BANGALORE: Talking about old buildings in Bangalore has been our main focus. One of the obvious questions that then arises is which is the oldest temple in the city? In a little alley off Airport Road in Domlur, stands the Chokkanathaswamy Temple which has the distinction of being the oldest temple of Bangalore. Built in the 10th century by the Cholas, this Vishnu Temple has an interesting history as well as present.
Don’t be misled by the name, even though Chokkanatha generally means a form of Shiva, it is actually Vishnu who is the main deity of the temple. Chokka in Telugu means beautiful and hence, in this context, it is the temple of the ‘beautiful god’.
Shakuntala Keshavachar, whose family manages the temple’s trust says that the temple was built by Raja Chola after conquering Yelahanka Nadu (now a part of Bangalore), which was a flourishing town then. But considering the fact that the Cholas are followers of Shiva, why would he build a Vishnu Temple? There used to be a Shiva Temple earlier, she says. The Vishnu Temple was built for the residents of Yelahanka Nadu who were Vaishnavas (followers of Vishnu), she says.
Vishnu’s Dashavatharas (10 forms) have been etched on the pillars in front of the temple.The inscriptions (script) are in Kannada but the language is Tamil. These inscriptions are proof that the temple belongs to the time of Cholas. Domlur is referred to as Tombalur in the inscriptions! The tale of the sanctum sanctorium is also an interesting one. In the book 'Bengalurina Ithihasa', Ba Na Sunder Rao says that according to popular belief, the sanctum sanctorium was earlier a cave and a five-headed snake used to guard its jewels. To keep thieves away, the doors were kept small and it was built such that minimum light was let into it.
The temple, rich in character is in Dravidian architecture. The Vijayanagar style Navaranga pillars and the front mantapa are architectural delights. The pillars depict scenes of kolata, the fight between Vali and Sugreeva and demi gods. The unique aspect of the temple is that the idols are built using Saligrama stone. The Saligrama is the most sacred stone worshipped by Vaishnavas and is used to worship Vishnu in an abstract form. The stone is found in river Gandaki near Muktinath in Nepal. On Vishnu’s both sides are Sridevi and Bhoodevi along with the Alwarus. Another interesting feature is the pranic energy points all over the temple.
Shakuntala says that there are certain places in the temple where pranic energy is available and if one meditates in these places they can feel the energy. This was discovered fairly recently. The temple was found in shambles and was renovated only 20 years back. A few meters away from this temple is an Anjaneya Temple whose head is said to be beneath the feet of this Chokkanatha Swamy deity. At the heart of Domlur that is surrounded by IT companies is a temple with enchanting history.