Śrī Cheluvarayaswami Temple
(Dedicated to Lord Vishnu)
Melukote in Pandavapura taluk of Mandya district, Karnataka, in southern India, is one of the sacred places in Karnataka. The place is also known as Thirunarayanapuram. Melkote is 3000 feet’s above Sea level capper.This place is also rich with Natural & Environmental beauty attracting hundred & thousand’s of pilgrim’s daily. It is built on rocky hills, known as Yadugiri, Yaadavagiri and Yadushailadeepa, overlooking the Cauvery valley. This shrine is very ancient, though the temple complex is just around 1000 years old. This temple is a Vaishnava shrine, dedicated to Lord Viṣṇu. Melkote is praised as Badarinath of South India.
This place is very well known for various famous temples and a festival called Vairamudi takes place here when devotees come from all parts of India. Daily cultural activities like devotional songs, classical dances take place in the Cheluvanarayana swamy temple premesis. This place is also a well known location to film makers for shooting as the surrounding contains lot of scenic areas.
8:30 AM – 12:30 AM
Saturday and Sunday
8:30 AM – 1:30 PM
4:00 PM – 6:00 PM
7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
TRANSPORTATION AND TRAVEL ROUTES
Nearest Airport is Bengaluru or Mysuru
Nearest train station is Pandavapura
Melkote is 133 kms from Bangalore, 51 kms from Mysore and 35 kms from Srirangapatna. KSRTC Buses ply regularly from Mysore. Alternatively, one can catch a bus that goes from Mysore to Tumkur (and onwards) and get down at a place called Jakkanahalli Cross. Melkote is around 6 km from there.
This temple is very ancient. According to tradition, Lord Rama himself came here with his son Kusha and worshiped Lord Narayana here. For this reason, the processional idol, Sampath Kumara, is also known as Ramapriya. The main deity of the Shrine is Thirunarayana or Cheluvanarayana Swamy. The Devi in this temple is known as Yadugiri Nachiyar.
Śrī Ramanuja, the great Vaishnava Acharya, stayed in Melkote for 12 years, and gained many followers, including the Hoysala King, Vishnuvardhana.
Situated 50 Kms.north of Mysore, Melkote is a sacred pilgrim centre, known for its Vairamudi festival in March-April. More than one lakh devotees congregate here for the festival. Melkote is also famous for its hand looms. Ramanujacharya,the Shrivaishnava saint-philosopher, took shelter here from his persecutors.
Śrī Ramanujacharya was a great saint of the eleventh century. It was he who spread the message of Srivaishnava religion. Those who propitiate the Lord through Mother Lakshmi, Narayana’s Consort, -are called Srivaishnavas. From the days of Ramanuja, Melkote became a major center of Srivaishnava faith. Ramanuja lived there for eighteen years. It was he who built the shrine and installed the deity Chelvanarayana there. Who was this Vedanta – deshikar that had received such spontaneous honors from the young and old alike?
Śrī 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. Śrī 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 Śrī 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 Deity in the temple, built the sanctum sanctorum and Shukanasi. Melukote, which had turned into a desolate town, was revitalized.
Śrī 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 eliminate untouchability.
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 Harijan Chluvayya.
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.
Śrī Ramanuja 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 Mūrtī (Deity 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 Deity was in Delhi. He went to Delhi, met the Badshah ruler there and asked him for the Deity. He displayed a large number of Deitys lying in his museum. Acharya could not find the Deity of Ramapriya among them. He learnt that the princess was playing with one of the Deitys, 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 Deity. 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 Deity 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 Deity. Thus arrived Utsava Mūrtī 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 Bhagavāna shows the emotional unity of the communities.
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 child.
FESTIVALS AND EVENTS
Built on the rocky hills of Yadavagiri, 90 miles from Bangalore, Melkote is a picturesque temple town. It is the abode of Cheluvanarayana, “Handsome Narayana” and Yoga Narasimha, two forms of Viṣṇu. To many, Melkote is considered the holy Badrinath of South India. Yadavagiri is one of Viṣṇu’s 108 sacred abodes. Legends associate Melkote’s existence to the Krita Yuga, the age of Bhagavāna, and the diamond crown, Vairmudi, with Lord Viṣṇu himself.
The Vairmudi procession takes place on the fourth day of a six-day festival. For the entire year, the diamond-studded gold crown remains in safe custody at the Government Treasury in Mandya, 17 miles from Melkote. It is only brought out on this auspicious day under armed escort.
The convoy commences its holy sojourn in the afternoon and stops at every village on the way to Melkote. The villagers worship the sealed Vairmudi crown. They believe that the passage of this celestial crown brings prosperity to their village.
The crown arrives at Melkote by dusk and returns to the Government Treasury duly sealed the next morning. Many years ago, the Vairmudi was kept in safe custody at the Royal Treasury in Mysore and brought under the king’s soldier’s watchful eyes by foot and later by horse-drawn carriage.
The parade Deity, Cheluvanarayana, dons the Vairmudi, the crown of diamonds, only at this annual extravaganza. He wears His gem-packed crown for just a few hours, from midnight to dawn. Perched majestically on His vehicular palanquin, Cheluvanarayana proceeds down the streets.
On this day, as we waited with anticipation, the Vairmudi crown arrived by sunset, bringing along with it a much-needed cool breeze. State officials and priests accompanied the diamond crown, which was sealed and wrapped in an antiquated deep blue-velvet bag. Traditional tunes of nadaswaram and temple bells filled the air. Men and women danced to local folk songs about the historic town. On entering Melkote, pujas were performed for the Vairmudi at the Anjaneyaswamy temple at the entrance of the town. The crown is then taken in procession to the main Cheluvanarayanaswamy temple.
Eighty-year-old Vaishnavite priest Kargam Sesha Iyengar, sitting unperturbed by the crowd and confusion inside, makes an inventory of the ornaments without opening their coverings. He then puts his signature on the official records affirming that everything is there. According to the religious practice mentioned in the temple records, Iyengar’s family is the only one entitled to touch the Vairmudi crown. Saint Ramanuja himself, who lived in and supported Melkote some 900 years ago, is said to have assigned the temple duties to various families who have continued their service to this day.
The sealed Vairmudi is taken to the icon of Cheluvanarayana waiting to be crowned behind the privacy of a screen near the shrine of Saint Ramanuja. The lights are switched off and the idol is crowned in darkness. The Vairmudi crown is thought to be of divine origin, and according to legend, anyone who dares look at it while not on the deity risks losing his eyesight. “I close my eyes so I do not see the crown until it is placed on the idol. I can place it correctly on the idol without difficulty,” said the old priest, Iyengar.
Wearing the diamond-studded crown, Cheluvanarayana, accompanied by His consorts, descends from the platform elegantly seated on His royal chariot, Garuda Vahana. It’s close to midnight, and the Deity and crown begin their sojourn along the narrow streets of Melkote.
As the Deity passed us, I had expected to see a crown of blinding brilliance but found the Vairmudi a rather simple crown. The diamonds cut centuries ago only glowed when lights fell on them. It is the mystique of the legends that go way back in time that makes the Vairmudi a divine sight. Nothing else matters for the crowds who come long distances and wait for hours only to get a brief glimpse of the Deity. For them, it is the sight of the lord’s crown crafted in heaven and placed on His head that will remain etched in their memory forever.