Talakadu is a desert-like town on the left bank of the Kaveri river at a spot where the river makes a sharp bend. It is 45 km from Mysore and 133 km from Bangalore in Karnataka, India. A historic site, Talakadu once had over 30 temples that today are buried in sand. Now it is a scenic and spiritual pilgrimage centre. Here the eastward flowing Kaveri river changes course and seems magnificently vast as here the sand on its banks spreads over a wide area.
The origin of the town is lost in antiquity; but one tradition is that its name was derived from two Kirāta twin brothers, Tala and Kādu, who, cutting down a tree which they saw wild elephants worshiping, discovered that it contained an image of Vishnu, and that the elephants were rishis transformed. The tree being miraculously restored, all obtained mōksha and the place was named Tala-kādu, which was translated into Sanskrit as Dala-vana. Two stone images declared to represent the brothers are pointed out in front of the temple Veerabadra swamy. In a later age, Rāma is said to have halted here on his expedition to Lanka.
The earliest authentic notice of the city of Talekād or Talakādu, in Sanskrit Dalavana-pura, is in connection with the Ganga line of kings. Harivarma, who has been assigned to find a place (247-266 A.D) was, according to an old chronicle, installed at Skandapura (said to be Gajalhatti, in the Coimbatore country, near where the Moyār flows into the Bhavāni), but resided in the great city of Dalavanapura in the Karnāta-dēsa. Thenceforward Talkād became the capital these powerful sovereigns and there the subsequent kings of that line were crowned.
At the beginning of the 11th century, the Gangas succumbed to the Chōlas, who captured Talkād and gave it the name of Rājarājapura. But about a hundred years later it was taken by the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana, who drove the Chōlas out of Mysore. After this time we find that Talkād was composed of seven towns and five mathas or monastic establishments. The town of Māyilangi or Malingi, on the opposite side of the river, was also a large place, and had the name of Jananāthapura. Down to the middle of the 14th century, it remained a possession of the Hoysalas, and then passed into the hands of a feudatory of the Vijayanagar sovereigns, whose line appears to be known as that of Sōma-Rāja.
In 1610 it was conquered by the Mysore Rāja under the following circumstances. Tirumala-Rāja, sometimes called Srī Ranga Rāya, the representative of the Vijayanagar family at Seringapatam (Srirangapatna), being afflicted with an incurable disease, came to Talkād for the purpose of offering sacrifices in the temple of Vedēsvara. His wife Rangamma was left in charge of the Government of Seringapatam ; but she, hearing that her husband was on the point of death, soon after left for Talkād with the object of seeing him before he died, handing over Seringapatam and its dependencies to Rāja Wodeyar of Mysore, whose dynasty ever afterwards retained them. It appears that Rāja Wodeyar had been desirous of possessing a costly nose-jewel which was the property of the Rāni, and being unable to obtain possession of it by stratagem, and eager to seize any pretext for acquiring fresh territory, he levied an army and proceeded against Talkādu, which he took by escalade ; the Rāja of latter place falling in the action. The Rāni Rangamma thereupon went to the banks of the Cauvery, and throwing in the jewel, drowned herself opposite Mālingi, at the same time uttering a three-fold curse,-"Let Talakād become sand ; let Mālingi become a whirlpool ; let the Mysore Rājas fail to beget heirs." The latter part is now happily of no effect.
Talakadu is also tagged to the curse called “Curse of Talakad” by Alamelamma on the Wodeyar dynasty (erstwhile Maharajas) of Mysore.
The Talakadu curse has established itself in the folklore as a miracle since the early part of 16th century because of two strange events visible even to date: (i) Talakad, an historically vibrant city, is now being submerged under sand dunes several meters deep, and (ii) the Mysore royal family have faced problem in having a rightful heir to the throne since the 17th century. Both these events linked to an apparent curse by a pious lady (Alamelamma) have defied logic. Based on the data from diverse sources and field studies, K. N. Ganeshaiah has reconstructed the possible chronology of events of this acclaimed miracle. Ganeshaiah argues that the Talakad phenomenon represents an ecological disaster unintentionally wrought on to a vibrant civilization at this place and in this sense the curse per se is an intelligently inserted story as an overlay. Using this example he discusses the possible process through which the miracles or myths of this kind survive in a society.
The curse of Talakad - "Talakadu Maralagi, Malangi Maduvagi, Mysooru Arasarige Makkalagadirali"- the female Alamelamma cursed this way. (translation- ")May Talakadu be filled with Sand, Malangi be a Whirlpool and Mysore Kings shall not have offsprings") The Talakadu shiva temples will be filled with sand and the same is excavated once in five by the Government and (the Local Temple Trust)and people are allowed to have darshan (called Panchalinga Darshan of Talakadu). Within one month of excavation and Panchalinga darshan, the sand will fill the temples like in a desert. Mysore Kings have all their offsprings by adoption since the day of Alamelamma's curse.
The old city Talkād is completely buried beneath the hills of sand stretching for nearly a mile in length, only the tops of two pagodas being visible. The sand hills used to advance upon the town at the rate of 9 or 10 feet a year, principally during the south-west monsoon and as they pressed it close on three sides, the inhabitants were constantly forced to abandon their houses and retreat further inland. The town, however, is increasing in population, owing to the rich wet cultivation in the neighbourhood, derived from the Mādhavamantri anicut and channel. More than thirty temples, it is stated, are beneath the sand. That of Kírti Nārāyana is occasionally opened with great labour sufficiently to allow access for certain ceremonies. The most imposing temple left uncovered by the sand is that of Vaidyēsvara.
In the early part of the last century two temples Ānandēsvara and Gaurisankara, were unearthed. Four fragmentary records were found on the outer walls of the Pātālēsvara temple. One of these is an old inscription in Kannada of the Ganga period, the others being in Tamil. The Ānandēsvara temple is said to have been built by one Chidānandasvāmi, a contemporary of Haidar. A story is related of the Svāmi that he once crossed the Cauvery in full flood seated on a plantain leaf and that Haidar who witnessed the miracle greatly honoured him and made a grant of land for the temple founded by him. A Kannada inscription at the Gaurisankara temple tells us that this temple was built during the reign of the Mysore king Chikka-Dēva-Rāja-Wodeyar (1672–1704).
The Hoysala ruler, Vishnuvardhana, conquered the Gangas and Talakad. He built the impressive Vijayanarayana Chennakesava Temple at Belur.
Some other legends
Several other interesting legends also surround this shrine. It is believed that an ascetic Somadatta headed out to Siddharanya Kshetra Talakad to worship Shiva. Having been killed by wild elephants en route, he and his disciples re-incarnated as wild elephants and worshipped Shiva in the form of a tree at Talakad.
Two hunters Tala and Kada, are believed to have struck the tree with an axe to find blood gushing forth, and upon the bidding of a heavenly voice, dressed the wound of the tree with the tree's leaves and fruits. The tree healed, and the hunters became immortal. Since Shiva is believed to have healed himself through this incident, he is referred to as Vaidyeshwara. The Panchalingams here are all associated with this legend.
At Talakad sand covers the temples. Stone pillars, square at the base and made to fit into a wheel below the abacus, lie scattered about. Among the temples of Talakad, the Pathaleshwara, Maruleshwara, Arkeshwara, Vaidyanatheshwara and Mallikarjuna temples, the five Lingams believed to represent the five faces of Shiva, form the Pancha pathi and have become famous. In honour of these five Shiva temples, a fair is held once every 12 years called Panchalinga Darshana, last held in 2009. The Panchalinga Darshana is held on a new moon day in the month of Karthika when two stars conjoin, the stars of Khuha Yoga and Vishaka.On this day, tradition has it that pilgrims should first bathe in the Gokarna theertham, worship Gokarneswara and Chandikadevi, and then worship Vaidyeshwara, and then bathe in the northern eastern southern and western stretches of the Kaveri and then worship Arkeshwara, Pataleshwara, Maraleshwara and Mallikarjuna, returning to Vaidyeshwara after each worship, finally worship Kirtinarayana and conclude the pilgrimage in one day.
According to local legend, Ramanujacharya during his sojourn in Karnataka (also called Melnadu), established five Vishnu temples of Lord Narayana known as Pancha Narayana Kshetrams. Talakad is one of the Pancha Narayana Kshetrams where the Keerthi Narayana temple was established and the presiding Deity in this temple is Keerthi Narayana.
The Legend of Talkad
They say this quaint little town by the Cauvery bears a curse upon it. Every year, tonnes of sand would blow in and bury the exquisite temples of the region. Exploring the myth behind the phenomenon The sands of Talkad throw up a fascinating history, replete with a curse that the erstwhile Mysore royal family acknowledges even today. The story of how several metres of sand came to be deposited here, burying the town's exquisite temples dating back to AD 350, is an enthralling mix of history, mythology and geology. And this week, this sleepy little town on the banks of the Cauvery will come alive, with nearly a million devotees expected to throng its excavated temples to ward off a curse that befell the region and its rulers.
Legend has it that a woman, pursued by the Mysore Maharaja's army, cursed that the bustling town of Talkad would be covered by sand and destroyed and that the royal family of Mysore would go abegging for heirs. And to ward off the ill-effects of the curse, devotees from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala perform the Panchalinga darshan once every four to 14 years, to appease the five forms of Lord Shiva.
Mahalinga Swamy, a priest at one of the main temples, says the date for this darshan is arrived at by a complex calculation. The first day should fall on a new moon day in the Hindu Kartika month. It should be a Monday and the sun sign should be Scorpio. Such a combination occurs every four to 14 years. The last darshan was in 2006 and the previous one in 1993. We are lucky to have it twice in such a short span in this century. The darshan begins on 16 November and goes on till the third week of the month,'' he says. More