Sunday, 24 March 2013

Vairamudi Utsava at Melukote

Local Highlight this week: 13 March, 2014

Vairamudi Utsava at Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple, Melukote


Melukote in Pandavapura taluk of Mandya district, is one of the sacred places in Karnataka and a famous pilgrimage center. The place is also known as Thirunarayanapuram, Yadugiri, Yaadavagiri and Yadushailadweepa, built on rocky hills overlooking the Cauvery river valley. The town is about 51 km from Mysore and 133 km from Bangalore.

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. It has thus become a prominent centre of the Srivaishnava sect.

Melukote is the location of the Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple, with a collection of crowns and jewels which are brought to the temple for the annual celebration. On the top of the hill is the temple of Yoganarasimha. Many more shrines and ponds are located in the town. Melukote is home to the Academy of Sanskrit Research, which has collected thousands of manuscripts.


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 Lord Rama and his son Kusha have 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 utsavamurthy.


In one of the annual report of Mysore Archaeological Department, it stated that people used to worship this place even before Sri Ramanujacharya renovated this temple and offered prayer. From the records of that period, there seems to be an influence of Tamil and vaishnava worship in this area; in the name “Tirunarayanapuram”, the word “Thiru” is typically used in Tamil language. The Wodeyar kings of Mysore were special patrons of this temple and have bestowed donations and protection to this temple. Raja Wodeyar in 1614 adopted the Vaishnava religion and donated a gold crown set with precious jewels known as Raja-mudi. Krishnaraja Wodeyar III also presented one such crown known as Krishnaraja- mudi. 

There is another crown — Vairamudi or Vajramukuta, which seems to be older than the other two crowns but no one knows its exact origin. The annual festival of this temple is known as Vairamudi festival and it draws lakhs of people.
The Vairamudi festival, which is the 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 crown 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 blindfolded while taking the crown out from the treasury.


The temple is a square building of large dimensions but very plain, dedicated to Lord Cheluvanarayana Swamy or Tirunarayana. The utsavamurthi, which is a metallic image, represents the deity called Cheluvanarayana Swamy.

There are three ponds in the town, two on the foothills and another on top of the hill. Beautiful stone carved pillared mantaps (pandals) surround the pond.

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 noteworthy.

The other temple is on one of the rocky hills at a height of 1,777 mtr above sea level. The majestic gopura is visible from far, which is the Yoganarasimha temple of Melukote. Legend says that the idol was installed by Prahalada, son of Hiranyakashap. 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.


Vairamudi, the diamond crown was stolen from Sriman Narayana by the demon Virochana, when he was asleep at his abode in the Ksheera Sagara (Milky Ocean). Garuda was asked by the lord’s devotees to bring back the crown. Garuda went after Virochana to the neither world, fought with the demon king and flew back with the crown.

According to the legend it is believed that Vairamudi lost its blue gem on the crest while Garuda was bringing it. The blue gem is believed to have fallen near Nachiar Kovil, a temple town in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. The gem turned into a stream, called the Manimuttaru, which, to this day, flows in Thanjavur. On his way, Garuda saw Bala Krishna playing with his friends in the mid-day sun at Brindavana. Garuda protected the little  Krishna from the sun by placing his wings as the shade & placed the crown on his head. The local legends of Melkote claim that Krishna presented Cheluva Narayana with this crown. 

Lord Cheluva Narayana is the son of Acharya Ramanuja, who was at Melkote for 12 years. It is believed that Cheluva Narayana, was also worshipped by Lord Rama, the King of Ayodhya.

Thirunarayan Puram now Melkote has the temple of Lord Narasimha which was consecrated by Prahlada. This has been a birth place for many Vaishanvite Acharyas. 


Vairamudi Brahmostava is an annual festival which gathers more than 2 lakh devotees of Lord Cheluva Narayana. Thirunarayana Puram another name for Melkote adorns a festive grandeur on this day when the Lord adorns the legendary diamond studded crown, the Vaira Mudi. It is believed that Lord Krishna Himself presented this crown to Cheluva Narayana. The Lord is taken in procession on the golden Garuda with His divine consorts Sridevi & Bhudevi, around the main streets of the city.

A large number of devotees throng the Mandya district, on the previous night to witness the Procession of the Lord. The whole town of Mandya prepares for the event.

The preparation for the Brahmotsava starts well in advance - before 2 weeks. The actual celebrations take place for 13 days. Garudotsava is celebrated a day before the Brahmotsava at Melkote. The district administration of Mandya makes rigorous arrangements to bring the Vairamudi crown from the Mandya treasury to the temple amidst stringent security measures. It is believed that the crown must not be exposed to daylight. Hence it is placed in a special casket. Under vigilance of Mandya police it arrives at the boundaries of the town. It is from here taken upto the temple with full honors in a special palanquin. It reaches the temple by evening. 

The crown is then placed in front of the sanctum of Sri Acharya Ramanuja and the head priest places the Vaira Mudi on the statue of the Lord Cheluva Narayana. It is tradition that even the head priest should not look at the Vaira Mudi in naked eyes till it is fitted to the Lord. Hence the priest covers his eyes with a silk cloth while fitting the crown. 

This takes place in the night and then the Lord and his consorts are traditionally decorated and procession continues to the dawn of the next day. The quiet town of Melkote comes to life with the grandeur and majesty of the procession. Rajamudi, another crown studded with precious stones is adorned on the Lord on the next day of the Brahmotsava.

During the 13 day celebration, Kalyanotsava, Nagavalli Mahotsava is held in the Holy Kalyani, followed by Maharatotsava.



Distance: Around 125 km from Bangalore and 51 km from Mysore

From Bangalore:
One can reach Melkote from Bangalore by car/taxi, by travelling on the Bangalore Mysore state highway and reaching the Mandya town. Just after Mandya, there is a right turn which goes to Melkote. Alternatively, one can take any of the numerous trains that go from Bangalore to Mandya and then take a bus/taxi from Mandya to Melkote. You can board the KSRTC bus upto Mandya and then any city or private bus. There are some buses which go directly from Bangalore to Melkote.

From Mysore:
There are buses that go from Mysore to Melkote. 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. Bus start from Platform No.2 of Mysore Bus Stand. Charges Rs.32/per adult. From Jakkanahalli Cross lots of share auto’s pay charge Rs.6/per person. Self Hire autos charge Rs.50 until Chelvanarayanan temple.

Temple Timings : 7:30am-1pm, 4pm-6pm and 7pm-830pm

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