It was a quick plan to go someplace which can be covered in a day. I thought of several places among which Melukote [Tirunarayanapuram] was selected. We started at 6.30am in the morning by car and used mysore road [SH17]. On the way, we stopped by "Kamat Loka ruchi" near Ramanagaram to have breakfast. The place was filled with cars, vans and crowd. Traffic from both sides were managed by private cops. We had an expensive [Rs 70 per plate], but different-kind-of breakfast in the form of a buffet, to have "miniatures" of some variety dishes. It included a sweet obbattu [holige], roti, kara pongal, uppma, "hittu", and masala-dosa. My son enjoyed the sight of some ducks from neighboring "JanapadaJatre" campus.
We reached Mandya, took right to catch Melukote road. SH47 was mostly decorated with huge trees and green paddy/jaggery fields on both sides of the road. It gave me memories of Alleppey-Chenganassery road, but not as beautiful. But the road was managed well. There was very less traffic except for some motor-cyclists, tractors, occassional autos and rare StateTransport/private busses. At some stretches with several trees planted randomly in dry land, with road going zig-zag, I was not able to spot any animal or human being for a few kilometers. Though, for every few kilometers "mile-stones" to Melukote and Sravanabelagola are seen. Going past a few jagerry making houses, green-umbrella-looking mango-trees, a few small villages, a huge lake and a few hairpins, we reached Melukote. We had to pay 10 Rs for parking inside the town. I was able to see Yoga Narasimha temple on left side on top of the hill. We drove stright to reach "Seluva [Cheluva] Naaraayanaswaami temple". my odometer read 152 KM from my home.
We saw several people with heads shaved and "Tir naama" on forehead. The sanctum was closed for some pooja. We turn around and saw the sub-shrines of Sri. Raamanujaachaarya, and Anjaneya. On one side of the temple, I felt I was standing at Trichy Srirangam temple. The pillers are fine carved with none spared as plain. At several occassions, my hands went to the camera, to take the Geethopadesha and Anantha shayana carvings. But some part of my brain was telling me, "leave the carvings inside the temple. Carry them in your mind. The feeling you have now won't be achieved by looking at the pictures you have taken in the camera". I respected that thought. As we came back to the main deity, we saw that, sanctum was opened and small crowd was formed. Though the crowd was small, everyone is trying to push. To add frustration, some people in front of diety were doing special pooja, so they are not moving forward. After darsana we got out of the temple quickly.
We walked for the next destination, a big pond named Kalyani. On the way we saw another small pond on the right side with the sparkling green water, but nose-burning-stink. On the middle of the pond a half-demolished mandapa stood like an aged crane. A building was getting formed on the pond-side, destroying the natural beauty.
After walking past the street-sellers and a saadhu, we reached Kalyani. Its four sides have different mandapas. People were offering poojas, glowing karpoora/agarbayhi's and dipping pooja-items in the pond. A fish-flock was always on the banks searching for eatables. The temple-management were so kind to collect the debris of all karmas of the people and maintain the pond still keep its green and glitter. The Yoga Narasimha temple was seen on the hill from the Kalyani. I tried to see the reflection of the temple in the pond, but was disappointed as the people and fish were moving in the pond all the time.
There was a venketeswara temple on the pond-side. Another temple beneath the hill just opposite to the entrance for the steps-to-top has a deity with white and smiling face, as if it cures all the sorrows. The temple has a well which reached very deep and has an old styled pulley.
After putting our footwear at the entrance, we started climbing the hill. The steps were formed using rocky blocks. Huge trees stood on both the sides and some carvings of holy-feet at several places. There were mandapas, every 25 meters or so, for taking rest, though anybody can take a break anywhere, thanks to the trees. Some mandapas carried the carvings of some deity, especially Anjaneya. After reaching almost one-third, I saw some cars standing there and got to know that, people can come till that place by vehicle. There was another pond on the side with water colored gray, containing some urban-debris. I got tired after carrying my son for a distance, as he cribbed that the rocks were hot. For some stretch, the sun was so harsh to penetrate the trees and heat up the rocks.
We saw that, aged people are taking several breaks and continuing to climb. My wife felt that, the climb was not as tiring as the one at "Malaikkotte" at Trichy. For one second I got blinked thinking similarity of "malaikkotte" and "Melukote". As we reached the top, we got blessed by the mother earth that showed us the greenish-beauty of the kalyani, nearby hills, rocky formations and never lasting dry-fields. If there was some rain, she would have been covered by the greens too.
I started counting the steps from the bottom, but lost the count and the attempt in between. But I think there could be 150 steps easily, at the final stretch it become steep.
There were not many people at the sanctum. We offered prayers and took a small round-about. When I saw through a tiny crack between two rock-blocks beneath my feet, my eyes nearly popped out. we are standing many hundreds of meters above the earth, just on those blocks. Just a mind-stream passed by thinking about the people who made the temple would have done it. We climbed down, passing several beggers and saadhu's. When we were down the hill, it was 1.30 in the noon. I thought of having some puliogare as lunch [after seeing the funny looking "Ganapathy mess" board], but, soon decided to have it in Mysore road. The sun was turning all our sweat-out and we decided to move back, missing the raya Gopura and Akka-Tangi kola. We had a nice lunch at Maddur Tiffany's and reached home at around 6.30PM.
Some facts about the temple/place:
1) Cheluva Narayanaswamy temple: It was believed that, the "Utsava Moorthy" [metallic idol] in the temple was worshipped by Lord Rama and his son Kusha. So it is also known as Ramapriya. The place is called "Jnaana Mantapam" (House of Knowledge) as the main deity radiates knowledge. When visiting Thondanur, Sri Ramanujacharya [born 1017AD] has a dream of Cheluvanarayana, about the buried idol. Acharya, with the help of King Vishnuvardhana, unearthed the idol and installed it at Thondannur. Over the years, due to incessant wars between native Hindu kings and invading Muslims, the idol got buried again. 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 at Melukote. "Cheluva Narayanan" was also name of Ramanujaachaarya's son ["Sella pillai" or beloved son].
The temple is famous for "Vairamudi Utsav" [it was just over on 25 March 2010]. This is the annual day when an auspicious "vairamudi" or crown-with-jewels is worn by the Utsava Moorthy.
2) Legends on Vairamudi: The vairamudi was worn by Lord Narayana at Paalaazhi. It was stolen by Virochana [Prahlada's son] when the lord was sleeping. Later, Gurada fought with Virochana and recovered the Vairamudi. Vairamudi lost its blue gem while Guruda was bringing it. The gem fell down, turning into a stream called Manimuttaaru flowing near Tanjavoor. On the way back Garuda saw infant Krishna playing under the hot sun, sweating and tired. Garuda spread his wings over little Krishna to provide shade and then placed the Vaira Mudi on Krishna's head. Later, when Krishna came to Tirunarayanapuram, he presented the crown to Cheluva Narayana.
Nobody is supposed to look at vairamudi when it is NOT worn by the lord. [Legend is that, crown is invisible when it is not worn by the Lord] Also, it is not to be seen in day light. Currently it is kept at locker at Mandya, tightly shielded in a sun-proof box. On the auspicious day, it is brought to Melukote, in the evening. At around 9PM, the priest covers his eyes with a garment, and places it on the lord's head. The procession goes around in Melukote until early morning, when the vairamudi is taken back safely. Thousands of people assemble there for the procession and it is believed that, gods or their representatives arrive there for getting blessed by the Lord. Next day of Vairamudi-utsava, another crown studded with precious stones called "Rajamudi" is adorned on the Lord for procession.
3) Yoga Narasimha temple: The installation was done by Bhakta Prahlaada. The mandapas were constructed and trees were planted by the kings so that, everybody could have convenient Narasimha Darshana.
4) Melukote is famous for sweet Melukote Manoharam, Puliogere and ulundurai [variant of pongal]
d) Wikipedia and some people.