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A journey of faith

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N J Ravi Chander

By a strange coincidence, we were in Hampi on Hanuman Jayanti, in December last year. My better half, R Shobha, who venerates Anjaneya was quick to point out that the Lord has drawn us to his abode on the peak.

Droves of devotees on Hanuman Deeksha culminate their rituals on this auspicious day at the Anjaneya Swamy Temple on Anjanadri Hill in Anegundi (called Kishkinda), Koppal district. Clad in saffron robes and chanting “Jai Shri Hanuman”, they head to the holy shrine atop Anjanadri Hill to offer prayers and seek blessings. “He seldom fails us,” remarks one believer. According to one theory, the Vanara God was born here.

The site of the temple borders the Rishyamukha Mountain near the lake called Pampa Sarovar, where we believe Sugreeva and Lord Rama met in Valmiki Ramayana’s Kishkindha Kanda – the empire of holy monkeys.

The Pampa Sarovar is one of the five sacred lakes in Hindu mythology. Being the last day of the festivities, it is no surprise that the streets leading to the temple teems with saffron-clad devotees forcing us to retrace and postpone our plan by a day. A visit to the ancient temples, forts and other monuments at Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, makes up for the disappointment.

When we return the next day, the crowds appear to have melted away. The temple, perched high on a hillock, overlooks the majestic Tungabhadra – known as Pampa in ancient times – and is around 35 km from Hosapete. It is only befitting to see the gopura of this magnificent temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, regarded as the incarnate form of Hanuman.

Bazaars selling fancy goods and clothes dot the way to the shrine and do brisk business. As we clamber up to the hill to reach the steps leading to the sacred place, vendors hawking tender coconut and sugarcane juice hail us. A troop of hungry langurs greet us as my younger son, J R Sunny, pulls out a packet of biscuits and throws them toward the monkeys who rush to grab them. They appear oblivious of the crowd of devotees all around them.

As one ascends the mind-boggling 575 steps that lead to the summit of Anjanadri Hill which houses the temple of Lord Anjaneya Swamy, the granite boulders (as old as the planet), the mighty river and village below dotted with lush paddy fields and coconut groves are a spectacular sight.

Here geology meets mythology. On my last visit here in 2016, there were no sidewalls at a few places on the steps, but the authorities have fortified them now. One can get a magnificent view of the sunrise and sunset from atop Anjanadri hill. Considering the steep climb, it is not surprising to see devotees huffing and puffing to get to the top. I saw elders resign halfway and climb down again after taking a hiatus. The ascent to the top drains one and is not for the faint-hearted!

As one reaches the summit and watches the sacred saffron flag fluttering in the wind, the feeling is akin to conquering a mighty peak. As one enters the sanctum sanctorum, the calm face of the deity is divinity personified. The temple strictly prohibits photography and videography and is one of the few in the country where pilgrims can donate money to buy food for the monkeys – the minimum offering is Rs.101. The monkeys’ lack of fear of humans is apparent since perhaps nowhere are these simians better protected than on Anjanadri hill. There are also services like Mangalarathi, Leaves Pooja, Madhu Abhiseka, Panchamruta and Sindhoor Seva – to mention a few.

The simians here are a big draw, and devotees of Lord Hanuman thoroughly pamper them with food and snacks. Not surprising since this was once the kingdom of the ‘Vaanar’ kings. The devotees flocking to this hill shrine can only grow with each passing year.

(The writer is a former banker from Karnataka and contributes to Kashmir Vision)

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