There is only one underground temple dedicated to Raghavendra Swamy and that is more than eighty years old. This temple was built in the heartland of the Deccan and the capital of the Adil Shahis.
The temple is in Bijapur and this year it celebrated its 82nd year of Prathistapane. The Brindavana was conceived by Raghuprema Theertha as per the shastras laid out by Madhwacharya.
Raghuprema Theertha belonged to the Kudli Akshoba Theertha Matha. He was born in Ayachoti village in Kadapa district to Tungabai and Swamirayacharya in 1860 A.D. He entered Brindavana in 1943.
According to Pavamanachar, the priest of the Raghavendra Swamy Temple of Bijapur, Raghuprema Theertha, had decided to enter Brindavana at this very place. He, however, changed his mind after Rarayu came in his dreams. The then Tahsildar Gundu Rao decided to go ahead with the construction of the temple and consecrate the Brindavana of Rayaru here.
Some old timers and contemporaray texts on the life and times of Raghu Prema Theertha have a slightly different account of the events leading to the establishment of the temple. They say two residents of Bijapur, Perur Gundu Rao and Dr. Govinda Rao along with others came to Adoni where Raghu Prema Theertha was staying and sought his help to tide over their problems.
The Seer decided to visit Bijapur and personally look into the problems of the people there. He suggested that all the families would benefit if a Brindavana of Raghavendra Swamy were to be constructed.
Both Mr, Gundu Rao and Dr. Govinda Rao agreed to the suggestion and Raghu Prema Theertha himself suggested that the Brindavana be installed underground and steps be provided to reach it.
Raghu Prema Theertha himself designed the plan and structure of the temple as per Madhwacharya’s Tantrasara Sangraha Grantha. This granta deals with aspects such as architecture of temple construction, the rituals to be performed and the steps needed to invest the place with holiness and sanctity.
The Brindavana came up in a record time of 6 months and it was inaugurated in 1930.
This temple is in a locality called Jorapur Peth which is on Bableshwar road. There are a flight of 23 steps that lead underground to the Brindavana dedicated to Rayaru. Almost all but the last step is one foot in height.
There is a small well behind the Brindavana. The wall of the Garba Gudi housing the Brindavana and the well share the same wall. Water for the Pooje, abhisheka is taken from the well. The well is at a lower level than the Brindavana too and it has never run dry despite Bijapur being one of the driest places in the country.
Mr. Pavamanachar says the Brindavana is at least 23 feet below ground level. He says only the pooje is performed underground. The hall for partaking Theertha Prasada, rest rooms and a small hall are built overground.
He says the underground chamber is so cool that flowers such as Mallige and rose will not wither for two to three days. He says the present owners of the matha, who are the descendents of Gundu Rao, have undertaken several developmental works.
He says the owners even tried to get the roof of the underground chamber housing the Brindavana repaired. However, almost all the engineers who inspected the roof said nothing could be done as it is an engineering marvel and it is better not to tamper with it.
He says the Brindavana has been constructed in such a manner that it is completely visible from the top of the stairs.
The temple here is known for many miracles. Mr. Pavamanachar has a list of almost all the miracles that Rayaru performed here from the Brindavana.
There are three other Rayara mathas in Bijapur but this is the oldest. However, the oldest Madhwa matha is at Mahipathi Galli which is about two kms from this place. It has the Samadhi or Brindavana of one of the seers belonging to the Uttaradhi Matha. There is also an Uttaradhi Matha here.
The other Rayara mathas in Bijapur are at Divatageri Galli near Station Road (Ph No: 08352-220300) and at the Sri Raghavendra Swamy Matha on Bagalkot Road (08352-277322). However, this Rayaru Matha at Jorapur Peth is the only underground matha in India.
Interestingly, this is among the two underground temples in Bijapur. The other underground temple is in Torvi and it is dedicated to Narasimha. This deity is called Torvi Narasimha. This is the exact place where Kumara Valmiki wrote the Torvi Ramayana.
Torvi is on the outskirts of Bijapur. It is near to Navaraspur, the city of music which was planned by Ibrahim Adil Shah and left unfinished. The 63 graves of the wives of the Bijaour General Afzal Khan are also near Torvi.
I have personally visited the Rayara Matha at Jorapur Peth and the Narasimha Temple in Torvi. I can vouch for the sanctity and holiness of both the temples.
Bijapur is a city with history. It is the home of Gol Gumbaz and Ibrahim Rouza. You can take a train or bus from Bangalore. The Basava express leaves Bangalore in the evening and reaches Bijapur the next morning. Buses leave in the night and reach Bijaour in the morning. There are many lodges in Bijapur which offer a reasonable level of accommodation.
Stay back at Bijapur and Kolhapur (Maha Lakshmi Temple), Pandhrapur (Panduranga Vittala) and Tulzapur (Amba Bhavani) from here. Take in a visit to Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal and Banashankari-which has temples by the Chalukyas and Yelgur which has a beautiful temple of Anjeneya. The small town of Talikota is near Bijapur. It is here that the decisive battle between the Muslim kings and Vijayanagar was fought in 1565. Almatti dam is one of the biggest in Karnataka. Its twin town Seethimani is associated with Seetha and Ramayana.