Temple is a place of divinity, a seat for spiritual activities. Bhootharaja temple is one of the not much-explored temples in South India. India has a vast assortment of temples. The customs and cultures vary from state to state. Different regions have different presiding deities to safeguard that particular place. Similarly, in one of the places of Karnataka, people worship a deity called Bhootharaja who was once a Brahmarakshasa. Does it mean people worship and pray to a demon? Is it really a demon or a God? To know more about this interesting temple, don’t miss the end.
Location of Bhootharaja temple:
This temple is located in Sonda, a Malenadu region of Karnataka. It is a village near Sirsi in the Uttar Kannada district, surrounded by dense forests. Sonda or Sodhe is a beautiful tourist place that has many attractions like Bhootharaja temple, Vadhiraja Mutt / Brindavana, Rama Trivikrama temple, Swarnavalli Shankar Mutt, Tapovana, and Sahasralinga.
Bhootharaja temple glimpse:
It is a must-visit temple in Sonda Mutt. In fact, the devotees have to worship Bhootharaja first, offer coconut to him before worshiping the main shrine – Sri Vadhirajaru. Bhootharaja is the protector of Sonda. Bhootharaja temple is dedicated to one of the disciples of Sri Vadhirajaru. There is an interesting story behind this temple. Before getting into the main story let’s see who is Sri Vadhirajaru and the relationship between Vadhirajaru and Bhootharaja.
Brief introduction about Sri Vadhirajaru:
Sri Vadhirajaru was born in Hoovinakere village of Udupi district in 1480. He was a Dwaita philosopher, poet, traveler, and mystic, a disciple of Sri Vageesha Tirtharu. Sri Vadhirajaru spread Madhva theology (Dwaita Siddantha) of Sri Madhwacharya. He started Sonda Mutt (one of the Ashta mutts of Udupi), also started the Paryaya habits at Udupi Mutt. In the year 1600, he entered his Samadhi / Brindavana alive at Sonda, which is similar to Sri Raghavendra Swamy Brindavana at Mantralaya. Along with the Vadhiraja Brindavana, there are four other Brindavanas at four corners dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Brahma, Shiva, and Vayu.
Relationship between Vadhirajaru and Bhootharaja:
Bhootharaja was a Brahmin named Narayana Sharma, one of the disciples of Sri Vadhirajaru. He was a great Pandit and very close to Sri Vadhirajaru. Once Sri Vyasarajaru happened to meet Sri Vadhirajaru on a Dwadashi day. At that moment Sri Vadhirajaru was about to commence the pooja. Sri Vyasarajaru refused to take the Dwadashi feast, saying he wouldn’t have his meals without Sri Vadhirajaru accompanying him. Sri Vadhirajaru did not want to make Sri Vyasarajaru wait and had the feast together. After having meals, Sri Vadhirajaru ordered his disciples not to follow him and went to the Shalmali river to perform the pooja. Before commencing, he brought a big leaf, took out all the undigested meals from his stomach by his Yoga Shakti. Further, he performed the daily rituals and had the hot meals which he had taken out.
His disciple Narayana Sharma secretly watched everything standing behind a tree. Noticing Narayana Sharma, Sri Vadhirajaru cursed him to become a Brahmarakshasa for disobeying his words. Soon he turned into Brahmarakshasa. Scared Narayana Sharma learned his mistake and begged for forgiveness. So, Sri Vadhirajaru suggested him to roam in the forests and ask people “Aa Kaa Maa Vai Ko Na Snathaha?”. He added, “when anyone answers this question, you will get back to the original form”. With no other way, the Brahmarakshasa started troubling people by asking this question and eating them when they didn’t answer. This went on for years.
Meeting of Sri Vadhirajaru and Brahmarakshasa:
Once Sri Vadhirajaru was traveling on the same route where Brahmarakshasa resided. People there stopped him from taking that route and forewarned him about the Brahmarakshasa. Soon, Sri Vadhirajaru understood that the Brahmarakshasa was none other than Narayana Sharma and went ahead to relieve him from the curse. As usual, Brahmarakshasa stopped Sri Vadhirajaru and asked “Aa Kaa Maa Vai Ko Na Snathaha?” In reply, Sri Vadhirajaru said “Randa Putra tvam na snathaha”. It means a prostitute’s son or a Brahmarakshasa like you would not bath in the months of Ashwayuja (Aa), Kartheeka (Ka), Magha (Ma), and Vaishakha (Vai). Soon Brahmarakshasa turned to his original form and thanked Sri Vadhirajaru for relieving him from the curse.
Sri Vadhirajaru blessed him to become the kshetrapalaka (protector) of Sonda and serve Sri Vadhirajaru eternally. From then Narayana Sharma became famous as Bhootharaja and became invisible. There is a separate shrine for him at Sonda. In the later years, an annual fest was being conducted at Sonda. In this fest, the invisible Bhootharaja was carrying the palanquin of his Guru at the front and other disciples used to carry it at the back. Even in the present day, the fest is held in the month of March every year.
Rituals at Bhootharaja temple:
Unlike other temples, there is a distinctive practice in the Bhootharaja temple. Before worshiping the main shrine of Sri Vadhirajaru, one has to mandatorily worship Bhootharaja. Every devotee who worships the temple has to roll a coconut before the shrine (Bhootharaja). This means devotees has to give a message to the Lord about their visit. Every evening bhootha Bali is performed in the temple. In front of the temple, there is a Bali Peeta or a seat where a huge heap of rice mixed with kumkum is offered for Bhootharaja.
Like other places, devotees can offer special Seva to the lord. But for this, the person who offers Seva must follow strict rules. He / she has to buy a ticket one day prior and has to undergo a sankalpa saying how many days seva he / she will perform. As per the guidance, the devotee has to take a holy dip in the Dhavalaganga Pushkarini and go to the archak. There the archak gives a coconut and the devotee has to tie it around their wait. The coconut has to be handled with high care. Then, he / she must go Seven pradakshine around the temples in the wet clothes. Before every circulation (pradakshine) one has to take 7 dips in the Dhavalaganga each time. Finally, the devotee must go around the 5 brindavanas and complete 108 pradakshines.
In the temple premises there are two holy tanks namely Dhavalaganga and Sheetalaganga. The water in these tanks is the convergence of all the holy rivers of India. There are three corners at Dhavalaganga tank, in which only two corners are accessible to the public. The third corner is named as Bhootharaja corner. Known sources say that even today Bhootharaja takes dip in the holy water before serving his guru Sri Vadhirajaru. People say that, at certain time in the early morning one can hear the sound of someone taking dip at that corner of Dhavalaganga. Hence the temple authority do not allow common public to worship at certain time.
Rama Trivikrama temple and Bhootharaja:
Once Sri Vadhirajaru asked Bhootharaja to bring the idol of Trivikrama from Badri. Following his guru’s orders, Bhootharaja went to Badri and took the entire Grabhagriha which was in the form of a chariot with four wheels. When he was bringing the chariot in sky way (Akasha marga), a demon attacked him. Bhootharaja who was in a hurry, threw one wheel of the chariot at the demon and killed him. Then he landed in Sonda within the prescribed time and Sri Vadhirajaru installed the lord at Sonda. We can still see the three wheeled temple of Sri Rama Trivikrama at Sonda which is one of the attractions.
These are the few interesting facts about Sri Bhootharaja temple, Sonda. Similarly, there are many such less explored temples in India. In future articles let us see about other such unexplored as well as popular temples, stay tuned to travel without moving your feet.