Melkote (also known as Melukote), a historic town, is located at a distance of 50 km from Mysore. Melkote is situated in Pandavapura Taluk of Mandya district. Melkote is one of the holy places of Karnataka. It is built on rocky hills known as Yadavagiri or Yadugiri overlooking the Kaveri valley. Melkote is also referred as Thirunarayanapuram. The famous South Indian Vaishnava philosopher and teacher Ramanujacharya lived in this town for around 12 years in 12th century AD, and soon after Melkote became a center of learned community called Mandyam Iyengars, who were into scholarship of Sanskrit language, Vedas, and Indian sciences.
Melkote is a popular center of pilgrimage center and has two different temples. The main temple is a square building of large size but very plain is dedicated to Lord Cheluva Narayana Swamy or Tirunarayana. The utsav murthy (metallic procession idol) representing the deity is referred as Cheluvapille Raya whose original name appears to have been Ramapriya. It is believed that the utsav murthy was worshipped by Lord Rama and his son Kusha; hence the name Ramapriya.
On the top of the hill is an attractive temple dedicated to Lord Yoga Narasimha. It is believed that the image of Yoga Narasimha temple was installed by Prahlada. Krishnaraja Wodeyar III presented a gold crown to this temple. The temples of Melkote have made the town a popular tourist attraction.
The temple houses a large pond called as Kalyani Theertha. The temple premises also houses the oldest Sanskrit college named Sri Veda Vedantha Bodhini Sanskrit Mahapathashala. This ancient Sanskrit college in India dates back to 1854. The institution continues to provide instruction in Sanskrit and Indian Philosophy.
Vairamudi Utsav or Vairamudi festival
This temple of Melkote is popular for its Vairamudi Utsav, which is held in the month of March/April, the procession idol of Cheluvaraya Narayana Swamy is decorated with a diamond crown and taken out in procession. The Vairamudi utsav, which is the chief annual celebration, is witnessed by more than 4 lakh people.
It is believed that the diamond crown is not to be viewed at when it is not worn by the utsav murthy (procession idol); hence every year, on the occasion, the officiating priest takes out the crown from its chest with his eyes blindfolded and then places it on the head of the idol of Sri Cheluvaraya Narayana Swamy.