Most people in Kodagu would have visited the Triveni Sangama and Talakaveri at least once in their lives. While the Sangama is the confluence of River Kaveri and her tributaries Kannike and the mythical Sujyothi, Talakaveri is the birthplace of River Kaveri. I myself have travelled across India and overseas, but had missed out on visiting this place of worship in the very district I was born in. Sometimes, we are fortunate enough to visit distant lands, yet miss out on some gems in our own backyards. My trip to Sangama is a testimony to this irony.
Visiting the Sangama was my way of showing gratitude to the goddess who is said to have birthed this lush and bountiful land I belong to. Legend has it that this was, once upon a time, a dry and barren land. But when the Goddess Kaveri flowed through here as a river, she rejuvenated everything in her way. Today, Kodagu is anything but dry. Mist envelops the hills like a mother embraces her children. Here and there, the reflection of trees makes the river look green. During monsoons, Kaveri’s waters touch the walls of the Bhagandeshwara temple at Bhagamandala and recede.
To honour her father’s wishes, Kaveri marries Agasthya under one condition–that she will be at liberty to forsake him if left alone.
There are many legends associated with the mythological origin of Kaveri. But I could relate to one of them very deeply. The story goes that King Kavera, the ruler of Brahmagiri Hills, a barren region in the southern terrain, was childless. Upon meditating to Lord Brahma, he was blessed with an adopted child–Kaveri. Later, Kaveri prays to Lord Brahma to bless her with the power to flow freely as a river, so that she may save her father’s land from drought. Brahma also sends Saptharishi Agasthya, a sage revered by both men and gods, to Kavera’s land to mitigate the same problem. When Agasthya sees Kaveri, he asks Kavera his daughter’s hand in marriage. To honour her father’s wishes, Kaveri marries Agasthya under one condition–that she will be at liberty to forsake him if left alone.
One day, the sage leaves Kaveri near a holy tank and proceeds to take bath in River Kannike. Realising that her husband has left her, Kaveri flows away as a river. When Agasthya’s disciples try to stop Kaveri, she goes underground, only to emerge at Bhagamandala along with Kannike and the mythical Sujyoti rivers at the Sangama. Today, it is believed that taking a dip in the holy waters of the Sangama will wash off one’s sins and help one attain moksha (salvation).
This story had a profound impact on me. It stayed with me long after my visit to the Sangama. For me, Kaveri is an epitome of the graceful feminine energy. The way I see it, she was a woman confined by the patriarchal set-up who made her way through it all only to emerge in her best form. It also got me thinking about the potential of the feminine energy (Shakti) that resides within each of us. Sometimes–as many women have–I curb this energy, without realising that I’m curbing my own potential. But a dip in Kaveri’s waters reawakened this energy in me.
As the holy water droplets trickled from my head and down my chin, I decided in that moment that I would never again limit myself to the man-made boundaries of society. I shall walk free and make my own way, like Kaveri who charted her own path. Perhaps, that is my moksha.