The Goshala of Mantralaya

As you enter Mantralaya from the Madhawaram side, the first thing that strikes you is a vast expanse of land which is encircled by a compound. A board says that this is a Goshala and all are welcome to visit.
The Goshala which is at present on 13 acres of land now houses 750 cows and calves. Totally, 186 acres have been set aside for the goshala.
The Goshala has a ready medical team on attendance and it provides the Raghavendra Swamy matha with the much needed milk.
The goshala was set up with funds from a US citizen and when the flood waters of  the Tungabhadra entered Mantralaya, the Goshala too was destroyed. More than 60 cows and calves that had been tied died while those animals that were left untethered managed to escape to safety.
Even the compound wall of  the Goshala was destroyed as were almost all other buildings within. The Goshala was reconstructed and today it sports a new and vibrant look. The cows are housed in newly constructed cow sheds and there is a separate enclosure for giving medical aid to the bovine animals.
There is a small but beautiful temple of Krishna at the center of the Goshala. The temple is open in the morning and during special and festive occasions such as Krishnastami. The Gokulastami or Krishnastami celebrations held here are worth participating.
Every day, the cowherd leads the matha Govu or chosen cow into the temple where it is worshipped and later led back to the goshala.
The cows here are very docile and the young ones come nuzzling towards you, seeking a piece of jaggery from your hand.
There is a medical team which is constantly on attendance on the cows. The feed for the cows are grown in the goshala itself. The vast expanse of the goshala gives you a feeling of contentment.
You can donate cows here or go for godana. You can also perform pooje and also pay for the upkeep of the cows. You have to pay Rs. 5,000 for godana and Rs. 1,000 for “go grass” scheme.
If you happen to visit the Goshala, pray before the matha cow and seek its blessings by touching its feet and head. If you have a small child make it go through the legs of the cow.
The Tirumala Tirpuathi Devasthanams (TTD) has given Rs 3.5 crores in the form of cows, sheds and other structures under the  Kamadhenu’ programme.
There is a small temple of Hanuman in front of the goshala. The staff at the goshala are friendly and will give you a lot of information. It is called the Krishna Sheter and New temple.      

The Dwitheeya and Trutheeya Mantralaya

This small town in recent years had achieved fame as Dwithieya Mantralaya. The town has an interesting history. During the period of the Vijayanagar Emperors, this town was famous for selling gold and gold coins on its streets, Hence, its name Honalli.
Honalli today is a small town, 50 kms from Shimoga. It is located in Davangere district. The town has many religious institutions and maths but the most famous is the Raghavendra Swamy Matha.
The matha is set amongst picturesque surroundings on the banks of the Tungabhadra. Incidentally, Mantralaya too is on the banks of the Tungabhadra.
The matha has given Honalli the name Dwitheya Mantralaya as it is believed that Raghavendra Swamy himself came and did the pratisthapane of the Brindavana.
The Brindavana here is believed to be more than 300 years old.
The people who wanted to construct a Raghavendra Matha were coming in a procession from Mantralaya, carrying the Mrithike from the Moola Brindavana. The people saw an aged person in holy robes going into the matha and never returning. He is believed to be Raghavendra Swamy.
Even today, you can see the Thate (plate), Hanuman idol and other paraphernila that Rayaru himself brought to Honnali. All these things can be seen before 9 a.m., every morning.       
The contact mobile telephone number for Honnali matta  is 9880917328 (Sri Raghavendra). He is very helpful.
The matha has seven rooms and also a Kalyana Mantapa for performing functions. It is advisable to call up the matha if you want Theertha Prasada and accommodation. The matha will take care of all your pooja and seve arrangements.
Apart from the Raghavendra Swamy temple, Honnali has several religious structures. The Tuggalahalli Temple and Thirtha Rameshwar temple of Shiva are worth a visit.
The moola Brindavana of Bidarahalli Sreenivasa Theertha (1590-1640), a sanyasi of the Uttaradhi Matha, is also located here.  Bidarahalli Srinivasa Theertha was a contemporary of Rayaru and he was a noted Madhwa scholar. Raghavendra Swamy met Bidarahalli Srinivasacharya in Bidarahalli near here and appreciated his works. It is from the time of Srinivasacharya that the Rayaru Matha uses mustard during Chaturmasa. This story is too well-known to bear any repetition here.
It is believed that in his later avatar he became Jagannatha Dasaru, the author of  Sri Harikathaamrutasara.
Some of the important works of Srinivasacharya are Srimanyaayasudha, Tatvaprakashika,  Dashaprakaranateeka, Pramanapaddati, Bhagavatha and  Rugbhashya.
Honnali is noted for its holiness and its temples even before the establishment of the Rayaru temple. One of the Madhwa saints, Vadiraja Theertha, in his Theertha Prabanda says, “
Maa yaahi pushkara mahee mathavaa
Prayaagam Kaasheem Gayaam
Badharikaashramamapya saadhyam
Sethu cha Raaghavakrutham
vara Thunga Bhadhraa Theera
Sthapippaalaham harimehi sidhdhai”
What Vadiraja means is that instead of going with difficulty to places like Kashi, Gaya, Prayag (Ahallabad) and Badari, you can come to the Tungabhadra and it will give you the same sanctity and holiness.
The Tungabhadra flows right in front of the Matha. You can take bath there and perform seve or pooje at the matha. Kooldi is near Honnali. This is the place where the Tunga meets the Bhadra.  
By the way, the Udugani Sri Raghavendra Swami Mutt, which is considered to be the Trutheeya Mantralaya is near Shikaripura in Shimoga district. Shikarapura is near to Honalli.
People will tell you that after Rayaru disappeared into the Garba Gudi at the Honnali Rayara Matha, he came next to Udugani with the same set of articles and once again disappeared into the Garba Gudi, never to be seen again.    
Udugani is also the birthplace of Akka Mahadevi, the famous Vachana poetess and a woman saint. The temple town of Balligavi is nearby.
It is just seven kms from Shikaripura.
There are Rayara Muthas at Shimoga, Bhadravathi, Hosanagara, Teerthahalli and Davangere ofcourse.

Honnali is taluk headquarters and reaching the town is easy. If you are going by road, go first to Shimoga and from there Hobnnali is nearby.
You can also take the railway route.Peole from Bangalore and Mysor will have to get down at Harihar and take a bus from there to Hoinnali. The bus stand at Harihar is adjacent t the Railway station and there are plenty of buses leaving for Shimoga via Honnali.
The distance from Harihar to Honnali can be covered in 45 minutes. The Janashatabdi Express and several other trains stop at Harihar.


The temple where Rayaru stayed

It was a Dwadeshi when we came to Mantralaya. Our first halt was to the temple of Raghavendra Swamy. We spent a amount of considerable time there.
Since we wanted the Mrithike of Raghavendra Swamy Brindavana, we walked to Mantralaya village which is cluster of small houses and vatara (group of houses).
The village is located right behind the Brindavana Guest house which is perpendicular to the matha. To get to the village walk along the path to the Tungabhadra river. Once you reach the cluster of shops, take a right and you will find yourself lost in a small village with mud and thatched houses. Follow there small road and you will come to the temple of Venkataramanaswamy.
This temple is an important landmark in Mantralaya. The idol of Venkataramanaswamy was consecrated by Raghavendra Swamy himself just before he entered brindavana.

The entrance to the Venkataramanaswamy Temple

Rayaru or Raghavendra Swamy spent many years in Mantralaya and Bichale. He entrusted the job of  constructing the temple to Dewan Venkanna, who was an official in the court og Nawab Siddi Masud Khan.

The sanctum of the temple

Initially, Siddi Masud Khan was only a Governor of Adoni which came under the Adil Shahis of Bijapur. After the fall of the Vijayanagar Kingdom in 1565, Bijapur emerged as the most powerful kingdom of South India. Its empire extended from coast to coast and it included parts of Andhra Pradesh (Adoni and surrounding areas), Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and even Goa.
Siddi Masud Khan was one of the Governors of Adoni. The Adil Shah Emperor, appreciated the services of Masud Khan, and chose him as the Prime Minister. However, Masud Khan found the atmosphere in Bijapur, the capital of the Adil Shahis, stifling. There was politics between the Afghan nobles and the Siddis. Masud Khan resigned from the post and came back to Adoni. Subsequently, he declared himself as an independent ruler of Adoni. He made Dewan Venkanna the prime minister.
Both Venkanna and Masud Khan looked after the comforts of Rayaru at Mantralaya. When Rayaru asked Venkanna to monitor the construction of the Venkataramana temple in Mantralaya, Venkanna did so without any hesitation.
Rayaru stayed in Mantralaya village for years. I could not find much time to trace the house where he stayed but I was told by several local priests of Mantralaya and even the priest worshipping the Brindavana of Vadeendra Theertha in the Moola Brindavana Sannidhi of Mantralaya, that Rayaru stayed for some time in the Venkataramana Temple.
Though many of the houses in the village of Mantralaya are old, not many of them can be dated to the period of Raghavendra Swamy (1659-1671). I take this period as Rayaru is reckoned to have come to Mantralaya-Bichale-Adoni around 1659 after completing his triumphant Theertha Yatre where he defeated several Adwaitha scholars and established the supremacy of Madhwa Siddantha.
It is believed that Rayaru commenced construction of the Venkataramanaswamy temple only after he got the nod from Goddess Manchalamma to construct his Brindavana at Mantralaya.

The deity of Venkataramana

 As Manchalamma was the Grama Devethe (Goddess of the area), Rayaru had to obtain her permission which she gladly gave.

The idol of  Venkataramanaswamy is small but beautiful. The temple is called Sri Tirumala Srinivasa Devaru and the idol here is the Kula Devetha of Rayaru.
This is one of the few idols that Rayaru consecrated in his entire life. The other idols he consecrated were of Hanuman in front of his Brindavana and another idol of Hanuman in Hattebegall in Andhra Pradesh.
More importantly, Rayaru had stayed at the very place where the Venkataramanaswamy temple exists. He took personal interest in its construction and also performed pooje to the lord.
During the period of  the construction of the temple, Venkanna decided to give a facelift to Mantralaya which then was a hamlet of few people with the name Manta Saale. He invited saints, scholars and Brahmins to stay in the place and provided them with all facilities.
Venkanna visited the village twice a week and personally noted the construction of the temple.
He chose an elevated place to set up the village and the temple too came up there. He thought that the waters of the Tungabhadra would not flood the elevated place but he was proved wrong when the flood waters of the Tungabhadra entered the village, matha and even the temple in October 2009.  
Today, of the lakhs who throng to Mantralaya, only a handful make it to the Venkataramanaswamy Temple. It is a gem hidden in the midst of a village-a deity dear to our Rayaru. 
All the three photos are of the Venkataramanaswamy Temple.