Kurudumale – Where Buddhism intersects Ganapatya sect

Dear Kaundinya Rishi

It’s a bit difficult to even your reference to my peers. You don’t seem to play any major role in Ramayana and Mahabharata the two epics which my generation’s brethren are struggling to even recollect now.

But to be fair, if one deep dives into your character, one can find an interesting cross connections between wineyards of Bangalore, the common grass we have in Indian landscape, pre-Buddha Buddhism, Ganesha worship.

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An artist in Bangalore drawing Ganesha together with Buddha

Few weeks back, when traveling in Srilanka, I realized that Theravada Buddhists not only revere Gautam Buddha, but a line of 28 Buddhas who have been before his times. Now that’s something we haven’t been hearing of often.

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Image of line of Kondanna Buddha visited by Bdhisattva as a local King, Galapatya Vihara, Srilanka

The second one in the list is known as Kondanna Buddha. He was supposedly both in Amaravati (Close to modern Amaravati in AP???). After living a comfortable princely life, when he realized it doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere, he left it all. For 10 months when he practiced ‘Dukkaracariya’ a set of practices of austerities involving abandoning all sort of food.

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Wooden Panel of temple showing the sage doing his practices, Someshwar Temple

Towards the end of this period, he was given milkrice by a daughter of a merchant. An Ajivika saint Sunanda offered him a grass seat and somewhere in this cocktail, he achieved his enlightenment. Ten choirs of monks were given his sermon.

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Temple Priest addressing the devotees, Someshwara Temple

He is famed for introducing the doctrine of Boddhiprakriya Dharma the path of attaining Boddhihood, MangalSutra the doctrine which helps to live a perfect life with prosperity.

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Kaundinya Rishi is worshipped by applying sandalpaste on his image in the temple pillars, Someshwara Temple

The only catch is that many texts attribute the Sanskrit word Kaundinya to Kondanna Buddha which is more of Pali misnomer. So were you considered by Buddhists as their second Buddha and by Vedic priests as Sage Kaundinya?

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Grapevine groves around Bangalore to be used in the vineyards nearby

As per website maintained by Kaundinya Brahmins, you were created by Parvati to supply wine to the gods and men by fermenting sap from the wild date palm.

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Datepalm trees in the neighbourhood

So happy were the men and the gods from your job that they called you ‘Gowda’ – head of mankind. I can’t help wondering on how Gowdas is a common surname used in Karnataka and Andhra belt.

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A procession of Gowdas during Karnataka Day celebration at Bangalore

But more than the wine, you are remembered for bringing the important of Durva grass to the world. Isn’t it a coincidence that Buddhists mention the grass seat with special emphasis wrt Kondanna Buddha?

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Engravings on Temple Wall at Vinayaka Temple showing a devotee (Kaundinya???) and a Deva tired of carrying weight (to equal the weight of the grass???)

The story goes that you had offered 21 blades of Durva grass to Ganesha and then asked your wife to get gold equivalent to their weight from the gods. All the gods tried their might to balance the weight of grass with gold but failed.

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Offerings of Durva Grass along with the flowers

The story is more of a metamorphical reference to the great medicinal value of Durva grass. It has been known to be used for eye disorders, herpes, uterine disorders, convulsion etc.

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Closeup of the grass in the temple compund

On a spiritual note, it is considered that three blades of the grass represent the three principles of primal Shiva, primal Shakti and primal Ganesha. Durva grass is said to have the highest ability to attract the Ganesha principle.

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Someshwara Temple

Today your village Kudurumale which was probably your Ashram once upon a time hosts two temples both of which remember you in a somewhat manner. The more ornamented Someshwara Temple was built in early Chola period. It is noteworthy that this entire structure built of rocks is built without any foundation.

The temple quite in line with a series of similar ones in the neighbouring region dedicates to Someshwara the aspect of Shiva where he masters Somaras – the elixir in our mind triggered by the cycles of moon.

Right next on the road, there lies a more recent (and rather humble unfinished ) structure of the famed Vinayaka temple which houses the more ancient statue of Ganesha. I am not sure whether you yourself worshipped this gigantic statue or not, but clearly this one is considered to be blessed by you and devotees seem to be coming from far off regions to do the Archana on their family names to seek its blessings.

Its interesting to take a note of you – an otherwise rarely remembered figure outside your caste brethren and go back with a feeling how we have so many rich interactions of concepts like Buddhism, Ganpatya philosophy, medicinal science of herbs, spiritual essence of plants, winemaking, princely life all into your personality. While your name is a bit obscure, clearly you had left a big impact in shaping up the worships as well as the metaphysics of different religions in this nation.

As I depart from these lovely fields, I see an artisian preparing Ganapati imafes for upcoming Ganesha Chaturthi. While excited to see their beautiful curvatures, am a bit disappointed to see them all being made of Plaster of Paris. In contrast to the conventional well clay used for making Ganapati images, these ones wont dissolve once drowned. They wont give back mother earth what they have taken from it at least in a year long cycle. Hope humanity understands the essence of finer nature of these practices like you did.

Till we meet again, Namaskara!!!

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