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Melukote Krishna Vairamudi Utsav interesting facts

Melukote is a holy town in the Mandya district of Karnataka, which is famous for its ancient temples and shrines dedicated to Lord Vishnu and his various forms. One of the most revered temples in Melukote is the Sri Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple, which houses the utsavamurthi (processional idol) of Lord Cheluva Narayana or Tirunarayana, who is also known as Ramapriya (Rama’s favourite). The temple is also associated with the great Vaishnava saint Sri Ramanujacharya, who lived here for 12 years and recovered the lost idol of the deity

Every year, the temple celebrates a grand festival called the Vairamudi Utsav or Vairamudi Brahmotsavam, which attracts lakhs of devotees from across the state and outside. The festival is named after the precious diamond-studded crown called Vairamudi, which is adorned on the idol of Lord Cheluva Narayana on a special night. The festival is a spectacle of faith and devotion, as well as a showcase of the rich cultural and religious heritage of Melukote.

When is it conducted every year?
The Vairamudi Utsav is conducted every year during the Phalguna month (February-March) of the Hindu calendar. The festival lasts for about 20 days, starting from the Phalguna Shukla Panchami (fifth day of the bright fortnight) and ending on the Phalguna Shukla Purnima (full moon day). The main event of the festival, which is the Kiritadharana Mahotsava or the crowning ceremony of Lord Cheluva Narayana with the Vairamudi, takes place on the Phalguna Shukla Dwadashi (twelfth day of the bright fortnight)

What is its significance?
The Vairamudi Utsav is a festival of great significance for the devotees of Lord Vishnu and his incarnations. The festival commemorates the divine intervention of Lord Vishnu in saving his devotee Prahlada from his evil father Hiranyakashipu, who was killed by Lord Narasimha (the half-man half-lion form of Vishnu) on the Phalguna Shukla Chaturdashi (fourteenth day of the bright fortnight). The festival also celebrates the glory and grace of Lord Cheluva Narayana, who is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Rama and who fulfills the wishes of his devotees. The festival also honours the legacy and teachings of Sri Ramanujacharya, who revived and propagated the Vaishnava faith and philosophy in Melukote and other parts of India

The Vairamudi crown itself is a symbol of divine power and splendour, as it is said to have been gifted by Lord Vishnu himself to his devotee Garuda (the eagle mount of Vishnu), who later gave it to Lord Indra (the king of gods). The crown was then passed on to various kings and dynasties, until it reached King Vishnuvardhana of Hoysala dynasty, who donated it to Lord Cheluva Narayana in Melukote. The crown is made of gold and studded with diamonds, rubies, emeralds, pearls and other precious stones. It is kept in a special vault in Mandya district treasury and brought to Melukote only once a year for the festival. The crown is considered so sacred that even the king had to take permission from Lord Cheluva Narayana before wearing it

How is it celebrated?
The Vairamudi Utsav is celebrated with great pomp and fervour by the temple authorities, devotees, local people and visitors. The festival involves various rituals, ceremonies, processions, cultural programmes and festivities that take place throughout the 20 days. Some of the highlights of the festival are:

  • The arrival of Rajamudi (another crown) and Vairamudi from Mandya district treasury to Melukote, accompanied by a grand procession of elephants, horses, chariots, palanquins, musicians, dancers and devotees. The crowns are welcomed and worshipped at various places on the way, such as temples, villages and towns
  • The hoisting of the Garuda flag on the Phalguna Shukla Panchami, which marks the beginning of the festival. The flag is a symbol of Lord Vishnu’s presence and protection
  • The daily processions of Lord Cheluva Narayana and his consorts in different vahanas (vehicles) such as Garuda, Hanuman, Sesha (serpent), Gaja (elephant), Ashwa (horse), Simha (lion) and Hamsa (swan). The processions are accompanied by music, dance, chants and prayers. The devotees throng to have a glimpse of the deity and receive his blessings
  • The Kiritadharana Mahotsava or the crowning ceremony of Lord Cheluva Narayana with the Vairamudi on the Phalguna Shukla Dwadashi night. This is the most auspicious and awaited event of the festival, as it is believed that Lord Vishnu himself descends to Melukote to wear the crown and bless his devotees. The ceremony takes place in the temple premises amid tight security and strict rules. Only a few selected priests are allowed to touch the crown and place it on the idol’s head. The devotees are allowed to have a darshan (view) of the crowned deity only from a distance. The ceremony is also telecast live on various channels for the benefit of those who cannot attend it in person. The sight of the radiant and majestic deity with the sparkling crown is said to be a divine experience that fills one with joy and peace
  • The Rathotsava or the chariot festival on the Phalguna Shukla Trayodashi (thirteenth day of the bright fortnight). This is another grand event of the festival, where Lord Cheluva Narayana and his consorts are taken in a huge wooden chariot around the town. Thousands of devotees pull the chariot with ropes and chant the name of the lord. The chariot is decorated with flowers, flags, lamps and other ornaments. The procession passes through various streets and lanes of Melukote, spreading the divine aura and blessings of the lord
  • The Teppotsava or the boat festival on the Phalguna Shukla Chaturdashi (fourteenth day of the bright fortnight). This is a beautiful event of the festival, where Lord Cheluva Narayana and his consorts are taken in a decorated boat on the Kalyani (temple tank). The boat is illuminated with lamps and flowers, and moves slowly on the water. Devotees gather around the tank to watch the spectacle and offer their prayers. The boat festival is also a tribute to Lord Narasimha, who killed Hiranyakashipu on this day
  • The Dolotsava or the swing festival on the Phalguna Shukla Purnima (full moon day). This is the concluding event of the festival, where Lord Cheluva Narayana and his consorts are placed on a swing in front of the temple. The swing is rocked gently by the priests, while devotees sing devotional songs and hymns. The swing festival is a symbol of joy and happiness that comes from being in harmony with God
  • Apart from these events, there are also various cultural programmes such as music concerts, dance performances, drama shows, discourses, exhibitions and fairs that take place during the festival. The festival also provides an opportunity for devotees to visit other sacred places in Melukote such as Yoga Narasimha Temple, Ramanujacharya Shrine, Akka Thangi Kola (sisters’ pond), Dhanushkoti (bow’s end) and Rayagopura (king’s tower)