Continued from Part 5
Raghunatha Temple and Malyavanta Hill
One of the lesser-known but most beautiful places to visit in Hampi is the Raghunatha temple on top of the Malyavanta Hill.
During our trip to Hampi in 2018, we spent some time on top of this hill. The 360-degree view from there is superb. Because not too many people go to this hill, it is a peaceful location to enjoy the panoramic views and witness marvelous sunset!
But there is more to this hill than the majestic view and sunset. Just as there is a whole lot more to the inner significance of Hampi for Indian consciousness than it merely being a reminder of a glorious Indian past.
Present-day Hampi is Kishkindha of old, the same Kishkindha we come across in Ramayana.
As the story goes, after Sugreev was crowned as the king of Kishkindha by Sri Rama, it was time for the new king to organise a search to look for Devi Sita. But since not much could be done in terms of the actual rescue mission during the rainy season, Sri Rama and his brother Lakshmana decided to settle in a cave on top of the Malyavanta hill and wait for the monsoon to end. It is believed that in a cave there Sri Rama also worshipped Lord Shiva in the form of a swayambhu lingam.
The location of the cave was strategic because from there the brothers could also monitor the movement of anyone approaching. This was important given the impending war-like situation which would have been necessary to rescue Devi Sita.
Perhaps water might have been scarce at the mountain top. It is believed that to ensure water supply either Rama or Lakshmana created a cleft in the rock using their bow and arrow, thereby creating a well. In this cleft we find a small stream water till today. On either side of the hill surface are carved beautiful Shivalingas and Nandis.
In a typical Indian way, one more story is associated with this cleft on the hill top.
While waiting at the hill for the end of the monsoon, Lakshmana noticed that amidst all the frolicking and excessive celebrations of his coronation Sugreev had practically forgotten his promise to help with the search and rescue of Devi Sita. This made Lakshman angry and he went to meet King Sugreev to jolt him out of his unconcern.
At the entrance gate of the king’s palace, Lakshmana pulled the string of his bow thereby creating a thunderous sound. Upon hearing this sound Sugreev came out and saw that the furious Lakshmana in his rage had already placed an arrow on his bow. Reminding the new king of his promise to Sri Rama, Lakshmana also threatened that the road to yamaloka (the realm of the departed) on which Bali was sent by Sri Rama was still open.
Realising his mistake Sugreev ran to Sri Rama, sought his forgiveness and appealed to him to calm Lakshmana down. But since Lakshmana’s arrow was once drawn, it could not be put back. So, he changed the direction of the drawn arrow and released it in the direction of the Malyavanta Hilltop creating a cleft on the surface. A stream of water appeared in this cleft.
Sugreev soon led the organisation of a search operation with the help of his courtiers and advisers, as a part of which Hanuman was later sent to Sri Lanka with a ring from Sri Rama.
Around 16th century King Krishnadeva Raya constructed a temple on this hill in typical Vijayanagara style with Sri Ram as its main deity. A huge boulder with a narrow passage leads to the entrance of this temple.
The garbhgriha or sanctum santorum at the temple has Shri Ram, Mata Sita, Lakshmana & Hanuman carved out of a single massive boulder. Shri Rama and Devi Sita are in sitting posture, brother Lakshmana is standing next to them, and Bhakt Hanuman is there in a kneeling posture. It is believed that this garbhgriha dates back to 13th century, predating the Vijayanagar empire.
The tower above the sanctum santorum is built on a large boulder. It makes one wonder how the genius architects and engineers of that time would have constructed it!
This temple never closes and the visitors are welcome any time of day or night. Akhand path (a continuous recitation with no break in between) from Sant Tulsidas’ Ramacharitmanas goes on at the temple round the clock, 365 days of the year.
Devotees who visit the temple are also welcome to join the manas recitation.
“The Ramayana embodied for the Indian imagination its highest and tenderest human ideals of character, made strength and courage and gentleness and purity and fidelity and self-sacrifice familiar to it in the suavest and most harmonious forms coloured so as to attract the emotion and the aesthetic sense, stripped morals of all repellent austerity on one side or on the other of mere commonness and lent a certain high divineness to the ordinary things of life, conjugal and filial and maternal and fraternal feeling, the duty of the prince and leader and the loyalty of follower and subject, the greatness of the great and the truth and worth of the simple, toning things ethical to the beauty of a more psychical meaning by the glow of its ideal hues. The work of Valmiki has been an agent of almost incalculable power in the moulding of the cultural mind of India: it has presented to it to be loved and imitated in figures like Rama and Sita, made so divinely and with such a revelation of reality as to become objects of enduring cult and worship, or like Hanuman, Lakshmana, Bharata the living human image of its ethical ideals; it has fashioned much of what is best and sweetest in the national character, and it has evoked and fixed in it those finer and exquisite yet firm soul tones and that more delicate humanity of temperament which are a more valuable thing than the formal outsides of virtue and conduct.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 20, pp. 350-351)
Coming up in next part…Tungabhadra River