The town of Udupi is situated on the west coast of India in the state of Karnataka. By road, Udupi is 55 km away from Mangalore and 404 km from Bangalore. Manipal, famous for its Manipal University, is situated just 5 km away from Udupi. Another nearby place is a town of Surathkal where the National Institute of Technology, Karnataka (NITK) is located.
The pleasant town of Udupi is one of the most famous place of pilgrimage in India because of Lord Krishna's temple. This temple, known as Krishna Mutt, was established by Madhvacharya in 13th century AD. Particular form of Lord Krishna residing here is called Udupi Krishna or Muddu Krishna. The deity of Lord Krishna is more than five thousand years old as the deity has manifested in Dwapar Yuga. The history of this holy place is as follows.
Towards the end of the Dwapar Yuga (more than 5000 years ago), Krishna decided to appear on earth to please His devotees and reduce the burden of the earth by killing unnecessary military forces maintained by demoniac kings. Although He is unborn, He chose Devaki and Vasudeva as His mother and father. At that time, Vasudeva and Devaki were kept in the prison, in the city of Mathura, by a demoniac king named Kamsa. Lord Krishna appeared in four handed form before Vasudeva and Devaki in the prison. Vasudeva and Devaki requested Lord Krishna to become a baby. Honoring their desire, Lord Krishna assumed the form of a very beautiful baby. Kamsa was destined to be killed by the eighth son of Devaki and Vasudeva, so Kamsa would kill all the children born of them. Concerned for the safety of baby Krishna, Vasudeva carried baby Krishna to Gokul and handed Him over to Nanda Maharaj and Yashoda.
Krishna grew up in Gokul and displayed His most wonderful childhood pastimes before mother Yashoda, Nanda Maharaj and the people of Gokul. One of the most mischievous activity of Krishna was to steal butter from the houses of gopis (Krishna's cowherd girlfriends and mother Yashoda's friends) and tease gopis in several ways. These wonderful activities of Krishna could not be enjoyed by Devaki and Vasudeva as they had to stay in Mathura. Devaki always cherished the desire to enjoy Krishna's naughty childhood activities. Rukmini, who was one of the principal wives of Lord Krishna, also wished to see Lord's childhood leelas.
Later Krishna established His family on the island of Dwaraka which was located few kilometres inside the sea from current city of Dwaraka in the state of Gujarat, India. There Devaki and Rukmini requested Krishna to again manifest all His childhood pastimes before them. Krishna, wishing to fulfil their desire, displayed his wonderful childhood activities before them. Devaki's joy knew no bound when she witnessed the sweetness of baby Krishna. Finally, Krishna stood in front of them with a butter churning rod in His right hand and a butter churning rope in the left. Devaki and Rukmini requested Krishna to make His deity form exactly in this posture. Krishna then employed Vishwakarma (the celestial engineer) to make His deity using auspicious black stone. Rukmini personally worshipped this deity form of Lord Shri Krishna until the end of Lord's pastimes on this earth.
After Lord's disappearance, Lord's deity was hidden away by Arjuna in the gardens of Dwaraka. By the will of Krishna, the city of Dwaraka was later submerged into the ocean. Lord Krishna's deity along with another deity of Lord Balaram remained under the sea for a long time and a layer of gopi-chandan (a special type of yellow sand) was formed around them. After more than 4000 years, in 13th century AD, one sailor procured many gopi-chandan blocks from that area. Among them were the two gopi-chandan blocks in which the deities were present. The sailor was unaware of the presence of divine deities in the gopi-chandan. Along with many articles of business, gold, silver and precious jewels, he also carried the gopi-chandan blocks in his ship. The sailor travelled towards south India along the west coast and reached near the village named Malpe, which is situated very near Udupi. There the ship was caught in the great sea-storm and being carried away by heavy winds and waves, the ship struck a rock and started to sink.
One of the most prominent spiritual leader of that time, Shripad Madhvacharya was engaged in meditation near Malpe. Madhvacharya is an incarnation of Mukhya Prana or Vayu who is the demigod in charge of controlling the air. Madhvacharya felt the presence of Lord nearby and by his mystic ability he came to know about the sinking ship struggling in the storm. By using his mystic powers, he stopped the ship from sinking further and brought it to the shore.
The sailor and crew very much appreciated the help given by Madhvacharya and asked him to take any of the precious items they had brought in their ship. Madhvacharya told the sailor that he would like to take some of the gopi-chandan because it was an item of daily use for him and his disciples. Out of many blocks, Madhvacharya chose two in which Lord's deities were present. Sailor happily handed over the gopi-chandan to Madhvacharya. Madhvacharya then obtained the deities from the gopi-chandan. He installed Lord Balaram in the Vada Pandeshwara village near Malpe beach and Lord Krishna in Udupi near the Chandramoulishwara shrine. To this day, Lord Krishna and Balaram reside in these places to bestow their blessings upon pilgrims and devotees.
In 15th century AD, when Lord Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited this temple, He became completely ecstatic upon seeing Lord Shri Krishna.
In 16th century AD, a devotee of Lord called Kanakadas came to Udupi to see Lord Krishna. Priests of the temple did not allow Kanakadas to see Lord Krishna because he was born in lower cast family. Although prohibited from going inside the temple, Kanakadas still strongly desired to see and worship Lord Krishna. So Krishna Himself made hole in the wall of the temple and turned around 180 degrees to see His devotee Kanakadas. This act of Lord Krishna shows us that Krishna is always merciful and protective to His devotees irrespective of their cast, creed, color or nationality. It also shows that Krishna's deity is not just a piece of stone, wood or metal. Krishna's deity is Lord Krishna Himself. The hole which Krishna made in the wall became famous as Kanakana Kindi (Window of Kanakadas). A statue of Kanakadas is installed just in front of Kanakana Kindi. Till this day, aspiring devotees of Lord Krishna take darshan of Lord through this window. Everybody, including westerners, is allowed to see Lord Krishna.
Inside the temple of Udupi Krishna, we see several altars, but the main one is Madhvacharya's deity of Lord Krishna. The standing deity of Lord Krishna shows Him holding the churning rod in right hand and a rope in the left. His red and round lips spread a very beautiful smile on His face. The eyes of Lord are very much captivating as if the Lord is saying something through His eyes. If someone just holds on to those eyes, he cannot move away for a while.
Another altar is of four-armed standing Vishnu deity. The shrine of Shripad Madhvacharya is situated next to the sanctum. The silver seat used by Madhvacharya is held most sacred. The temple is quite spacious, having a extraordinarily beautiful water lake called Madhva Sarovar. The temple also has a very big hall for spiritual food distribution where thousands of people are fed everyday free of cost.
The temple celebrates a unique festival twice a month on Ekadashi days and on few other special days. During the festival, the deities are brought out to ride on very tall and artistically made carts that are pulled by people through the streets. Temple elephant also joins the procession. On the back of elephant, temple priests stand and fan the deities using two big whisk fans, one in each hand. This festival is very fascinating scene and it is the best time to visit Udupi.
Just outside Krishna temple, one can find Lord Ananteshwara's temple. Madhvacharya used to deliver spiritual discourses in this temple. This temple is a house of Lord Anant-Padmanabh (Vishnu). It is very unusual temple because Lord Anant-Padmanabh is situated in this temple in the form of Linga. This Linga is about six feet high and devotees can see Lord's face covering the Linga.
The temple of Lord Balaram established by Madhvacharya is situated in Malpe and it is walk-able distance from Malpe beach. It is very spacious and peaceful temple. Generally it is not at all crowded and one can see Lord Balaram very nicely. Unlike Krishna's temple, this temple closes by 7 pm in evening.
Birthplace of Madhvacharya known as Pajaka-kshetra is situated at 12 km in the south-east direction from Udupi. Here we can see Madhvacharya's house, Madhvacharya's family deity, the temple of Madhvacharya and several places of his wonderful childhood miracles. There are many other holy places in Pajaka-kshetra which include four holy water ponds created by Lord Parashuram and a temple of Goddess Mahalakshmi established by Lord Parashuram in very ancient times.
Our Pilgrimage and Conclusion
We were planning to visit the holy land of Udupi for many months but somehow could not do so. First opportunity to visit Udupi came to us when one of our friend staying at NITK invited us. During our first visit we had a very nice darshan of Lord Krishna several times. It was a very satisfying trip but we could not visit other spiritually significant places in Udupi. Second opportunity suddenly appeared when devotees at Bhaktivedanta Institute, Bangalore invited us for Udupi pilgrimage under the leadership of His Holiness Subhag Swami Maharaj. We immediately grabbed this rare opportunity to visit such a holy place with such a wonderful association of devotees of Lord Krishna.
We left Bangalore in bus on Friday night of 10 May 2013. On first day in Udupi, we visited Krishna temple and had a very beautiful darshan of Lord. We had brought all necessary paraphernalia like Mridanga, Kartal for performing sankirtan. So wherever we went we chanted Lord's glories. We took prasad in Krishna temple itself.
The hotel in which we were staying was situated near Malpe beach. In the evening, all the devotees went to Malpe beach and performed ecstatic kirtan on the beach itself. In night, we could spend some time alone on beach thinking about the purpose of our life.
On second day we went to Pajaka-kshetra and visited Madhvacharya's birthplace. This was very interesting visit because we could see many places where Madhvacharya performed miracles in his childhood. Then we came back to Udupi and took darshan of Lord Krishna again. We also attended a spiritual discourse by His Holiness Subhag Swami Maharaj. In evening we visited the temple of Lord Balaram established by Madhvacharya. After taking Lord Balaram's blessings, we took a bus heading back to Bangalore.
Due to a wonderful association of devotees, our whole pilgrimage was full of activities like singing Lord Krishna's holy names, taking prasad and hearing words of spiritual instruction from spiritually advanced souls. It was full of happiness and success.
Visiting holy places is one the main activity for those who wish to progress in their spiritual life. Both scriptures and great spiritual teachers have advised us to take advantage of these holy places. Udupi is one of the most important holy place because the supreme personality Krishna and His ardent devotee Madhva have chosen it to be their place of residence.
We authors consider ourselves very fallen souls of this dark age of Kali. In this age human memory, life span and finer sentiments will gradually decrease due to vicious human habits. In such a situation, taking shelter of holy name and holy places of Lord in the association of devotees is the only ray of hope for our well-being.
Writing this article is our minute effort to glorify Lord Krishna so that we may make a little spiritual progress. Somehow by Krishna's mercy, if this article helps readers in some way or the other, then we will consider it to be our success. Govinda.
We are very much thankful to the members of Bhaktivedanta Institute, Bangalore for arranging a wonderful pilgrimage to Udupi. We also thank Dr. Arulalan, Bharat, Deep and Kiran of NITK for their hospitality during our first visit to Udupi. We express our thanks to following reviewers for giving us valuable suggestions to improve this article.
- Mr. Sudeep Joshi, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India.
- Mr. Jayanarayan Tudu, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India.
- Mr. Rishikesh Kulkarni, EPFL, Switzerland.
- Madhva Vijay (A historical account of life and teachings of Shripad Madhvacharya), Shri Narayana Panditacharya. You can request pdf of this book by writing us email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Spiritual India Handbook, Stephen Knapp, Jaico Publishing House, 2011, page 253.
- Krishna The Supreme Personality of Godhead, A C Bhaktivedanta Swami, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1970.
- Bhagavad Geeta As It Is, A C Bhaktivedanta Swami, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1972.