Shri Tirumala Venkatramana Temple, Bantwal

Shri Tirumala Venkatramana Temple was established in the early decades of the 16th century. In the wake of the Portuguese conquest of Goa and conversions to Christianity, many families of Gowd Saraswat Brahmins migrated southward to Canara and Kerala along with their deities.

Of these, one person from Mangalore settled down at Mogarnad in the present Bantwal Taluk, bringing with him the statues of his family deities – Shri Laxminarayana, Purushottama and Kamakshi Devi.

One of his sons, Vittal Bhat, took residence in Bantwal. When he came there, in the place of the present temple complex, there was a thick forest with only the Raktheshwari Devi Gudi and the Nagabana at the rear.

Around this time, on the River bank where the present temple is, a Brahmin couple lived a god-fearing life. They had no issue and were very worried over this. Shri Venkatramana Swami appeared to the Brahmin in their dream and asked him not to worry about having no issue and told him that on the next day a couple would visit the spot whom he should welcome into his home.

True to the dream, such a couple came to his home at dawn and was welcomed and was given all the land he owned. That was Vittal Bhat and all the land the temple owns today comes from him. One day, when Vittal was doing ritual offerings, he found in an anthill beautiful images of Shridevi - Bhoodevi and Venkatramana Swami. He installed them in a Gudi along with his Kuladevatas.

More families from Goa arrived in Bantwal. Their common link was Venkatramana Swami to whom they offered various ritual services. Under his patronage, the town prospered and came to be called Patapura (Golden City). This fame attracted invaders who looted the treasures of the temple.

In view of this, the priests of the temple took some of the statues of the deities to Karkala and some were submerged in the lake at nearby Ajakkal. However, later the temple functionaries could retrieve all the images from the lake except that of Utsava Swayamvara. There was a sense of gloom in the town over this missing image.

One night Venkatesh Baliga, the temple’s trustee, had a dream in which Shri Tirupati Venkatramana told him that within a week a bull would come to the temple sporting Swayamvara on its forehead and he should acquire it. When the bull came, the trustee offered to its owner 101 souvenirs in exchange for the Swayamvara. The owner refused the offer and tried to move on with the bull. But, it would not stand up despite caning by the owner.

On the third day, the owner agreed to the offer saying that it was divinely ordained. The Swayamvara was taken in procession in the town and installed as Utsava Murti. This attracteda large number of devotees and led to renewed prosperity of the town.

Fifty years after this episode, a general from Coorg invaded Bantwal with 500 soldiers and looted the temple treasures and also carried off to Mercara the images of the temple deities. Bantwal went into mourning over the looted images.

One Yakshagana troupe went to Mercara and performed for the king of Coorg. A pleased king offered gold bangles and gold- embroidered shawls to the visitors. But, the leader of the troupe declined the presents and, instead, requested for the return of the images of the deities looted by the king’s general.

Acceding to the request, the king showed cane boxes stored in the godown and told the visitors to identify their deities and take them. At this point, one cane box started shaking violently and its lid flew off. On approaching it, the looted images were found and were brought back to Bantwal and were ceremoniously reinstalled.

There are many such episodes which reflect the divine power of Shri Venkatramana down the generations when the temple grew from strength to strength reaching its present pre-eminent status.

There have been several incremental additions and renovations in the temple complex over the last several decades. The temple has now emerged as rich, well maintained and managed as was reflected in the recent successful celebration of Sahasra Kumbabhishekha with thousands of devotees participating in the rituals.