara then passed on to the Hoysalas, Vijayanagara Rulers, Wodeyars of Mysore and finally to Tipu Sultan. The temple was renovated and additions were made by the Hoysalas and the Vijayanagara Rulers. The different styles of architecture are clearly visible and interesting to note.

The main temple has a garbhagriha (sanctum) which houses the idol of Narasimha (Vishnu as half lion – half man) in a sitting position with Lakshmi seated on his left thigh. Then there is an antarala (antechamber), a mantapa (pillared hall), an enclosed prakhara (pathway for circum-ambulation) and a mukhamantapa (pillared hall). The pillars are all rudimentary and the walls are bereft of any carving. There are two subsidiary shrines dedicated to Bhudevi and Neela Devi (both these deities are consorts of Vishnu). As the temple belongs to the Sri Vaishnava Tradition, there are also idols of Vedanta Deshikar and Nammalvar in the prakara. This shrine is open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Prasada is served daily at noon.

There is a pillared entrance to the temple from the north and a pillared mantapa in the south-east. They seem to be later additions and are asymmetrical. Interestingly, there is also a smaller temple dedicated to Shiva as Amruteshvara just near the entrance gate of the main temple. It seems to be in Vijayanagara style. It has a garbhagriha, an antarala and a navaranga. There are two stepped tanks of different sizes outside the temple complex. There is also ruined mantapa by the side of the road leading to the temple from the main road.

Marehalli is just 2 km from Malavalli and is en-route Shivanasamudra and Talakadu from Bengaluru. It is around 100 km from Bengaluru and 50 km from Mysuru. The peaceful setting and the awe-inspiring heritage is worth a visit. It isn’t a major place of tourism and is mostly frequented by locals. The locals lovingly call the main deity Marehalli Mudukappa (the old man of Marehalli) owing to the long history of the temple.

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The Temple Complex

P.S. This article was published in Spectrum, Deccan Herald on 06/12/2016 DH Link

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