|Elevation||900 m (3,000 ft)|
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
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. It is built on rocky hills, known as Yadugiri, Yaadavagiri and Yadushailadweepa, overlooking the Cauvery valley. Melukote is about 51 km (32 miles) from Mysore and 133 km (83 mi) from Bangalore.
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.
Early in the 12th century, the famous Srivaishnava saint Sri Ramanujacharya, who hailed from Tamil Nadu, stayed at Melukote for about 12 years. It has thus become a prominent centre of the Srivaishnava sect. Melukote is the birthplace of Jayalalithaa who is the current Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.
- 1 Geography
- 2 History
- 3 Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple
- 4 Important places
- 5 Vairamudi Brahmotsava
- 6 Yoga-Narasimha Swamy Temple
- 7 Other attractions
- 8 Library and Sanskrit College
- 9 Kalyani or Pushkarani
- 10 Melkote Temple Wildlife Sanctuary
- 11 Educational institutions
- 12 Academy of Sanskrit Research
- 13 Iskcon and Vanaprasta Ashram
- 14 Gallery
- 15 References
- 16 External links
Melukote is a municipal town and holy centre of the same name, situated at a distance of 36 km (22 miles) north-west of Mandya, and 51 km (32 miles) north of Mysore.
According to mythological account, this place was known as Narayanadri, Vedadri, Yadavadri, Yathishaila and Tirunarayanapura.
The name of the place is derived from the temple of Narayanaswamy which is built on the hillock, surrounded by a fort. It is built on a granite rocky hill-range named Yadugiri, which is 3,589 feet (1,094 m) high above sea level.
Early in 12th century, the great Srivaishnava saint Ramanuja took up his residence and lived in this location for about 14 years. It thus became a prominent centre of the Srivaishnava sect of Brahmins, who obtained from the Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana, who had become a follower of the Acharya, an assignment of the fertile tracts of land in the neighbourhood, especially of the Ashta Gramas, on either bank of the Cauvery.
In the 14th century, the place suffered at the hands of Muslim invaders, and it was at Tondanur (Tonnur) at the southern foot of the hills, where the Hoysala king retired. It was subsequently restored, in about 1460, by Thimmanna Dannayaka, a chief of Nagamangala, who was an army commander of the Vijayanagar king Mallikarjuna or Immadi Prudhadeva Raya.
Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple
The principal temple is a square building of large dimensions but very plain, dedicated to Lord Cheluva-Narayana Swamy or Thirunarayana. The utsavamurthi, which is a metallic image, represents the deity who is called Shelvapillai, Cheluva Raya and Cheluvanarayana Swamy, whose original name appears to have been Ramapriya (meaning "Rama's Favourite"). It is believed that this utsavamurthi belonged to and was worshipped by Lord Rama and the kings of the surya vamsa Dynasty for generations. Later the same deity was given to a king of Chandra vamsam (the dynasty of Lord Krishna) and was worshipped by Lord Krishna and many generations. So CheluvaNarayana is so unique that he was worshipped by both Rama and Krishna.
According to a legend, this metallic image was lost and was recovered by Sri Ramanujacharya. The annual report of the Mysore Archeaelogical Department (p. 57) states on the strength of epigraphic evidence, that the presiding deity of this temple was already a well-known object of worship before Sri Ramanujacharya worshipped at the shrine, in December 1098, and even before he came to the Mysore region.
The temple is richly endowed, having been under the special patronage of the Mysore Rajas too, and it has a most valuable collection of jewels in its custody. As early as 1614, the Mysore king Raja Wodeyar (1578–1617) who first acquired Srirangapatna and adopted the Srivaishnava faith, handed over to the temple and the Brahmins at Melkote, the estate granted to him by Vijaynagar king Venkatapati Raya. On one of the pillars of navaranga of the Narayanaswami temple is a bas relief about 1.5 feet (0.46 m) high, of Raja Wodeyar, standing with folded hands, with the name inscribed on the base. He was said to be a great devotee of the presiding deity and a regular visitor to the temple. A gold crown set with precious jewels was presented by him to the temple. This crown is known as the Raja-mudi, after his name. From the inscriptions on some of the gold jewels and on gold and silver vessels in the temple, it is learnt that they were presents from Krishnaraja Wodeyar III and his queens. Krishnaraja Wodeyar III also presented a crown set with precious jewels. It is known after him, as Krishnaraja-mudi. Vairamudi or Vajramukuta, another crown of great value, seems to be older than Raja-mudi and Krishnaraja-mudi.
All the three crowns are kept in the safe custody of the Government at Mandya Treasury and brought to the temple on a specific annual occasion known as Vairamudi which literally means The Diamond Crown for adoring the image of Cheluvanarayana Swamy. The Vairamudi festival, which is the chief annual celebration, is attended by more than 400,000 people. Jatras are held annually during March–April and more than one lakh people congregated here.
In 1785, Tipu Sultan gave some elephants to the temple.
A number of inscriptions and records of the place speak of the land grants and gifts to this shrine. Perhaps the fort on the hill was built during Hoysala period. The renovated temple has a beautiful gopura.
There are other shrines of Ramanuja, images of Alvars and Yadugiriammanavaru etc., in the temple.
On the top of the hill is the impressive temple of Yoganarasimha. Krishnaraja Wodeyar III presented a gold crown to this upper shrine. There is a big pond there. Many more shrines and ponds are located in the town.
Melukote has been a centre of learning. It has contributed many literary figures, such as Tirumalarya, Chikkupadhyaya, Alasingachar and Pu. Ti. Narasimhachar.
Sri Vedavedantha Bodhini Sanskrit College is one of the oldest institutions here, established in 1854. An old library founded in 1935, contains large number of Samskrita, Tamil, Kannada, and Telugu books and manuscripts. In 1976, opening in 1978, a research institute, the Samskrita Academy was established, which incorporated the library.
Yathirajamatha, Ahobalamatha and Parakalamatha of the Srivaishnava sect are located in the place.
Melukote has been known for quality handlooms especially weaving dhoties, sarees, etc. An artisans training centre, a dairy unit and a residential school are established in the place.
There is a vast forest land near this place and a wild life sanctuary is opened on 17 June 1974, to protect the species like wolves and black buck which are plenty in the area.
Vairamudi Brahmotsava (Vairamudi Utsav) is an annual spiritual event and festival revered throughout South India. In the past it has attracted up to 400,000 devotees of Lord Cheluva Narayana (Tirunarayana). The main event is the procession of Lord Cheluvanarayana Swamy (as represented by an idol) through the streets of Melkote, which are decorated in his honor. In the procession the Lord's idol is carried on a golden garuda, along with idols representing his divine consorts Sridevi and Bhudevi. The procession takes place at night and continues until dawn. The festival is named for the legendary diamond studded crown, the Vaira Mudi, which the Lord only wears during this procession. For the rest of the festival the Lord wears the Rajamudi, another crown studded with precious stones.
Vairamudi, the diamond crown, was stolen from Sriman Narayana, when he was asleep at his abode in the Ksheera Sagara (Milky Ocean), by Virochana. Virochana was the king of demons and the son of Bhakta Prahlada. Garuda was asked by the lord’s devotees to bring back the crown. Garuda went after Virochana to the nether 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 Koil, 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, he saw Bala Krishna playing with his friends in the mid day sun at Brindavana. Garuda protected the Bala 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.
Preparations for the Brahmotsava start several weeks before the festival. The actual celebrations take place over the course of thirteen days. Garudotsava is celebrated a day before the Brahmotsava at Melkote. The district administration of Mandya makes arrangements for bringing the Vairamudi crown from the Mysore treasury to the temple amidst great security measures. It is believed that the crown must not be exposed to daylight. When not in the procession the priests keep the crown hidden from view in a sacred casket.
On the evening of the procession, the crown is placed in front of the sanctum of Sri Acharya Ramanuja and the head priest places the Vaira Mudi and fits it to the statue of the Lord Cheluva Narayana. It is tradition that not even the head priest should look at the Vaira Mudi with naked eyes until it is fitted onto the Lord. Hence the priest covers his eyes with a silk cloth while fitting the crown.
During the 13-day celebration, Kalyanotsava, Nagavalli Mahotsava are held in the Holy Kalyani, followed by Maharatotsava. In most years the spiritual events have been accompanied by cultural programmes, including music and dance performances, but in 2014 they were cancelled because of the upcoming election and its "model code of conduct".
While Vairamudi Brahmotsava is one of the most important festivals for Sri Vaishnavas, others include the Garudotsava at Kancheepuram (Tamil Nadu), Kotharotsava at Srirangam (Tamil Nadu) and the Brahmotsava at Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh.
Yoga-Narasimha Swamy Temple
On the top of the hill is an attractive Melkote Narasimha temple dedicated to Lord Yoga Narasimha. It is believed that the image of Yoga Narasimha temple at melkote was installed by Prahlada himself. Krishnaraja Wodeyar III presented a gold crown to Lord Yoga Narasimha.
From here visitors can also visit Tondanur a nearby temple town, the location of the famous Nambi Narayana, Parthasarathi, Yoganarasimha and Ramanuja temples. This is approximately 20 km (12.4 miles) from Melukote.
Library and Sanskrit College
The private library of his holiness the Yatirajaswamigalu of Melkote contains a large number of Sanskrit and Kannada works bearing on the Vishishtadvaita school of philosophy, a few works bearing on logic, rheotic, mathematics, astronomy, astrology, ritual, architecture, Panchatantra, Dharmashastras, Grihya and Dharmasutra. There is also a Sanskrit college here named Sri Veda Vedantha Bodhini Sanskrita Mahapatashala (Govt. Sanskrit College) which was established as early as in 1854 and which is one of the oldest institutions of its kind in the state. Melkote has contributed many literary figures like Pu Ti Narasimhachar, Tirumalaraya, Chikkupadhyaya and Devashikhamani Alasingachar.
Kalyani or Pushkarani
The temple infrastructure has a large pond called as Kalyani. The beauty of the steps leading to water and the mantapas built all around are such that it has been captured in many Indian films.
Melkote Temple Wildlife Sanctuary
Melkote is also the location of the Melkote Temple Wildlife Sanctuary. This Sanctuary was created on 17 June 1974, primarily to house wolves. Other mammals found in this sanctuary include the Jungle Cat, Leopard, Bonnet Macaque, Langur and Pangolin. It is also an ornithologist's paradise, with around 200 species of birds indigenous to the area. Melkote Temple Wildlife Sanctuary has been known for its once abundant Cycas Circinalis species, which in the recent time has been over exploited by the flower decorators and local doctors.
The Sri Yadugiri Education center (by Sri Ramanuja Srisha Seva Trust) provides cultural education to rural students. Sri Veda Vedanta Bodhini Govt. Sanskrit college is a place for traditional education. The mission of the institution is "Providing good education to rural students". Veda, Nalayira Divyaprabandha, Stotra and Grantha Kalakshepams are being taught in traditional families even today.
Academy of Sanskrit Research
The town is also home to the Academy of Sanskrit Research, an institution that was founded in 1977, by the Government of Karnataka. The Academy has kept 83 employees with 25 research scholars working on Sanskrit Research. Some of the areas of research include: Vishistadhvaitha, Upanishads and Scientific research from ancient texts. There is also a library that houses 11,000 manuscripts and 35,000 books.
Iskcon and Vanaprasta Ashram
Since December 2010, Iskcon has established a Vedic old age home and preaching center at Melkote, near the Travellers bunglow. The ashram houses the deities of Sri Jaganath baladev and Subdradevi. The ashram also has 6 cows where the milk is sent daily for the Abishek of Sri Yoga Narashima Swami.
From Akshayatritya 2011, Iskcon has started anadannam at the Yoga Narashima temple for the pilgrims and the needy.
- "Academy of Sanskrit Research". Mandya District. Archived from the original on 18 March 2014.
- Karnataka State Gazetteer 1983.
- A Brahmotsava is a holy cleansing, instigated by or in response to Brahma's example. "Brahmotsavam: Why is Brahmotsavam Celebrated". Ygoy. Archived from the original on 18 March 2014.
- "Vairamudi Brahmotsava to begin today". The Times of India. 13 March 2014. Archived from the original on 13 March 2014.
- "Melkote". Karnataka Holidays. Archived from the original on 13 April 2013.
- Chetti, P. Stephen Basappa (1897). A Guide to Seringapatam and Its Vicinity: Historical and Traditional (third ed.). Bangalore, India: Town Press. pp. 34–35. OCLC 33319821.
- "Model code of conduct comes into effect today". The Times of India. 5 March 2014. Archived from the original on 18 March 2014.
- Mysore Nature| Melkote Temple Wildlife Sanctuary
- Mysore Nature| Melkote Temple Wildlife Sanctuary | Bird Checklist
- Mysore Nature| Melkote Temple Wildlife Sanctuary | Butterfly Checklist
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