KN Krishna Bhat, the chief priest of Badavilinga temple in Hampi for nearly four decades, known famously for climbing the 3-metre Shivlingam for performing priestly duties, departed for a higher astral abode on Sunday (April 25) at 5:30 AM.
The passing of the priest invited tearful condolences messages on Twitter and other social media platforms where netizens remembered him for his undying service to the cause of the dharma.
Bhat hailed from a village in Tirthahalli taluk of Shivamogga district. He had come to Hampi to work as a priest at the iconic Satyanarayana temple some four decades earlier. Later, he was appointed as the priest of the Badavilinga temple by the Anegundi royal family.
The dedicated priest would start his day at 5 am and would either walk or take the help of locals to reach the temple by 6 am, returning home only in the evening — after performing puja, posing for photographers and tourists. Bhat performed his duties, every day throughout the last 40 years without missing a single puja.
The fact that there was no ladder, staircase or scaffolding near the Shivalinga, which remains eternally waterlogged, meant that Bhat had to step on the base of the Shivalinga and climb atop it. For a person well into his nineties, the task was not short of climbing Mount Everest but the dedicated priest did it with aplomb.
“There is no other way to worship the Shivalinga, without stepping upon it. You cannot say that this amounts to sacrilege. It is about commitment and devotion. You cannot even use a ladder or any support in the water-filled temple,” senior priest Shiv Bhat had told the New Indian Express in an interview.
Located on a bank of the Thurtha canal, which had been built by the Raya dynasty of Vijayanagara, the temple gives a unique background to the puja KN Krishna Bhat used to perform every day. Bahmani Sultans had partially damaged the roof of the temple’s sanctum sanctorum during an invasion, which created a large hole in the ceiling.
No puja was done at the damaged temple for at least 500 years after the invasion by Muslim rulers until the pontiff of Kanchi mutt in the early 1980s said it should be worshipped as the idol was not harmed during the attack.
Thus, the passing of KN Krishna Bhat marks the end of an era in the Temple’s history and surely the entire community would miss him for his service and dedication to Mahadev.