Journeying through beautiful lotus laden ponds, temple tanks, quaint village huts, humble kutccha houses and all those cliché’s which I described in my Shimsha post we reached the banks of River Cauvery at Talakad. All along the drive, the Cauvery canals too ran parallel to the road irrigating the vast expanse of sugarcane and paddy fields.
The moment our vehicle stopped at Talakkad, the local guides flocked our vehicle and offered to take us on a guided tour. We narrowed on a guide and he rattled out the history , geography and legend associated with the place called Talakkad.
Talakad – 45 kms from Mysore was once a flourishing capital city of the Ganga dynasty . It was later ruled by Cholas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagara kings and later the wodeyars.
The dynasties which ruled this place have left imprints of their faith by erecting temples and stamping it with their unique architecture. All these temples numbering around 30 are buried under sand dunes. The central archaeological department of India has excavated many such temples.
A story goes that the name Talkad comes from two woodcutters called Tala and Kadu, who while chopping wood in the forest, found blood oozing out from one of the trees that they had tried to cut. Tala and Kadu while praying to Lord Shiva applied the leaves of that tree to the wound and the bleeding stopped. This incident led to Shiva being worshipped as Vaidyanatha, the lord of doctors and the temple in Talkad came to be known as Vaidyanatheswara Temple.
Apart from vaidyanatheswara, the other temples of Shiva - Pataleeswara, Maraleswara, Arakeswara and Mallikarjuna form the Pancha linga darshan and are believed to represent the Five faces of Lord Shiva. Another ancient temple recently excavated was the Keerthi Narayan temple which is the only temple with Hoysala architecture in Talakkad. We covered nearly 7 temples in one hour since the closing time was 1.00p.m, nevertheless had a fulfilling darshan.
One has to walk over the sand dunes to see these excavated temples in the wooded area. Since it had rained the previous night, it was easy to walk over the sand . We visited all the above temples , while the guide was telling how the archeological department had now constructed a raised wall around the temple so that sand does not close in. Despite their efforts the sand does creep in and close on the temple.
It gave me a giddy feeling to know that I was walking over a great civilization that lay buried underneath the sand While the guide was narrating the history and the legend of Talakkad.
Like any other ancient historical capital, Talakkad too has its share of colourful legend. The one that is popular dates back to the early 1600’s When Raja Wodeyar, the founder of Wodeyar dynasty defeated Rangaraya – the viceroy of Vijayanagar empire in Sri Rangapattina. He later retired to Talakkad and died of a disease.
Sri Rangaraya’s wife was Alamelamma. The victorius wodeyar king alleged that she still had the jewels which belonged to the temple of Srirangapattina. He sent his force to recover the jewels. Alamelamma relented the use of force, she jumped into the river Cauvery and cursed the king and the town thus,
“Let Talakadu be Sandy, Malingi become a whirlpool and the Mysore kings be childless”
and to this day this place is deluged with sand and the nearby town Malingi is full of whirlpools and Wodeyar dynasty of Mysore is issueless.(The present scion Sri Kanta Datta wodeyar, an ex MP from Mysore is also issueless).
While scientists and scholars say the legend is fabricated around the town and attribute the sandy nature to the onslaught of sand brought about by an ecological disaster due to the construction of a dam in 1336 and the strong winds that blow here. The whirlpools to an active geological fault, they are intrigued by the mystery of the issueless wodeyar dynasty. With a few exceptions, the curse has survived folklore from 1610 till today for almost 400 years spanning 17 maharajahs.
After a grand story time and an even grander visit to all the temple we retired to the canopied cover of the river banks to relish our food hamper.
We followed it with some spa moments and a coracle ride on the quiet river which is the confluence of the three rivers Kaveri, Kabini and the mythical Spatika, knowing all along the curse of a woman was swirling and echoing through the place.
We came out of the waters to drink a hot cup of ginger chai under the canopy of trees overlooking the river from a tendered chaiwalla.
Left the place pondering about the legend. Is it a curse? an ecological disaster or a geological phenomenon?
Let time and geologists unravel…… I had a blissful time.