Melukote is a lovely picturesque town prominent for its Vaishnavite Temples. This is where Sri Ramanujacharya lived for more than a decade. After he leaves SriRangam, Sri Ramanujar arrives at Melukote and establishes many temples around the area. The most two prominent temples being Yoga Narasimha temple and the Cheluva Narayana temple. I have been to Melukote too many times now and the small town is now growing to many more lanes and development. I love it for the divine power and spiritualism I feel here. Let me also take you around, feel it with me.
Ramanujacharya at Melukote
Once Sri Ramanujar's life was under threat in Srirangam, he decides to move from Chola dynasty to Hoysala dynasty. He arrives at Melukote also known as Thirunarayanapuram in the early 12th century. He continues to live there for the next 14 years. When he arrives the Hoysala kingdom in under the Jain king Bitti Deva. But then Ramanujar heals Bitti Deva's ailing daughter of her illness. Watching this miracle, Bitti Deva also starts to believe in Vaishnavism and converts to Hinduism and changes his name to King Vishnuvardhana. Ramanujar continues to work on spreading Vaishnavism based out of Melukote. Establishes the temples of Melukote, educational institutions, removes untouchability and does a lot more social work around the area. Also continues to perform his miracles. The stories and miracles follow.
Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple Melukote
CheluvaNarayana means the deity who loves to deck up, and so He was. The sanctum sanctorum is filled with His beauty, standing tall at around 6-feet tall, the majestic Lord has a unique facial feature and blesses you with a smiling face. Unlike other temples where the Utsava Murthy is placed along with the main deity, there is a separate shrine. There is a story associated with it and hence Utsava murthy has a separate shrine. It is the utsava murthy that is called Cheluvanarayana.
Cheluvanarayana also known as Chella Pillai (translating to the beloved one) was once abducted by the Delhi Sultanate. And Ramanujar gets a vision in his dream that the utsava murthy is in Delhi. So he goes all the way to Delhi and the sultanate lets him search for the idol in the treasury. But then Ramanujar is not able to find it. And he gets another vision that the idol is with the daughter of the Sultanate. The sultan surprised with the prediction takes him to the queen's quarters and they both see the kid playing with the idol. The girl refuses to part the lord and so the Chella pillai and the girl comes along with Ramanujar to Melukote.
The main deity in the sanctum sanctorum also has a story associated with it. Ramanujar dreams of Lord Vishnu calling him. And Ramanujacharya goes in search of the voice. With the help of the king he digs up all around the Yadugiri hill and then comes to know that the statue is found under an ant hill bit the temple tank. It is also said that from here the practice of applying Thirumann started, the ant hill was made of the thiruman (the white part of the namam or the Vaishnavite symbol). From here they retrieve Thirunarayanan and establish the temple. This is the temple on the foot of the yadugiri hill, lined up with small stalls on either side.
By the side of the main deity is the shrine for the Alwars. Then you come across the shrine for the Thayar, Ramanujar and then a beautiful small mantapa with exquisitely carved pillars. These are different from those of Belur, Halebid, or Hampi. The pillars are carved with so much details, there is a gap between the inner and outer pillar. I love the proceedings of the temple. Cheluvanarayana temple is more than 1000years old.
Melukote Yoga Narasimha Temple
Okay! Now, this one is a serious climb. If you have a vehicle you can drive up till halfway and then start the climb. Or else start from the bottom. IT starts as simple steps and then the ascent gets a bit steep. Apart from being Saturday and Ekadashi, I believe some festival was also going on since many people from around the villages were making their way up the hill! I climbed it with minimal breaks. The crowd was continuously pushed and shoved. Stood in the queue for almost half an hour with very little ventilation on a hot summer afternoon! Imagine the horror!
The deity was Yoga Narasimha, and I guess you can get a ticket to enter in apart from the regular queue. This is also the temple where the annual Melukote Vairamudi festival is held. The Vairamudi festival is where the utsava Murthy is adorned with a crown made of diamonds and taken on a procession. Despite the crowd, the darshan was fruitful. Walk out of the temple and take in the splendid views from around the temple, and feel the cool breeze!
That is the beauty of such a place! The calming greenery and the breeze, despite hot summer noon, were such a blessing. You can see whole of Melukote and more from above the hill. Watch out for the rowdy monkeys though.
Melukote Kalyani Pushkarani
It is a vast temple pond down the hill with neatly done steps. You can get a good view of the temple from the pond. There are signs of "Keep the pond Clean" all around, but nobody seems to bother. Despite no bathing or washing allowed in the pond, it was in a sad state. People come here to perform last rites too. There is a dancing mandapam kinds and there is also a kalyana mandapa by the side of the pond.
Once you are done with these main two temples, there are other spots around Melukote that you can visit.
You need to drive a good 5 km down the temple, and then you would come up to a small hillock. History says that when Lord Rama and Sita were walking around these forest regions, Sita felt thirsty and asked for water. Lord Rama shot His arrow into the land, and water sprung out. The water does not dry up here.
There is a shrine for Lord Rama. The feet of Rama are carved out there and hence it is considered a holy place. The climb up the hill is through uncut rough steps of the mountain. The view from above the mountain is beautiful and breathtaking.
Melukote Raya Gopuram
First things first— This is where Padaiyappa, Barso Re song from Guru, and many more movie scenes were filmed.
It is a half-finished Gopuram. History says it was completed overnight! Overnight! Seriously! If they had stacked up some random stones, I would have still believed! But this one has some intricately done carvings! I will let the pictures do the talking here.
Akka Tangi Kulam
These are two tanks separated only by a fleet of steps. One tank is salty, and the other tank is sweet! That is the surprising element here! There is a shrine for Kulashekara Alwar. The steps of the pond are built symmetrically. The pond is filled with fishes, and tiny turtles were basking in the sun. It was such a treat to watch. I did not have a high-zoom high definition camera to take those pictures. But I was lucky to enjoy the sight in real-time.
Thondanoor aka Thonnur
Thondanoor is where Ramanujar actually lived. It is about 20 to 30km from the Melukote town. It also has quite a few prominent temples. Here are few
Sri Nambhi Narayana Temple
I have been visiting this temple as well quite often and can I say what a lovely job Archaeological Society of India has done. Pillars and sculptures restored, neat pathways, gated and more.
The temple is pretty big too. There is an outer and inner corridor. The presiding deity Nambi Narayanan looked like a royal king.
Right opposite the Nambi Narayana Temple is the Krishna Temple, with a reasonably big temple complex. It is not very architecturally significant, but if you are religious, do stop by. The sanctum sanctorum has 5 to 6 feet tall Krishna deity in the sitting form! It is Huge! His consorts accompany the Lord on either side. It is a lovely sight to behold.
The temple is in a dilapidated condition. It is a really huge temple but the frescoes have faded and weeds all over. Wonder why ASI did not pay attention to it when the Nambi Narayanan temple has been renovated so well.
I believe there are a few more temples around. The Krishna temple complex looks similar to the Narayana as mentioned above Temple complex.
Thonnur Lake Aka Thondanur Lake
Thonnur lake, also known as the Thondanur lake, is a vast water body on the road to Pandavpura. There is a crossing from which one way leads to Melkote and the opposite one to Pandavpura. At about 10km from the junction is the Thonnur lake. You need to take a right and pass through tiny roads. At one point, you might wonder if you are lost. Then finally, you would see the signboard for going up, and you go atop a small hill. On one side you will see a pond with Ramanujar statue and on the other side is the Thonnur lake.
The steps were not so well-defined. It was super-crowded. There were some unruly office members too. So we could not have a good time there. The lake is "lovely, dark, and deep," so be careful at the steps. Sunset and sunrise would look magnificent.
Subbana Mess Puliyogare
For lunch, I stopped at the Subbana Mess Melukote. Just next to the arch leading to CheluvaNarayana Swamy temple is the famous Subbana mess. Despite the crowd, I was warmly welcomed into the mess and was given a seat. It is a small mess with only some chairs. Arrangements were there to eat on the floor as well. The serving was delicious and came close to be as wholesome as home-cooked food.
Had a yummy plateful of Puliyogare, which they are very famous for, along with homemade pickles and spiced buttermilk. We ended the meal with a cupful of piping hot belle sakare Pongal. They have the sugar one too, and we asked for the jaggery one. Despite the thick dark colour of jaggery, the Pongal was perfectly sweet, loaded with shards of coconut. Heaven in a cup! A warm uncle stopped by and told us the history of the humble mess. It is now running in its 109th year!! Walked into their shop and picked up puliyogare mix, chivda, bhoondi, chutney powders, and some snacks (who knows when we will get a chance to revisit it!).
Bangalore to Melukote
Bangalore to Melukote is around 157 Km. There are two ways to reach Melukote. One is through Mysore road - Nice road, Mysore road, Ramnagaram, Maddur, Mandya, and the Melkote. Other is through the Hassan road. The hassan route is slightly about 20km more but then it is a breeze. Best highway and a very scenic route. My only suggestion here is if you are not religious, go on Sunday or weekday or when you are sure there is no festival. If you are religious, then any day is yours.
Also met a person at the temple who gave a temple tour plan covering Belur ChennaKesava, Srirangapatna, Chammundi, etc. Apart from the famous ones, he mentioned a temple called ''Saumya Narayana Temple'' at Nagamangala, further down Pandavapura. It has the same effect as visiting Kalahasthi, meaning —all the Rahu Kethu doshas will be gone!
With that, bid adieu to Melukote.
Oh and a fun fact, Superstar Rajinikanth considers Melukote as his lucky charm. So he shoots at least one scene of his movie here. Check out the vlog below for references :)
Watch the full vlog of Melukote here