While the Raja Rajeshwaraswamy Temple is the icon of Vemulawada, there is a lesser known but more beautiful temple a short distance from the main temple, the Bhimeswara Swamy Temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is a short walk from the main temple entrance.
The Chalukyan influence
The lanes of Vemulawada were deserted at 7.30 AM when we walked to the Bhimeswara Temple. We wouldn’t have known about this temple if not for this writer’s father who happened to watch a documentary on Vemulawada on TV and told us about the temple.
A 5 minute walk through the inner lanes of Vemulawada takes you to the Bhimeswaraswamy Temple, you cannot miss the road thanks to a big sign board arch right opposite to the Raja Rajeshwara Temple.
The temple must have been built around the same time as the Raja Rajeshwara temple, the architecture is different though. This temple has been built in the Nagara style, popularized during the Chalukyan reign, unlike the Dravidian style of the Raja Rajeshwara temple. It is amazing how the signature style of the Chalukyas had an influence even on a small branch of the dynasty, which ruled a land some 600 kms away ! There is a stone inscription outside the temple, if only we could read it !
Bhimeswara – True to his name !
Bhimeswaraswamy temple is peaceful and quiet as not many people seem to visit it, normally but what an architectural treasure it is !
At the entrance of the temple is a raised platform that has the Navagrahas and idols of Lord Hanuman and small Siva Lingas. A few steps lead up to the high platform, such pedestals for Navagrahas and idols are common in temples but not one where you can actually climb it, touch the idols and pray.
Beyond the platform, you enter the Mukhamandapa and what hits you first is the sight of the colossal pillars inside the hall ! Pillars of such massive height, width and richness of sculpture are unique to the Bhimeswara Temple ! Before you can recover from the sight, there is another shocker – the huge Siva Linga inside a Garbhalayam as big as it can get ! The word “Bhima” means formidable, Lord Bhimeswara, imposing and formidable, true to his name ! The sheer size of the place and the idol will leave you cowering before the Almighty !
Unlike the Raja Rajeshwara Temple, thankfully, this temple has not been renovated much and it retains its ancient charm. We can’t bring you more pictures because photography is not allowed inside the temple premises.
God does not ask you your identity cards !
A very amusing incident happened at the Bhimeswara Temple, which we’d be telling people all our lives everytime a spiritual discussion comes up and by sharing this we do not mean disrespect to anybody or their beliefs.
So the story goes that this couple prayed before the awe-inspiring Lord when the priest asked them their Gotra. On hearing the Gotra that indicated their caste identity, the priest decided to let them inside the Garbhalayam, touch the Siva Linga and pray. He, however, barred the husband from entering the Sanctum Sanctorum because he was dressed in Jeans and allowed the wife to enter and pray to her heart’s content. He said he was allowing entry only on the basis of their Gotra, which meant the entry was allowed only to those who belonged to the particular caste. Funnily, what the priest didn’t know was that the wife actually did not belong to the social identity in question ! The priest even insisted that she touch the idol and take blessings, the husband who should have actually had the privilege going by his social order, was not allowed inside on account of his dress ! Apparently it did not strike the priest that inter-religion/inter-caste marriages are quite common in today’s world !
It was very funny, we burst out laughing the moment we came out of the temple, imagine if the priest came to know what had just happened ! However, deep down, it disturbed us. We respect for religious beliefs and practices but one should not forget the essence of all religious teachings, the equality of all before God and that God is above the social orders we set for ourselves. You either let everybody inside or no one. Same goes for the “Hindus only” boards in most popular temples.
While the God himself didn’t mind who it was who came to seek his blessings, people are still holding on to age old beliefs and continue to differentiate others in the name of religion, caste, race. Sadly, the very people who need to educate common man about the true meaning of God are the ones who continue to spread these social differences. And then, we complain about how the world is fast losing human values ! When will we realize that it is the same God who resides in all of us, that God doesn’t need to know our identity, that the identity of every living being is the same as the Supreme Being !
As we left the temple after a brief walk around its serene surroundings, we thanked the Almighty for all the blessings on our special day and for silently reiterating our belief in that one truth about all living beings – Tat Tvam Asi !
Whatever you do at Vemulawada, do not miss the Bhimeswara Swamy Temple ! It is the kind of temple that gives you an inner peace you seek when you visit a place of worship.
We had a heavy breakfast of Idly and Dosa at a nearby hotel, the only decent one in town. We tried to do some shopping in the market area but nothing seemed interesting and we took leave of Vemulawada.
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