By Gouri Satya, Sr.Journalist
We often visit the Mysore Palace to admire its beauty or its illumination. Or, we visit the temples built around it, pray and return home. But we rarely notice some interesting carvings there or the murals in the two temples — the Prasanna Krishnaswamy Temple and the Shwetha Varahaswamy Temple.
One such historic temple where some interesting features are worth seeing is the Lakshmiramanaswamy Temple. It occupies a unique place in the history of Mysore and the Maharajas. The chief deity in the sanctum sanctorum is Lakshmiramana, a small idol in the form of Vishnu. He is holding a discus and a conch.
Located on the western side of the Palace, this temple is one of the oldest temples in Mysuru. It has a tall tower, which was renovated by Krishnaraja Wadiyar III in November, 1851. An inscription mentions a grant to the temple by an order of the King Narasa Nayaka, father of the famous Vijayanagar emperor, Krishnadevaraya, in 1499. It was in this temple that the ‘Pattabhiseka’ of the five-year-old Krishnaraja Wadiyar III took place on June 30, 1799.
The cell to the right has the figure of Lakshmiramana’s consort, Lakshmi, the Goddess of the temple. There is also a beautiful figure of Venugopala, which is slightly bigger. Venugopala is said to have been a special object of worship before the Prasanna Krishnaswamy Temple was built near the Lakshmiramanaswamy Temple in 1829 by Krishnaraja Wadiyar III. There is a handsome Mantapa on the rear side of the Lakshmiramanaswamy temple built by Kanteerava Narasaraja Wadiyar (1638-1659), who was famous as ‘Ranadhira’.
As we enter from the main doorway, we see a small figure of about two feet on the left side. It is the statue of Raja Wadiyar. He is standing with folded hands, in Anjali Mudra. A powerful ruler, Raja Wadiyar finds a prominent place in the history of Mysore. Chief of small domain, he acquired Srirangapatna from Srirangaraya, the Vijayanagar representative stationed in the regional capital, made it his capital, and celebrated the first historic Dasara in 1610, after ascending the newly-acquired throne. The Dasara we celebrate now in Mysuru owes its origin to this great ruler, who ruled from 1578 to 1617 from Srirangapatna.
One may wonder why the statue of Raja Wadiyar in the Bhakta Vigraha posture in this temple? Two miracles related to him are associated with this temple’s chief deity and they are worth recalling. The first was an attempt on his life during his early reign.
Virarajaiya, the chief of Karugahalli, had encroached the boundaries of Mysuru up to the Chamundi Hill. He envied Raja Wadiyar’s successes. When Raja Wadiyar was going to Nanjangud for the Rathotsava of Srikanteswaraswamy, arrogant Virarajaiya, who was a kinsman of Raja Wadiyar, came in procession from Thandya with all fanfare, on the same direction. Provoked by his behaviour, the men accompanying Raja Wadiyar pushed away the palanquin in which Virarajaiya was seated at sword point. At this juncture, Raja Wadiyar arrived on the scene and prevented any further humiliation to him.
After facing this mortification, Virarajaiya plotted to end the life of Raja Wadiyar. Accordingly, he took the priest of Lakshmiramanaswamy, Srinivasaiya, into confidence by bribing him and asked him to mix poison in Thirtha and offer it to Raja Wadiyar, who was visiting the temple daily to worship Lakshmiramana. Seeing the hands of Srinivasaiya shivering while offering the sacred water, Raja Wadiyar questioned him asking him to tell the truth, promising him protection. Coming to know the truth, with the Thirtha in his palm, Raja Wadiyar asked Srinivasaiya whether he had offered it as poison or Thirtha, Srinivasaiya replied that he had offered it as sacred Thirtha. The pious ruler drank the sacred water unhesitatingly after offering a prayer to the Lord. The poison particles mixed in the Thirtha remained in his palm, making the spot black.
Raja Wadiyar sent his soldiers to Karugahalli to apprehend Virarajaiya. When they brought him to Mysuru, Raja Wadiyar got his ears and nose cut off, and presented all the wealth confiscated from his treasury to Goddess Chamundeswari. He also got the Karugahalli fort demolished and the lands sown with castor seeds. As a punishment, Srinivasaiya was transferred to the Gopalakrishnaswamy temple in Kannambadi (Krishna Raja Sagar), which went under waters when the KRS dam was constructed.
As an offering to Lakshmiramana for saving his life from the treacherous act of Virarajaiya, Raja Wadiyar built the Mahadwara to the temple with the tall Gopura, embellishing it with golden finials.
A brief mention of this incident may be seen inscribed on the stone beam at the temple entrance.
The other miracle relates to a Brahmin who got back his eye-sight after approaching Raja Wadiyar.
According to this legend similarly described in the Annals of the Mysore Royal Family, a Brahmin of Tanjore by name Venkatesaiya had lost his eye-sight. A totally blind Venkatesaiya came to Tirupathi and prayed to Lord Venkateswara, saying if He failed to restore his eye-sight and make him see the Rathotsava the following day, he would sacrifice his life to the God. The next day to his surprise his blindness had been cured, but only of one eye. While witnessing the car festival, he prayed again pleading with the Lord to bless him with sight in the other so that he can see Him properly.
In his dream the next day, Lord Venkateswara directed him to go to Mysuru and approach Raja Wadiyar. Accordingly, he came to Mysuru and met the Raja, who took him to Lakshmiramanaswamy temple and pleaded with Lord Lakshmiramana to restore the eye-sight of the pious Venkatesaiya. Responding to his prayer, the Lord blessed the Brahmin the power in the other eye also. This miracle is said to have happened in 1599.
These miracles and the Bhakta Vigraha of Raja Wadiyar gives the temple a special place among the temples around the Palace.
The temple is being renovated, along with other temples within the Palace fort. The tower has regained its pristine beauty after its renovation.