lalitopAkhyAna describes mArtANDabhairava as the great upAsakA of parAmbA stationed at shrIpura, ever immersed in contemplation on shrImahArAj~nI. Krodha bhaTTAraka describes the great Lord of chakShuShmatI thus:
mANikyamukuTaramyaM manye mArtANDabhairavaM hR^idaye ||
For the nigraha of two asuras named maNi and mallAsura, shiva incarnated as mArtANDa bhairava in premapura. bhAskararAya traces this legend to tattvachintAmaNi tantra and mallAri mAhAtmya, of which the second work is available today. Though he writes that this form of mArtANDa bhairava is popularly worshiped in Maharashtra (as khaNDoba), he seems certainly more popular in karNATa desha during the last century. Known as mailAra li~Nga, he is worshiped at the famous shrine in mailAra in the Bellary district of Karnataka. He is worshiped mainly as the tutelary deity of Goravas (shepherds or a class of kurubas) among who he incarnated. According to the mAhAtmya, shiva lost his powers during the battle, fled across the river tu~NgabhadrA and drowned himself in the river. vIrabhadra then appeared, created the pa~nchavIras (called kanchavIraru locally)who aided mailAra li~Nga in destroying maNikAsura and mallAsura. The mAlA-mantra of mallAri includes the following phrases (not in the same order): vIrabhadrasannutAya vIrabhadrAkR^itidharAya vIrabhadrotsavapriyAya vIrabhadrarakshitAya etc.
karNikotsava, a huge fair is conducted at mylAra to celebrate the victory of mallAri, which also serves as the annual divination fest for the gorava community. Goravas perform a special dance named goravara KuNita featuring the adventures of mallAri across North Karnataka. According to legends and also mallAri mAhatmya, vIrabhadra ended the practice of vedic yajnas which were characteristic even of sects such as kApAlika, kALAmukha and lakulIsha pAshupatas and propagated the “purer” teachings of mailAra li~Nga. The various versions of the story of mallAri narrated today describe the atrocities faced by mallAri at the hands of brAhmaNas and vIrashaivas. The cult of mailAra li~Nga, whatever its beginning was, is today an expression of rebellion against the brAhmaNas and vIrashaivas of karNATaka. Various dIkShA procedures exist within this cult where jogayyas, dasayyas and jangamayyas are initiated by elders of the community. Some scholars even suggest a similarity between mallanna (mallikArjuna) of Andhra and mailAra li~Nga of karNATaka.
It is also a custom among many brAhmaNa families who migrated to karNATaka in the earlier half of this century, like mine, to worship mailAra li~Nga annually and offer gifts to goravayyas and jogayyas during marriages. mailAra tantra describes his mantra, mAlA, kavacha, mantras for the vIras etc. But the mantra and kavacha handed to us traditionally is supposedly a part of rudrayAmaLa. bhAskararAya also notes that the prayogas of mailArali~Nga are popular in mailAra tantra and rudrayAmaLa. The following is a stava from this tantra which has been used traditionally by many brAhmaNas in Karnataka for several decades now. The same stava is quoted in mallAri mAhatmya albeit with some changes.
vimalashashikalA~NkaM sundarendIvarAkSham |
anukR^itashashitejaH kuNDalaM charuhAsaM
vividhakusumagucChaiH shobhivakShaHsthalADhyam |
karaDamaruninAdaiH pUritavyomagarbham ||
danujadahanadakShaM prasphuratkhaDgahastam |
parivR^itamatighoraiH saptabhiH sArameyaiH |
sakalanigamaguhyaM naumi mallAridevam ||