Every pilgrimage has something in store for a pilgrim. It may be the calm one is looking for, or the sheer beauty of the site, or profound life lessons. My recent trip to Talakadu–the land of temples, legends, and sand–had wisdom in store for me. This place taught me how our actions impact not only our lives but also the lives of others.
About 50 km from Mysore in the state of Karnataka is Talakadu. Situated on the banks of river Cauvery, Talakadu is home to several temples. Unfortunately, most of them are buried in the sand. As I explored the place, all I could see was the vast stretch of sand and eucalyptus groves. This got me wondering why Talakadu resembled a desert when River Cauvery was flowing in all glory right beside it.
This anomaly has ensued several legends about Talakadu, each attempting to explain how this place turned into a sandy terrain. The version I came across dates back to the 16th century AD when Srirangapatna and Talakudu were ruled by the Vijayanagara Empire. The death of the last viceroy Srirangaraya, prompted Raja Wodeyar, who was then a chieftain of the Vijayanagara Empire, to declare war and form his own kingdom.
The legend goes that when Srirangaraya fell ill, he visited the Vaidyanatheshwara temple in Talakadu with his first wife. His second wife Alamelamma took charge of the administration at Srirangapatna. However, upon arriving in Talakadu, the viceroy’s health worsened. And so, Alamelamma too left the capital and rushed to his side. As fate would have it, Srirangaraya passed away in Talakadu. Taking advantage of the situation, Raja Wodeyar attacked Srirangapatna and crowned himself the king. Alamelamma was thus unable to enter her own territory and was forced to stay in the adjoining village of Malangi.
I found an important lesson in the legend. Perhaps, conquering Srirangapatna was all that had mattered to Raja Wodeyar the moment its ruler passed away. But the consequences of his action changed the course of history for all the Wodeyars who came after him.
Incidentally, Alamelamma was an ardent devotee of Goddess Ranganayaki of Srirangapatna. It was a weekly practice to deck the goddess up with Alamelamma’s jewels. So, once Raja Wodeyar took over, he wanted her jewellery to be returned to the temple. He ordered his soldiers to get the jewels from a reluctant Alamelamma. When the soldiers ambushed Alamelamma, she gave them her pearl nose ring and fled with the rest of her jewellery. When they further pursued her, she found herself cornered at a cliff overlooking Cauvery. Left with no choice and unwilling to surrender, Alamelamma jumped into the river. But before she took her life, she did something that changed the landscape of Talakadu forever, and rewrite the history of the Mysore Wodeyars. She cursed thus:
May Talakadu be submerged in sand
May Malangi become a whirlpool
May the Mysore kings never sire children
Barring numerous rational studies that have been taken upon the subject since then, it seemed to me that Alamelamma’s curse had come true. Talakadu is buried in sand; Malangi, where Alamelamma jumped to death is a whirlpool, and every alternate generation (the ones with true-born heirs) of Mysore Wodeyars is childless.
I found an important lesson in the legend. Perhaps, conquering Srirangapatna was all that had mattered to Raja Wodeyar the moment its ruler passed away. But the consequences of his action changed the course of history for all the Wodeyars who came after him. So, my trip to Talakadu was a reminder that we cannot escape from the consequences of our actions. It reinforced in me a responsibility for every action I take in my own life, and how it can affect my loved ones.