The river Kaveri at Shivanasamudra splits into two, plunges downward forming two famous waterfalls –Gaganachukki and Barachukki and then re-joins thereby forming an island on which are situated two ancient temples – Ranganatha and Someshwara Temples.
There are three places where the river Kaveri forms an island on which there are temples dedicated to Ranganathaswamy – the form of Vishnu in which he is reclining on a serpent, Adisesha. The first one is at Srirangapatna (Adiranga), the second is at Shivanasamudra (Madhyaranga) and the third is at Srirangam (Anthyaranga). The Ranganathaswamy Temple at Shivanasamudra dates back to the Chola period with modifications by later rulers like the Hoysalas. The temple-lore however goes back to the Treta Yuga and many interesting legends are associated with this temple. You can probe the priest and the locals for interesting tales. The main deity, Jaganmohana Ranganathaswamy is believed to be carved in black fossil stone (Saligrama Shila). The idol isn’t as large and intimidating as the ones at Srirangapatna or Srirangam but is equally beautiful. The soft smile on the lips of Ranganatha is mesmerising. The goddess Lakshmi is depicted as Kaveri, the personification of the namesake river and sits near the feet of the reclining Vishnu. The serpent has a seven-headed hood unlike the five-headed hood at Srirangapatna and Srirangam.
There is a separate shrine dedicated to the main deity’s consort, Ranganayaki. There is also a small utsava mantapa in the temple compound. Outside the temple is a tall, four-pillared structure in stone and further away along the same line of sight is a pillared mantapa which is now used by the villagers to store their harvest and tie their cows. Both these structures are neglected and need to be restored. The sound of the gushing river is a constant on the island and the trellis of jaaji jasmine flowers opposite the minor shrine of Ranganayaki is a nice place to sit and listen to the river. The most interesting thing about this temple is that the entire history of this temple is carved on a pillar in the Someshwara Temple at Ulsoor in Bengaluru.
A five minute walk away from the Ranganatha Temple is the temple dedicated to Someshwara and Prasanna Meenakshi. Well maintained and sculpturally richer, the Someshwara Temple was restored in 2011. This temple too dates back to the Chola Period with modifications by the Vijayanagar and the Hoysala Kings. There is a grand entrance and exit with the exit facing the main road. Well carved imposing Nandis sit atop the two gateways. The main shrine houses a large linga in black stone. There is a fish carved on the roof of the mantapa and it is believed that wishes asked standing under the fish facing the linga are granted. The over-enthusiastic priest forced us to make wishes and proceeded to quote examples of leading politicians and film stars who came here and then became successful. There is a separate shrine that houses Prasanna Meenakshi, the consort of Someshwara. Adi Shankaracharya is believed to have consecrated the Shri Chakra to which the standing goddess’ eyes are directed. The idol is life-like in size and appearance. Just outside this shrine is the venerated Shami Vriksha (Banni Mara) which devotees walk around after offering prayers to the goddess. The two shrines are surrounded by manicured gardens and flowering plants which were in full bloom. Shades of pink and green along with the sound of the river and the gentle breeze were a complete treat to the senses.
Do visit these two temples steeped in history and mythology en route the famous tourist site – Barachukki Falls. It is about 65 km from Mysore and 120 km from Bengaluru. There are no hotels or restaurants but both these temples serve free food to all at fixed timings. The world-famous Hoysala marvel of Somnathapura, the mysterious town of Talakadu and the miraculous Gargeshwari Temple are all close by and can be covered in a day.
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This article was published in Spectrum, Deccan Herald on 3rd January, 2017. DH Article