Legend of Mahanandi Temple
According to myths, Rasa Siddha is said to have built the Vimana and made the workers set up sand mounds, which he converted into wealth by his power. A copper plate by Krishandevaraya states that Mahanandi is one of the sacred places where the king's brother Simha Deva Raya gave valuable gifts. The Sthalapurana states that Nanda ruled over Navanandis where Mahanandi is situated. The king once thought to smear the idol and perform Abhishek, a Hindu ritual, with milk. Herds of cows were brought, which included a black cow, which gave a lot of milk and was allowed graze freely in the forest. In due course of time, the cow seemed to provide less milk, after she returned from the forest. Finally a cow-herd found out that the cow grazed around an anthill and then she stood right over it letting the milk flow over the anthill. From it a young child emerged who was Lord Krishna, after which the cow returned. The next day the king followed the cow and, hid in a bush expecting to catch a glimpse of the Lord. The cow arrived and circled the anthill; Krishna appeared and accepted the offering. The king in surprise moved forward, scaring the nervous cow, who stepped on the anthill in fright. The child disappeared; the imprint of the hoof remained on the anthill. The king, realising his mistake, prayed for forgiveness and the Lord ordained the anthill that after it dried, it would become a Swayambhu Linga at Mahanandi. The two signs are still visible on top of the Linga.
Architecture of Mahanandi Temple
The temple is at the foothill where a mineral spring flows into the fields from underneath the Linga, into the tank in front of the temple. The temple is surrounded by mandapas on all sides. The Vimana over the sanctum is in Nagara Style Architecture. It has a Shikara at the top. The architectural peculiarities show that the temple dates back to ancient times and it was repaired and rebuilt through the ages by many kings. This temple is famous for its curative powers found in the warm tepid mineral water found in the tank in front of the temple. It is a sixty feet square with a mandapa in the centre. The inlets and outlets of the tank are so arranged that the depth of the water remains constant at five feet for the devotees to swim in. The source of this water has never been traced. The water is said to come from five springs called Srisailadhara, Narasimhadhara, Daivodhinidhara, Nanditirtha and Kailasatirtha. There are two pools of fresh water as well, known as Pushkarni or Kalyani.
The sanctum contains a Linga and is made from rough uncut rocks, with two sockets. Here the Linga is seen just above the earth's surface without the three Peethams underneath. A huge Nandi is at the front of the shrine and hence it is called Mahanandi Tirtha. The tank that lies behind is known as Rudra Gundam and there are two more tanks called Vishnu Gundam and Brahma Gundam. Close to the main shrine is another shrine dedicated to the Goddess. The Srichakra, in front of the deity, is said to have been installed by Adisankara himself. The Mukha Mandapa of the goddess is a recent construction.
Behind the main shrine, there are three small shrines, each consisting of a Shiva Lingam. It is stated that if these are worshipped, they will take an individual beyond the Sthoola, Sookshma and Karana Dehas to the Turiya stage.
Festivals of Mahanandi Temple
The Shivaratri is the most important festival. In the Kartika masa, pilgrims worship in the shrine of Mallikarjunaswamy and then at the shrine of Padma Nandi, which is two miles further ahead. They then go to the Naga Nandi that is a mile to the west, and then proceed to Brahma Nandi, Soma Nandi, and Shiva Nandi, which are all nearby. They move on to Krishna or Vishnu Nandi, three miles to the northeast and from there complete the pilgrimage by worshipping Vinayaka Nandi, Maha Nandi, and Surya Nandi. The traditional belief is that the worship of these Nava Nandis should be finished in a day before sunset. The other festivals like Dasara, Ugadi etc. are also important.
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