One of the popular sacred places in Karnataka, Melkote is placed at a distance of around 51 km away from Mysore. Overlooking the Cauvery Valley, this pilgrim center gets various names from mythology including Thirunarayanapura, Vedadri, Yathishaila, Narayanadri and Yadavadri. It has temples built on a rocky granite hill, including some of earth’s oldest rock formations- Yadavgiri. Melukote is quite popular for housing a number of temples and Vairamudi, a special festival.
Melukote was popular religious site for Sri Vaishnava followers. If legends are to be believed during the first of the 12 century, there was rivalry between the Vaishnava and the Shaiva sects in the Southern region. The then rulers of Tamil Nadu- the Cholas used to mistreat the Vaishnavas. The leading preacher of Vaishvism, Sri Ramanujacharya, escaped and allowed to stay in exile at Melkote by King Vishuvardhana, the then Hoysala King. Though he himself was a Jain but got largely influenced from Vaishnavism and converted to the same. Later, during the 14th century, Muslims defeated the Hoysala rulers and Melkote was plundered. However, Vijayanagar rulers restored the place later.
Attractions in Melkote
Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple
A square-shaped temple, Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple is devoted to Lord Cheluva-Narayana Swamy or Tirunarayana. Along with the idol of the presiding deity in metal, the temple also has other temples such as idols of Yadugiriamma and Alwars. This temple has received rich gifts from Maharajas of Mysore who were its patrons. Tipu Sultan had gifted an elephant to the temple. Some of such other endowments include a Gold crown with semi-precious stones by Raja Wodeyar and Krishnaraja Wodeyar, along with a third crown too.
Yoganarasimha Swamy Temple
Yoganarasimha Swamy Temple is a stunning shrine that is built on a hilltop and has several legends connected to it. It is said the Lord Rama, Lord Krishna and his brother Balaram were worshipped here during different times. In the temple complex, there is a huge pond called Kalyani that has steps leading to the water. There are mantapas around the pond.
This temple is called Sanskrit Pathsahala as it is home to India’s oldest Sanskrit Pathsahala in India, dating back to the year 1853. Even today, this School continues to provide teachings in Sanskrit and Indian Philosophy.
Melkote Temple Wildlife Sanctuary
Founded in 17th June in the year 1974, Melkote Temple Wildlife Sanctuary was made to save the wolves in the region. Other animals that can be spotted here include langur, leopard, pangolin, bonnet macaque and jungle cat along with a vast variety of avifauna species.
The most popular festival Melkote is held in the month of March/April, where Cheluvaraya Narayana Swamy temple becomes the venue of the event. At the time of this festival, the process idol of Narayan Swami is festooned with a beautiful diamond crown and is taken out in a procession. During the town’s main festival, pilgrims visit the people in lakhs.
Though Melkote receives a decent footfall of the pilgrims all round the year but during the Vairamundi Brahmotsavam festival, organized in March/April, the place bustles with heavy tourist activity. Other festivals include the birth celebrations of popular saints of Melkote. Angamani festival is another popular festival here, which is a folk festival of the region.