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Cheluvanarayanaswamy Temple, Melkote

DISTRICT: Mandya; TALUK: Pandavapura
LOCALITY: Melkote (Lat. 12° 40' N; Long. 76° 43' E)
APPROACH: AIRPORT: Bengaluru; RAILWAY STATION: Pandavapura; BUS STATION: Melkote

Melkote is located on a rocky hill named Yadavagiri or Yadugiri, overlooking the Moti Talab and Kaveri valley. Melkote (high fort or superior fort) is an important religious and learning center.

The Cheluvanarayanaswamy temple has on plan a main central unit consisting of a garbhagriha and anardhamandapa amidst a narrow pillared corridor that runs on all three sides and is preceeded by a mahamandapa and a small mukhamandapaall in east-west orientation. There is a large courtyard open to the south, west and north and covered on the eastern side, surrounded by a huge prakara wall with a broad pillared cloister on its inner side and a narrow pillared corridor on its outer side. The garbhagriha and the ardhamandapa form the original core of the temple. The main deity inside the garbhagriha is the beautiful image of Cheluvanarayana (Vishnu) of Hoysala workmanship. In external elevation the garbhagriha and ardhamandapa have an adhisthana supporting walls. The adhisthana has the mouldings upana, jagati, tripatta kumuda, kantha and prati. The walls are decorated with pilasters and niches. The parapet has devakoshthas having beautiful stucco figures and images of Vishnu. The superstructure rises in three diminishing tiers. Each tier is relieved with bhadrakoshthas and pilasters. The rangamandapa has pillars decorated with panels depicting scenes from the epic Mahabharata. Within the enclosure are shrines for Devi and Alwars. The entrance doorway of the temple has a tall gopura in brick and stucco. At the main entrance there are Vaishnava dvarapalas and elephants.

The Utsavamurthi, which is a metallic image, represents the deity who is called Shelvapillai, Cheluva Raya and Cheluvanarayana Swamy, whose original name appears to have been Ramapriya (meaning "Rama's Favourite"). It is believed that this Utsavamurthi belonged to and was worshipped by Lord Rama and the Kings of the Suryavamsa Dynasty for generations. Later the same deity was given to a King of Chandravamsa (the dynasty of Lord Krishna) and thus was worshipped by Lord Krishna and many generations. So Cheluvanarayana is considered to be unique as he was worshipped by both Rama and Krishna. According to a legend, this metallic image was lost and was later recovered by Sri Ramanujacharya.