Sri Krishna Temple in Udupi

BY: JOHN B. MONTEIRO

Shri Krishna Temple complex in Udupi with Sri Madhwatirtha in forground

Oct 6, USA (SUN) — Udupi's Gopichandan-wrapped Krishna

Now that the dust has settled after the joyous celebration of Shrikrishna Janmastami in Udupi, we can turn to the abiding subject of the founding of the temple, specially its deity. The Udupi temple came into prominence after Shri Madhwacharya (1238-1317) established a temple to Lord Krishna and set up eight mutts there to promote his worship.

Some hold the view that Udupi derives its name from Udupam, meaning a boat. The boat association is centred on the Shri Krishna idol installed in the temple in Udupi. Once Shri Madhwacharya was meditating on the shore of the sea near Malpe when a storm broke out. A sailing ship got caught in the storm and was about to capsize. Shri Madhwacharya took his angavastra and held it aloft in the wind to indicate to the ship's captain that land was close by. The storm abated and the ship was safely steered to the shore.

A grateful captain offered to the seer anything that he chose from the ship's contents. He opted for a large slab of Gopi-chandan, a special kind of aromatic earth frequently by Brahmins to decorate their bodies with cast marks. The slab was taken to Udupi and washed down in the Madhwasarovara.

On peeling the layers of Gopi-chandan covering, they found the idol which is the centre of worship in Shri Krishna Temple ever since. Another version of the incident would have us to believe that the ship caught in the storm sank with all its crew drowned. But the slab of Gopi-chandan which enclosed the Shri Krishna idol floated ashore and Sri Madhwacharya brought it to Udupi and had the Deity extracted and installed.

Whatever be the truth, Udupi is famous for its Shri Krishna Temple and the place where the Deity was found is now called Vadabhandeshwar, a corruption of Vadapandishwar - Vada (broken) Pandi (boat) Ishwar (Lord).

The Deity represents Lord Krishna in his playful childhood posture with a curd-churning rod in the right hand and the churning rope in the left.

Thus, Lord Krishna came to be worshipped by Shri Madhwacharya and later by pontiffs of Ashta Mutts founded by him. The right of touching and worshipping this Deity rests with the pontiffs of these eight Mutts who are the only spiritual descendents of Shri Madhwacharya).

Udupi Gopala Krsna (left), and Dressed as Princess Rukmini (right)

The Swamijis of the eight Mutts conduct the worship of the Shri Krishna Mutt by turns - for two years each. This tenure of worship by rotation is known as paryaya. The biennial transfer of the privilege of worship from one Mutt to another is celebrated as a grand festival called paryaya festival. The outgoing Swamiji hands over to the incoming Swamiji the keys of Shri Krishna Mutt and the Akshaya Patra - a vessel given by Sri Madhwacharya to the temple for the sake of never-ending annadana or mass feeding.


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