We have no idea how we landed on the road leading to Yelandur. There was no scheduled stop planned here. We were on the road, driving from Chamarajnagar to Bangalore, when the man at the wheel suddenly swerved to the right instead of heading straight and lo, Yelandur interrupted us on the way with a burst of energy.
It was a Sunday and the farmers' day out. We caught the town, colourful and chaotic, in the midst of its weekly “santhe”. Heady bargains reached high decibel levels, as all the local produce were out on display. Cattle vendors jostled their way through. The sea of humanity flowed and ebbed as loads of plasticware, household needs and knick-knacks completed the picture. The locals were happy to be photographed, but they had no time for conversations.
As I cut through the noise and stepped out of the market, I came face-to-face with a huge bungalow, looking rather resplendent in its whitewashed glory. It was in the middle of a makeover. This was the old bungalow of Dewan Purnaiya, the man who rose from writing accounts for a grocer to becoming the first Dewan of the princely state of Mysore. A close confidante of Tipu Sultan, Dewan Purnaiya had also served under Hyder Ali and later on the Wodeyars. The bungalow was not opened to visitors, but I heard that it will soon house a museum. Locals whispered how treasures were found here. Later I learned that several manuscripts and even antique coins had been found. Locals remember the town as a jagir or territory granted to the Dewan in the early 19th century, but the town has a history that dates back to the later Cholas. According to the Mysore Gazetteer compiled by Hayavadana Rao, it was referred to as “Illaimaradur or the Young Maradur” in a Tamil inscription, which also mentions an agrahara (Brahmin quarter) here. The Cholas called it Cholendrasimha Chaturvedi Mangalam.
No town is complete without an ancient temple and we discovered a couple – one near the market and the other adjacent to the Dewan's bungalow. The entrance of the latter was rather inviting, with an ornamental mandapa carved with sculptures of gods and goddesses on the pillars, panels, ceiling and the outer walls. This was a 16th century Gaurishwara temple built by the chieftains of the Padinadu or Hadinadu dynasty, feudatories under the Vijayanagar Empire.
We walked past the entrance to the many shrines of the temple which have been restored. The temple had unearthed a few inscriptions too. One of them mentions that it was originally built in 1500 by Singedepa and that the Mahadwara – the entrance – was added by Muddaraja, another chieftain, in 1654. Another inscription refers to it as “Eleyindur or the town of young moon” and compares it to “the eye or centre of a lotus surrounded by eight petals which are the eight hills.” Today, Yelandur connects you to one of them, the Billi Giri Rangan Hills, if you are heading from Bangalore.
I stood near an old well and looked around. Some men were fast asleep under the trees, while a few others were gossiping. Meanwhile, at the market, bargaining had reached a pitched frenzy. It was just another day for these local people lost in their own little world.
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