Melukote is a famous piligrimage center situated in Mandya district, Karnataka. This place is also known as Thirunarayanapuram, Yadavagiri or Yadugiri nestled in the Cauvery river valley. From Mysore it is a 55 kilometers drive. As we drive from Mysore to the temple town, the scenery changes from lush green paddy fields to flat lands with rocky hills looming from either sides. A turn on a winding road up the hill into the town will surprise you with a beautiful clear lake glistening in the sun. It is an ideal spot for a picnic.
Two temples reside in this town, one on the foothills and the other on top of the hill. In the twelfth century the great Srivaishnava saint Ramanujacharya lived here for more than 14 years. These temples existed even before Sri Ramanujacharya came to this place.
The presiding deity of the temple on the foothills is Lord Vishnu known as Thirunarayana or Cheluvaraya installed by Lord Krishna. The utsavamurthy (small metal statue representing the main deity, that can be taken on a parade) is known as Cheluvapille Raya or Cheluvanarayana Swamy whose original name is Ramapriya. Legend narrates that Shri Rama and his son Kusha has worshipped this statue and hence the name Ramapriya. This utsavamurthy was lost when the moghuls invaded the place and it was recovered by Ramanujacharya from Bibi Nachiyaar the daughter of Mohammed Shah. Bibi Nachiyaar was given this idol as a toy to play with and instead of playing with the idol, she worshipped it and became a devotee. She was heartbroken when her dad without consulting her gave away the statue to Sri Ramanujacharya. In search of her Lord she came to Melukote from Delhi on horseback and saw the statue and collapsed in front of it. Her soul in the form of a jyothi (flame) merged into the idol. Hence in honor of her devotion, she is worshipped along with the lord and her idol can be seen at the feet of both the main deity and the utsavmurthy.
There are three ponds in the town, two on the foothills and another on top of the hill. Beautiful stone carved pillared mantaps (pendals) surround the pond.
The temples have been under the patronage of the Mysore royal family and is endowed with valuable jewellery given to the lord by the Wodeyars. Two beautiful crowns have been gifted to the Lord by the Wodeyars known as Krishnaraja-mudi, Vairamudi or Vajramukuta and another crown, which is older than the other two is given to the Lord by an unknown person. The Vairamudi festival, which is the chief annual celebration in the month of March-April is attended by more than 400,000 people. On this day the main deity Tirunarayana is adorned with a diamond corwn and taken out in a procession. It is believed that this crown is not to be seen when it is not adorned by the Lord so, the chief priest is blindfloded while taking the crown out from the treasury.
A shrine houses Vishnu’s consort Yadugiri Taayaar. The hall in front of this shrine comprises of many ornately carved stone pillars. Each pillar is different from the other depicting scenes from various Hindu epics. The intricate latticework on the pillars is awesome.
The Yoga Narasimha Temple is another temple at Melukote, which is at a height of 1,777 mtrs above mean sea level. The majestic gopura / tower of the temple is visible from far. This temple was built during the Hoysala times. The idol of Narasimha is in a seated posture with the Yogapatta. A huge drum donated by Tipu Sultan and a bell donated by the Mysore Parakalamatha are seen here.
Legend says that the idol was installed by Prahalada, son of Hiranyakashapu. This temple is referred in the holy texts of Vedic literature, which dates back to thousands of years. 400 steps lead to this temple. It is believed to be one of the seven holy centers of Narasimha worship. There is special pooja on Narasimha Jayanthi festival.
Melkote is home to the famous Academy of Sanskrit research center, which was established in 1853. The residents of this town are mainly Mandyam Iyengars (followers of Ramanujacharya) and hence the famous Puliyogare (a sweet, sour and spicy Rice preparation with crispy groundnuts) gojju (concoction) is available in the small hotels/mess, which is run by Iyengars. This can be stored for more than a month and when mixed with plain white cooked rice, Puliyogare will be ready to eat.
Type of place: Pilgrimage center
Situated: Mandya District, Pandavpura Taluk
Distance: 55 Kms from Mysore
Type of Transport: Well connected by Bus, private taxis
Facilities: Many small hotels serve tasty food, Choultries/Community centers serve free food every day, cheap, safe and clean staying options are available with minimum facilities. Pay and use rest room is provided