The Udupi Krishna Temple is one of the most famous temples dedicated to Lord Krishna. This unique temple is located in the town of Udupi in Karnataka, India. The Temple complex is also a Matha where the priests live and perform their daily duties. The Temple was constructed by the Vaishnavite Saint Madhavacharya, somewhere during the 13th century.
The Udupi Krishna Temple is one of the seven Temples known as the Seven Mukti Sthalas of Karnataka. The idol of Lord Krishna worshiped here is in the form of a small boy. It is believed that Saint Madhavacharya anointed his eight disciples to take care of the functioning of the Temple and to propagate his philosophy and studies.
These eight disciples created their own Matha and presently rotate their responsibilities every two years. The eight Mathas that run the Temple Administration are Palimar Mutt, Krishna Mutt, Kaniyour Mutt, Sode Mutt, Puttige Mutt, Admar Mutt, Shirur Mutt and Pejawar Mutt.
The Udupi Krishna Temple complex resembles an Ashram with a huge Tank or Sarovar located called as the Madhav Sarovar. The main temple has a Mandap and the Garbhagriha. The main door of the sanctum is closed and God can be viewed only trough a meshed window adorned with intricate figures of Avatars of Lord Vishnu. Smaller shrines dedicated to Lord Hanuman known here as Lord Mukhyaprana, Garuda and to Saint Madhavacharya are present.
Udupi Krishna Temple History
- According to a popular legend, an ardent devotee of Lord Krishna by the name of Kanaka Dasa arrived in Udupi in the early 16th century.
- As per ancient scriptures, Udupi was known as Sivalli or as Rajathapeetapuram. The place was sacred even before the Krishna Temple was built due to the existence of the Anantheshwara Temple and the Chandramouleeshwara Temple.
- The story of how the Udupi Krishna Temple came into existence is a very interesting one. The events that occurred are described in the Madhava Vijaya, a biography of the Saint Madhavacharya and in a seventeenth century work by Sri Raghuvarya Thirtha.
- As per Sri Raghuvarya Thirtha, Lord Krishna’s birth mother Devaki often complained to the Lord about being unable to witness the childhood of her beloved son Krishna. She wished that Lord make her happy and fortunate like mother Yashoda. Lord Krishna assumed the form of a small boy and played with Devaki. When churning butter, Krishna broke the churn and ate the lumps of butter. He also snatched the churning rope from Devaki and started playing with it. Rukmini Devi, Wife of Krishna wanted to preserve the memory and had an idol made depicting Lord Krishna holding a churning rod and rope. She worshiped the idol regularly. After Lord Krishna departed to heaven, Arjuna moved the idol to Rukminivana and worshiped it with Chandana. As time passed, the idol was covered with a thick layer of clay until the merchants boarded it into a vessel mistaking it for a ballast.
- The vessel set sail towards sail and as it was approaching Udupi, a massive storm occurred causing the ship to come ashore damaged. At the same time, Sri Madhavacharya had gone to take a bath in the sea. Seeing the distressed sailors, Sri Madhavacharya calmed down the sea and helped the sailors ashore. The captain of the ship was thankful and offered Madhavacharya anything from the ship. Madhavacharya chose the lump of clay that was thought to be a ballast.
- When Madhavacharya started to return to Udupi, carrying the lump of clay, the lump fell down and revealed itself to be an idol of Lord Krishna. Sri Madhavacharya was elated and carried it back to Udupi where he installed the idol and established rigorous rituals to worship the idol.
- Kanaka Dasa later is known in history as a great poet, philosopher, musician and a composer for Carnatic Music. He was allowed to stay in a hut just outside the Udupi Krishna Temple on the roadside. However, he was not allowed to enter the Udupi Krishna Temple because he was of a lower caste. He played a Tambura and sang songs in praise of Lord Krishna every day from his hut. On a fateful day, an earthquake struck the area and a crack opened up on the wall adjoining Kanaka Das’s hut. Kanaka Das had his first darshan through the crack. Sri Vadiraja, the Temple priest eventually enlarged the crack and created a window. Since that time, it has become a tradition to look through the window first before entering the Temple premises.
Significance of Udupi Krishna Temple
- The Udupi Krishna Temple is one of the seven Mukti Sthalas of Karnataka. The other six are Kollur, Subramanya, Kumbhashi, Kodeshwara, Sankaranarayana, and Gokarna. These places are together known as the Parashurama Kshetras. It is believed that these Temples were built on land which was claimed by Parashurama from the sea.
- The unique feature of the darshan of Lord Krishna is that the actual darshan of the Lord is through a grilled window known as the Navagraha Kitiki or as the Kanakana Kindi (Kanaka’s window). The window has nine squares, each dedicated to the nine planets. The window is covered on all sides with silver plating with carvings depicting the ten avatars of Lord Vishnu.
- The main idol of Lord Krishna shows him as a small boy holding a churning rod on the right hand and rope on the left hand. This is the one of the kind representation of Lord Krishna that can be seen nowhere in India but Udupi.
- The main idol of Udupi Krishna Temple is facing the west direction and cannot be seen from the main door of the sanctum.
- The lamps that are kept near the main idol of Lord Krishna were first lighted by Sri Madhava Acharya in the 13th century and are still kept burning.
- The idols of Lord Mukhyapradana (Anjaneya or Hanuman) and Garuda kept in the Udupi Krishna Temple in their respective shrines were brought here from Ayodhya and installed.
- It is believed that Chandra (The Moon God) did penance in Udupi to release him from the curse of Daksha Prajapati. Lord Shiva was impressed by his devotion and relieved him of the curse of Daksha. In honor of the occurrence, the Chandramouleeshwara Temple was built.
- A small shrine dedicated to Goddess Bhagirathi (Ganga) is located in the southwest corner of the Madhava Sarovar. It is believed that when the young Madhavacharya could not visit Badrinath, River Ganga herself flowed south to the Temple and gave him a darshan. A white stream of water was visibly seen rising out of the South West corner, where in honor of River Ganga, a shrine was eventually built.
Udupi Krishna Temple Timings
Udupi Krishna Temple opens at 4am and closes at 9pm. The holy trip to Udupi Krishna Temple is considered complete by visiting the Anatheshwara Temple and the Chandramouleeshwara temple before visiting the Udupi Krishna Temple. Aarti and Archana items are available in shops that are located near the main entrance.
The male devotees are not allowed to wear shirts and vests inside the Udupi Krishna Temple complex. Short pants and the Bermudas are not allowed. Female devotees are requested to dress decently.
Udupi Krishna Temple: Poojas and Rituals
A sequence of fourteen Poojas is performed for the deity every day. They are explained as below:
- Nirmalya Visarjana – The Pooja is performed at 5:30 AM every morning. The decorations, ornaments, apparels and flowers offered to the God on the previous day are removed and the idol is bathed. Offerings like Tulasi, Bengal gram, Curd, Puffed Rice, jaggery, Ginger and coconut, Betel leaves and Ghee are made as Naivedyam.
- Ushakala Pooja – The Abhishekam of the deity is performed at 6 AM with the holy water that is stored in silver vessels. Eight Aartis are conducted and offerings of Sandal paste, Tulasi, Rice, Milk, Curd, coconut, Banana, and Betel Leaves are offered.
- Akshaya Patra and Go – Pooja – The Seva is performed at 6:15 AM. The vessels believed to be donated by Saint Madhavacharya are still offered Pooja during the morning. A cow selected from the Cowshed is worshiped and an Aarti is raised to her. Rice and Jaggery are distributed to the cows.
- Panchamrita Pooja – The Pooja starts at 6:30 AM. Both the idols of Lord Krishna and Lord Mukhyaprana are worshiped with the Panchamrit. After removing the sandal paste and flowers, in the Surya Saale of the Temple, the idol is first showered with Gold coins. Then Lord Krishna is bathed with Ghee, Milk, Honey, Curd and Sugar. 32 tender coconuts are broken and are offered to the deity along with the Bananas.
- Udvartana Pooja – The Pooja is performed at 7 AM. The idol is bathed in perfumed water and cleaned by removing the greasy matter with green gram flour. Offerings of tender coconuts, milk and butter are made and an Aarti is raised.
- Kalasha Pooja – The ritual occurs at 7:30 AM. Gold Kalasas are kept in front of the idol and Poojas are performed to them. Cooked rice is offered to the God which is then offered to Garuda. After the offering, the cooked rice is dispersed into the Madhava Sarovar as feed for the Fishes.
- Theertha Pooja – The Pooja takes place at 7:40 AM. The holy water from the gold vessel is used for the main Abhishek. The idol is then dried with a clean piece of cloth and decorated with Tulasi garlands, flowers, and Sandal paste. The holy water from this Abhishek is available as Theertham for the devotees and hence this puja is known as The Theertha Pooja.
- Alankara Pooja – The Pooja takes place at 8:30 AM. The idol is decorated with Gold ornaments and Silk clothing. Tulasi garlands are offered to the God. Rice, Sweets, Milk, Curds, Coconuts, Bananas and Betel leaves are offered to the God amidst the singing of hymns and songs by the Matha musicians.
- Avasara Pooja – An Aarti is raised to the God after offering Rice and Coconuts. This Pooja happens at 10:30 AM.
- Maha Pooja – This Pooja is the most important Pooja of the day and is performed by the head of the Matha himself at 11 AM. Rice, Tulasi, and Sandal paste are offered to God amidst the chantings of Vishnu Ssahasranama, Krishna Stotra, and Brahma Stotra. The Naivedya articles such as pots of cooked rice, sweets, and eatables, payasam, panchakajjaya, coconuts, plantains, betel leaves etc. are placed before the God. The priest comes out of the Sanctum and closes the door. It is believed that Madhavacharya himself makes the offerings to the God. After some time, the priests return and perform Aartis. Two country Guns are fired, signaling the occurrence of the Pooja after which the people of the Town can begin eating their meal.
- Sri Mukhyaprana Pooja – The Naivedyams offered to Sri Krishna during the Maha puja are offered again to Sri Mukhyaprana. The Priest then performs the Aarti.
- Sri Madhavacharya Pooja – The same Naivedyam is then offered to Sri Madhwacharya.
- Simhasana Pooja – The Simhasana is offered the Naivedyam.
- Pradakshina Namaskara – The priest goes around the idol four times and then proceeds to the Madhav Sarovar where Goddess Bhagirathi is worshiped. The offerings are dispersed in the Sarovar. He then proceeds to the Vrindavana and then to the Cowshed where the Cows are fed. He returns to the Simhasana where he distributes the Theertham to other priests and devotees. Then he proceeds to the dining hall where a sumptuous meal is served.
- Chamara Seva – This Pooja takes place at 7 PM. Pooja is offered to sacred books and the Vigraha. Kirtans and bhajans are sung by the Udupi Krishna Temple musicians. Two huge baskets of puffed rice and Jaggery are offered to the God and an Aarti is raised.
- Ratri Pooja – The usual Naivedyam consisting of pots of cooked rice, ghee, jaggery, tender coconut and milk is offered. Aarti is raised on this occasion as the music and chanting of hymns continues. This Pooja occurs at 7:30 PM.
- Ranga Pooja – This service to God happens at 7:40 PM. Four pots of Panchakajjaya are spread on Banana leaves in a line in front of Sri Mukyaprana. Rows of lamps are lighted on either side and an Aarti is raised. The Utsava Murthi is taken around the Matha and offerings are made. The recitations of songs and kirtans are carried out.
- Ekantha Seva – This Pooja happens at 8:50 PM. The Utsava murti is laid down on a golden cradle. Aarti is raised and lullabies are sung. The blowing of a Conch indicates the end of rituals for the day.
Besides these daily rituals, as a devotee, a number of Sevas can be offered to the God. Some of them are Akhanda Saptotsava, Laksha Deepotsava, Maha Puja Rathotsava, Sarva Seva, Annadanam, Ksheera Abhishek, Nanda Deepa, Godaana, Sahasranamarchana, Ashtotta Archana, Karpoora Mangal Aarti and Vaayustuti Parayana.
Festivals celebrated at the Temple
- The Saptosava – The unique festival is celebrated in the Udupi Krishna Temple in a grand manner for a period of seven days. The festival begins five days before the Makara Sankranama or Makara Sankranthi in January. During the first five days of the festival, the idols of Lord Krishna and Lord Mukhyaprana are placed on the Garuda ratha and idols of Lord Anantheshwara and Chandreshwara are placed on the Mahapuja ratha. Then the two Rathas are taken around the town.
- Rathotsava – On the day of Makara Sankranthi, the sixth day, the Utsava Murthis of Lord Krishna and Lord Mukhyaprana are placed in a golden palanquin and taken to the Madhava Sarovar where they are placed in a decorated float and taken around the Sarovar. This Utsava is called the Teppotsava. The day of Makara Sankranthi is believed to be the day that Sri Madhava Acharya installed the idol of Lord Krishna in the sanctum.
- From the floats, the idols of Lord Krishna, Lord Mukhyaprana, Lord Anantheshwara and Lord Chandreshwara are taken to the three chariots. The idol of Lord Krishna is placed on the main beautifully decorated Brahma Ratha, the idol of Lord Mukhyaprana is placed in the Garuda Ratha and the idols of Chandreshwara and Anantheshwara are placed in the Mahapuja Ratha. Thousands of devotees pull the three chariots chanting the names of the Lord. After the Rathas reach the Temple, the idols are taken to the Vasantha Mahal where God is placed in a cradle and Pooja is performed for him. After the Poojas, the idols are taken to the sanctum where the Flute Seva and Ekantha Seva takes place signaling the end of the day.
- Churnotsava – On the last or the seventh day, after the Mahapuja, the Utsava Murthis of Lord Krishna and Lord Mukhyaprayana are brought in a gold palanquin to the main chariot named Brahma Ratha. The Mangala Aarti is performed for the Lords and then offerings of sweets and fruits are made. It is to be observed that during this ritual; a Garuda can always be seen revolving around the chariot from above. Then the chariots are taken around the Ratha street and then to the Madhava Sarovar. The Lord is given a bath followed by all the priests and people taking a dip in the Sarovar. The unique feature is that flowers smeared with a gold paste are offered to the Lord and then dispersed into the crowd. Hence, the name of the occasion was named as Churnotsava.
- Shri Krishna Jayanti – The auspicious day occurs in August – September. The devotees and the priests observe a complete fast for the entire day. Special Poojas and Sevas are performed for the deity. On the next day morning, a large number of guests are fed with special offerings like milk sweets. A clay image of Sri Krishna is taken around the town in a Ratha and the Handi ceremony is celebrated with great energy. Handi is the process of breaking clay pots that are hung between buildings and poles. A parade can be seen in which people dress as animals, masked figures and entertain the crowd. The idol is then submerged in the Madhava Sarovar signaling the end of the celebrations.
- Mesha Sankranti – The Hindu New Year usually falls in the month of April and is celebrated with grand festivities in Udupi. The festival popularly known as Vishu (Kerala), Puthandu (Tamil), Baisakhi (Punjab), and Bihu (Assam) is celebrated by taking out a Ratha Yatra of Lor Krishna and then doing a Pooja in a cradle.
- Vasantotsava – The day marks the beginning of the spring season and usually celebrated in March – April. The special Pooja and Prasadam are done for two months during the period. A Ratha Yatra for the God takes place every night starting from the day of Akshaya Tritiya and ending on the Vaisakha Poornima in May.
- Sri Madhava Navami – The festival is celebrated in a grand manner during the month of February. It is believed that this is the day on which Saint Madhavacharya disappeared from mortal sight. Special Poojas are performed for the Saint at the Anathasana Temple, where it is believed that he is still present as a holy spirit. The mass feeding of Brahmins, as well as recitation of the Madhwavijaya (biography of Madhavacharya), takes place.
- Holi Kamadahana – The auspicious and festive day of Holi is celebrated in March. On this day, a procession of Lord Krishna starts from the Temple till Kadiyali and back. An effigy of Lord Kamadeva (God of Love) is burnt in accordance of the mythological tale where he sacrifices himself so that Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati fall in love after the death of Goddess Sati, the first wife of Lord Shiva. Devotees smear themselves with colored water and paste and revel in the festival. It is believed that Holi was Lord Krishna’s favorite festival and is celebrated throughout the country, especially in Mathura and Dwarka.
- Besides the above festivals, Ram Navami, Narasimha Jayanti, Bhagirathi Jayanti, Chaturmasa, Ganesh Chaturthi, Navaratri, Deepavali, Subramanya Shashti, and Gurusamaradhana are celebrated with great spiritual significance and fervor.
- The Tulasi Vrindavana Festival – In the month of Karthik (November – December), a sacred Tulasi plant and a lamp post situated at the North of the Temple is decorated and worshiped by singing holy songs and recitals for a period of twelve days.
How to reach: Road, Rail and Air
- By Air – The nearest airport is the Mangalore International Airport situated 59 km away from the town. Mangalore is well connected to cities like Mumbai, Goa, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata. Taxis can be hired from the Airport to reach the Udupi Krishna Temple.
- By Train – Udupi is an important railway station in the Konkan Railway route. Regular trains are available from cities like Mumbai, Jaipur, Bengaluru, Gokarna, Murudeshwar, Kohlapur, Trivandrum and Madgaon.
- By Road – The Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation operated regular buses from Bengaluru, Mangalore, and Mysore. The town is also well connected to Kerala and Goa.
Where to stay
The holy town of Udupi is bustling with small hotels and lodges that offer the devotees a decent option to stay overnight.
Where to eat
- The Bhojana Saale in the northern part of the Udupi Krishna Temple is where the devotees are fed. One can eat the Prasadam served at the Temple kitchen.
- Several restaurants serve delicious Udupi cuisine (mainly Idlis, Dosas, Vada, Sambhar) along with North Indian cuisine as well. Non-vegetarian food, especially seafood is also served in restaurants.
- Chandramouleeshwara Temple – The Temple is located just opposite to the Udupi Sri Krishna Temple. It is believed that this is the place where Chandra did his penance and Lord Shiva relieved him of the curse of Daksha which stated that Chandra will keep decreasing in size and eventually disappear. Lord Shiva gave a boon that he will decrease in size for 15 days and then increase for 15 days in a month. The Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is believed that the Linga changes color from black in the morning, blue at noon and white at night. It is believed that one must visit the Chandramouleeshwara Temple and the Anantheshwara Temple before visiting the Krishna Temple.
- Anatheshwara Temple – The Temple legend says that Sage Parashurama retrieved the land from the sea and made his devotee Ramabhoja as the King. During the plowing of the land to perform the Ashwamedha Yagna, he accidently killed a snake. To relieve the sin, he made a silver peetham known as Rajatha Peetham in Kannada with images of a snake carved on it.
- Shri Janardhana Mahakali Temple – The Temple is located in Ambalpay area in Udupi, about 3 km away from the Sri Krishna Temple. The presiding deity of the beautiful temple is Goddess Mahakali. It is believed that she came down to Earth as a guardian for the town and eventually was followed by Janardhana Swamy.
- Batte Vinayaka Temple – The Temple is one of the oldest Temples in the district, constructed by the Barkur kingdom. The unique feature of the Temple is that the idol of Lord Ganapathi is facing the North but leaning towards West.
- Sri Mahishamardhini Temple – The Temple is located at Kadiyali. The Temple’s history dates back to around 1200 years. The idol of Mahishamardhini is in a standing posture with four arms. She holds the Prayaga chakra on one hand and the Shanka on the other. She is shown piercing the head of the demon Mahishasura.