BENGALURU: In the heart of the city, on 15th Cross, Malleswaram, stands what is perhaps the oldest temple in Bengaluru. Kadu Malleswara temple is believed to be around 800 years old.
Shiva, as Mallikarjun, is the main deity here. Hence, the temple is also known as Mallikarjun Swamy Temple. This locality, which was earlier known as Mallapuram, was named after this temple in the late nineteenth century.
The temple priest Murthy adds, “No one knows how this temple came into existence. The place was a forest on a hill before. The idol is said to have appeared (udhbhava linga) on the hill. That is how it derived its name Malleswaram; Male meaning hill and Eshwar meaning God.”
Temple volunteer Balaji points at a rock and says, “That is from the original mountain.”
There is no historical evidence to prove the age of this temple, but the authorities here say that it could even be older than 800 years. The records show that its history is well connected to that of Bengaluru.
Arun Prasad, a historian and researcher says, “Mallapuram was situated between the village of Yeshwantpur and Bengaluru. In the early 17 century, 1638 precisely, Bijapur army led by Rehmadullah Khan captured this city from the hands of Kempegowda. He was supported by the Maratha chief Shahji, the father of the legendary Chhatrapati Shivaji. Due to his role, Bengaluru was gifted to Shahji. It was inherited by Venkoji, a step brother of Shivaji.”
The inscription in Kannada at the Kadu Malleswara temple reads that the land of the neighbouring village Medaraningena halli was granted to the Mallikarjuna Swamy temple of Mallapura. An actor and lighting designer Vinay P Chandra, who took interest in the heritage structure and researches for Bengaluru by Foot, says, “People say that the idol at the temple is an udbhava linga, which means something than was born on its own. Around 1637, Venkoji Bhosle, step brother of Shivaji Bhosle came to Mallapura village on horseback. The villagers then asked him to build a temple and he agreed. Venkaji Rao is credited with building this temple around the udbhava linga. There is an inscription at the temple which says whoever tries to destroy or harm that place, be it a Hindu or a Muslim, will go to hell.”
Srinivasan who has been selling flowers in front of the temple for 40 years says that God appeared in the dream of a ruler who was taking a ride on a horseback and that God asked him to build the temple. He says, “This temple could be more than thousand years old. You see more crowds on a Monday, when over 700 visit.” The temple is open between 7 am and 12 noon, and 6 pm and 9 pm.
Volunteer Balaji adds, “Shiva is also known as the Aadi Yogi Guru, so the devotees who meditate in this temple will find peace of mind.”
The temple is also a protected ancient monument under Section 3 of the Karnataka Ancient and Historical Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1961.
The board on the temple wall reads that whoever destroys, removes, injures or defaces it shall be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three months or with a fine which may extend to two thousand or both.
Festivals in Temple
Shivratri is the most celebrated festival in the temple. The celebrations are followed by a Brahmaratotsava next day. Priest Murthy says, “We have a puja from 3 am to 6 am next day, and devotees throng the temple.” About one lakh people come on that day.
Rituals here follow the lunar cycle too. “Pradoshankala abhishekam is conducted two days before every full moon day and new moon day,” says Balaji. “On a full moon day, we have performances in the temple in the evening. There are recitals of Kannada songs to make people aware of our traditions.”
Situated on a higher ground, the temple is built in Dravidan style with carved pillars though they lack minute detailing. A fleet of stairs lead to the temple. What is unique about the temple is that is blanketed in abundant greenery. The temple authorities say that the current structure is 320 years old. The rajagopuram on the 4 th Temple Street is a recent addition. Balaji says, “The construction began in 2006 and was completed in 2009. The temple is being well maintained by the priests, temple staff, volunteers and devotees.”
Nandi Teertha Kalyani Temple is situated opposite to this temple. The temple was discovered a decade ago. The Archeological Survey of India undertook sand blasting, and the structure’s cleaning and restoration. Carbon dating ascertained that the temple was over 400 years old.
The temple is built in stone, with a pillared courtyard running around it. The main doorway faces South and a fleet of steps lead to a pond.
Unlike other Shiva temples, where Nandi sits facing the main deity, here the divine mount is placed above Shivalinga and water from an underground spring flows from the mouth of Nandi onto the Linga.
According to Arun Prasad, though there is no evidence that the temple is at the source of Vrishabhavathi river, the typography of the place suggests the possibility of a stream flowing from the temple towards a lake in Malleswaram (now Mantri Mall) to Dharmapuri (now Majestic bus stand).