Hampi is associated with the rise and fall of the Vijayanagar Empire but the town of Anegundi on the opposite bank of the Tungabhadra has seen not just the rise and fall of dynasties, but even the evolution of mankind! In scientifically documented terms, Anegundi is said to have the oldest plateaus on the planet, estimated to be about 3000 million years old – according to Wikipedia. In terms of Indian mythology, this is translated to be the home of Bhudevi, the goddess of Earth! Home to our ancestors from the Neolithic Era (Stone Age), Anegundi has their imprints in the form of cave paintings; which lie among the rocks, which mythology tells us were homes of the vanaras – the monkey-men – who aided Lord Rama on his quest for his wife. Anegundi is a blend of history and mythology, making it in some ways even more interesting than Hampi itself!
|Our first sight of Anegundi|
Believed to be the Kishkinda of the Ramayana – home to the monkey hordes led by Hanuman, Vaali and Sugreeva, Anegundi has numerous temples and caves associated with them. The place abounds in legends, and, interspersed among them are the ruins of forts and palaces built by the Vijayanagara and Chalukya kings. We spent a little more than half a day at Anegundi, and used the time to visit a few places we knew about and didn’t want to miss. Let me take you along with me to the places we visited, one by one. I begin this series with the Navabrindavanam – this was the place which drew me to Anegundi in the first place!
Situated on a small island on the Tungabhadra, Navabrindavanam has the Samadhis (tombs) of nine saints, followers of Madhvacharya, and predecessors of Sri Raghavendra. Madhvacharya himself merged with the divine at Badrinath, and thus does not have a tomb, while Sri Raghavendra’s Samadhi at Mantralyam is a famous pilgrim place in Andhra Pradesh. This is among the few places where nine saints who headed a peetham have their tombs, and its importance lies in the fact that these saints are believed to have attained ‘Jeeva Samadhi’, that is, they are believed to be alive even today under their tombs!
|The nine tombs|
The oldest tomb is that of Padmanabha Tirtha, the prime disciple of Madhvacharya, who attained Samadhi in the year 1324AD, while the newest (if I can call it that!) is that of Sri Suseendhra Tirtha, the guru of Sri Raghavendra, who attained Samadhi in 1623. The most famous saint entombed here is Sri Vyasaraja (1539) – the Raja Guru (literally, the king’s preceptor) of Krishnadevaraya. It is interesting to see that for over 300 years, this was the site chosen by nine saints to attain Samadhi, which seems to hint at some attraction other than simply the calm and peace which is evident even today. Legend tells us that the place is sacred by association with Prahalada, who was one of the greatest devotees of Lord Vishnu. This is believed to be the site where Prahalada performed penance to atone for the sins he had incurred by bringing about the death of his father, the demon Hiranyakashipu. Incidentally, both, Sri Vyasaraja and Sri Raghavendra are considered incarnations of Prahalada.
|Sri Vyasaraja's Samadhi|
The nine tombs are sort of clustered around, in a circle, and a yellow line is drawn around them. There are boards warning us to keep outside the painted line, since we are not allowed to get too close and disturb the saints at peace in their Samadhi. There is a small shrine with an idol of Hanuman inside, called the Avatharatraya Hanuman. This idol is believed to have been installed by Sri Vyasaraja, and depicts Hanuman, Bheema and Madhvacharya in one form – the face and figure is that of Hanuman, the shoulders and build resemble that of Bheema, and the manuscript in the hand symbolizes Madhvacharya. (For those who need an explanation for this interesting depiction, it is believed that all three were incarnations of Vayu, the God of Wind).
If you look close, you can see something carved on the rock behind the idol. It is believed to be an image of Narasimha. Any further information about this?
There are two other shrines here – one of Lord Ranganatha, and another Hanuman temple, as well as a cave where Prahalada is believed to have worshipped. It is customary to light ghee lamps at these shrines before going on to circumambulate and pray at the Navabrindavanam. Since no puja materials are available here, it is advisable to carry whatever one needs.
|From left to right: the Hanuman shrine, the cave and the shrine of Ranganatha.|
Since it is located on an island, the only approach to Navabrindavanam is by boat – a coracle from the outskirts of Hampi, or a motor boat from the town of Anegundi. The river is exceptionally clean and the water invites us to have a dip, which speaks volumes about the place! (Of course, that might have been due to the fact that we visited just after the rains and the river was in full flow... I don’t know what the situation will be in peak summer!) During monsoons, the island is practically inaccessible, since the river is usually full and rages on, not allowing boats or any other means of access.
For those of you who want to know more details about the Navabrindavanam, here are a few links. Please do read them before you plan a trip.