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Thousands throng Talakad

Special Correspondent

Pilgrims take a holy dip in the Cauvery for `Panchalinga Darshana'

RELIGIOUS FERVOUR: Pilgrims braved the harsh winter and bathed in the Cauvery at Talakad early on Monday during Panchalinga Darshana. — PHOTO: M.A.SRIRAM

Talakad (Mysore district): A sea of humanity witnessed this Millennium's first Panchalinga Darshana, which began here on Monday amidst the chanting of Vedic hymns.

Reckoned to be the largest gathering after the Kumbh Mela on the banks of the Ganga, the Panchalinga Darshana is said to have attracted about five lakh people at the ancient town of Talakad. It is associated with having a glimpse of the five Shiva Lingas on days of special astronomical significance that occur once in many years.

Enduring images of religious fervour unfolded in full glory as thousands trekked the sand dunes to catch a glimpse of the five Shiva Lingas - Vaidyeshwara, Pataleshwara, Maraleshwara, Mallikarjuneshwara and Arakeshwara.

The sojourn of the pilgrims began with a dip in the Cauvery at around 1.30 a.m. on a wintry night and made their way to the bathing ghats and the Kalyani or the Gokarna and assembled in front of Vaidyeshwara, which, according to tradition, is the starting point for conducting the Panchalinga Darshana.

From here, the devotees proceed to Arakeshwara, Pataleshwara, Maruleshwara, and finally Mallikarjuneshwara. But after visiting each of the temples, the devotees have to return to Vaidyeshwara and take a dip in the Gokarna pond in the temple before going to the next temple.

The main rituals started with the head priest Krishna Dixit fetching water from the Gokarna pond and performing puja at 1.30 a.m. followed by abhisheka to Vaidyanatheshwara at 2.15 a.m. during which special prayers were held.

The confluence of people belonging to various castes, the presence of ochre-clad sadhus on the river bank, tourists and pilgrims from across Karnataka and neighbouring States presented a grand spectacle at the crack of dawn on the banks of the Cauvery.

Among the dignitaries present were Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, the former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, Minister for Water Resources K.S. Eshwarappa, and Minister for Power H.D. Revanna. Talakad is reckoned to be the oldest city in the region and is an archaeologist's delight as it was under the rule of various dynasties including the Kadambas, Gangas, Cholas, Pallavas, Rashtrakutas, the Hoysalas, and Vijayanagar emperors. Its importance faded although it retained its significance as a major pilgrim centre.

The ancient town is renowned for sand dunes that had buried most of the temples and it was only in the 20th Century that the Department of Archaeology discovered the buried structures and put up a permanent barrier to prevent sand from burying these monuments again. Talakad finds a mention in mythology, which has enhanced its sanctity for the pilgrims and the incredibly large turnout during Panchalinga Darshana is a pointer to it. This rare event was witnessed in 1908, 1915, 1925, 1938, 1952, 1959, 1966, 1979, 1986 and 1993. The event will conclude on November 25 by when nearly 12 lakh people would have witnessed it. The State Government has earmarked Rs. 42 crore for various works in connection with the event and some of these works will be of permanent nature and benefit the local community. Over 1,000 temporary toilets, washrooms and cloakrooms have been constructed for the benefit of pilgrims, drinking water facilities have been provided at vantage points and the KSRTC is operating over 300 additional services to Talakad from Mysore, Bangalore, Mandya, Chamarajanagar and other centres.

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