By John B Monteiro
Mangaluru, Jan 18: The five-day annual festival of Shri Mahalingeshwara Temple at Kavoor is set conclude on Tuesday night. Located 8 KM from the city centre on the Mangalore-Derebail-Maravoor-Bajpe Road, it can be accessed by many city and service buses plying on this route. The temple is located on the north-west crest of Mary Hill. It had sylvan, serene setting before new houses came around it over the last couple of decades.
Besides the main deity, Shri Mahalingeshwara, the temple is home to two other deities – Maha Ganapathy and Shastara (Ayyappa).
Since among the temples in Mangalore and the district the Kavoor temple is a bit low profile, this article hopes to give a wider profile for it.
The annual festival traditionally starts with hoisting the flag on the first day followed by, on the second and third day respectively, taking the deity in procession in the eastern and western sides of the temple. The fourth day is the chariot festival followed by Shayanothsava. The festival ends with Avabrithosavam on the fifth night – which is the grand finale. On the fifth evening, the Bhandara of the famous Marulu Dhoomavati Daiva is brought in and ceremonial Nema is held on that night. On the last night, Shri Mahalingeshwara meeting Marulu Dhoomavati while returning after the sacred bath, the flinging of torches made of dry coconut palms, called Sootedara, and the spectacular fireworks lend a special aura to the concluding celebrations.
It is said that Mahalingeshwara was first worshipped by demon king Kharasura. Later, Sage Kavera lived near the temple and worshipped the deity. The dwelling place of the sage is known as Nagabana which is located on the east edge of the temple complex. Since the worshippers of the deity were protected from the miseries of life, the area came to be called Kavoor (in Kannada Kavu means protect and Vuru means village). According to noted historian, Dr. Gururaja Bhat, Nagabanas are called Kavu in Dravidian languages. Thus, there are ancient names like Kavoor, Kavadi, Kavu and Nagakavu. Hence it is presumed that from ancient times Kavoor was Naga-related. Two inscriptions, discovered by P. N. Narasimamurthy of Karkala at Kunjathbail, dated 1429 and 1430, have references to Kavoor.
According to Haridas Bhatta Kavoor, Lord Mahalingeshwara has been the prime deity of feudal rulers and had been the centre of devotion of the villages of Kavoor, Kuloor, Panjimogaru, Padukodi, Kunjatbail and Marakkada. Hence it was known as Magane Temple and had been well off. The Ballals of Kuloor Beedu had to be installed in this temple as Ballalas ruled in the name of Lord Mahalingeshwara as is seen even today from the royal ring of authority (Pattada Ungura) which has the inscription – “Shri Mahalingeshwara Prasanna”. There is a citation regarding this temple in a treaty signed in 1641 between Veerabhadra Nayaka of Keladi and Shankara Devi Banga Rani, the local Jain ruler, wherein the village Kuloor, with the annual income of 210 Varahas at the time, was awarded to Banga Rani and hence the village later came to be known as Bangrakulur.
The abolition of Inams, the land reforms and trying social situations left the temple neglected and in decay. Daily routine pooja was continued with great difficulty. The annual festivals and other rituals, which were once performed with great pomp and pageantry, were stopped. A renovation committee was formed and by 1972 the Western Gopura was constructed, the three aisles were renovated and Khumbabhishekam was performed for the two auxiliary deities. The next step was to dismantle the Garbhagriha as well as the Mukhmantapa and replace it with hard stone structure from bottom to top, including the lower roof. The upper roof was covered with copper plate. The Khumbabhisheka was performed on January 31, 1982. On January 13, 1996 a Kalyan Mantapa was inaugurated. The temple has also fabricated an impressive chariot, at a cost of Rs. 16 lakhs, which is its pride. The Jalakada Kere, built with stones and carved out of the lake, was inaugurated on January11, 2006.
No account of the Kavoor Temple would be complete without reference to Shri Mahalingeshwara Vinayaka Bhajana Mandali, which was formed in early 1970s and which kept the light of hope burning for the resurgence of the temple. It played a significant role in attracting the attention of the devotees towards the temple with its weekly bhajans, annual devotional singing tours and celebration of the Bhajana Mangala on Mahashivarathri .It should be heartening for its members to see that their temple in full glory.