Built by a Muslim, an 800-year-old temple in Karnataka is fostering communal harmony


The 800-year old Bappanadu Durga Parameshwari Temple —situated on the banks of the Shambhavi River in Mulki, Karnataka—is a modern-day testimony to communal harmony. The temple, said to be built by a Muslim merchant, is today known for the rare practice of allowing Muslims to accept the prasada (blessings of the deity).

Situated 29 kms north of Mangalore, the temple’s main deity is Goddess Shree Durga Parameshwari, worshipped in the form of a linga. Called ‘Ulladi’ by the Tuluvas, the goddess is worshipped by everyone sans race and caste. From the inscriptions found in the temple, dating 1141 AD, it is evident that non-Hindus have participated in the temple activities for the longest time.

As the legend goes, the Goddess was responsible for slaying the demon Darigasura, who until then had proved to be powerful over the Devas, due to a boon granted by Lord Brahma. After the demon was annihilated, the Goddess and her sisters, collectively known as the Sapta Durgas, left their heavenly abode and settled down near Mulki for the benefit of the devotees on earth. It is said the Goddess emerged in the symbolic form at the conjunction of Shambhavi and Nandini Rivers in Mulki.

Later, Bappa Beary, a Muslim merchant from Kerala, was once sailing through the Shambhavi River for reasons of trade. When the boat reached Mulki, it stopped suddenly mid-river, having hit an obstacle underwater. The obstacle turned out to be the five lingas and pedestals of the temple that had collapsed recently due to flooding of the river. The waters of the river turned blood-red and Bappa, a devout man, immediately did his namaaz and, then, slept in the mired boat. The Goddess appeared in his dream and asked him to build a temple for her—adding the premise of the one-and-only God for all mankind, who was known by different names to the devout.

With the help of the local Jain ruler, Mulki Sawantha, Bappa Beary spent his material wealth for building the temple. Bappa also settled down nearby, making Mulki his home, and, in his honour, the area came to be known as Bappanadu. A Yakshagana, “Bappanadu Kshetra Mahatme”, frequently staged by the local troupes for the last 40 years, features Bappa Beary and the story of the temple that he helped build.

Bappa’s descendants still live in the ancestral house, and to honour the man who built the temple, the temple procession (Rathotsava) starts every year from the house. The first honorary prasadam of the annual car festival is offered to the descendants of Bappa Beary. The family in turn offers fruits and flowers to the deity.

The Muslim community in the area is known to perform special prayers for marriages in the family and other rituals at the temple. Community feeding at the temple is done on Fridays, where people of all faiths congregate for the sacred meal. The communal harmony enabled by the temple extends to Christians in the area too. Local Christians in the jasmine flower business sell flowers only to the temple during the festival time, despite heavy demand from other parts of the state.

The Temple is also famous for its Bappanadu’s Dolu (musical drum), a large drum featured at the entrance of the temple. Famed all over the Kannada region, the drum-beating ceremony is held during the annual festival in honour of the deity. The temple in-turn honours the drummers, who are accompanied by their family members during the drum-beating ritual.

It is also believed by the local community that imprudent youngsters are transformed into responsible ones by beating drums at the temple. So much so that, this has become a local proverb in Kannada, amply quoted by people to advise negligent youth. Thanks to the temple, transformation does happen indeed—for the youth and the community. With its message of communal harmony, this temple is enabling peace and brotherhood between faiths in today’s deeply fractured world.

Image courtesy : www.mangaloretaxi.com

The Bappanadu Ratholsava 2013

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  1. Superb! How I wish all of us follow these tenets while following our individual spiritual practices.

  2. Maithreyi joshi says:

    I belong to Mulki and my project was o Bappanadu temple during college days. Its amazing to witness good no. of non Hindus participating in the temple utsava. Am proud to be a resident of this holy place.