- An unknown paradise
There is a legend associated with Mahimapura. It is believed Garuda performed penance at this place to cleanse himself of the sin of eating the dead body of a demon. The lord after being pleased with Garuda's penance appeared before him in the form of a mound of jaggery, also known as 'Nirakari Swaroopa.'
In mythological times the sage Kashyapa's wife Aditi was presented with 2 eggs by the Sun god who says that two sons will be born out of the eggs. Aditi waits for many years for the eggs to hatch. Getting impatient she breaks one of the eggs and a child without arms and legs comes out of the egg, curses her, and vanishes. She feels sad and worships the Sun god again. The Sun god appears and tells her to wait patiently and let the other egg hatch on its own. After some years Garuda comes out of the egg and immediately demands food from his mother, she directs him to Sage Kashyapa. Garuda who is impatient with hunger disturbs the penance of Sage Kashyapa and asks for food. The sage then gets angry and tells Garuda to go to a rocky place where the dead body of a 'Rakshasi' (demoness) is lying, eat it and satisfy his hunger. This place is called the 'Rakshasi Bande' and is situated very near to Mahimapura.
Garuda eats the dead body and later realizes that disturbing his father during tapasya was wrong and wants to perform penance to wash off his sins. He again goes and apologizes to Sage Kashyapa, who in turn directed him to Mahimapura and bid him to worship Lord Ranganatha who will wash off his sins. Garuda performs penance and after many years Lord Vishnu (Ranganatha) appeared before him in the Nirakari form or as a mound of jaggery. The temple was built to worship the glory of Lord Ranganatha and the main deity is called 'Mahima Ranganatha Swamy.'
This is the only place wherein Lord Garuda is worshipped. The temple is built in the Chola style and the pillars have beautiful carvings on them. But the maintenance has been pretty low and the pillars have been whitewashed due to which, the sculptures go unnoticed.
To reach the temple one has to climb around 300 steep steps. On the top is the small temple, which houses the idols. The Shivaganga hills towers majestically behind this small hillock. One can have a wonderful view of the Shivaganga hills from here. At the foot of the hill there is the temple of Lord Hanuman, which has an idol of Hanuman 12 ft in length made out of a single rock. Pooja is performed in the temple only once during the day, in the mornings, there is no pooja during the nights, as it is believed that divine sages visit the place during the evenings and the priest's father had a dream in which the sages appeared and told him not to climb the hill during the evening.
Three important festivals are celebrated with great pomp here, i.e., Janmashtami, Dasara (Navaratri) and Narasimha Jayanthi. A Car Festival (Rathothsava) is held during the Magha month, on the day of Makha star (sometime in February - March). During this Car Festival a Cattle Market/ Show takes place at the foot of the hills. And also many competitions also take place during this time. People from the surrounding villages assemble here during this time to participate in the cattle show and also to worship the deity. Otherwise people hardly visit the shrine.
The village Mahimapura is a small hamlet with a population of around 500 people. The priest of the temple can arrange good homemade vegetarian food. Small groups of 2 and 3 people can go to the village and inform the priest's family to prepare lunch well in advance. If a big group is expected then the family has to be informed well in advance. Nominal charges are to be paid to the priest for the meals - approx Rs. 30 - Rs. 50/- per person. There are many dhabas on the national highway en-route Mahimapura. There are also many resorts and hotels dotting the highway. But these are mainly concentrated in and around Nelamangala, which is situated in the middle between Bangalore and Mahimapura. The dhabas mainly serve Punjabi type of food viz., roti, dhal etc., cost of a meal for 2 - Rs 75 - 100/- veg and Rs 100 - 150/- non-veg. Resorts would be a bit more expensive but the ambience is better with hygienic surroundings, comfortable seating and good service and a choice of cuisine from the local idly-vada to Kashmiri Nan.
To reach the place from Bangalore, take the National Highway 4 (Bangalore - Pune Road) and drive for around 45 km in the direction of Tumkur. One can find a large sign on the right side of the road, which reads 'Mahimapura' and an arrow points towards the cross. Take left and proceed straight for around 1.5 km. You will come across a small hillock with a steep flight of steps leading to the top. This is Mahimapura.
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