Hindu god Narasimha who drinks sweet water - Panakala Narasimha, Mangalagiri, AP

Entrance .Panakala Narasimha Swamy temple,image credit:Ramakrishna Anand

In India, there are tales of scientific myth, riddles and superstitions, besides temple legends associated with pretty old Hindu temples. Numerous Hindu temples were built based on apparitions experienced either by kings or sages or  common people whose devotion to God was exemplary.

gaping mouth -only  image of  god.Mangalagirimurpriya.blogspot.com

Panakala Narasimha Swamy temple Mangalagiri, AP. yatrastotemples.com

Panakala Narasimha Swamy temple located on an elephant shaped  small  hill in Mangalagiri town in Guntur district, Andhra State is a popular, but mysterious temple. It is about 16 km from Vijayawada city and can be accessed by NH 5; Guntur is the other near-by town.  At this temple the presiding deity - Lord Vishnu is fond of  Panakam (in Tamil & Telugu it means sweet drink; jaggery juice) and is Swayambhu - self-manifested. An interesting fact is  there is no image  of the god in the strict sense,  but there is only an opening, presumably a mouth, widely opened to 15 cms. The mouth is covered with  metal face of the god. It is indeed a rare image of god in Sreekovil or Garbhagriha.

 Mangalagiri town from the hill. image credit:Ramakrishna Anand

The main offering here is  jaggery water  which is fed to the god through a  conch (sangu). The Jaggery water is actually poured into the Lord's mouth. Upon feeding, an audible  gargling sound persists for sometime, as if the Lord was actually drinking the juice with joy and the sound stops later;  part of the  jaggery water is thrown out of the opening! This recurring phenomenon in the course of the day is quite baffling  and strange. No Indian temple, that I know of, has this kind of strange incidence of devotee making 'sweet water' as offering to the god by way of pouring it through the opening, which represents God's image. Yet another  interesting  fact that may tease your brain is you can not spot ants or flies around the temple, not withstanding the fact so much sugary stuff - jaggery water is offered to the deity and to the devotees as well.  As the offering of the panakam to the Lord is popular, the Lord here is called Panakala Narasimha Swamy. But when you go to the foot hills or plains insects are observable.

Panakala Narasimha Swamy temple Mangalagiri, AP.  image credit:Ramakrishna Anand

It is said that the hill was once a volcano. Sugar or jaggery water, it is said, neutralizes sulphur compounds found in the molten liquid way down below the ground and this, it is believed, prevents the volcanic eruption. From science point of view, this explanation has some holes, however, one can not deny the strange happening here that is shrouded in mystery. Hence, this tradition of offering  jaggery water to the god has been around for several centuries. According to The Geological Survey of India's  records dating back to 1880,  the hills between Vinukonda and Amaravati were  of volcanic origin and Mangalagiri hill is part of it. 

On my recent visit to this temple, I spent quite a bit of time on the hill.  Never had I experienced the menace of flies or other insects; nor did I find any trace of ants that are fond of sugary stuff. As for the highly weathered rocks on the hill, they seem to have been partly metamorphosed, probably caused by a minor volcanic extrusion from the magma chamber. The intrusive features become exposed and form part of the landscape due to continuous process of weathering and erosion through millions of years.

Since a new  state capital is coming up about 36 km from here, the state Geological Survey is carrying out detailed study of this strange hill. The strange ritual of directly offering  jaggery water to the presiding deity for several centuries and the fact that in  the entire hilly area around the temple   there are no flies and ants seem to remain as an enigma.

Near the temple town of Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, at Ayyavadi village,  there is a temple dedicated to goddess Kali - Pratyangara Devi. On a certain day every month, the pundits  conduct special pooja by erecting Yaga gundam with big fire-pit. In the flame, they put as many  as 96 items, including bags and bags of dry hot chilies. Strangely, it does not give out any  pungent or unbearable odor. Nor does it cause runny rose and red-eyes. The mystery is yet to be solved. Myth and superstition, sometime overtake rationality!