Update : The name of the place is Thondanur actually, not Tondalur as said earlier. Kindly forgive adiyean.
Once again Sriman Narayana blessed adiyean with an opportunity to visit some wonderful temples – the well known Melkote and the not so well known Thondalur in Mandya District, Karnataka (Please use the interactive Google Maps at the end of the post for directions).
Melkote is also known as Thirunarayanapuram. Though not amongst the 108 Divyadesams, Melukote is an important Abhimana Sthalam revered by Sri Vaishnavas. Swami Ramanuja stayed at Melukote for about 12 years after he left Sri Rangam due to atrocities of the Chola King Kirimikanda Cholan. Also the temple by itself is an very ancient one and Swami Ramanuja was responsible for renovating the temple to the present state. Infact it was Swami Ramanuja who retrieved both the Moolavar (Thirunarayana Perumal) & Utsavar (Shelva Pillai). And also, Melkote is also the place where the magnificent Vaira Mudi Utsavam takes place.
The story of Swami Ramanuja retrieving the Utsavar Perumal is an very beautiful story. Before the arrival of Swami Ramanuja, Melkote had been raided by the Muslim emperors. Along with many treasures, Utsava Perumal was also taken to Delhi by the emperor. Swami Ramanuja met the emperor and requested for the Deity. The emperor showed him a room full of deities looted from many temples and asked him to identify Shelva Pillai perumal. Swami Ramanuja lovingly called out “Shelva Pillai”, and the Deity instantly walked out to Swami Ramanuja, who is filled with boundless joy named Perumal as “Sampath Kumara“. This is another instant where Sriman Narayana listens like an innocent child to His devotees. The emperor’s daughter who had become very attached to the Shelva Pillai perumal, followed Swami Ramanuja to Melukote and came to be known as Bibi Nachiyar.
The main temple, Sri Cheluva Narayanaswamy temple is situated right in the heart of the little town. The Moolavar is Thirunarayana Perumal and the Utsavar Shelva Pillai (and also Sampath Kumara). The Deity, Thirunarayana Perumal is extremely beautiful, so is the Thayar Sri Kalyani Nachiyaar. We can have a darshan of Thayar in both the ThiruMaarbhu & Thiruvadi of Thirunarayna Perumal. Near Thayar Sanathi, there’s an beautiful mandapam with intricately carved Pillars. The annual Vaira Mudi seva takes place in the month of Panguni (March / April) and is a sight to behold.
Besides Thirunarayana Perumal temple, there is also Sri Yoga Narasimha swamy temple atop a beautiful hill nearby. As the name suggests Sri Narasimha Swamy can be seen in the posture of doing Yoga here. The entire town of Melkote and more importantly Kalyani Theertham pushkarani can be seen from here.
Apart from the above two temples, a vast lake built by Swami Ramanuja can also be visited.
Thondanoor is the place where Swami Ramanuja initially lived after leaving Sri Rangam. Thondalur is about 20 kms from Melkote and there are 3 beautiful temples to see here – Nambhi Narayana Swamy Temple, Gopala Krishna Temple and Swami Ramanuja Temple. Again the Deities of all the temples are extremely beautiful. All these three temples are within walkable distance from each other.
Though all these temples are very beautiful, it’s saddening to see very few devotees visiting them. The temples are also poorly maintained. The next time readers visit Melkote, please do visit these temples in Thondanoor and render whatever service possible.
Interactive Google Map
Melukote (A), Thondanoor (B)