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Melkote – Sri Thirunarayana Swamy Temple

Melkote, true to its name, is a Kote (means Fort in Kannada) of Vaishnavam. And our Yoga Narasimha Temple looks like a real fort on top of hill.

Melkote located near Mysore in Karnataka houses an ancient shrine to Vishnu, worshipped as Thirunarayana. This shrine is known for its long standing association with the spiritual leader Ramanujacharya. Melkote is also known as Yadavagiri, yatistalam, Vedadri and Narayanadri.

Legend has it this image of Vishnu was held in worship by Brahma. It is believed that the festival image Sampath Kumara was worshipped by Sri Rama and his son Kusha; hence the name Rama Priya. Legend has it that Krishna installed this image here at Melkote.


The presiding deity here (Moolavar) is known by the name Thirunarayana, while the processional image of Vishnu goes by the name Selva Pillai or Sampath Kumaran. Vishnu’s consort is known by the name Yadugiri Nachiyar. The image of Shelva Pillai is housed in the Rangamandapa. There are shrines to Yadugiri Thayar and Kalyani Nachiyaar. The temple tank is known by the name Kalyani Theertham.

Melkote has two distinct temples. The Thirunarayana temple at the foothills and the hill temple to Yoga Narasimha. Legend has it that the Yoga Narasimha temple image was installed here by Prahalada.

King Bitti Deva of Karnataka who embraced the Sri Vaishnava way of life and patronized the saint Ramanujacharya, assumed the name of Vishnuvardhan and built five shrines known as the Pancha Narayana temples. It is believed that at that time the Narayana PURA shrine was in ruins and that both the images of Thirunarayana and Sampath Kumara were missing and that Ramanujacharya discovered the image of Thirunarayana in the midst of Thulasi shrubs on the Yadavagiri hill and installed it back in the temple.

Legend has it that during the Muslim raids of South India, the festival image of Melkote was stolen andtaken away and that Ramanujacharya restored it from the court of the ruler. It is said that it a Muslim princess had gotten attached to the image of Shelva Pillai and that being unable to part with it, she followed the Acharya to Melkote and then merged into the shrine there. In honor of this, there is an image of Bibi Nachiyar here.

This temple is known for its Vairamudi Sevai in the month of March-April, when the image of Shelva Pillai is adorned with a diamond crown and taken out in procession. It is traditional belief that this crown is not to be looked at when it is not worn by the festival image; hence each year, during the occasion, the officiating priest picks up the crown from its chest with his eyes blindfolded and then places it upon the head of the image of Shelva Pillai. Thousands congregate to celebrate this occasion each year.

Such was the hospitality of the residents of Melkote that they were reluctant to let Ramanuja leave for Srirangam. Hence, Ramanujacharya made an image of himself and left it behind. It is to be noted that Ramanuja’s body in its preserved state is maintained at Srirangam and that there is another image of Ramanuja at Sriperumpudoor near Chennai.

There is a Sannidhi of Bhadri Narayana and it a small temple near Selva Pillai temple

Then you have the Brindavan of HH Adivan SaTakopa Jeer the first Jeer of Ahobila Mutt and it is also Avatara Sthalam of HH Adivan SaTakopa Jeer.

Text Source:  V.K.Rajagopalan

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