January 29, 2011

Vellore Jalagandeswarar Temple

When any South Indian hears the word "Vellore", he might think of two things immediately - one is Vellore Jail and another is Vellore Fort. Vellore Fort is very popular in South India, as it is very rare to find forts and palaces in South India. Vellore Fort is one of the largest forts among those very few forts of South India. It is located near Chennai city on the Chennai-Bangalore route.

Inside the gigantic Vellore Fort, there are a lot of government buildings, a museum, a Church and a mosque. However, the most important structure inside the Vellore Fort is the magnificent Jalagandeswarar temple. The fort was in fact built due to this temple. Before I write about the architecture, structure, sculptures and idols of Jalagandeswarar temple, I would talk about its history.

As per the legend the current site where the temple is located was an island surrounded by a lake. On the island, there was an snake hole. Near the snake hole, there was a Shiv Linga idol which was protected by a five hooded snake. A cow used to feed milk to the snake. After hearing all these stories, the king named Bommi Reddy who ruled this region started building the temple in the site. The temple construction was started in the year of 1566 CE. A sculptor from North India lead the construction of the temple. However, it was later found out that the day selected to start the construction was not auspicious. Hence, in order to protect the temple, the king had to build a fort around the temple so that he could protect this beautiful temple.

After Bommi Reddy, there were ten kings in his dynasty who ruled Vellore. It was in the 17th century CE that the fort city was captured by Bijapur Sultan. His son KanKhan and his grand son Abdullah ruled the city after him. As Abdullah was made to believe that there were costly stones lying below the Shiv idol, he removed the Shiv idol and threw the same into the moat surrounding the fort. After that, the Vellore city was captured by the Marathas. The Marathas brought the idol back to the city. However, within two years, the city went to Muslims again. The poojas were stopped for around 21 years. When the city was recaptured by the Marathas, the temple poojas were restarted. When it was recaptured by the Muslims, the poojas and rituals didn't stop. However, it is said, even though there is no historical proof, a Muslim prince who tried to misbehave with a female was killed by her within the temple complex. Since then (during 18th century CE), the Shiv Linga idol was shifted to a nearby village and the temple was without the presiding idol. It was only during the recent time towards the end of 20th century CE, the temple got back its idol as well as the original glory.

A lengthy legend with some historical facts....tried to write briefly as far as possible. I will talk about the temple structure and idols in my next post. Till then...

Happy travelling.

Fast Facts:
Site Name: Jalagandeswarar Temple 
Site Type: Hindu Temple
Location: Vellore, near Chennai city, Tamil Nadu state, India 
Highlights: Known for its architecture and sculpture
Nearest Railway Station: Chennai - well connected from the cities/towns all over India
Nearest Airport: Chennai has both national and international airports
How to reach: Easily reachable by road from Chennai or Bangalore
Hotel: Many star hotels, luxury hotels/resorts, and budget hotels are available in Chennai; Many decent and budget hotels are available in Vellore
Restaurants: Saravana Bhavan in Vellore is one of the good vegetarian restaurants in Vellore; apart from that, there are only few good options available in Vellore

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