Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple
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Cheluvanarayana Swamy Temple ಚೆಲುವನಾರಾಯಣ ಸ್ವಾಮಿ ದೇವಸ್ಥಾನ is located in Melkote in the Mandya District, Karnataka, India. The place is also known as Thirunarayanapura. It is built on rocky hills known as Yadavagiri or Yadugiri overlooking the Cauvery valley. It is about 30 miles (48 km) from Mysore and 97 miles (156 km) from Bangalore.
The temple is a square building of large dimensions but is very plain and only sparsely ornamented with carvings or sculptures. The presiding deity is Cheluva Narayana Swamy, also known as Tirunarayana ತಿರುನಾರಾಯಣ or Cheluvapille Raya ಚೆಲುವಪಿಲ್ಲೆ ರಾಯ, a form of Lord Vishnu. It appears from inscriptions that in the early centuries after the temple was built, the Lord was also known by the name Ramapriya, but this usage has now completely disappeared.
The utsavamurthi ಉತ್ಸವ ಮೂರ್ತಿ, which is a metallic idol used for processions and certain religious rituals, represents the deity 'Cheluvanarayana Swamy. According to a legend, this metallic image was once lost but was recovered by Sri Ramanujacharya. The annual report of the Mysore Archaeological Department states on the strength of epigraphic evidence, that the presiding deity of this temple was already a well known object of worship even before Sri Ramanujacharya worshipped at the shrine in December 1098 CE. and even before he came to the Mysore region and that very probably he used his influence to rebuild or renovate the temple. From the lithic records of the period, existence of Tamil influence and Vaishnava worship in the area are also evident.
The temple is richly endowed, having enjoyed the special patronage of the Rajas of Mysores. As early as 1614, King Raja Wodeyar I (r.1578–1617), who first acquired Srirangapatna and accepted the Srivaishnava pontiff as his guru, handed over to the temple and to the Brahmins at Melkote, the estate granted to him by Vijayanagar Emperor Venkatapati Raya. While that estate was lost when Zamindari was abolished in the 1950s, the temple still possesses many properties and valuables, in particular an extremely valuable collection of jewels. On one of the pillars of navaranga of the Narayanaswami temple is a bas-relief about one and a half feet high, of Raja Wodeyar, standing with folded hands, with his name inscribed on the base. He was said to have been a great devotee of the presiding deity and a frequent visitor to the temple. A gold crown set with precious jewels was presented by him to the temple. This crown is known as the Raja-mudi (royal crown), a play on the name of Raja Wodeyar, the donor. According to legend, King Raja Wodeyar was observed entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Lord on the day of his death, and was seen no more afterwards. From the inscriptions on some of the gold jewels and on gold and silver vessels in the temple it is learnt that they were presents from Krishnaraja Wadiyar III and his queens. Krishnaraja Wodeyar III also presented to the temple a crown set with precious jewels. It is known after him as Krishnaraja-mudi. The Vairamudi ("diamond crown"), another crown of great value, seems to be older than the Raja-mudi and the Krishnaraja-mudi. However, it is not known who presented it to the temple.
All the three crowns are kept in the safe custody of the Government and brought to the temple on specific annual occasion for adoring the image of Cheluvanarayana Swamy. The vairamudi festival, which is the chief annual celebration is attended by more than 400,000 people.
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