April 7, 2021
“The unique thing about our country is that we have Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, and people of all other religions. We have temples and mosques, gurdwaras and churches. But we do not bring all this into politics.” - Lal Bahadur Shastri (1904- 1966), second Prime Minister of India.
Things have changed since Lal Bahadur Shastri made this optimistic statement. Today inter-religious, inter-communal harmony makes headlines like this one below which was widely covered in the print and electronic media: “Muslim man builds Koragajja temple, performs rituals as a priest.”
Shree Durgaparameshwari Temple, Bappanadu (file photo)
The scene is near Mulki on the Mangaluru-Udipi National Highway. It is not the first time that Mulki comes into focus for such reason. The Bappanadu temple, close to Mulky, off the Highway has long inter-religious roots. The temple itself has a history of about 800 years and a Hindu-Muslim harmony angle. Its main deity is Durgaparameshwari and the sub divinity is Ganesh. The story of the temple’s founding, how Durga reached the spot and how the temple came to be built with the help of a Muslim trader is embedded in legend and folklore with very involved episodes.
It all started with the depredations of a demon by name Darigasura. He was destroyed by Durgaparameshwari who, along with her sisters, started on a northward journey from Kanyakumari.
When the party reached Mulki, they decided to rest in a grove of coconut trees. They saw a toddy tapper collecting toddy and requested him to give them seven tender coconuts. As he was shaving off the coconut husk, one coconut got opened which Bhagavati accepted and drank the water. Since he was a Shudra, others in the group ostracised her and proceeded on their northward journey, leaving her behind. She declared that the toddy tapper was her devotee and stayed put there. She transformed herself into a linga and embedded in Mulki between the Shambavi and Nandini rivers.
Enters Bappa Beary, a Muslim trader from Kerala. He was a God-fearing, religious person with tolerance and respect for all religions. He loaded his boat with provisions for sale in far off places along the coast in the north. As he was sailing in the Shambavi River near Mulki, the boat stopped in the middle of the river. As he looked out, he observed the surrounding river water had turned blood-red. With fear and worry, he did his namaz and went to sleep in the stalled boat. A luminescent Durgambike appeared in his dream and said: “There is only one God for the whole world. There are different names for him. You build a temple for me and your name will be remembered forever”. Bappa Beary accepted the demand.
He went to far off places, sold his wares and returned. Again Devi reminded him of her demand and his promise. He went to the local Jain ruler, Dugganna Samantha, and explained his dream. Samantha, with material help from Bappa Beary, constructed the temple. Bappa Beary also set up his home nearby. Thus, the place came to be known as Bappanadu.
Bappa Beary’s descendants lived in an ancient house about one Km from the temple, in a side street off the National Highway in Mulki town. Only the front portion of the heritage house is now remaining and hosts commercial establishments. When the Bappanadu temple Devi is taken in ceremonial procession, Bappa’s descendants are offered prasadam on priority and they, in turn, offer fruits and flowers to the deity. This ritual is adhered to even to this day.