Sri Kalyanagiri and the Kalyana Mandapa
Chapter IV of A Short History of Kataragama and Theivanaiamman Thevasthanam by Dr. Selvam Kalyanasunderam
Kalyanagiri was a great tapasvi from North India who belonged to the Giri Order of the Dasa Namis (ten sannyas orders Giri, Puri, Bharati, Asrama, Tirtha, Aranya, Parvata, Saraswati, Vana and Bharati Tirtha). He came to Kataragama with the determination of taking Skanda back to India. It is said that he came as an emissary of Devayani. He might have been directed by his Guru to go to Kataragama to pursue his tapas. His influence at Kataragama was so great that his name stands intertwined with that of Kataragama.
In his determination to have Skanda's darshan, he performed intense tapas at Kataragama resorting to that path that was prescribed as the easiest way to attain God realization in the Kali Yuga, namely, japa yoga. Kalyanagiri prepared a shatkona yantra and started reciting Sadakshara (sa-ra-va-Na-bha-va) with intense devotion and concentration. The shatkona represents the six sparks or the six aspects or the divinity. He recited Sadakshara (mantra of Skanda) continuously for twelve long years day and night. The yantra absorbs and preserves the vibration. A period of twelve years of intense tapas confers spiritual transformation on a devotee.
During this period, a Vedda boy and a girl used to attend on Kalyanagiri. At the end of the twelve years, Kalyanagiri was disappointed for not having had the darshan of Skanda. Sad and tired at the thought he fell asleep. The Vedda boy playfully disturbed his sleep. Kalyanagiri was annoyed and irritated. The boy apologized to him and ran towards the Menik Ganga. Kalyanagiri chased him up to the middle of the river where he was blessed with the vision of Skanda and Valli.
Kalyanagiri was overjoyed but he did not forget his mission of taking Skanda back to India. When be was about to ask a boon from Skanda, Valli intervened (by asking thalipicchai) and begged him not to separate her from her Lord and Kalyanagiri granted her wish and decided to stay at Kataragama.
Kalyanagiri constructed the temple to Teyvani Amman. He also constructed the Kalyana Mandapa. The Shatkona Yantra was installed in the sanctum sanctorum of the Swami Temple, so that posterity could reap the benefit of his tapas by Skanda's sannitiya (presence) at Kataragama. After Kalyanagiri’s liberation, his body became a metamorphosed linga, emanating white rays, like those of a pure pearl. It was called Muttulingam; muttu means pearl. Later a temple was erected to house the Muttulingam.
Reciting any mantra given by one’s guru with the right attitude, understanding and devotion for a considerable period literally burns up the impurities of the various sheaths that constitute the human body. The five sheaths that constitute the human body are Annamaya Kosha (physical body) that represents the earth, Pranamaya Kosha (etheric body) Manomaya Kosha (mind body) Vijnanamaya Kosha (buddhic body or higher intelligence) and the Anandamaya Kosha (blissful state). The impurities are caused by the ego. When the ego is thinned out and annihilated, the atman shines through all the sheaths and man attains Godhood.
Sadakshara is a powerful mantra and Kalyanagiri had recited it for twelve years with the right attitude and great devotion, observing celibacy, poverty and silence. Observing celibacy alone for twelve years enables even an ordinary man to transcend his lower nature. Veerya is transformed into ouja energy.
Kalyanagiri was an astute tapasvi and Kataragama provided the right atmosphere to continue and complete his tapas. Thus in his liberation, he had enriched the spiritual wealth of Kataragama. A yogi's body in then metamorphosed state, continues to generate spiritual currents, which soothe and strengthen the minds of ordinary people. With the passage of time the body becomes a swayambu linga.
A close study of the facts reveals that there were three Kalyanagiri Swamis who resided and attained samadhi at Kataragama. The Shatkona Yantra was made by the first Kalyanagiri who built the Teyvani Amman Temple and the Kalyana Mandapa. The Dakshina Kailaya Manmiyam mentions the first Kalyanagiri. The second Kalyanagiri must have lived during the beginning of the seventh century A.D. He was also a great tapasvi and had performed many miracles. He was officiating and managing the affairs of the temple at Kataragama.
The third Kalyanagiri lived during the time of King Rajasingha I and early part of King Rajasingha II. The present temple at Kataragama was built by the third Kalyanagiri under the patronage of King Rajasingha I. The Kadiramalaippallu gives some facts about the third Kalyanagiri in verse 103. He was the son of Amarnath of high caste (brahmin), a disciple of Sri Sankaracharya Swami of Sringeri Math belonging to the sub division of Giri Order of the Dasa Namis. He was also the patron of Kadiramalaipallu, a literary work belonging to the latter part of the 16th century A.D. and was the Trustee of the Temples and Kalyanana Mandapa at Kataragama.
Dr. Davy F. R. S., who accompanied General Robert Brownrigg when he visited Kataragama after the Kandyan Convention states as follows about the Kalyana Mandapa in his "Accounts of Ceylon" published in 1821:
"The Kalyana Mandapa is greatly respected and certainly is the chief curiosity at Kataragama, it is a large seat made of clay raised on a platform with high sides and back like an easy-chair without legs. It is covered with leopard's skin and contains several instruments used in the performance or temple rites; a large fire was burning by the side of it. The room, in the middle of which it is erected, is the abode of the resident Brahmin. Kalyana Madam, the Brahmin said, belonged to Kalyana Nathar, the first priest of the Temple, who on account of his great piety passed immediately to heaven without experiencing death and left the seat as a sacred inheritance to his successors in the priestly office, who may use it instead or a dying bed; and it is his fervent hope that like him he may have the happiness of occupying it once, and of breathing his last in it. He said this, with an air of solemnity and enthusiasm that seem to mark sincerity, and combined with his peculiar appearance was not a little impressive. He was a tall spare figure of a man whom a painter would choose out of a thousand for his vocation. His beard was long and white; but his large dark eyes which emanated a thin regular visage were still full of fire and he stood erect and firm without' any of the feebleness of old age".
The third Kalyanagiri was followed by an unbroken line of successors who functioned as trustees, mathadhipatis and officiating priests of the temple. Each of them had attained great spiritual heights who had truly proved themselves worthy of their glorious spiritual inheritance. The line of succession is as follows:
For a detailed history of Kataragama Theivanai Amman Temple, download A Short History of Kataragama & Theivanai Amman Thevasthanam by Selvam Kalyanasunadaram (1980, 42 pp.)