Myth vs Science: The Curse of Talakkad

The Arakeswara Temple, Talakkad
A pleasant breeze welcomes you along with a prolonged silence, an unnerving silence that one can hear the click and clack sounds of one’s footsteps. The little temple town of Talakkad, situated on the left banks of the river Kaveri, located nearly 60 kms from Mysore, is famed for its constantly in motion sand dunes. In desolate towns like Talakkad, the mysteries unravel as one goes around exploring the place. Yet, it seems like there is an imposition on how much one should know. The temple town is mostly known for a legendary curse which turned the thriving town into a sandy shore line. Hence, it is a treat for anyone who has a passion for history, heritage or architecture.

History and rationality clash with mythology here in the town which is also known as Dalavanapura and Gajaranya. Local myths speak of Lord Shiva residing on a tree that was later worshipped by locals and saints. The tree is said to have then reincarnated as an elephant, giving the town its name: Gajaranya (The Elephant Forest). These elephants are believed to be one of the reasons behind the origin of the Shiva temples.

The temple town has five Shiva temples that have been recently recovered from sand. Each of the five temples: the Vaidyeswara Temple, Maraleswara Temple, Arakeswara Temple, Pathaleswara Temple and the Kirtinarayana Temple are said to represent five different avatars of Lord Shiva. In honour of these temples, a panchalinga darshanam is held every 12 years, the last one was held in 2013. The Panchalinga Darshanam is held on a new moon day in the month of Karthik (October-November) when the stars of Khuha Yoga and Vishakha conjoin. A walk around Talakkad follows a circular path, stretching for a kilometre, which begins from the Vaidyeswara Temple covering the Arakeswara, Pataleswara, Maraleswara and the Kirtinarayana Temples. The path is designed such that you return to the Vaidyeswara Temple after the walk.

The River Kaveri in Talakkad

The curse of Talakkad refers to the time when Mysore was still a part of the erstwhile Vijayanagara Empire. The outpost of the Viceroy was located at Srirangapatnam in Mandya district. In 1610, Raja Wodeyar-I conquered the fort of Srirangapatnam from the ailing Viceroy Tirumala-II using force. By then, an ailing Tirumala had retired to Talakkad. Confiscating everything that belonged to Tirumala was a priority for Raja Wodeyar. Tirumala’s wife, Alamelamma, had brought the jewellery that belonged to her. She would then lend them to adorn Goddess Ranganayaki Ammal at the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangapatnam every Tuesday and Thursday. 

Raja Wodeyar believed that with this loss of power, the family had relinquished their authority over these jewels and firmly believed that they belonged to the temple. Raja Wodeyar sent his soldiers behind Alamelamma to recover the jewels. Before jumping into a whirlpool in the river Kaveri, she uttered a legendary curse. The curse, as passed down in Talakkad and local folklore is: ‘Talakkadu maragali, Malangi maduvagali, Mysuru doregalige makkallilade hogali’ (May Talakkad turn into a barren expanse of sand, may Malangi turn into an unfathomed whirlpool, may the Mysore Maharajas not have children for eternity). Since then, the Wodeyars have had biological heirs only in alternate generations. 

Despite its numerous myths and legends which pervade the town, it is the brilliance of the architecture that stands out. The temples, which have been dug out from sand, transport one into a different era. The brilliance of the temples defy age. If it is spoken of a place with religious stupor, there is no doubt that there is difficulty in verifying the true story behind the legend of Talakkad. While the tale of Alamelamma remains a disturbing chapter in the history of Talakkad and Mysore, it is a story with no precise answers or scientific justifications. By the sheer virtue of constant repetition, Talakkad continues to be a living legend. 
A Nandi that was recently recovered from sand


Anonymous said…
It is always great to know the story behind a place or behind its name. However, your post, though being extremely informative, lacks the human element. It seemed like you researched for the place over the internet or in some library and then wrote a post around it. I would have found the post more interesting had you told your experience of visiting Talakkad.
It is said, that poeple forget what you say and do to them, but they never forget how you made them feel. I think that this holds true even for places.
I wanna ask, how did Talakkad made you feel? How did it feel to stand and visit a cursed place?

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