Kukke Subrahmanya (Tulu/ Kannada: ಕುಕ್ಕೆ ಸುಬ್ರಹ್ಮಣ್ಯ) is a Hindu temple located in the small, rural village of Subramanya in Sullia taluk of Dakshin Kannada District near Mangalore , India. This temple is one of the pristine pilgrimage locations in India. Here Lord Subrahmanya is worshipped as the lord of all serpents. The epics relate that the divine serpent Vasuki and other serpents found safety under Lord Subrahmanya when apprehended by Garuda.
Kukke subramanya can be reached by road from Mangalore and Bangalore.KSRTC operates buses on a daily basis from these two places. The nearest airport is the the Bajpe Airport, the Mangalore International Airport, at a distance of 115 kms. The nearest railway station is Subramanya Road railway station on Mangalore-Bangalore railway route, which is 7 km from Kukke Subramanya. There is a daily passenger train service from Mangalore. One can catch a local transport from the station for a journey of 15 minutes to the temple.
Lapped in the luxurious abundance of the beauty of the nature the village of Subramanya lies in the Sullia Taluk in south Kanara which very few places can boast of. The temple is situated in the heart of the village. Nature reveals herself in all her unhidden beauty in the rivers, forests and mountains which the temples is surrounded by. It is about a 100 KM from Mangalore and can be easily reached by buses or taxis.
The tirtha of Subrahmanya lies in South Karnataka and is the abode of Karttikeya, the son of Lord Siva. It’s glories are described in the Sahyadri Khanda of the Skanda Purana (chapters 113-118) wherein it is described how during the Satya-yuga Karttikeya was installed as the ‘senapati’ (commander-in-chief) of the demigods on the banks of the River Dhara (or ‘Kumaradhara’ as it is commonly known). Also, after killing the demon Tarakasura, he washed the demon’s blood from his spear in the River Dhara. Admiring the beauty of this place, Karttikeya decided to reside here.
Kumaradhara River: In the Treta-yuga, Lord Parasurama came to this place and bathed in the River Dhara in order to absolve himself of the sins of exterminating the ksatriya-race twenty one times over.
In Dvapara-yuga, when Samba, the son of Sri Krsna was cursed with leprosy, he came to bathe in the Dhara in order to become free from the disease. By smearing the mud from the riverbank over his body and bathing in the river, he regained his orignal beauty. From that time on, the waters of the Dhara River have become famous for curing skin diseases. During this age the Pandavas also visited this holy place.
In more recent times Subrahmanya was visited by Adi Sankaracarya who referred to this place as ‘Bhaje Kukke Lingam’ in his composition Subrahmanya Bhujangaprayata Stotram.
The Abode of the Snake-King.
Previous to Karttikeya, the snake-king Vasuki took up residence in Subrahmanya. According to the Skanda Purana, Garuda was once hunting for snakes to devour and came across Vasuki hiding in a large cave (this cave is called ‘Biladvara’ and is close to the temple). Striking Vasuki with his mighty wings and tearing at him with his sharp claws and beak, Garuda tried to kill him. Owing to Vasuki’s strength however, Garuda became dazed by the poisonous vapors emitting from Vasuki’s mouth, as well as the luminous jewels on his hood.
As they fought, the great sage Kasyapa Muni appeared and requested Garuda to desist from killing Vasuki who was a great devotee of Lord Siva.
With great humility, Garuda folded his palms and told the sage that he was starving and had not eaten in days. Kasyapa told him, “Go to the Ramanaka Islands (modern day Fiji) where snakes and uncivilized Kiratas (hunters) are available in plenty.” Immediately Garuda went to that place to satisfy his hunger.
Turning to Vasuki, Kasyapa Muni said, “O best of serpents, go to Kumara Ksetra in the Sahyadri Mountains and pray to Lord Siva. You will never be bothered by Garuda again.” Bowing to the sage, Vasuki and his family went to Subrahmanya Ksetra and attained the blessings of Siva who told him, “In the next kalpa, my son Karttikeya will come and reside here. He will bless you and you will always remain by his side.” Later, after Karttikeya killed Tarakasura and married Indra’s daughter Devasena, Vasuki was united with him and has been worshipped alongside Karttikeya ever since.
The Deity of Sri Karttikeya
Skanda Purana narrates how, after Karttikeya had slain Tarakasura, Lord Brahma installed the deity of Karttikeya in Subrahmanya Ksetra along with the deity of Vasuki through whom Karttikeya accepts the worship of his devotees. The deity is popularly known as ‘Sri Subrahmanya Svami’. In front of the altar is a slivergaruda-stambha which is said to have been erected and consecrated with special mantras in order to shield the devotees from the poisonous vapors from Vasuki’s mouth within the garbha-grha (altar-room).
Different utsavas (festivals) are held for the Deity according to the season. Some months he is taken on a ratha (chariot), other times he is taken on a palki (palanquin) accompanied by traditional music and colourful banners.
The biggest festival held here is on Campa-sasti during the month of Margasirsa (Nov/Dec) when the deity is taken out on the huge brahma-ratha.
On the south side of the temple there is a deity of Bhairava Kapalesvara (a fierce aspect of Lord Siva) which is said to have been installed by Karttikeya himself after killing Tarakasura.
On the same side as the shrine of Bhairava are the ancient deities of the mother-goddess Hosaligamma and Purusa-raya. They are considered to be the bodyguards of Subrahmanya.
On the north-east side of the temple compound are the deities of Uma-Mahesvara which were installed by Sri Narada Muni.
Samputa Narasingha Matha
For Vaisnavas, Subrahmanya Ksetra also has some significance. On the south-eastern side of the temple of Karttikeya is the shrine of Samputa Narasingha established by Srila Madhvacarya.When Madhva visited the Himalayan tirtha of Badarinatha, he was presented eightsalagrama-silas by Srila Vyasadeva known as the ‘Vyasa-musti’.
Six of these salagramas are presently being worshipped in this temple, while the other two are in Sode Matha and Uttaradi Matha (although there is some controversy whether the eighth is in the Uttaradi Matha, Vyasaraya Matha or the Raghavendra Matha).
Along with the eight Vyasa-musti, Srila Vyasadeva also gave Madhva a Narasingha salagrama that is said to be so powerful that if it is uncovered, the three worlds would be engulfed in the flames emanating from Lord Narasingha.
Consequently Sri Madhva Muni placed the salagrama within the safe confines of a box (samputa) along with 22 Laksmi-Narayana silas and five of the vyasa-musti silas (the sixth is worshipped outside the box). This Deity of Samputa Narasingha was so dear to Madhvacarya that Sri Vadiraja Svami, in his Tirtha Prabandha, has referred to Him as ‘The heart of Madhva’.
Although this Narasingha salagrama is worshipped daily, it is never removed from the box except for bathing, and only then by the sannyasi who is the mathadipati(head of the Subrahmanya Matha). Nobody else is allowed to see this Deity. If the head of the matha becomes sick and is incapacitated, the right of seva goes to the svami of Sri Pejavara Adhoksaja Matha in Udupi. The present mathadhipathi of Subrahmanya Matha is H.H.Sri Vidyaprasanna Tirtha Svamiji.
Vidyaprasanna Tirtha Svami
Sri Madhvacarya established the matha in Subrahmanya and made his brother Sri Visnu Tirtha the first mathadhipati. Sri Visnu Tirtha is said to still reside in the Kumara Mountains nearby where he is performing austerities at the place known as ‘Siddha Parvata’. He returns to the matha sometimes to perform puja to Samputa Narasingha. Many devotees have heard the sound of bells inside the garbha-grha late at night when the temple is locked. It is said that when the Dvaita tradition is almost dead, Sri Visnu Tirtha will return to re-establish it.
During the time of Sri Aniruddha Tirtha (a direct disciple of Sri Madhva and the second pontiff of the matha), King Ballalaraya of the Hoysala Dynasty stole the box containing the Narasingha salagrama. Desiring to see the Deity, he hired four blacksmiths to forcibly open the box. Unfortuately, when they tried, they all died on the spot. The king also tried to open the box by having an elephant stand on it –the result was that the elephant also died immediately. Because of his great offence, King Ballalaraya felt a great burning sensation within his body, and it was only when he returned Samputa Narasingha to Sri Aniruddha Tirtha and obtained his blessings that he was relieved from his malady. In the compound of the Subrahmanya temple there is a statue of Ballalaraya which commemorates this incident. Pilgrims offer him cotton, mustard, butter and pumpkin to cool his body down.
Along with the salagamas, there are a number of Deities which belonged to previous acaryasof the matha including a Laksmi-Nrsingha Deity and Deities of Vittala (Krsna), Rukmini and Satyabhama which were also worshipped by Madhvacarya.
Vrndavanas and Somanathesvara Temple
About a mile away, on the banks of the Kumaradhara River, is the village of Agrahara where thirty vrndavanas (samadhis) of many of the previous mathadipatis of the Subrahmanya Matha are situated. The most famous vrndavanas found here are that of Sri Aniruddha Tirtha and Sri Varaha Tirtha.
On the 5th day of the month of Margasirsa (Nov/Dec), Sri Varaha Tirtha Svamiji passed away. It is the custom for the present mathadipati to take his bath at this place on that day and worship the vrndavana of Varaha Tirtha Svami. Therefore, the bathing-ghata at this place is known as Pancami Tirtha (pancami being the fifth day of the month).
Near to the vrndavanas is a temple of Lord Siva known as the Somanathesvara Temple where the siva-lingam is said to have been installed over 1000 years ago. Centuries before, there was a thriving brahmana community here to serve the deity, but for some unknown reason, the population thinned out, the temple became dilapidated, and the seva to the deity ended. Recently however, the temple has come under the able management of the Subrahmanya Matha and has been renovated.
The beauty of the inner and outer mantapa of the Kukke Subramanya Temple in Karnataka will surely mesmerize ones sensory nerves. Kukke Subrahmanya is a religious destination and also a tourist spot. One will enjoy nature’s beauty and the treks through lush green forests and hills.
- Pavana santhosh