Chelva Narayanaswami temple, Narayanapuram, Karnataka - divinity personified

Chelva Narayanaswami temple, Melcote
Sri Ramanujar's idol. Chelva Narayana swami temple, Melcote, Karnataka

The Thirunarayana puram temple located on the Cauvery banks of Thirunarayanpuram in Mandya district, Karnataka is a well-known  Vaishnavite temple. Also known as ‘Dakshina Badri’ the legend has it  was the Sanatkumaras who brought the idol of Sri Narayana and installed it at Melkote, hence the name Thirunarayanapuram. The deity is also called as Chelva Narayanaswami and his consort is Yadugiri Nachiyar/Thru Narayani meaning  'goddess of the hill'’. Lord Rama is believed to have worshipped the lord here. 

Thirunarayanapuram is one of the four Swayambu kshetrams and the belief has been that people who pray here with devotion and trust in the power of God, will get blessed by him and they will never be disappointed. There  is a separate shrine for Selvakumaran pillai (sampath Kumaran). The name of the Utchavar is Chellapillai. Vaira Mudi Utsavam/ Seva is an important annual temple festival here and it falls in the Tamil month of ''Panguni'' (star Poosam). This year it was held on 17 March. As for the annual Araiyar Sevai - a festival of dance and music in prise of Sri Vishnu and this temple is one among the four Vishnu temples  where such a seva is held with religious fervor. Ariyar Sevai is quite famous at Srirangam temple,TN during the Vaikunta Ekadasi festival. It is done by trained Pandits attached to the temple. 

There is a legend as to why the deity is called ''Chellapillai''. Once in the 12th  century, the utchaver was in the palace of Delhi Muslim ruler and his daughter was playing with it.  During his long stay here for 12 years, Ramanujar, upon knowing the whereabouts of the Utchaver, went up to Delhi, convinced the Muslim ruler and brought the idol back. Upon finding the Utchaver in the palace at Delhi, Ramanujar said, '' Etho yenn chellapillai''. ('here is my pet kid'). That idol was consecrated by Ramanuja here in this temple. When Delhi ruler's daughter came to know that the idol had been taken to Narayanapuram, she  was unhappy and grief-stricken. She loved the idol very much and  came to this place all the way from Delhi. At last, she surrendered to Narayanan. Hence she is called Varanandini or Tulukka Nachiyar.

Sri Ramanujar's three menees (forms are well known. They are Thamar ugantha Thirumeni (Melkote), Thanugantha Thirumeni(Sri Perumbuthur) and Thanana Thirumeni (Srirangam). When Ramanujar was 80 years old he wanted to leave for Srirangam, but his disciples did not want him to leave. In order to please them and bless them, he had his image sculpted posing with his hands in supplication, symbolic of  leaving his sishyas (disciples) for good. With mantras, he energised his image for the benefits of his disciples. 

Hoysala kings, the Wodeyars and the Vijayanagara kings made valid contribution to this temple. This bein an anciet temple has big Pryhakshana path (Prakaram).

According to the sthalapurana  Ramanuja who had no good relation with the Chola kings left Srirangam for good and came to Thondanur which is close to Thirunarayanaram. During his stay here the daughter of the local Jain ruler  King Bitta Deva contracted  a painful ailment and, it is said, Sri Ramanuja completely cured her, using his spiritual prowess. When Sri Ramanuja did not possess the  holy ash  to cure the disease,  Lord Narayana himself appeared in his dream and advised him  to look for the ash in a pit close to the hill.  Accompanied by Bitta Deva he came to Thirunarayanapuram and was able to locate the main deity - Moolavar/ Soon the deity was  consecrated in the temple.

It is said that childless couples who offer their prayers  to Thirunarayanan with dedication and bathe in the Kalyani Pushkarni for  successive eight days will  be blessed with a child.
Melkote is about 150 kms from Bangalore and is well connected by trains and buses.