by V. Sadagopan
Today is a day of feasting for the eyes of almost two lakhs of devotees of Seluva Naarayana, the presiding deity of the ancient temple at the sleepy town of Melkote. These devotees assemble at Melkote known also as Thirunarayana Puram on this day for having the darsan of their Lord adorning the legendary diamond-studded crown, the Vaira Mudi. Seluva Narayana adorns this ancient crown presented by Lord Krishna Himself on this night and is taken in procession around the main streets around the temple until the wee hours of the morning. People position themselves at every vantage point to have the sacred darsan of the Lord adorning the Vaira Mudi, while seated on a golden Garudan with His divine consorts. Tradition has it that anyone, who has the good fortune of worshipping the Lord in person on this occasion, will be freed from all their sins and will receive the special blessings of Seluva Narayanan.
The legend also has it that the Vaira Mudi was the crown worn by Sriman Narayana at His abode at the Milky Ocean; it was stolen by Virochana, the son of Bhaktha Prahlada, when the Lord was sleeping. Virochana ran away to the nether world with the stolen crown of the Lord and hid there. Garuda was requested later by the devotees of the Lord to go after Virochana and recover the Vaira Mudi. Garuda descended to the nether world, fought with Virochana, defeated him, recovered his Lord’s crown and was flying back to his Lord’s abode, when he saw child Krishna playing in the mid day heat with His friends at Brindhavan. Garuda spread his wings over his Master, the young Krishna to provide shade and then placed the Vaira Mudi on the head of Lord Krishna. Local legend states that Lord Krishna came later to Thirunarayana Puram from Dwaraka and presented the Vaira Mudi to Seluva Narayanan.
Based on the temple traditions, Vaira Mudi is not to be seen in day light. Hence, it is brought to Thirunarayana Puram from Mandya District treasury on the day of the festival in a special casket shielded from the Sun’s rays. There is special police protection for this casket during its journey from Mandya treasury to the temple at Melkote and back on this day. When the casket containing Vaira Mudi arrives at the boundaries of the town, it is recieved with temple honors and brought to the temple on a special palanquin. The sacred crown arrives at the temple around 5.30 PM. It rests in front of Acharya Ramanuja’s sanctum for another four hours. Here, the Lord Seluva Narayanan is fitted with the Vaira Mudi by the temple priest before the adoring eyes of Acharya Ramanuja. No one can see the Vaira Mudi until the Lord adorns it. Hence,the officiating priest covers his eyes with a silk garment, lifts the Vaira Mudi from the casket and places it on the Lord’s head as a part of the coronation ceremony. Now the procession starts and lasts until the early hours of the morning of the next day. The majesty of this festival is matchless. The quiet town of Melkote comes to life during this special festival.
Lord Seluva Narayanan is the darling child or Sella Pillai of AchArya Ramanuja, who arrived at Melkote, when he was 82 years young and stayed for 12 long years at Melkote worshipping the Lord. Seluva Narayanan is also known as Rama Priyan since He was worshipped by Lord Ramachandra during His incarnation as the son of King Dasaratha.
Thirunarayana Puram (Melkote) has a sacred temple on the hill for Lord Narasimha consecrated by Prahlada. Many Vaishnavite Acharyas like Nanjeeyar and the first Jeeyar of Ahobila Mutt were born here. A famous Sanskrit Academy is located at Melkote and has its research center in sylvan settings not too far from the temple . Melkote is also famous for a local sweet preparation named Melkote Manoharam, the sacred white clay used by Vaishnavas on their foreheads, Ulundurai, a variation on the traditional Pongal using black gram and special handloom clothings. Many Hoysala Temples are within driving distance of Melkote and have enduring links to the times, when Acharya Ramanuja stayed in Karnataka desam.
Sri Vairamudi Kireetadharana Mahotsava Padiyetta (diamond crown adorning ceremony) festival will be held on March 28 at 8.30 p.m.