The sugarcane fields of Mandya changed drastically to a dry brown landscape as I neared Melukote. Surrounded by Melukote wildlife sanctuary, this small pilgrim hamlet is known for its temples and a few heritage structures. Though I did spot a couple of peacocks en-route, there was no glimpse of any form of wildlife from there on.
The wide roads turned narrow as it led to Cheluvanarayana temple. A popular pilgrim centre, the temple is run by Iyengars, the community who can be discerned by caste marks on their forehead. Though the exteriors of the temple are devoid of extensive sculptures, the pillars inside have detailed carvings. There are a couple of shrines within the inner sanctum apart from the mainshrine of Chluvanarayana (Vishnu).
Behind the temple, a short walk away through the alleys of Melukote leads to Akka Thangi Kola (sister tanks). Layered with steps that lead down to the waters, the tanks are similar in design. It was absolutely serene until a few school children ran in and I walked further to the Rayagopura.
Rayagopura is an incomplete entrance gate with tall pillars and sculptures. Also known as Gopalaraya, it leads to the hills further and is a popular shooting location for many South Indian movies. The massive base with pathway in between seems like it was meant to be something more grandeur when it was built. Yoganarsimha temple and the valleys below are visible from the top of the Rayagopura.
In the opposite direction further away from Cheluvanarayana temple lies Pushkarni (Kalyani) or the huge stepped well which is considered auspicious by pilgrims who take a dip here. Located at the base of Yoganarasimha temple, the pushkarni is lined with pillars on the sides and has a few sculptured structures (mantapas) by the steps. Pick up a corner a one can sit here for long gazing at the serene waters, the hustling pilgrims and the Yoganarasimha temple on the hillock.
From the pushkarni a steep climb of steps led me to Yoganarasimha temple. Though the gradient gets tough at places, the views are lovely and the tress provide a respite from the blaring sun. Once on top, the panoramic frame of Melukote town with Pushkarni at its centre is a beautiful sight. The tall entrance gate (gopuram) of Yoganarasimha temple is adorned with beautiful carvings. Dedicated to Yoga Narasimha, the temple has been popular since the ages of Wodeyar kings of Mysore.
Melukote is known for puliyogare, a tamarind rice recipe. There are outlets and messes near Cheluvanarayana temple which serve the same.
Melukote has all the characteristics of a typical temple town sprinkled with a blend of heritage and culture.
On Bangalore- Mysore highway, take a right at Mandya to reach Melukote.
Bangalore to Melukote- 137 KMS
Mandya to Melukote- 56 KMS
- Melukote is an ideal one day getaway from both Bangalore and Mysore.
- There are a few small hotels/ mess near Cheluvanarayana temple to satiate your hunger.
- It is recommended to visit Yoganarasimha temple early in the morning or in the evening to avoid sun.
- There are vendors selling butter milk and short eats near Rayagopura and on the way up Yoganarasimha temple.