Situated on the Western coast of India, Udupi the land of temples welcomes devotees with open arms. At the heart of this Parshurama Kshetra, lies the Sri Krishna Mutt Udupi along with ancient Chandramoulishwara and Anantheshwara temples.
History of Sri Krishna Mutt, Udupi
Even before the establishment of this popular temple, Udupi was already a sacred land. The ancient temples of Chandramoulishwara and Anantheshwara drew many devotees over the years. Born in Pajaka in 1238 CE, a village 12km south of Udupi, Sri Madhavacharya established not only Dwaith philosophy but also laid the roots of the Sri Krishna Temple.
According to folklore, when Sri Krishna’s wife Rukmini requested her husband for the Murti of Balkrishna (the child form of the Sri). Sri Krishna entrusted Vishwakarma with the task of designing the Murti. He made a beautiful Murti with the sacred Saaligrama stone and gave it to Rukmini to worship. The Murti, in the course of being worshipped by hundreds of devotees at Dwarka with the application of sandalwood paste, got completely covered with the sandalwood paste.
As a consequence of the flood, the Murti washed away from Dwarka. A sailor found it and assumed it to be a rock. He used it to balance his ship. At the same time, the deity appeared in Madhavacharya’s vision. He rescued a nearby ship from the storm and in return only wished for a lump of Gopichandan (clay out of sandalwood) in return. On breaking it, the deity was found and established here 700 years ago.
Sri Krishna Temple
A specialty of this temple is that there are 8 Mutts located around the temple that take turns to look after it, in a cyclic order. Earlier, every mutt used to look after the temple for 2 months. Swami Vadiraj modified this rule to two years.
A Paryaya Mahotsav takes place, celebrating the handover of the care of the temple from one Mutt to another. The eight Mutts, established by Saint Madhvacharya, were named after the villages they’re located at, namely Palimaru, Adumaru, Krishnapura, Puttige, Shiroor, Sode, Kaniyooru, and Pejavara. The headquarters of these Mutts is around the Shree Krishna Temple.
Before the entrance of the temple, you will notice a window with a massive gopuram (A monumental tower, usually ornate, at the entrance of a temple, especially in Southern India) built in the Dravidian style of architecture. Through this window, you can directly see the deity. The legend goes that Kanakadasa, a true devotee of Sri Krishna visited this temple and wasn’t allowed to worship. He prayed to Sri Krishna and the deity turned toward him. Even today, people first view the deity from the window and only then proceed ahead. This story is not substantiated either by texts or by traditional seekers.
Before one enters the Krishna temple, it is customary to visit the Chandramoulishwara temple right opposite it.
Recently, the temple authorities have made a dress code mandatory for the pilgrims. Women can enter in saree or salwar kameez. Men have to wear dhoti and Angvastram (shoulder cloth).
On entering the temple, one can feel an immediate change in the atmosphere. A sudden stillness and a divine aura envelop you and momentarily stops the world around you. The cool floor made up of black Kadappa stone gives relief from the heat and humidity of Udupi. The Garbhagriha of the Sri Krishna temple is on the left side of the long passage. The deity is indeed beautiful and heartwarming to look at. During festivals, oil lamps are lit all around the Garbhagriha.
On moving further, you will reach the main mandapa of the temple. It is vast and buzzing with activities. On one corner, the present guru of the Paryaya Mutt conducts ceremonies and addresses the concerns of the devotees. There is a Navagraha temple as well as a Hanuman temple in the mandapa. From 6 am to 9 pm, the dining room serves Annadanam, or food to all the devotees. The food here is simple, delectable, and made with devotional love.
There is a gaushala or cowshed at the end of the mandapa. Only the caretakers are allowed inside. There is also a stall that serves fresh Prasadam and Naivaidhyam.
On stepping out of the mandapa, you will get to see the temple’s resident elephant, Subhadra’s stable. Although she has been moved to Honnali town, she is brought here for special occasions and festivals.
Sri Krishna Mutt Temple Complex
Surrounding the temple are 8 Mutts, guest houses, and eateries.
A very famous food joint that is unmissable is Mitra Samaj. They have two outlets around the temple and another one in Udupi city. The steaming hot Goli Bhaji, Buns, and Filter Coffee are the cherry on top of a beautiful morning.
After a heavy meal, I would suggest spending some time exploring the temple premises. As I walked a few meters away from the temple, I stumbled upon the Nandita fragrance bookstore. Although within the temple compound, this bookstore is an escape from the hustle-bustle of the surroundings. The store sells Sanskrit books, English, Hindi, and Kannada translations of the Shastras. Books on spirituality, astrology, and philosophy are also found.
The Sanskrit college is right behind the temple. This book store sells Sanskrit transcripts of the Vedas, Upanishads, and Puranas. I purchased Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhava, Ashtavakra Gita, and the yoga of Kashmir Shaivism.
The Sanskrit college offers free education up to graduation, post-graduation, and other short courses in Sanskrit. Students from all over the world take part in this offering. They also have a library of Sanskrit texts which ranges from classic plays of Kalidasa and Shudraka to philosophy.
In the vicinity, there are many shops that sell items like wooden butter churners, ceramic pots, cast iron utensils, and brass Murtis of Sri Krishna and other devatas. If you are a foodie, you can purchase local snacks which include churmuri, mixture, chakli, and murukku.
If you find some free time, you can visit nearby pilgrimage centers such as Kollur Mookambika, Kateel, Sringeri, Murudeshwara, and Gokarna.
Festivals at the Mutt
It is a treat to visit the temple during Janmashtami and Paryaya Mahotsava.
Known as Vittal Pindi, Janmashtami is celebrated with great pomp and excitement. The temple is decorated with an elaborate arrangement of flowers. Oil lamps are lit. People gather from far and near to witness the celebration of the birth of Sri Krishna. The deity is carried on a Golden Chariot around the complex.
A specialty of this festival is the dance performance by various groups of dancers in the traditional tiger-like getups, known as Huli Vesha.
Paryaya Mahotsava is a celebration that takes place when the administration of the temple passes from the hands of one Mutt to another. Each of the 8 Mutts can look after the temple for a period of 2 years.
The festival takes place on the 4th day after the Makar Sankranti celebration as per the texts, which falls on the 18th of January of an even year. This event is marked with houses lit and decorated all around Udupi. Cultural celebrations take place at various intersections of the city, and Anna Santharpane (food distribution at a grand scale) to all devotees. This year, Krishnapur Mutt seer Swami Vidyasagar Teertha took over the administration from Adumaru Mutt’s Ishapriya Teertha.
Best time to visit
September to February is the best time to visit Udupi and of course the Sri Krishna Mutt. During summers, the heat and humidity are revolting. June to September experience heavy rainfall. Although the rains can turn into a travel hindrance, the monsoon brings out the lush greenery in and around the region.
Transportation and Accommodation
The nearest airport is in Mangalore. It is located at a distance of 55 km from Udupi. You can fly to Mangalore and hire a cab to Udupi. If you enjoy train journeys, I would recommend traveling on the Karwar express as well as the Vistadome from Bangalore. This train journey of 8 hours will provide you with breathtaking views of the western ghats. Bus services from Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, and Mangalore are also available.
Udupi has been a center of pilgrimage for many years. There is no shortage of accommodation. Based on your price range, you can find guesthouses, hotels, and homestays. You will find a variety of scrumptious vegetarian food.
This post is authored by Akshaya Vijay as part of the IndiTales Internship Program.