Unravel secrets about Tipu Sultan in Kere Thonnur

Unravel secrets about Tipu Sultan in Kere Thonnur
Unravel secrets about Tipu Sultan in Kere Thonnur
While a lake provides relief from the Mysore heat, temples at Kere Thonnur shed new light on Tipu Sultan's legacy, shares, Arjun Kumar...

The inner sanctum of the Narayana temple was cloaked in inky darkness which my eyes could not penetrate. That did not deter the elderly priest from walking swiftly past me, his eyes either better accustomed to the dark or his soul more enlightened to see the Lord where I could not.

A moment after he entered the Lord's chamber, the darkness was broken by a tiny spot of light. The spot quickly increased in size and intensity in the process dispelling darkness from all but the corners of the inner sanctum. If I sound a shade philosophical, put that down to to the influence of Kere Thonnur. I go into a region mentally preparing myself to find traces of Tipu Sultan, a man who spent more time at war than at peace, and a man who - as some historians say - was a religious fanatic.

And then I tumble into Kere Thonnur. There is no trace of conflict here, no broken fortifications as there are in nearby Srirangapatnam and no tombs of warriors, old or new.

Instead, I drive past a mix of well-built houses and mud huts, glance quickly at what looks like an old wall on my right and go on to the hill yonder. It is a very short drive up the hill. On the way I pass a group of people happily splashing around under a mini waterfall. I find myself wondering what the source of the cascading water could be.

That question gets answered at the top of the hill for on the other side is a lake, an expanse of clear blue water. The water is clean, something quite remarkable in today's age. On a weekend, there are a couple of dozen people milling about, enjoying the water and vista.

The cool water invites me to jump in for a swim and as I look around I find half-a-dozen people who accepted similar invitations and taken the plunge.

The water of the lake is deep in parts but there is no one to warn people to be careful. Instead, there is a partially submerged idol of Nandi - Shiva's celestial bull - which looks ready to pray for your soul if you venture too far.

This place is called the Thonnur Lake, also known as the Tirumala Lake. That it is not crowded is because it has not been discovered by the residents of Bangalore and Mysore.

I go back to the village and this time, I drive slowly. And I stop at the place where I saw the old wall, leaving my vehicle to walk up for a closer look. I end up circumambulating the old wall on the track and find a huge gateway looming before me. It stands by itself at a distance from the wall, looking like part of a building block puzzle someone forgot to put in.

On the left is a gap in the wall, which is the doorway to a temple. This is the Krishna Gopal Swamy temple, one of several in Kere Thonnur dedicated to the God Vishnu or his incarnations.

Passing through that doorway, I find myself in a large courtyard at the centre of which is the main shrine. On my right is a pillared structure which looks like a shelter for devotees to gather. All around the inside of the old wall - which looms up to about 15 feet in height - runs a pillared corridor with small shrines at the corner. The most interesting feature of this temple is the set of drawings on the walls. These are outline drawings and not full paintings. Gods and goddesses, elephants and birds are all depicted here.

Unfortunately, the flaking of plaster from the walls has severely damaged some drawings while in other places, blurring of the outlines has caused the image to become barely visible.

Across the road from the Gopal Swamy temple is the Narayana temple. Like the former, this temple too has a high wall around it. The most striking feature of this temple is the solid stone pillar in front of it.

About 40 ft in height, the pillar has iconography representing Vishnu on all four sides. Between the pillar and the temple entrance is a small stepped tank, used for cleansing.

Of singular architectural importance in this temple is that the inner sanctum is protected by a wall at the back.

The space between the wall and the shrine thus forms a parikrama where devotees can move around the shrine in ceremonial prayer. Within the sanctum, the place comes alive when the priest lights a small lamp. As the flame gradually increases and touches the far corners of the sanctum, I look around in wonder at the idols tucked away into alcoves all around, forming a protective army for the main idol of Vishnu.