Hyderabad: The Sri Lakshmi Chennakesava temple, a highly revered shrine, stands in the middle of a crowded road in Dharmavaram in AP. Narrow lanes lead to this temple. Not surprisingly, one of the roads is called Yadava street.
A beautiful old house stands abutting the temple, and no one knows to whom it belongs.
The huge gates and the gopuram of the temple stand tall in Vijayanagara style with Garuda and Lord Aanjaneya standing as kshetrapalakadus (guardians). As you enter the temple, time stands still amid the ancient stone pillars.
Built during the Vijayanagara era, the temple is in good shape considering the vagaries of nature. A new rajagopuram was built in 1913 and some outer parts of the temple have been renovated and maintained beautifully.
An inverted lotus stands between the dhwaja stamba and the deepa stamba. The ‘Vishnu padalu’ which were found during renovation in 2014 is kept at the temple for worship.
According to the Vishnu Purana, Lord Vishnu is also called Kesavaswami for killing the demon Kesi. Chenna Kesava also means lord with lots of hair and is another swaroopam of Lord Vishnu.
The deity is shown holding the shanku (conch) in his right hand, which means he is in shanta swaroopam, at the temple. The chakra is in the left hand and there is a lotus in the right hand with a mace (gada). Goddess Lakshmi Devi is in the Vakshasthala of Lord Chennakesava Swami in the sanctum sanctorum.
The outer and inner sanctums are made of stone. The moola virat or main idol is in saligramam, while the Prabhavali is made of black stone and features the Dasavataram. There is a brass Prabhavali too. Here the Lord is with Sridevi and Bhudevi. The inner sanctum doors are made of brass.
It is said that Keechaka Muni did tapas at Udayadri near Hampi, at which time he had a dream. He was told to bring the idol to Dharmavaram. The Lord also said that he would go with the muni and whereever the sun shone over him, he would stop. So Lord Vishnu stayed at Dharmavaram as a swayambhu.
The priests at the temple are hereditary and Bhanu Prakash Archaka is the fifth generation. The others before him from the families of his peddappa (elder paternal uncle) and chinnappa (younger paternal uncle) are Kowracharulu, Venkataramacharelu, Krishnamacharulu.
They are all from Karnataka. Not surprising because people at Dharmavaram speak fluent Kannada, considering it is on the border. The Vijayanagara kings ruled over this area so the Kannada influences are obvious. In fact, one of the most historic and ancient Chennakesava temples is in Belur, Karnataka.
There was no utsava murthi at the Dharmavaram Chennakesava temple till a farmer, Kuntimidhi, while digging his farm, found the idol in the 6th century. The idol spoke to the farmer, telling him to take him to Dharmavaram.
Harihara Bukharayalavari Samantha Raju Kriyashakti Vadiyar built the town that is today called Dharmavaram, and called it Dharmambapuram after his mother. He also built a lake called Vadyacheruvu.
Kriyashakti Vadiyar had a dream in which the Lord told him to place Him in the sanctum sanctorum of the Dharmavaram temple and build the entire temple. This was in the 12th century.
The temple has many stone pillars and there is a nagabandhanam, which is unique because the only other one is in the Anantha Padmanabhaswamy temple in Kerala. The nagabandhanam is locked and no one has decoded it as yet.
The temple is surrounded by pillars and four of these opposite the sanctum sanctorum are decorated with gods and goddesses. While one has a playful Krishna when young, the other shows Yashoda churning butter. One more shows the Kalinga Narthana and one has Annamacharya and other figureines. These are all considered as sacred pillars.
There is a Shami Viruksham which is 400 years old. This is a powerful tree and is said to remove, cleanse and suppress all the sins of a person. This temple has a Garuda Vahanam in panchaloha, the only other one being in Kancheepuram. Every Friday and Saturday, Goddess Maha Lakshmi is taken around the temple.
People come here with wishes and leave it to the gods. They tie their votive on either the Maredu Chettu or the Juhi Chettu. Either the koneru has disappeared with the town closing in, or the temple had no tank. In the olden days, the town ended where the temple arch ended and there was sanctity. Dharmavaram is a town in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh....