|It is long
believed that Melkote in Karnataka, India, is the place of origin for
Mandyam Iyengars. The place has gained importance in our
community due to its 1000 year history and also mythological
connections. This hence necessitated us to research these links
and summarise them in the following paragraphs.
Melkote is located in the Mandya district, Karanataka State in South
India. It is around 30 kms from Pandavapura, 25 kms from Mandya and 160
kms from Bangalore (3 hours drive appx). It is at an altitude of
about 900 metres above the sea level. The place has a very long
history, dating back to "Kritha" Yuga, when it was called
"Vedadri". In "Thretha" Yuga it was called "Narayanadri" and in
"Dwapara" Yuga was called "Yadavadri". The main deity
Cheluvanarayana, is known to have been worshipped by Sri Krishna and
Balarama in Dwapara Yuga. In "Kali" Yuga, Acharya Sri Ramanuja,
reinstalled the deity and the place came to be known as
"Yathisaila". Melkote is equated to the famous Badarinath, and is
called Dakshina Badari Kshetra. (South Badari)
Brahma requested Lord Narayana (Vishnu) to provide him an idol, to
perfporm daily prayers. Vishnu in turn gifted an idol to Brahma, which
was created from his Atma Kalasha. Brahma who was using it for
regular prayers, presented it to his son (Manasika Putra) Sanathkumara,
for his daily prayers when he came down to Earth. Sanathkumara
brought this idol of Narayana to south India and installed it in the
present day Melkote. Hence this place gained the name
Now, in the absence of a Vishnu's idol for offering prayers, Brahma
once again approached Vishnu with the request. Vishnu gifted him
another small idol along with the idols of both his consorts, "Bhudevi"
(Earth) and "Sridevi" (Laksmi).
In Thretha Yuga, Rama required an idol for his prayers because he
himself was the human incarnation of VIshnu. Thus Lord Rama
looked towards Brahma for an idol of Vishnu. Brahma gifted these
precious idols to Lord Rama. Lord Rama was greately attached and
deeply devoted to these idols. In view of Rama’s
deepest love and reverence to this Thirunaryana's idol, it gained the
Kusha, Lord Rama’s son inherited Ramapriya’s idol which he
gifted to his daughter Kanakamalini during her wedding to a Yadava
king. Sri Krishna and Balarama of the Yadava family, inherited this
idol in Dwapara Yuga. Balarama during his travel, observed the
exact similarities of the main deity of Cheluvanarayana in
Narayanadri, with the Ramapriya's idol in his pocession.
Balarama and Sri Krishna brought Ramapriya's idol to Narayandri,
installed it in the temple as the "Utsavamurthy" and offered their
prayers. Thus the place gained the name "Yadavadri".
The famous Yadavadri, including the temple, became a ruin over the
years, due to incessant wars between native Hindu kings and invading
Muslims. The main deity Cheluvanarayana got buried under the ruins. The
Utsavamurthy was however taken away to Delhi, along with the other
riches of the temple, by the king Mohammed Badshah.
Sri Ramanuja (born in 1017AD) was camping in Thondanur for propogating
Srivaishnavism due to the strong influence of Jainism in the
region then. He brought many people into the folds of
Srivaishnavism including King Vishnuvardhana. One night, Ramanuja
dreamt of Lord Cheluvanarayana beckoning him to unearth the Vishnu idol
from the ruins, in a nearby place. With the help of King
Vishnuvardhana and his army, Ramanuja arrived in Yadavadri in 1099, and
dug up the idol of Cheluvanarayana and reinstalled the Lord in a newly
constructed temple. He also established regular prayers and
processes for the Lord. From then, the place gained the name
"Yathishaila" (Saint Hill).
Once the main deity was established, Ramanuja felt the need for a
utsavamurthy in the temple. Again Lord Cheluvanarayana informed
in a dream that the temple’s utsavamurthy was available in Delhi
in the palace of the king. In spite of his old age, Ramanuja
immediately travelled to Delhi and approached the king with all his
radiance and charm. He requested the king for the return of the
idol of his dreams. The muslim king, who was highly impressed by
Ramanuja’s power and devotion agreed to return the
idol. The idol however was in possession of the young
princess who was deeply attached to its beauty. The princess
agreed to hand over the idol to Ramanuja with great difficulty.
Ramanuja accepted the idol and started on his return journey to
Melkote. The princess who could not bear the separation
followed the idol with Ramanuja to Melkote. Even today, there is
a small idol of the princess at the feet of Ramapriya in her memory and
is identified as "Bibi Nacchiar" (Muslim Angel).
Today, Melkote (known as Thirunarayanpuram among Srivaishnavas)
is one of the four most sacred centres of Srivaishnavism in South
India, the others being Sriranagam, Thirumalai and Kanchipuram.
Ramanujacharya composed the following chant (shloka) in recognition of
"Sriranga mangala manim karunanivasam
Srivenkatadri shikharalaya kalamegham
Srihastishaila shikharojwala parijatam
Srisham namami shirasa yadushaila deepam".
The main deity in Srirangam is in a sleeping posture and hence the
place is called "Bhoga Mantapam" (House of relaxation). Thirumalai is
called "Pushpa Mantapam" (House of flowers) as the deity is always
decorated with flowers. Kanchipuram is known as "Thyaga Mantapam"
(House of relinquishment) as the main deity bestows the devotees.
Thirunarayanapuram is known as "Gnana Mantapam" (House of Knowledge) as
the main deity radiates knowledge.
|Lord Narasimha Temple
Temple of Lord Narasimha on top of the hill is one of the oldest
temples in the area. It is a picturesque view from the
temple. On a clear day visitors have sighted Sri
Gomateswara statue of Sravanabelagola from the roof of the Lord
Narasimha temple. The cave below the temple commonly known as
"Bilswarga" is an extraordinary cave that goes right under Lord
Narasimha's idol. It is a challenging trip down the cave with
very tight spaces.
|A GREAT VAISHNAVA PILIGRIM PLACE " THONDANUR"
or correctly known as " KERE THONDANUR", Mandya District, Karnataka.
Brief History of the place:
As we know Sri Sri Ramanujacharya, who hurriedly came out of Srirangam
in Tamilnadu, settled down in Thondanur for an extended period, about
1000 years ago. From here Sri Ramanuja propagated Vishisthadwaitha
Siddhantha in Karnataka. Working from Thondanur, he reinstated Sri Sri
Thirunarayana temple at Melukote, which is about 10miles/15km away.
After a great search for Uthsavamoorthy for Thirunarayanaswamy, Sri
Yathiraja found the beautiful moorthy at Delhi with the Badshah’s
daughter "BIBI". It is said that Sri Yemberumanar affectionately called
the moorthy " SELVAPILLAI VAARAAI" (Selvapillai please come) and the
Uthsavamoorthy started coming closer & closer to Him. This is the
moorthy which we have in Melukote today.
During Sri Yathiraja’s stay at Thondanur, he answered questions
from several other religious heads simultaneously from behind a curtain
in the form of ADISHESHA. He is seen in ADISHESHA AVATHAR in Sri
Narasimhar temple. While at Thondanur, Sri Yathiraja showed some of his
powers in driving away the Evil Spirits from the daughter of King Bitti
Devaraya. Impressed by his TEJAS BEARING PERSONALITY, TEACHINGS AND
POWERS of Sri Ramanuja, the Hoysala King BITTI DEVARAYA, who was a
Jain, got blessed by no other than Sri Yatheendra, became a Vaishnava
and was given the name of " VISHNU VARDHANA".
Sri Ramanuja installed "THONDAR" as a high priest of SRI NAMBINARAYANA
temple at Thondanur to take care of the temple. This temple was
constructed by the Hoysala dynasty and was built as a prototype to the
Belur Chennakesava temple and is over 1000 years old. Large
artistic pillars inside the temple resemble the pillars seen in the
Belur temple. Sri Nambinarayana is in Samasrayana position with
Shankam in the right hand (instead of left hand as normal) and Chakram
in the left hand (instead of right hand as normal).
Yemberumanar is responsible for the beautiful lake at Thondanur. It is
said that the water has never dried since it was created. There are
small man-made waterfalls and canals, making it a great water sport
attraction particularly for the kids. The water is so clear that the
king Tippu Sultan called it "MOTI TALAB ", as one could see the PEARL
fallen from his broken necklace in the clear waters.
Apart from Nambinarayana temple there are SRI KRISHNA TEMPLE & SRI NARASIMHA TEMPLE.
Three forms of Sri Ramanuja are 1) THAMAR UHANDA TIRUMENI (where he was
born) at Sriperumbudur – just on the outskirts of Chennai, TN, 2)
THAAN AANA TIRUMENI ( where he studied and achieved the Doctrine) at
Srirangam, TN and 3)THAAN UHANDA TIRUMENI ( who entered his own
moorthy) at Melukote, Karnataka.
Thondanur was Sri Ramanujacharya’s – our Acharya’s
most important place of stay in Karnataka from where he propagated Sri
Vaishnava Siddantha. Therefore, it should be an endeavor of all
VAISHNAVA DEVOTEES and in particular SRIVAISHNAVAS to visit this great
Holy Place where our Achaarya had lived and walked on the soil. This
place is approximately 125km from Bangalore and 45km from Mysore.
The history and the uniqueness of the place makes it an important place
to visit. It is only about 30 minutes drive from Melkote.
An introduction to Melukote. By ‘Haripriya’
Sriranga mangala manim karunanivasam |
Srivenkatadri shikharalaya kalamegham |
Srihastishaila shikharojvala Parijatham |
Srisham namami shirasa yadushaila deepam |
Srirangam, Tirupathi, Kanchipuram and Melukote also known as
Tirunarayanapuram are the four holy, famous and important pilgrimage
centers in South India.
Sriranganatha in Srirangam is, divine, crystal pure, kind to all |
Sri Srinivasa living on the Mount of Tirumalai, shines like dark clouds |
Sri Varadaraja shines as a Parijatha flower lives at Kanchi known as Hastishaila |
Sri Narayana at Tirunarayanapuram is Lord of wealth, and a beacon of light at Yadushaila |
The Lord’s gait (nade) at Srirangam,
The Lord’s patty (Vade) at Tirupathi,
The Lord’s Umbrella (kode) at Kanchi,
The Lord’s Crown (mudi) at Melukote, are all very famous.
The Temple of Ecstasy (Bhoga Mantapa) at Srirangam,
The Temple of Flowers (Pushpa Mantapa) at Tirupathi,
The Temple of renunciation (Thyaga Mantapa) at Kanchi,
The Temple of Knowledge (Gnana Mantapa) at Melukote.
Thus these four pilgrimage centers are considered very important. Our
Bharath (India) Nation is located at the South of Asian Continent. Our
forefathers know India as ‘Bharatha Varsha’ or
“Bharatha Khanda’ since times immemorial. Our country is a
sinless, devoted land. There are a number of pilgrimage centers all
over the country, from the Himalayas in the North to Kanyakumari in
South and from Dwaraka in West to Bhubaneswar in East.
Our culture has existed for many millenniums. It has been our practice
to worship and visualize the God in different forms. To meet the
imagination of everyone, God appears in different forms at various
pilgrimage centers, Melukote is one such famous, sacred, pilgrimage
center, located in Karnataka State, in South India. Melukote has
mythological, historical, and cultural importance. This book is
intended to bring out the important facets of this divine center, for
people to read and see the place.
Melukote is situated in Pandavapura Taluk of Mandya District in
Karnataka State in South India. It is about 25 KM from Mandya on the
Mandya – Hassan highway. It is about 35 KM from Mysore City on
the Mysore – Nagamangala Road. At the foothill is situated
Jakkanahalli Cross, which is about 6 KM from Melukote. From here you
will enjoy the natural beauty of Melukote and its environs. The cool
breeze welcomes you. You will pass through Kadalagere and Hosakere
valleys. Passing through the hillocks and Valleys is a satisfying
experience. Both sides of the road are full of irrigated fields with
lot of greenery. You will also see the mountain peak and the Gopuram of
the famous of Sri Yoganarasimha temple. As you reach the summit of the
valley, you arrive at Melukote; on the peaceful plains surrounded by
hills. It has retained its originality and peaceful environment at all
times. You cannot find violence or communal tensions here, as you see
elsewhere. Melukote attracts everyone by its pollution free environs
and natural beauty. It is a place for all seasons with its cool breeze
and mild sun. The climate here gives you energy and vigor. It is also a
hill station, in summer. God Hanuman greets you at the main entrance to
the town. You enter the market place as soon as you cross the fort. You
continue into the Rajaveedhi (royal road), and the famous temple of
Lord Sri Cheluva Tirunarayana, is located at the end of the road.
You will also observe, at a distance, the town entrance known as
Rajagopura. On the eastern side you see a number of hills. On the West
are steep valleys, with tiny villages spread all over, with small tiled
hutments. Green fields Surround the villages. You will see a new flower
garden with large variety of sweet smelling flowers, for use in daily
Pooja at the Temples. The Academy of Sanskrit Research building lies
next to the garden. Mango, coconut and other grooves are beyond this
building. If you go further you will enter the forests. A number of
small and beautiful lakes abound the area. The Dalavayi Lake located a
few Kilometers away, supplies water to the residents of the town.
Melukote is located in this kind of well set surrounding, and people of different castes and religion live in harmony and peace.
Melukote was known as ‘Yadavagiri’ in mythological days.
This is located to the East of Sahya mountain range and to the North of
Kaveri River. This mountain range appears like a snake (Adisesha).
God Vishnu in the form of Narayana Maharshi preached the eight-lettered
verse (Ashtakshari mantra) in Badarikashram in North India. The main
deity here “Lord Tirunarayana” is like a replica of
Narayana in Badarinath. Here Lord Narayana preaches Dwaya Mantra to
Goddess Lakshmi, seating her on his lap. Therefore Melukote is also
known as Southern Badarikashram. Opposite the Tirunarayana temple is an
abode of Badarinarayana. There is a Badari Tree in front of this abode,
and is one more of the important feature here. This place is also
supposed to be dearer than Heaven (Vaikunta) to Lord Narayana, and
hence it is famous as “Beyond Heaven” (Vaikunta Vardhana
As the town was closely associated with Lord Narayana it was
called ‘Narayanadri’ in Krutha Yuga. It was
known as ‘Vedadri’ in Tretha Yuga as Lord Dattatreya
preached the Vedas, in these mountains. It is believed that
Medhaathithi and Prahlada studied Vedas and other scriptures under
Dattatreya here. This place was called ‘Yadavadri’ in
Dwapara Yuga, as Yadavas came down here to worship Lord Narayana. Sri
Ramanuja, propagator of Srivaishnavism, rebuilt the temple and
revitalized this Kshetra in Kali Yuga and therefore it was named
As a number of famous Maharshis, such as Narada, Vyasa, Bhrugu,
Shandilya, etc came here to acquire knowledge; this place became
‘Gnana Mantapa’ (Temple of Knowledge). Goddess Lakshmi is
known as ‘Yadugiri Nayaki’ here. According to some
scriptures, Goddess Lakshmi killed a demon called ‘Ahi’
At the commencement of Kali Yuga, Narayana Maharshi has concisely
narrated about ‘Yadavagiri Mahatme’ to Vyasa and others.
Later Narada Maharshi explains it in detail in twelve chapters in
The four faced god Brahma (Chaturmukha Brahma) was created by the
Supreme God Vishnu. (Bhagawan Vishnu). Brahma did penance to secure a
sculpture for his daily worship. A divine airplane appeared in front of
him and Sri Tirunarayana idol was in that. Then on, Brahma devotedly
worshipped this Tirunarayana Swami regularly.
Sanathkumara, Son of Brahma, desired to have an idol for his worship on
this Earth. Brahma gave away this Tirunarayana idol to him. When Brahma
again desired to have an idol for his daily Pooja, Tirunarayana brought
out a beautiful figurine from his heart with Lakshmi and mother-earth
(Sridevi – Bhoodevi sahita). This is the idol of Cheluvaraya
Swami. Sanathkumara installed Tirunarayana idol here, bringing it all
the way from divine land crossing the Mount Everest, Kailas and
Arrival of Cheluvaraya Swami on Earth
Sri Rama lived happily after his ascension to the throne, in Tretha
Yuga. He gave away gifts to everyone who helped him in killing Ravana
and getting back Sita. He gifted his most revered idol of Sri
Ranganatha to Vibhishana. Now Rama did not have an idol for his daily
Pooja. Observing his predicament, Brahma gave his Cheluvaraya Swami
idol to Sri Rama. Then on, Cheluvaraya came to be known as Ramapriya
(Rama adored). Maharaja Kusha worshipped this idol after the times of
Rama. Kusha’s daughter Kanakamalini was married to Yadushekhara
and she got the idol of Ramapriya as a gift. Thus the idol passed from
the Surya (Sun) dynasty to Yadava dynasty.
About Vyramudi (Diamond Crown of God)
Prahlada’s son Virochana stole the crown (Vyramudi) from the Lord
in Vaikunta, when he was in divine slumber. He hid it in the nether
world (Pathala Loka). As per the wishes of devotees, Garuda went to
Pathala, fought with Virochana and brought the crown back. On his way
back he felt an obstruction to his speed. When he looked down, he saw
Sri Krishna playing flute while grazing cattle in Brindavan. He stopped
over to meet Krishna and surrendered the Crown to him. When Sri Krishna
tried it on to the head of his family deity Cheluvaraya, it fitted him
How Vyramudi reached Melukote
Once when Balarama was touring Yadavadri, he observed that the
Tirunarayana here had great resemblance to Cheluvaraya in his home. He
returned to Dwaraka and informed Sri Krishna of this coincidence. He
and Sri Krishna brought Cheluvaraya to Melukote and installed it here.
Even now, once a year Cheluvaraya Swami is brought in front of
Tirunarayana. Tirunarayana came to Melukote from Brahma through
Sanathkumara. Cheluvaraya too came to Melukote from Brahma to Rama to
Thus Tirunarayana as the main idol and Sri Cheluvaraya Swami as the idol for processions came to Yadavagiri.
Specialty of this place.
Every sacred center will have six idols for worship as per Agama Shastra.
1. Moola Murthy (Main Idol)
2. Utsava Murthy (Procession Idol)
3. Snapana Murthy
4. Shayana Murthy (Sleep Idol)
5. Bali Murthy (Ritual Idol)
6. Yaga Murthy (Deliverance Idol)
The dome shaped roof (small Gopuram) above the main idol is called
‘Vimana’. The Vimana will have a name. The place will also
have a lake called ‘Pushkarini’. In accordance with the
main God, Lakshmi will be the goddess, and she will have a suitable
name. The Idols are in the form they appeared to the Saints who did
Presently in Yadavadri (Melukote):
Moola Murthy Tirunarayana.
Utsava Murthy Cheluvaraya (Selvapillai) with Sri-Bhu
Goddess Moola Murthy Sri Yadugiri
Utsava Goddess Sri Cheluvanayaki (Selvanayaki)
Vimana Ananda Vimana
Pushkarini Kalyani Thirtha.
Saints Narada, Vyasa, Bhrugu, Shandilya, etc
Sacred tree Badari tree.
Another specialty is that, each direction North, East, South and West have a Hanuman God watching over the town.
The Temple has a Chaturmukha Gopuram (Four faced). It looks alike from
all four sides. This design is not commonly seen elsewhere. Sri
Ramanuja built the temple up to its ‘Shukanasi’ stage. The
kings of Mysore built it further. The temple in Melukote is smaller
than the temples at other centers. However the divinity of the place is
very high. You will see the holy idol of Tirunarayana as you enter
temple. You will get a feeling that the God is beckoning you with his
kind and cool eyes. The sweet smile on his face attracts anyone. You
feel brave with his blessings. He carries with him Shankha (Shell),
Chakra (Wheel) and Gadha (Mace) to help us in crossing difficulties in
the huge ocean of our life and with his right palm he gives a
protective gesture. The presence of the Goddess at his feet (known as
Varanandi) is a singular specialty of this place. In no other place you
can see Goddess at the feet of the main deity. Here Goddess Lakshmi is
at his chest as well as at his feet.
1. (Ashtakshara) Tiru mantra, 2. Dwaya mantra, 3.
Charama Sloka, are three sacred Mantras. The fact that the Lord himself
has preached these to his devotees shows his love for everyone. In
Badari in North India, Narayana preached Ashtakshara mantra to human
beings. He preached Dwaya Mantra to Lakshmi in Yadavadri, known as
Southern Badari. Charama Sloka contains three Slokas.
A. sarva dharmaan parityajya maamekam sharanam vraja |
aham tvaa sarvapapebhyaha moksha yishyami maa shuchaha ||
Sri Krishna preached these words in Bhagavad-Gita to Arjuna.
B. sakrudeva prapannaaya tavasmithi cha yaachate |
abhayam sarvabhutebyaha dadaamyetadvratam mama ||
Sri Rama preached these words to Sugriva and others in Ramayana.
C. sthite manasi suswasthe sharire sati yo narah |
dhatusaamye sthithe smarthaa viswaroopam cha maamajam ||
thahastham mriyamaanam thu kaashtapaashaansannibham |
aham smaraami madbhaktham nayaami paramaam gathim ||
Sri Varaaha Swami preached this to ‘mother-earth’ (bhoodevi) in Varaaha avatar.
In all these preaching the God utters, “ I will safeguard everyone who surrenders to me. This is my vow.”
1. In Melukote, Tirunarayana himself is the main deity for Ashtakshara mantra.
2. He is standing with Goddess Lakshmi at his feet, as stated in Dwaya mantra.
3. He assures safeguard as in Charama Sloka
Cheluvaraya Swami with Bhoodevi and Sridevi (mother-earth and Lakshmi) is positioned on the left hand side sanctorum.
As you go round the temple in a Pradkshine (walking around the temple
clockwise) you pass through the sanctorum of Sri Sudarshana Alwar.
Chakrayudha of God always gets prominence. Therefore Sudarshana
Alwar has a separate sanctorum in all temples. Here Sudarshana has
eight arms (Ashtabuja).
Going further you will reach the sanctorum of His consort known as
Yadugiri Nayaki. Her eyes show love and compassion, as a mother would
look at her children. She is very beautiful with lotus flowers in two
hands and showing protection and boon with other two hands. The Utsava
Murthy called Sri Cheluvanayaki, is as beautiful as the name indicates.
She is an eye-catcher with her serene beauty.
The sculptures in front of this sanctorum are excellent and
exceptional. You will hear lilting musical sounds when you tap one of
the pillars. A pillar has a sculpture depicting God Narasimha
(human-lion) splitting the torso of demon Hiranyakashipu. Another
pillar has a bull-elephant combination, where, if you cover a half with
one palm you see a bull and when you cover the other half you see an
You will next come to the sanctum of Sri Ramanujacharya. The main deity
is the preaching pose (Upadesha mudra). The Utsava Murthy of Ramanuja
is in saluting pose with folded hands, as if to tell us that
‘always believe in God and entreat him with folded hands.’
The town is obliged to Sri Ramanuja and he gets all the adoration. He
came here nearly one thousand years ago, restored the town, rebuilt the
temple and installed the deities. Melukote that had deteriorated into a
forest became a town once again. He is like a king here and his
beautiful statuette appears to be talking to us. It is therefore aptly
known as ‘peshum yatirashar’ (Speaking Ramanuja).
Pushkarini (the main lake) here is ‘Kalyani Thirtha’.
It has its own sanctity. It is believed that ‘ Kalyani’ was
formed from a drop of sweat of the Adi Varaha Murthy when he was
carrying mother-earth (Bhoodevi). River Ganga resides in Kalyani in
Phalguna month. One will earn the fruits of endeavor when Pooja is
performed on its bank. There are shelters constructed around Kalyani
and there are a number of religious institutions (Mutts). There are
also a number of tiny temples, which can be called ‘surround
temples’. ‘Bindu Madhava’, ‘Karanika
Narayana’, ‘Lakshmi Narasimha’,
‘Maruthi’, etc, temples are some of them. Three sanctums of
the seven sanctums (Saptha Kshetra) are on the banks of Kalyani. The
abode of Goddess Bhuvaneswari built by the then Maharaja Mummadi
Krishna Raja Wodeyar is also here. In the pillars known as
‘Navarang’, there are beautiful carvings of Gods. There is
tortoise head in front of Bhuvaneswari. Bhuvana means world. Adisesha
(Snake god) and Ashtadiggajas (Eight protectors of the eight
directions) carry the world. As you go around the Bhuvaneswari idol in
Pradakshine (walk in clockwise direction) you will see the front and
rear right legs, the back of the tortoise. As you go further you will
see its rear and front left legs, further you will notice the tortoise
carrying the Goddess. The eight corners have snakes and Ashtadiggajas.
(Nowadays many movies are using this view). Near by is the ‘Dhara
Mantapa’ (Nuptial Hall). Once a year the wedding of Cheluvaraya
Swami and Cheluvanayaki is performed here. In the beautiful spacious
hall is a square quadrangle in an elevation, where a beautiful swing is
fitted. The celestial couple is seated on the swing after other
formalities for the wedding, such as exchange of garlands, etc. Other
wedding rituals such as Dhara, Manglya Dharana, Homa etc, are performed
as per the Shastras. The couple returns to the town in a procession,
with Cheluvaraya in the lead, followed by Cheluvanayaki and Sri
Ramanuja. This is an exceptional sight! It is said that similarly Sri
Rama went to the forest, followed by Seetha and Lakshmana. Here
Cheluvaraya who is Ramapriya (loved by Rama) enter the town this way.
It is also believed that Sri Ramanuja is an incarnation of Lakshmana.
Even now this hall is also used for many marriages. Attached to this
hall is the ‘Gajendra Moksha’ (Elephant Salvation) hall.
The divine ‘Gajendra Varada’ sanctum is located here.
During the three important carnivals (Jatres), on the day auspicious
bath (Thirtha Snana), Eight lake Pooja (Ashta Thirtha) days,
Cheluvaraya with his consorts comes here in a procession. On
‘Angamani Utsava’ day only Sridevi and Bhoodevi come here
to offer Pooja to Kalyani Thirtha. During the replay of Gajendra Moksha
Utsava, the show of archery by Cheluvaraya is a spectacle to behold!
There is an abode for Nagavalli. The Goddess comes here for three days
after the ‘Kalyana Utsava’ (marriage celebration), during
Jatre. On the day of Nagavalli, which is performed three days after the
wedding, Cheluvaraya and Cheluvanayaki are brought in a procession
seated facing each other in a palanquin. This a very stunning sight.
When the water is very still in Kalyani Lake, we can enjoy the beauty
of the reflection of Narasimha temple hillock, and the quadrangular
construction around the lake.
Seven Centers (Saptha Kshetra)
1.Paridhanashila Kshetra: This is on the banks of Veda Pushkarini
Thirtha. On the Southeast corner of the lake is an abode, in which you
can see carvings of Dattatreya (an incarnation of Vishnu) with four
students. There is stone located here, and it is called
‘Paridhanashila’. It is because; the Saffron robes were
kept on this when Sri Ramanuja received them. It is imperative for a
Sanyasin (Saint) to receive saffron robes from a senior Sanyasin, at
the time renunciation. However here, there is provision to place the
robes on the Paridhanashila and receive it himself, to become a
Sanyasin. That is the significance of this Kshetra.
2.Yoganarasimha Kshetra: Prahlada had the revelation of Yoganarasimha
on the hill situated to the East of Kalyani Lake. Prahlada himself has
installed the idol of Sri Narasimha here.
When the ruler of Mysore Hider Ali was passing here, few of his
elephants used in war became sick. Some of his followers suggested that
if he vows to Narasimha, the elephants will get well. Accordingly when
he vowed to this deity, the elephants were cured. The happy Muslim King
gifted a large leather drum (Nagari) to the God. To this day this drum
is beaten everyday, during Pooja in the temple. Its resonating sound
declares the Pooja time to everyone in the area. Yoganarasimha had the
charm to make a Muslim King his devotee.
There are 360 steps to reach Yoganarasimha temple at the top and can be
ascended fairly comfortably. For a large number of people Narasimha
happens to be the family deity and hence large number devotees frequent
3. Gnanaashwatha Kshetra.
There is large Pepal tree on the west bank of Kalyani. There are three
famous Pepal trees in Karnataka. They are ‘Brahma Ashwatha’
at T. Narasipur, ‘Vidura Ashwatha” at Vidura Ashwatha and
‘Gnana Ashwatha” in Melukote. Five intellectuals Shuka,
Pundarika, Rukmangada, Ambarisha and Prahlada acquired their knowledge
meditating for Narayana under this tree. Next to this tree is
‘Five Scholar Center’ (Pancha Bhagavatha Kshetra.), in
memory of these people.
4. Taarkshya Kshetra.
At a short distance towards West, from the Pancha Bhagavatha Kshetra is
‘Taarkshya Kshetra’. According to the demand of Sri Vishnu,
Garuda brought and placed white mud here (Shwetha Mrittike, Tirumann)
from White Island (Shwetha Dweepa). It is still perpetually (Akshaya)
5. Nayana Kshetra.
Nayana Kshetra is located in the row of hills above Narayana Kshetra.
‘Nayathi ithi Nayanam’ – by complete surrender you
can get salvation (Moksha). A Brahmin Vishnuchitta had performed
penance here. One can attain his wishes by praying here with a Keshava
6. Varaha Kshetra
This is located on the East bank of Kalyani. You will achieve success
with your vows, penance and meditation here. Adi Varaha preached
Charama Sloka to Bhoodevi (mother earth) seating her on his lap.
7. Seetha Aranya Kshetra.
This is situated at the South entrance of Kalyani. Sri Rama stayed here
in a hut (Parnakuti) built by Lakshmana. Therefore the name Seetha
Aranya is apt. It is good to wear neck chains made of beads from Tulasi
stems (Tulasi Mala) from here.
Thus the seven Kshetra having constant contact with God, have the pride of place in Melukote
1. Veda Pushkarini: Sri Maha Vishnu came to
this world as Dattatreya, in one of his incarnations in Tretha Yuga.
Assuming the Four Vedas to be his students, he taught the four Vedas to
them, on the banks of this lake. The lake is therefore called Veda
Pushkarini. This lake and Paridhanashila Kshetra are neighbors.
Dhanushkoti: Although this is not one of
the Ashta Thirtha, this is a beautiful place to visit. On top of a
hill, on a vertical rock there are tunnel like formations. This tunnel
was formed when Sri Rama shot arrows to get water for Seetha to bathe.
There are three tunnels, as he shot three times. This is a clear water
pond in the rock. There are also carvings of Seetha, Rama and Lakshmana
in the rock and this is a place worth sightseeing.
2. Yadava Thirtha: River ‘Yadavi’ flows
by the side of this lake. A king by name ‘Yadavendra’
performed Yaga on the bank of this lake and attained Moksha.
3. Palasha Thirtha: Palasha Thirtha is situated
to the north of Darbha Thirtha. The name is because there a large
number of Muttuga trees here. The sons of Vasishta Maharshi, who were
cursed by Viswamitra Maharshi, were cured off the curse after bathing
in this lake.
4. Darbha Thirtha: Dattatreya used the Darbha grass
grown on the banks of this lake for his daily Pooja needs. Therefore
the name Darbha Thirtha is in vogue. It is said that, anyone dying
holding this Darbha, will attain Moksha. Shandilya Maharshi recited the
Pancharathra Shastras on the banks of this lake, needed for
propitiating God (Bhagawan Aradhana).
5. Padma Thirtha: This is located to the North of
Palasha Thirtha. Sanathkumar used the lotus flowers grown in this lake
for his daily Sri Narayana Pooja. One who wears the lotus beads from
this lake will attain Moksha.
6. Maitreya Thirtha: This is located to the North of
Kalyani. Parashara Maharshi preached Vishnu Purana to Maitreya here.
South Indians call this ‘Maitreya Thirtha’ after the
student’s name and North Indians call this ‘Parashara
Thirtha’ after teachers’ name.
7. Narayana Thirtha: Narayana Thirtha is to the North
of Maitreya Thirtha. Those who are cremated near this lake attain
Moksha. Vishnuchitta a bachelor did penance on its bank. Sri Narayana
appeared before him and blessed him with Moksha. ‘Nayana
Kshetra’ is carved like a cave in the rock above Narayana Thirtha.
8. Vaikunta Ganga: In Trivikrama incarnation of
Vishnu, his feet touched Brahma Loka. Brahma washed Vishnu’s feet
with the water from his jug (Kamandala) The flowing water became River
Ganga. Others in heaven (Nityamuktas in Vaikunta) washed the feet with
water from River Virija. A drop from that fell at the North of Narayana
Giri and this is Vaikunta Ganga. Bhaktisara (Tirumazhishai Alwar)
attained Moksha after doing penance on the banks of this river. This is
a place of tourist attraction. A pond is formed by water flowing from
the hillock and further flows and collects in cradle like pond. It
further flows and falls down hill into another pool. This is therefore
named Cradle Pond (Tottila Madu). The view of flowing river with
surrounding hill range is a beautiful sight. There is a carving of
Vishnu depicting Brahma and others washing his feet.
Thus the Ashta Thirtha here has importance in attaining Moksha. A
carnival is held at the time ‘Ashta Thirtha’, and it is
called ‘Tottila Madu Jathre’. In Badarikashram in North
India, Maharshi Vyasa and others were very happy to hear about the
greatness of Yadavagiri, Saptha Kshetra and Ashta Thirtha from Narada.
They later visited Yadavagiri personally and obtained the blessings of
(In course of time the locals went in exodus, due to raids by outside
rulers. Temple went into desolation and large anthills grew on the
temple tower. The important idol of Cheluvaraya was stolen and taken
Sri Ramanuja was born in the 11th century in Sriperumbadur, Tamil Nadu,
as an incarnation of Adisesha. He studied in Kanchipuram and got
married. He became a saint later, as he desired to renounce family
life. He had to come to Karnataka due to some compulsions in Srirangam
where he lived. He reached Tondanur in Karnataka, via Satyamangalam and
Tenkanambi. King Bittideva, the ruler here, was a follower of Jain
religion. His daughter was a paranoid and was bothered by demon. Sri
Ramanuja cured her of this disease and Bittideva converted himself from
Jain religion to Srivaishnavism. He changed his name to Vishnuvardhana.
He has given a number gifts and lands to the temple. Ramanuja ran short
of the white mud (Tirumann) required for applying on the forehead
(Naamam). On that night Sri Tirunarayana appeared in his dream and
informed him that he was buried in an anthill in Melukote and gave him
the directions to reach there. Ramanuja immediately departed for
Melukote, following the route flanked by Tulasi plants. On his arrival
he bathed in Kalyani, marked his forehead with Tirumann Naamam and got
ready to locate the anthill. With the help of the local people, he
washed the anthill with milk and water from Kalyani. When the hill was
totally dissolved, he saw the divine, spiritual, glittering sculpture
of Tirunarayana. He reinstalled the idol in the temple, built the
sanctum sanctorum and Shukanasi. Melukote, which had turned into a
desolate town, was revitalized.
Sri Ramanuja and Melukote.
Sri Ramanuja arrived in Melukote on Makara Shukla, Punarvasu day,
nearly nine hundred years ago. Even now that event is celebrated in
Melukote as ‘Punarvasu Utsava’ in a magnificent manner.
The locals, who were all Harijans and tribal, helped Ramanuja Acharya
in all his endeavors. Ramanuja removed caste barriers and honored them
as upper caste people, calling them ‘Tirukulatthar’. They
were permitted to enter the temple and offer prayers. Even now they
have special convenience for offering Pooja, during Vyramudi and
Chariot processions. Ramanuja was the pioneer to recognize the Harijans
and tribal people and give them respectable recognition, in a move to
Melukote is a town dependent on temples. People live mainly on
temple-related duties. Pooja in temple is most important. Ramanuja
revitalized the town and made arrangement for everyone to pay obeisance
in the temple irrespective of their caste or creed. People of all
castes are employed in the temple. The bugle player during Utsava is a
He made arrangements in the temple for performing daily Pooja with
discipline and to set timetable. For this purpose he brought
well-experienced Archakas from Pancharatra town near Srirangam and
fifty two (Aimbattiruvar) people for other services. They were divided
into four groups as Tiruvananthapuradasar, Maalaakaaradasar,
Tirukkurunkudidasar and Yatirajadasar and allotted them work
accordingly. He also established Yatirajamutt and nominated
seventy-four Pitha Adipathis. Everything was well organized.
Acharya now realized the absence of Utsava Murthy (Idol for procession)
for Brahma Utsava celebrations and wondered how he can get one. He had
a vision in his inner eye (Gnana Drushti) that a suitable idol was in
Delhi. He went to Delhi, met the Badshah ruler there and asked him for
the idol. He displayed a large number of idols lying in his museum.
Acharya could not find the idol of Ramapriya among them. He learnt that
the princess was playing with one of the idols, in her chambers. She
kept it with her always, as it was very beautiful. She was not home
when Acharya visited them. He asked the king to give him that
particular idol. King asked him to take it if he can. Ramanuja called
Ramapriya “ Yatiraja Sampathkumara, my dear Selvapillai come to
me, come running”. As soon as Ramanuja called him with love and
affection, the idol danced up to him, to the clinking sounds of his
anklets. He walked and sat on Acharya’s lap. Then on he came to
prominence as ‘Yathiraja Sampathkumara’. Sampath means
wealth, for Yathiraja he is all the wealth. Ramanuja happily returned
to Melukote, with the idol. Thus arrived Utsava Murthy Selvapillai in
Melukote on Jeshta star in the month of Magha. Presently that day is
celebrated as ‘Delhi Utsava’.
The princess in Delhi felt very sad, not finding her favorite toy.
Learning of Ramanuja having taken it to South, she followed him to
Melukote with her entourage. She was not allowed into the temple.
Therefore she amalgamated with the Lord and now she sits at the feet of
Cheluvaraya as ‘Varanandi’. The princess came to be
known as ‘Bibinachiyar’. She has important role in
folklores. There is an abode for her in the hill. It is known as
‘Horagammana Gudi’ (Temple for outside lady). Once a year,
villagers from around the villages, hold a grand carnival in her honor.
Villagers sing many lilting folk songs in her praise. The merging of a
Muslim princess with a Hindu god shows the emotional unity of the
Although the Acharya was a Sanyasin, he managed all these so
meticulously that he came to be known as Yatiraja (King of saints).
Cheluvaraya became Yuvaraja (prince) as Acharya brought him here as a
There are a number of stories in Yadavagiri Mahatme, to bring out the
fact that the scholars living here should never be humiliated in any
Story of Sucharita
When Sucharita was bathing in Ganga with members of his family, he got
a desire to bathe in Kalyani in Melukote, also known as Yadavagiri. He
stated ‘Kalyani’ while dipping into Ganga, and he came up
in Kalyani in Melukote. He was totally surprised. He stayed back in
Melukote and involved himself in temple duties. Once he had to go out
of town. He nominated his eight-year-old son, Narayana to do his duties
at the temple. His mother gave him some steamed rice as an offering to
god. Narayana was very perturbed that god did not consume any food
offered by him. Innocent Narayana pleaded with god to eat and taking
pity on his innocent belief, Tirunarayana consumed the rice. However
his mother could not believe that god really ate the food and she
thought he had misused it. Out of anger she asked the boy to go and beg
for his food for that day. Narayana went to eight houses to beg.
Yadugiri Nayaki personally gave him alms in all the eight houses. The
alms of the seven houses were all precious stones like diamonds and
rubies etc. The alms in the eighth house were rice. The family got rich
with this and lived comfortably thereafter. This form of good deeds of
Tirunarayana and Yadugiri of Melukote are many.
A Brahmin called Chaturvedi used to entertain guests for propaganda.
When a local resident, Hariratha and his son went to his house, they
were thrown out. The son, out of anger, cursed him and his family to
destruction. His father advised him against such habit. He recited the
name of god Govinda seven times. Still, the family of Chaturvedi died
and went to hell. Even Yama was upset with them and sent them back to
earth as ‘Brahma devils’ (Brahma Pishachi), as they had
misbehaved with the good citizens of Yadavadri. Thereafter they
received Sripada Thirtha from the Srivaishnavas there and were atoned
of their sins.
Story of Chaturvedi
Another Brahmin Vishnuratha had fed lovingly Hariratha and his son. He
also gave good hospitality to Dattatreya and his four students.
Therefore he always lived rich and comfortable. Thus, those who serve
scholars well are taken good care of and those who ill-treat them will
This is called Roya Gopuram because Gopalaraya built it. However it is
not a Gopuram in real sense. There are four 52 feet tall granite
pillars erected in an elevated area. As it is at a height, it is
visible from a long distance in the town. In the early times people had
to enter the town through this gate, while coming from Srirangapatna
via Thondanur. It is therefore called Town gate.
Places of tourist interest: Town Gate or Roya Gopuram
Melukote is on top of hill, synonymous with its name. You can see parts
of the fort built by Yadava kings. From the height of Melukote, the
surrounding areas look simply gorgeous.
There two lakes side by side below the Roya Gopuram known as
Sisters’ Lake (Akka Thangiyara Kola). They are also called
Cheluva Arasana kola. Cheluva Arasa had two wives, who were sisters.
These lakes were built in their memory. These are in fact twin lakes,
almost attached to each other and one is larger than the other. It is
said that the elder sister built the small lake and the younger sister
built the large lake. The water in large lake is sweet and potable.
People in the town use this for drinking purposes. The smaller lake is
used for washing.
Sisters’ Lake (Akka Thangiyara Kola)
Other places of tourist interest such as Dhanushkoti, Vaikunta Ganga
and Thottilamadu are already covered in Ashta Thirtha narration.
There is some Utsava or the other every month of the year, in Melukote,
and they are all celebrated in grand manner. Kotharotsva in January
runs for ten days. The procession of Cheluvaraya comes to every
doorstep, every day, to receive offerings of flowers. The happiness of
devotees seeing their loving god at their door is immeasurable.
Utsava In Melukote
The Utsava performed on the next day of Sankranthi (Pongal) is Angamani
Utsava. Ramanuja brought the idol of Cheluvaraya from Delhi. They
located the idols of Sridevi and Bhoodevi in houses of
Tiruvananthapuradasar and Maalaakaadasar. Since then, their houses
became the parents’ house (Tavaru Mane) for the goddesses.
Angamani Utsava is also known as ‘Kanoo Habba’. The
goddesses arrive at Kalyani Thirtha and perform Pooja. In the night
they are well dressed and decorated and they go to their parents’
house. Their parents fill up their sari pallu with varieties of fruits
and other gifts. They rest for some time in the near by Angamani
Mantapa, and return to the temple in a procession to the beat of drums
and blaring bugles. The washer men of the town spread colorful saris
(Nademudi) on the ground for the convoy to walk on. Cheluvaraya is
angry because of their slow and late return from their parents’
house. Immediately, fully dressed up Cheluvaraya rushes out towards
Paarvate Mantapa outside the town. As a rabbit crosses the road at that
time, which is a bad omen, he returns to the temple. This is an
enjoyable and interesting event on show, and is an important festival
here. Villagers from the area sing melodious folk songs.
This day coincides with the change of direction of sun’s movement
after Sankranthi. Cheluvaraya is taken in a procession in Sun’s
chariot with seven horses. This is conducted in traditional and folk
style. Number of folk dancers performs in front of the procession, such
as Nandikolu Kunitha, Kolaata, Old Couple, stilt walk, dances by
children, add to the glamour.
This is the auspicious day on which Sri Ramanuja arrived in Melukote
and surfaced Tirunarayana from the anthill. This Utsava is performed on
Makara Shukla Punarvasu day. Sri Ramanuja is always in saffron robes as
he is a Sanyasin. But due to some compulsions in Tamilnadu, he had to
reach Karnataka in white robes, dressed as a normal family man. In
memory of that situation, on this Punarvasu day Sri Ramanuja wears
Three important Brahma Utsava (Brahmotsava) are performed in Melukote. They are detailed below.
This is performed in the last month of Lunar Calendar, Phalguna.
Although it is a ten-day event, it goes on for 15 to 20 days. It is the
most popular Utsava of this place. For three days it is performed as
Teppa Utsava or Teppa Jatre. This is Kalyana Utsava held in Dhara
Mantapa in Kalyani Lake. It is a worth seeing the celestial marriage
ceremony of Cheluvaraya and Cheluvanayaki held on the banks of Kalyani,
without any pomp and pageantry. After this for ten days the important
Utsava of the Jatre are held. On the fourth day coinciding with Pushya
star, Cheluvaraya wear the Vyramudi crown made of precious diamond
stones embedded in gold. This is brought to Melukote with full honors
on that evening, from the Government treasury in Mandya. The
procession, which usually starts at 9 PM, will go on till 2AM. It goes
around the temple on the four main streets. The sight of Cheluvaraya
wearing Vyramudi in procession is beyond words. Tens of thousands of
people congregate here to witness this Utsava. This Utsava is one of
its kind and devotees pay obeisance with folded hands, reciting
God’s name. On succeeding days, other Utsava, such as Prahlada
Paripalana, Gajendra Moksha, Rathotsava and Teppotsava are performed.
The kings of Mysore are devout devotees of Melukote. For dynasties they
have rendered innumerable service to Tirunarayana. Mummadi Krishnaraja
Wodeyar gifted a crown similar in appearance to Vyramudi and many
invaluable jewels to Cheluvaraya. This crown is therefore named
Krishnarajamudi, in his honor. Cheluvaraya wears this in Ashada month.
This is called Krishnarajamudi Jatre. It is celebrated for ten days, as
is the case with Vyramudi Utsava, with all grandeur.
Raja Wodeyar also gifted a crown and a variety of jewels to
Cheluvaraya. This is known as Rajamudi. This is worn in Kartika
(November) month. This is also a ten-day Jatre. As the feet of God is
taken to all the Ashta Thirtha, it is also known as Ashta Thirtha
Utsava. Hundreds of devotees take part in this Utsava. This Rajamudi is
also worn on a day during Vyramudi Jatre.
There are many other Utsava in Melukote apart from these main Jatre.
Some of the important Utsava are Pavitra Utsava,
Pallava Utsava, Navarathri Utsava, and Kruttika Utsava.
Alwars ruled over the God by their unstinted devotion. All the twelve
Alwars are from Tamilnadu. They are famous as Tamil saints. Andal is an
important female saint. They have written and recited Tamil verses in
praise of God. These are known as ‘Paashurams’ or
‘Divyaprabhandam’. Nammalwar and Tirumangai Alwar have sung
in praise of Tirunarayana of Melukote. In Tiruvoymoli, Nammalwar has
written ten Paashurams called ‘oru nayakamayi’.
The essence of these is as follows:
‘ This family, wealth, authority are all temporary. Worship at the feet of Tirunarayana to get salvation’.
Tirumangai Alwar states in Periya Tirumoli ‘naadinen naadi naan
kandukonden Narayana ennum Tiru naamam’. The meaning of this is,
‘I discovered the name of Narayana, he when worshiped would give
everything like good family, wealth’.
Although presently these are not so popular in Tamilnadu, the scholars in Melukote have kept them alive with constant usage.
Melukote is an ancient center for Sanskrit, in a Kannada state, with
Tamil utterance. The fragrance of Kannada, melody of Sanskrit, and
greatness of Tamil are all maintained here. The culture here is
admixture of all these. Acharya Ramanuja was also known as
‘Bhashyakara’ as he had written a synopsis for Veda during
his stay here.
Many poets of Karnataka, known as Dasas, have composed and recited
number songs on Cheluvaraya and Tirunarayana of Melukote. Purandaradasa
sings ‘sarvaaparaadhava kshamisayya Melukote Cheluvaraya’.
Kanakadasa sings ‘yadavagirivaasa ahudo Sri Narasimha’ in praise of the god on the hill.
Vyasaraya sings a Mangala song, ’varada Yadavagiriya Cheluva Narayana charana kamalagalige aarathi ettire’.
A scholar from here Pundit Alasingrachar has translated many ancient
books into Kannada. National poet P.T. Narasimhachar (Pu.Ti.Na.)
is from here. Thus contribution of Melukote in cultural field is very
large. Thousands of scholars have publicized about the cultural and
historical heritage of Melukote in their books in Kannada, Sanskrit and
Sri Ramanuja spent twelve years in Melukote, and revived it well. This
is said be his “Vijayasthana” (Place of Victory). He gifted
his own idol to his devotees before departing for Tamilnadu. His last
advice was ‘kutim krutvaa tasmin yadugiritate
nityavasatihi’. Live in Yadavagiri even if you have to live in a
hut. All your sins will be washed away and you will attain Moksha, just
by living in this pilgrimage town.
A number of freedom fighters originated from here. The Sanskrit
institution here is 150 years old. The Twenty-five years old Academy
for Sanskrit Research here has international reputation and has upheld
the name of Melukote.
The large number of Mantapa spread all over Melukote has enriched its
beauty. Melukote is known to enthuse its oneness absorbing all dynastic