• Places to visit in Melukote
Sri Yoganarasimha Swamy temple
On the hilltop at the other end of town, many steps up, is a temple to Lord Narasimha sitting in the Yoga position, so He is called Yoga Narasimha. He is nearly three feet tall and beautifully dressed and adorned in gold, with gold hands, feet, and crown with large flower garlands covering His chest. This deity, according to the NaradiyaPurana, is said to have been installed here thousands of years ago by Prahlada Maharaja, great devotee of Lord Narasimha. Beneath the temple is a small cave, just under the deity, where Prahlada is said to have meditated. If you wish, you can sponsor a bathing ceremony of the deity of Lord Narasimha & directly watch the priests do the bathing of the big deity.
• Prahlada’s Cave
According to the Naradiya Purana, Prahlada Maharaja installed the deity of Yoga Narasimha thousands of years ago while visiting Visnuchitta, a celibate performing penance here. One can still see the cave under the temple where it’s said that Prahlada Maharaja meditated. To Visit the cave down go from the northern, back side of the temple. The entrance has narrow steps, and then one has to bend head and even crawl. The point where Prahlada Maharaja meditated is just below the deity. Crawled some more one then can came out under the lower part of the temple.
From the roof of the temple, one can see Melukote spread out below. The most prominent places to see are the Tiru Narayana temple, Kalyani (“Auspicious”) Pond, the large entrance gate of a time-ravaged fort (Melukote means “upper fort”), and the Academy of Sanskrit Research. All the surrounding area is clearly visible from the hill. At night one can see the lights of Mysore City.
The pooja timings at Yoganarasimha temple are 9.00 to 10.00am (Nithyakatle). Abhisheka will be done from 10.00 to 11.00am and darshan will be from 11.00am to 1.00pm. Evening darshan is from 5.30pm to 8.00pm. During Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, the darshan will be from 11.00am to 2.00pm and 5.00pm to 8.00pm.
• Panch Kalyani Pond
Before visiting Sri CheluvanarayanaSwamy temple, people can visit the PanchaKalyani pond. The pond is very big with mantaps, Bhuvaneshwari mantap is located here. According to the Isvara-samhita, when Lord Krsna in His incarnation as Lord Varaha lifted the earth from the universal ocean, some drops of water clinging to His body fell on the hill at Melukote, creating Kalyani Pond. The Padma Purana mentions Kalyani Pond and according to the MatsyaPurana, Garuda, Lord Visnu’s eagle-carrier, brought white clay here from Svetadvipa, Lord Visnu’s planet within this universe.
• Thiru Narayan or Sri Cheluvanarayanaswamy temple–
The main temple in Melukote is that of ThiruNarayana. (“Thiru” is the Tamil equivalent of “Sri,” an honorific meaning “opulent.”). The principal temple is a square building of large dimensions but very plain, dedicated to Lord Cheluva-NarayanaSwamy or Thirunarayana.
It is said that Lord Narayana came to Melukote hill in response to a penance performed by Brahma. Lord blessed him and told him that he will assume the form of a pine temple. Today the TiruNarayana temple is not architecturally identical to the original one described in the Panca-ratragama, but it is still honored as a self-manifested sacred place.
As you enter the temple, the deity ThiruNarayana stands directly in front . He is five to six feet tall. Priests chant 1,008 names of the Lord, who gives blessings with one hand and held a club, a disc, and a conch shell in His other three hands. Ramanujacarya discovered the deity in an ant hill after the Lord directed him to the spot in a dream.
On the right side of the entrance, in a separate shrine, is a small Narayana deity, the processional deity, known as CheluvaNarayana, CheluvaPillai, Sampad-kumara, and Ramapriya- “one who is dear to Lord Rama” . Lord Rama worshiped this deity with great love. In the NaradiyaPurana, sages ask Narada Muni how Lord Narayana came to this place. He tells them that the deity was first presented to Brahma to worship, and Brahma gave the deity to Sanat- kumara, one of his sons. Lord Visnu then ordered Ananta Sesa, the lord of the serpents, to assume the form of a mountain at Melukote and wait for His arrival. Sanat-kumara transported the deity with His entire temple complex to Melukote. Later he presented the deity to Lord Rama. Rama’s son Kusa gave the deity as a dowry for his daughter, who married a prince of the Yadu dynasty.
Lord Krsna appeared in the Yadu dynasty and worshiped the deity. During that time, the diamond crown of the Lord Vishnu, residing in the milk ocean, was stolen by Virocana, the son of Bali. Garuda killed Virocana and retrieved the crown. But on the way back he found Krsna playing in Vrndavana with His friends and cows. So Garuda gave the crown, known as Vajramukti, to Lord Krsna, and Krsna offered it to the deity Ramapriya. Today, Vairamudi “The Festival of the Diamond Crown” is one of the temple’s main festivals. (Details later given.)
When Lord Balarama returned to Dwarka after one of His pilgrimages, He told Lord Krsna that the deity in Melukote (discovered by Ramanujacarya) was identical to their deity.
So they took Ramapriya to Melukote and placed Him before TiruNarayana. They found no difference between them. Ramapriya stayed in Melukote, and thereafter the Yadus frequently visited there to worship the Lord, who became their family deity.
So Cheluva Narayana is so unique that he was worshipped by both Lord Rama and Lord Krishna.
Later, the story goes that in the 11th century, the Jain King Bittideva embraced Vaishnavism
with the training and influence of Sri Ramanuja, and changed his name to Vishnuvardhana. However, at that time, because of the Muslim invaders, Narayanapuram was in ruins. Both the main deity of Narayana and the smaller deity of Ramapriya were lost.But Ramanuja had a vision in which Lord Vishnu showed him where deity could be found. Thus, he located the larger deity among some Tulasi trees in an ant-hill in Yadavagiri, and then installed the deity in the temple. As a service to his guru. Bittideva (Vishnuvardhana) renovated the TiruNarayana temple and built five shrines to Lord Vishnu known as the PanchaNarayana temples.
The smaller Vishnu deity or Ramapriya had been taken by muslimking in Delhi who gave it to hisdaughter who became very attached to it as one of her dolls. Then later, when the sages wanted to install it in the temple, Ramanujawent all the way to Delhi and asked for it back. The king laughedand said. I have so many deities in my treasury. You call it and if it comes, then you can have it.” So hecalled it by name and the deity practically flew into his arms. So then he took the deityand it was also installed in the temple. The king’s daughter, however, was so attached to
it she walked all the way to Melkote behind Ramanuja, but she was a Muslim and could not be allowed into the temple. Nonetheless, she also came to Melkote and there attained mukti, liberation. She is known as Bibi Nachiyar and is one of the saints of the temple. Her image is shown near the deity.
The deity of Ramapriya is in the RangaMandapam hall in front of the sanctum,on the right side of the entrance. This deity was worshiped with great love by Lord Ramachandra. Shrines for the deities of Vaikunthanatha, ChakrathuAlwar, and Anjaneya are on the parikrama, walkways of the temple. And the Goddess YadugiriNachiyar (Lakshmi) and KalyaniNachiyar have separate shrines in a mandapam hall of beautifully carved stone pillars in the back right corner of the complex.
Around the temple are the maths of various Vaishnava sects, and there is also an image of Ramanuja here, which was installed before he went back to Sri Rangam. He spent twelve years here. Thus, it is one of the four most holy sites for Sri Vaishnavas, follower of Sri Ramanuja.
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 Sri vaishnava faith, handed over the temple to 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 constant 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. A legend says that on the day of his death, he was observed entering the sanctum and was seen no more afterwards. 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 KrishnarajaWodeyar III and his queens. KrishnarajaWodeyar III also presented to the temple 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.
In 1785, Tipu Sultan gave some elephants to the temple.
The puja timings for Cheluvanarayana Swamy temple are 8.30am to 12.30pm, 4.00pm to 6.00pm and 7.00pm to 8.30pm. During Saturdays and Sundays, the morning puja timings will be from 8.30am to 1.30pm. Inside the Cheluvanarayanaswamy temple the pillars are carved beautifully.
Behind this temple, the sisters’ ponds (elder and younger sisters, Akka-Tangi kola) are located. Proceeding further there is Raya Gopuram which is a scenic place and people can see the aerial view of the surroundings. Other important places are Sri YadugiriAmmanavaraSannidhi and Dhanushkoti
• Yati Shila
When Ramanuja came to Melukote from Sri Rangam he came in the disguise wearing the white clothes instead of the saffron cloths of sanyasi. The reason is he left Sri Rangam because the Shaivaite king wants to kill him for spreading Vaishnavism. It is said that at this place Lord Dattatreya came and again awarded him the saffron cloths. There is small temple to mark this side. It is inside the jungle you have to walk past the two sisters’ kund on the forest trail and on your left side is this place.
You continue walking on the road you will come to the end of the mountain and there turn around the mountain you will find this place. It is said that here Lord Rama shot an arrow to make Ganga appear. There is small cave from where water comes out and also there is small temple having deities of Rama, Lakshman and Sita.
• 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 Sanskrit, Tamil, Kannada, and Telugu books and manuscripts.Here some computer scientists are working on, among other things, a program that can perform natural language processing with Sanskrit grammar. The Academy also has a garden of purely Vedic plants, and livestock carefully bread to recapture the characteristics of early Vedic herds.