Nambi Narayana temple, Thonnur - first of ''Pancha Narayana'' kshetram of Karnataka

Nambi Narayana Temple of Thonnur or Tondanuru near the famous Melukote  is the first and the oldest of the Pancha Narayana Kshetrams.  Thonnur was a provincial capital of the Hoysalas and is on the  southern slopes of a small hillock locally called Yadugiri.

Nambi Narayana temple,Thonnur, Karnataka

Toward the end of the Dwapara Yuga, in the Sura Sura war, Indra, having been  afflicted with Brahmma Hathi Dosham, undertook long penance to get rid of it. He invoked  the blessings from  Lord Vishnu. to be free from the dosha. God Narayana   directed him to have  5 Narayana Idols installed  as a remedy.  Thus Thondanur  was the first of the Pancha Narayana Kshetrams; Narayana idol was first installed here.  The other four places are:  Cheluva Narayana at Melkote,  Keerthi Narayana at Thalakkadu, Veera Narayana at Gadag and Sowmya Narayana at Belur. This temple is under the care of ASI - Archaeological Survey of India, Bangaluru circle and it is a protected monument. To the people following Vaishnava sambrathayam  visiting these  five venerated  Pancha Narayana Kshetras of Karnataka is  as good as 18 Divya desam shrines. The sthalavriksham (sacred tree of the temple), White Gulmohar (Delonix elata) which has medicinal properties and is good for inflamatory disorders, stomach pain, scorpion bite, etc.

Nambi Narayana temple, Thonnur,

Nambi Narayana temple,

About 35 kms from Mysore and 155 kms from Bangalore, the specialty about this temple is it was renovated by the great Vaishnavite seer Sri Ramanuja during his exile from Srirangam, near Thiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu. He also  built mantapas outside the sanctum and consecrated the temple. He also had  installed Veeranarayana in warrior form as revealed by his dress- the dhoti, worn as veerakacche. Though the temple itself was built in the 11th century during the period of Kalyani Chalukyas, it continued to receive patronage till the time of Vijayanagara rulers. 

location Mandhya.

Sri Ramanuja during his long  sojourn in this place stayed with his disciple Thondanur Nambi who was much pleased to serve the great seer. When the jaina ruler Bittideva’s daughter was possessed of  evil spirits  Thondanur Nambi sought the help of Sri Ramaanuja. Accordingly, the seer cured the ruler's daughter and got rid of her mental ailment.   In this temple there is a  peeta (chair) of Sri Ramanuja in the mandapam on the way  to Garbagriham. Sri Ramanuja along with his disciples can be seen next to his peetam.

What is special about this temple? The sanctum/garbagriha of Nambi Narayana Temple is believed to be  over 5500  years old and dates back to the Dwapara Yuga. Once upon a time a thickly wooded area called Yadava Narayana Chaturvedi Mangalam, it was Veera Narasimha, the Hoysala ruler with   Dorasamudram as his capital granted  64 gadayaanas to the people of Thondanur Agrahara for  maintaining the temple including periodic repairs (vide stone inscriptions in the temple)   

The Hoysala dynasty king Bittideva,  embraced Vaishnavism  and became an ardant follower of Sri Ramanuja.  The king  came to be called   ‘Vishnuvardhana’.  Constructed in the 12 th century AD during the regime of Vishnuvardhana to commemorate his victory over the Cholas at Talakadu, the shrine was built by one of king's generals  Suragi Nagaiah according to inscriptions. 

Navaranga (with well polished soapstone pillars  and  exquisite floral  design),    50 pillared Maharanga Mantapa, an Ardha Mantapa, a Shukanaasi, a Garbha Griha (Sanctum Sanctorum) and a big Paataalankana (with 40 octagonal-faced pillars), fifty pillared Maharanga Mantapa, 45 foot tall   Garudagamba in the front are the salient features of this  temple.    The wall in the temple is austere, treated with single pilasters. In the area of garbhagriha at the cardinal directions are double pilaster turreted niches of devakoshthas. The antarala region is marked by a large multi-faceted pilaster. The sprawling temple is a blend of Chola and Hoysala architecture and soap stones are widely used in the pillar construction.

 The deity in the sanctum  is a rare one.  God Nambi Narayana 1.8 m tall has a conch and disc in his right and left hand while it’s just otherwise  traditionally in other Perumal temples. The moolavar is carved out of a single saligrama stone with a kavacha made of panchaloha.  The temple under ASI Achelogical survey of India.

Among Hindus, in particular, Vaishnavites the belief has been that devotees who visit this  Pancha Narayana Kshetram.  with intense  bakthi and strong trust in Narayana  will positively  attain Vaikunta Moksham and be in the shadow of God's grace for ever.