For those who cannot visit the Chamundeswari temple in Mysore or the Mookambika temple in Kollur, there is respite. We have the ancient temple of Bandi Mankalamma located on the BEML road near the New Tippasandra post office, Bangalore East.
The temple has an old worldly charm to it. The goddess is decorated in sarees of different colours on different days. The way the Goddess is decorated during the Navratri festival is to be seen to be believed. During Navaratri, “Prasad” is distributed everyday.In the temple precincts, different kinds of dolls are arranged as part of the “golu” celebration.There are 3 priests in the temple who do look bored at times but they unfailingly prepare the Prasad even on normal days. There is an accommodation facility for them behind the temple along with a large kitchen.
The temple is lively and has excellent vibrations only because it is less glamorous and less posh than other temples in the vicinity.In fact, if you enter the temple, you will feel as though you are entering the temple in a village and not in a city like Bangalore which is the Silicon Valley of India. The temple retains a strong South Indian flavour and this is where it is a major source of attraction. On Tuesdays and Fridays, between 430 and 530 pm, ladies congregate at the temple to read the Lalita Sahasranama.
As soon as one enters the temple, one notices the sanctum sanctorum that is located bang opposite the entrance. Though two separate queue arrangements have been made (presumably for male and female devotees), the rule is not strictly enforced. Credit has to be given to the priests for decking up the goddess like a new bride everyday. Some devotees who have had their wishes fulfilled have gifted a few mementoes to the goddess like silver sword , a gold nose ring or a sari. As you walk around the Bandi Mankalamma temple, there is a navagraha too.
Those who wish to get rid of their negative emotions visit the temple, pray to Bandi Mankalamma and offer a lemon. The priests handover the lemon back to you after the pooja. You are expected to make a juice out of the lemon and consume it. Some devotees also place the lemon in their pooja room. The belief is that as the lemon dries, your problems also dry up.
So, friends, if you happen to visit Bangalore, do not forget a visit to this ancient temple. A temple that is simple and yet charming because of its simplicity. A goddess who looks fierce but is a child at heart. A sincere prayer to Bandi Mankalamma is always heard by the Mother. Notable is the fact that it is also one of those temples whose precincts are open to devotees at an early hour in the morning.
I do not mind repeating it here that, in the end what matters is faith.The Bandi Mankalamma temple appeals only because of the old worldly charm it possesses. The radiance and glow on Bandi Mankalamma’s face is incredible. So, how do you notice this glow on the Mother’s face ? All that you need to do is to pray to her with utmost devotion and have a strong belief in her healing powers.
This is the ashad month and devotees are thronging the temple. There is a huge surge of crowds on Tuesdays and Fridays. The chief priest of the temple Srivatsa says, “No one has ever returned empty handed from this temple. There are people who come from States and fulfill their vow after the Mother has showered her blessings on them”. This is the only temple in the area that offers prasads to devotees every single day.
A casual visit on a Friday morning in the ashad month amazed us as many women were lighting lamps on lemons. What is the significance of these lemons? In southern part of India, a lemon is considered as the best antidote for ills that seem to be plaguing. Some women have gotten up early in the morning in the freezing Bangalore cold to finish the household chores so that they can devote time for making lemon maalas (or strings). A lemon offered to Goddess Mahakali ensures that all the evils plaguing our lives are absorbed and rendered ineffective by goddess. A rational mind may find it hard to accept it.
The chief priest says, “Devotees offer two lemons to Goddess. One is kept with Mother and the other is returned back to the devotee. The devotees can have the juice. Sometimes we advise the devotees to keep the lemon in their temple at home. As the lemon dries up, your problems also dry up.”
Mrs Rajani Rangappa who lives close to the Bandi Manakalamma temple says, “After marriage, I was elated to know that we live so close to the temple. Our kuldevata (family god) is located far off in a tiny hamlet and the priest there is not available at all times in the temple as he also has to run a catering business. Then we consulted an elderly relative of mine who said that if it is not possible to worship the goddess at a far-off place then it is better to make our offerings at the goddess in the local temple. God is the same everywhere, isn’t it?”
She adds, “Mother has never disappointed me. I talk to her every day. I sometimes get upset with her just like I would get upset with my own mother. But I love my mother”. She says that a lemon is offered to goddess Mahakali so that all the negative elements are absorbed in it.
What Mrs. Rangappa says is true about most South Indian families’ tryst with their family deities. As demographics changed and people moved to cities from their villages, they started losing touch with their roots. In some temples in South India, no priests are available full time. One can’t really blame the younger generation of priests as they too have EMIs to pay – but the only unfortunate part is that in their quest to become rich - devotion, sincerity and commitment are trashed and relegated to the background. Once priests lose these virtues, the offerings made by them to God become more and more mechanical. Though priests in urban areas are no better, at least they are available in the temple premises during morning and evening hours. As more and more priests hanker only after money, the more and more they move away from God’s grace.
Nishit Gupta, who works for a software firm in Manyata Tech Park is a regular visitor to the temple. He says, “I lost my job in 2012 during the recession. I was at home for close to 6 months and suffered from severe depression. I became a nervous wreck and had lost all hope in life. I was just married and it was so hard to break the news to my wife. Then one day as I was visiting the post office, I heard a devotee talking about the Bandi Mankalamma temple to the postal clerk.
As the temple is located close to the post office, diagonally opposite Canara Bank and State Bank of India bank branches, I was intrigued. At that point of time I was unhappy and angry with God. I started having fear towards lamps – I would feel like kicking the lighted lamps and then had an inexplicable fear due to such a negative thought. I was petrified that due to such unclean thoughts I would be penalized by the Almighty. I found my legs dragging me towards the temple, though I was slowly turning to become an atheist. In the first 2 months, believe me, I had a tough time. I got frustrated because I felt that God was not listening to me at all. But I did not give up. I started visiting the temple every day. I started writing a letter to Mother every day as though I would write to my own mom. The more and more I started penning my negative feelings to Mother, I felt a miraculous calm pervading my being. The negative energy slowly started dissipating. Within 3 months, I got a job in Manyata Tech Park and interestingly my office bus passes through this temple every single day on BEML Road. I still make it a point to visit the Bandi Mankalamma temple on Fridays. I now have a daughter whom I have named Mangala. I am at peace now. I have now realized that with the grace of mother, every failure can be transformed into a lesson to achieve future success.”
Many residents of C V Raman Nagar and Indira Nagar are still unaware about this temple and it rankles. There is not much parking available near the temple. But the temple has an ancient charm about it. Mother’s eyes are piercing and Mother seldom smiles. The chief priest says, “She is a form of Mahakali who is out to root out all evil. The sharp piercing eyes are a reminder that she will burn evil to ashes. You have to close your eyes and try to think about mother – only your devotion can help you visualize such an image.”
One of the residents of Bhairav Dhrupad building (it is the most sophisticated apartment complex in downtown Tippa) says that, “Ashad month is the one in which devotees offer sarees and blouses to Goddess. Those who offer a saree and a blouse to mother will soon find their wishes fulfilled. There is intense competition and the chief priest’s diary is booked throughout this month. The nine yard cotton/ synthetic sarees are available at a reasonable price in Chickpet. Along with the saree/ blouse, you offer fruits, betel leaf, areca nut, turmeric powder, vermillion, jasmine flowers to the Goddess. Some add incense sticks too.”
Venkatadri Narayanan, a devotee who is a visitor to the temple since the last 18 years says, “Many families are unable to do the suvasini pooja (called mangili pondugal in Tamil) nowadays. There are various reasons. In such cases, the best thing to do is to offer a saree and blouse to Goddess Bandi Mankalamma”.
Chief Priest Srivatsan beams, “I derive immense satisfaction as I perform abhishekams and decorate Mother every day. An archana here costs a mere Rs.5. We only want more and more people to visit this temple and become the beneficiary of Mother’s grace. “
As we circumambulate the temple and the navagrahs, we too experience a catharsis. As we leave the temple and bid good bye to mother, we feel sad. But we promise Mother that we will come to visit her as often. Mother seems to be smiling at us as though she is saying, “I will wait for you, my son”. O, Mother Mankalamma, please protect us, please forgive all our sins that we commit knowingly and unknowingly and accept our devotion with all our shortcomings. Will you Mother?