Also see: Our photography Day Outs in Melukote.
I started this as a Photo Essay, as I was feeling lazy to write and thought of filling it up with photographs instead. But as I started scribbling, words filled in so much, it became a pretty long story. The weekend trip to Melukote was an eventful one.
Yoganarasimha temple, as seen from the town
On the streets of Melukote..
Melukote or Melkote is generally done as a day-trip from Bangalore. But we were keen to be there at the time of sunrise, so decided to make it a two day trip. There aren’t any places to stay in Melukote, but we managed to sneak into the house of a kind lady who not only gave us place to stay but also ensured that we were fed to brim!
Melukote town and the Kalyani, as seen from the top of the hill
Melukote is a temple town, standing immune to the stride of time. There are a couple of temples, a few Kalyanis and mantapas that make the town. And most of the residents seem to be priests. Houses have an old-time look and nothing in town is flashy or modern. And unlike most religious places, it is not garish but quiet, pleasant and easygoing. People are friendly and hospitable. At the place where we stayed, we were treated like old relatives who are coming home after a long time. It was a pleasure spending time there. My fellow traveller said – “I can easily spend a week here”, and I can’t help but agree. But a ‘tourist’ doesn’t have so much to do or see in Melukote beyond a day-trip’s itinerary.
We took an early morning bus from Bangalore, reached there a little before noon and headed towards Yoganarasimha temple after lunch. Having plenty of time in hand, we took 4-5 hours to cover what should otherwise take 15 to 30 minutes. The first long stop was at a Kalyani at the base of the temple – a well-known landmark I have seen in many Kannada movies. In the hour or two we spent there, we watched people take ritual ablutions, go for a swim, sit for meditation or just take a stroll around it.
We made our way further towards Yoganarasimha temple on the top of a hill – the major landmark in Melukote. A bunch of happy kids encountered us on the way up, who were eager to pose for the camera. They gave us a good time while they had their fun looking at their poses on the LCD.
The way up to the top is through steps that can tire the aged, but is actually a short climb. There are a few trees on the hill, and half way through I suddenly exclaimed – “these trees are planted!” On the otherwise barren hill, someone had thoughtfully planted leafy trees along the path to give shade to the people visiting the temple. Bless them!
The steps leading to Yoganaraimha Swamy temple
I took a detour just before the temple and found the path opening up to the vistas of the plains below, revealing the vast planes, fields and villages at a distance. It was an overcast evening with plenty of shade from the clouds and pleasant breeze on the hilltop, which invited us to spend another hour there.
When we eventually reached the temple to finish our long journey, I was pleasantly surprised by the temple’s design. It did not have the typical dark sanctum and priests performing rituals on the other side of a fenced arena, but instead an open and informal interior where anyone could freely walk around. It was a pleasure to be inside, and to go up on the top of temple to savor the 360-degree views of the surroundings. We stayed there till sun down.
The temple Gopura at Sunset
At the top of the temple..
The idea of spending two days in Melukote was to be there to relish the early morning hours. But things did not work out as we planned. Next morning, we woke up only after 8, and seeing that the sun was already high, took our time and came out only after 9. It has been such a disappointment missing the morning, two-three weeks since the trip we are still it blaming each other for it!
We walked to Sankrit research institute which was closed being a Sunday, and then to Raya Gopura and Akka Thangi Kola. Raya Gopura is another landmark which has served as a location for many movies. The watchman at the Gopura said there was a movie crew previous evening too. Akka Thangi Kola are a pair of kalyanis next to each other.
Raya Gopura, they say it was built overnight, which is not easy to believe
We then met friends who drove down from Bangalore in the morning, and headed towards Tondlur to a gigantic lake which is more than a kilometer long. We spent a couple of hours there lying down in a lonely sandy shoreline eating just harvested sugar canes that we picked up from nearby fields. Pleasure at its prefect form!
Coming back from Tondlur, we drove around aimlessly for sometime and returned to Melukote to spend rest of the evening again at the Kalyani, and eventually headed back to Bangalore.
Much as we had planned on it, we still left a couple of things undone as we returned back. An early morning stroll in the town was one of them. We were also keen to talk to the man of the house where we stayed – one of the priests in a temple – about the history, origin and all other things about Melukote, which did not happen.
Description of Melukote is never complete without a mention of Puliogre, the favourite dish of the town. Go to any place, and be assured that you will be offered Puliogre. It is indeed delicious, but at the end of two days, we had an overdose of it. All meals that we had in Melukote included Puliogre in the menu, and sometimes it was a Puliogre-only meal! Sakkare Pongal is another dish the the town takes pride about.
An eatery selling Puliogre
Melukote or Melkote is a small town in Mandya district, around 120km from Bangalore. To get to Melukote, drive on Mysore road till Mandya. Ask for directions and turn right in Mandya and drive for another 40km to reach the town. If you are taking bus from Bangalore, you need to go to Mandya and change buses. Ask for private buses to Melukote once you get down in Mandya.
There is no accommodation available in Melukote. There are a few eateries that serve clean and healthy food, but don’t expect much.
Places to see: Yoganarasimha temple on the top of a hill is the primary attraction. Cheluvanarayanaswamy temple in the town is another well known place. Some landmarks in the town are the Kalyani below Yoganarasimha temple, Raya Gopura, Akka Thangi Kola and the Sanskrit research institute. Tondlur kere is a huge lake 15km from Melukote
, and is worth a visit.