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Sri Krishna Mutt

Inside the Shrine: Where and What

When you enter the Car Street by the Kanakadasa Road, you proceed towards the North and then turn towards the East. You come to the tower of Sri Krishna temple with what is known as Kanakana kiNDi (Kanaka's window) below it. To the right is the Kanakadasa Tower. Behind this tower is the Ananteshwara temple. Chandramaulishvara temple is located to the East of Ananteshwara temple and directly in front of Sri Krishna Mutt. When we come to the main entrance of Sri Krishna Mutt we see a magnificent tower which beckons us.

As we go through the main entrance, the temple office is immediately to the right. This is the place to go when looking for information about the daily activities of the temple and to find out what Car festivals may be on in the night.

A few yards farther on we come to a door, also on the right, which opens on to steps leading down to the Madhva-sarovara. Directly opposite this door, facing West, is the entrance to the temple itself.

Immediately in front of us, as we enter the temple, we find the statue of Sri Chenna Keshava, a form of Lord Vishnu. Where this statue now stands was originally the entrance to the garbha guDi (sanctum sanctorum). It was the entrance used by the Swamiji when he went to perform the daily rituals. This entrance was closed off in the second half of the last century in an effort to solve the problem of pilgrims trying to enter into the garbha guDi instead of going into the temple itself. The statue of Sri Chenna Keshava was installed to guard the entrance.

This door is only opened on the Vijayadashami day now. On this day the Swamiji enters the shrine here instead of by the usual door, and the nine sacred corns are brought into the shrine for the fresh harvest feast. On all other days of the year this entrance is closed, guarded by Chenna Keshava.

When we proceed towards the left on the circumambulating path, we come across a small room known as anuyaaga shaale, the hall of oblation to Agni, the fire-god. The priests make oblation to the fire when the puuja is performed inside the sanctum sanctorum.

In front of the anuyaaga shaale is the room where the golden palanquin of Sri Krishna is kept. This palanquin was donated by the 33rd piiThaadhipati of Krishnapur Mutt, Sri Vidyapurna Tiirtha Swamiji, during his paryaaya.

To the West there is the suurya shaale, where the scholars recite Veda, PuraaNa, Itihaasa and the works of Sri Madhva. In the evening the musicians of the Mutt gather here and play their instruments and offer their services to Sri Krishna. Attached to the suurya shaale is another room in the West. This is known as chinnada koNe, the treasury of jewels (literally: the corner of gold). All the jewels offered to Sri Krishna during His seven-century stay at Udupi, right from those given by the emperors of Vijayanagara to those offered by the kings of the erstwhile princely state of Mysore, are stored here.

To the right is a maNTapa in front of the shrine. In between this maNTapa and the sanctum sanctorum there is a small passage and a window through which the visitors can have a look at the icon inside. This window with nine square holes is known as navagraha kiTiki, the window of nine planets. It must be noted that there is no entrance to the sanctum sanctorum from the front. One has to look at the icon through this window which is covered with artistically carved silver plates. At one time there was a door here, but as was the case with the Eastern entrance, this has since been closed. On each side of this window stand beautiful metal statues of Jaya and Vijaya, Lord Vishnu's gatekeepers in VaikuNTha, His celestial abode.

This viewing window is decorated with carvings depicting the ten incarnations of Vishnu. Through the nine small holes of the window we see the tiny icon of Sri Krishna as a small boy. He holds the churning rod in His right hand and rope in his left. On his face is the look of pure innocence. This is the only original icon of this kind in the whole world.

Even the lamps burning by the side of Krishna have a history that spans centuries. The lamp lighted by Sri Madhva is kept burning even to this day and is well protected. It was never allowed to get extinguished.

To the right of Sri Krishna is the icon of Sri Venugopala Krishna. This icon is not clearly visible to the devotees looking in through the window and it is only seen by the most observant of viewers. There is no definite history of this icon, but there is an oral tradition which is current. It is known from the Shankara Vijaya of Anantaanandagiri that Hastaamalaka, one of the intimate disciples of Sri Shankarâchârya had established an icon of Krishna in RajatapiiThapura.

In the Shankara Vijaya ascribed to Anantânandagiri, there is a specific reference to Hastâmalaka's establishing icons of Krishna.

  hastaamalakastu bhuumadhyaat.h pashchimakhaNDadigvijayam.h  |
  kR^itvaa paJNchamudraaN^kaviraajitaan.h bhagavadeshTaaksharamantra  |
  japaasaktaan.h kaamshchid braahmaNaadiin.h kRtvaa rajatapiiThaadi  |
  sthaleshhu kR^ishhNaadi devapratishhThaaM dR^itvaa svakR^itaM
  viGYaapayituM punaH paramaguruM praapa  ||            
Sam. Vi. 68

Hastâmalaka, after completing his triumphant tour of Southern India celebrated the pancha mudraa dhaaraNa of some brahmins, thus converting them to Vaishnavism by initiating them in the chanting of the ashhTaakshari mantra, established Sri Krishna's icons in places like Rajatapiitha and returned to his preceptor (Shankarâchaarya) to report to him about his achievements.

Hastâmalaka had installed this icon in Kangur Mutt at Kodavur near Adi Udupi. In the 14th century this Mutt came under the jurisdiction of the Balegar Mutt of a Mâdhva piiThaadhipati, Sri Akshobhya Tîrtha (a direct disciple of Srimad Ananda Tîrtha, and the preceptor of the renowned Sri Jayatîrtha).

He appointed a brahmin priest to worship Sri Venugopala Krishna in the temple. In due course this temple severed its connection with the BaaLegaar Mutt. After some time, the priest in charge of the temple found it difficult to perform the daily rituals due to poverty. When it became impossible for him to continue, he surrendered the icon to Sri Krishna Mutt. Thus the icon of Venugopala Krishna of Adi Udupi was established by the side of the icon of Udupi Krishna.

There is a small maNTapa in front of the window of nine planets. The processional icon of Sri Krishna is placed here of a night before the evening puuja. The Swamiji fans the icon with two chowry in an elaborate manner which is very pleasing to watch. Later on, after the night worship of Sri Krishna, the maNTapa puuja is performed here.

To the West, in front of the maNTapa, there is a hall known as chandra shaale. The "Kanaka's window" is on the wall of this hall. During the morning and the afternoon devotees sit here to meditate and read scriptures. In the early morning some of the local women come here and draw rangavalli (a.k.a. rangolii, rangole, etc.) for the pleasure of Sri Krishna. In the evenings scholars recite epics and scriptures here. In the northern corner there is a small maNTapa reserved for the worship of sacred texts during the Navaratri festival.

There are two shrines on either side of this hall. In the North there is Hanuman, a.k.a Mukhya PraaNa, and in the south there is a small shrine of Garuda. These two icons were brought to this place from Ayodhya and installed here as evidenced by the biography of Sri Vâdirâja Tîrtha, ``Vâdirâja Guruvara Charitâmrta.''

        punaH saJNcharaNaasakto gatoyodhyaaM puriiM muniH  |
        atratya hanumat.h taarkshya pratime raupyapiiThakam.h  |
        aaniiya kR^ishhNapurataH sthaapayaamaasa modataH  ||
Vaa. Gu. Cha. 4.51-52

When the saint (Sri Vâdirâja) went out on tour again, he went to Ayodhya, brought the icons of Hanuman and Garuda and installed them with great joy in front of Sri Krishna's icon.

The shrine of Mukhya PraaNa has two enclosures. One is the sanctum sanctorum itself. The officiating priest sits outside this to distribute tiirtha and prasaada. One of the special rituals performed here is rangapuuje. At the conclusion of the noontime mahaapuuje to Sri Krishna, the Swamiji performs the main puuja here. After the raatripuuje to Sri Krishna at night, the Swamiji performs puuja here also. This is a wonderful spectacle as rows and rows of oil lamps are specially lit.

All the dishes which are offered to Sri Krishna are brought here and offered to Hanuman as well. It is believed that Hanuman himself makes all the arrangements for the paryaaya festival.

On proceeding to the North we come to the platform for the sacred tuLasi plant and a large lamppost. The tuLasi vrindaavana is nicely decorated during the bright fortnight of the month of Kartika and the tuLasi is worshipped with recitations and dancing for twelve days during this period.

As we proceed further to the North we come to a narrow passage leading towards the left which leads to the throne, kitchen and the dining hall known as chauki. The entrance at the right leads to the sanctum sanctorum. Ever since the Eastern and Western doors were closed, this is the only door leading to the garbha guDi.

When we stand at the steps leading to the sanctum sanctorum and turn towards the South inside the door, a small shrine can be seen. This is the shrine of Sriman Madhvaachaarya. This beautiful little icon holding a stick in one hand is decorated with a loin cloth and bears the mudra-s of knowledge and fearlessness in its hands. Sri Vâdirâja installed this statue.

        kR^ishhNagehottare bhaage shrii madhvaM yatishekharam.h  |
        sthaapayaamaasa medhaavii nirvighnaarchana siddhaye  ||
Vaa. Gu. Cha. 4-56

At the Northern side of Krishna's abode, the erudite (Sri Vâdirâja Tiirtha) installed Sri Madhva, the august among saints, for the purpose of ensuring obstacle-free worship.

By installing the icon of Sri Madhva at the Northern entrance, Sri Vadiraaja Tiirtha started the tradition of worshipping Madhvaachaarya in the same shrine as Krishna.

Originally there was a circumambulation path around the sanctum sanctorum, guarded by a wall of wooden spokes. This was changed when the icon of Sri Madhva was installed. In place of the wooden spokes a wall of stone was erected and the circumambulation path closed off. In the recent past this stone wall was covered with polished black granite. Attached to the outside of the black granite wall are hundreds of brass oil lamps; during the night-time ceremonies, these lamps are lit, creating a very soothing atmosphere for the devotees.

Though the main architectural pattern of the temple remained unchanged for centuries, its outer appearance was changed by renovations at different times.

The first major renovation took place during the tenure of Sri Vâdirâja, with many additions and modifications. Renovations took place on three more occasions.

One of the last renovations was carried out during the 1968-69 paryaaya of Sri Pejawar Mutt Swamiji (H.H. Sri Vishwesha Tiirtha). The temple was beautified with a marble floor in place of the rough-hewn granite stone present previously.

From the northern entrance, opposite the entrance to the sanctum sanctorum, a narrow passage leads us to what is known as the simhaasana. On the left is a small dark room reserved for cooking special dishes for Lord Krishna's naivedya. The simhaasana has two rooms. In the small room on the far side, the Swamiji keeps the icons of his own Mutt. In the bigger room in front of it there is a seat where the Swamiji sits. Sri Madhva himself used to sit in this room. Only the Paryaaya Swamiji is authorised to sit there and distribute tiirtha (holy water) and prasaada to the devotees.

Proceeding past the entrance to the simhaasana, we come across the doors of the chauki. The door at the left leads us to the kitchen. The big hall of the chauki is a square-shaped building. This is the place where the Swamiji takes his food -- the praasada of Sri Krishna, in the company of scholars, guests and other pilgrims who offer special service to Sri Krishna. About 400 people can dine at any one time. Only special invitees are allowed to dine with the Swamiji. One can notice the recitation of epics when the Swamiji is taking his food.

The construction of this building started by Sri Vibudhapriya Tiirtha Swamiji of Sri Admar Mutt and completed in 1927 CE by Sri Vidyapurna Tiirtha Swamiji of Sri Krishnapur Mutt.

In the first floor of this building, which is as big as the chauki itself, a special feeding called mR^ishhTaanna takes place. When the puuja takes place, special invitees dine here.

Northern Extension

As we proceed past the office, and entrances to the Madhva-sarovara and the temple, we pass between the chauki and the bhojana shaale. In the bhojana shaale, hundreds of poor people are fed every day, as they have been for seven centuries at Sri Krishna Mutt. There is a small shrine of Mukhya PraaNa inside the bhojana shaale and the food is offered to this deity and then served. the 27th piiThaadhipati of Sri Shirur Mutt, Lakshmi Samudra Tiirtha Swamiji, constructed this building in 1915 CE and established the icon of Mukhya PraaNa there.

At the end of the passage we come to what is known as Vasanta Mahal. This is the stage where recitations, lectures, discourses and other cultural programmes take place in the evenings. Sri Lakshmindra Tiirtha, the 28th piiThaadhipati of Sri Shirur Mutt, renovated this in 1959 A.D.

During the spring festival in the month of vaishaakha, the ritual of vasanta puuja is celebrated in the Vasanta Mahal. This takes place in the evening, and during this time a fountain of water is flowing. Balanced on the top of the jet of water is a white ping-pong ball. This creates quite a bit of interest for the visitor, especially when first attempts are made to balance the ball on the water. Formerly the paryaya congregation also used to take place here in the Vasanta Mahal.

To the West of vasanta maNTapa is a building known as baDagu maaLige. The administrative offices, treasury, granary, etc., are located in this building. Since the days of Sri Vâdirâja up to the second half of the 19th century, the paryaaya congregations used to take place in a hall inside this building. To keep up that tradition even now the Swamiji sits on a decorated platform along with other Swamijis and exchange sandal paste and other objects on the eve of paryaaya in this place.

In the month of bhaadrapada the Ganesha festival is celebrated for four days in this building. The paryaaya Swamiji himself performs puuja to the specially decorated icon of Ganesha.

This building was originally constructed during the time of Sri Vâdirâja Tiirtha. Since it was very old the Swamiji of Sri Pejawar Mutt renovated the first floor of this building during his paryaaya in 1968-69. The upper portion was renovated by the Swamiji of Sri Admar Mutt during his tenure in 1972-73. The paryaaya Swamiji and other Swamijis live here and give discourses to their disciples. Professors and scholars attached to the Mutt live in other rooms. Special places are reserved for scholars of different subjects. Scholars of Vedanta, dharmashaastra, jyotishhya, tarka, vyaakaraNa, etc., find places specially reserved for them.

Serpent guard for golden treasury

To the East of Vasant Mahal the shrine of Lord Subramanya is located. This serpent shrine was constructed by Sri Vâdirâja. At one time the Emperor of Delhi had donated sheets of gold to cover the roof of Sri Krishna Mutt.

      indraprasthesha yavana bhuupena preshhitaiH punaH  |
      suvarNaiH kR^ishhNa maThagavalabhyaachchhaadanaaya saH  |
      ichchhan.h svapne nishiddhaH san.h maThodiichyaamiLaatale  |
      taani bharmaaNi samsthaapya taduurdhvam sarpa muurtikaam.h  |
      sthaapayaamaasa naagastu tatraadyaapi supuujyate  ||
Vaa. Gu. Cha. 5.1-3

Sri Vâdirâja wanted to use the golden strips sent by the Muslim Emperor of Delhi (Akbar?) for covering the roof of the shrine but he had a dream in which he was advised not to do so. The gold was then buried on the northern side of Sri Krishna Mutt and a shrine containing the icon of serpent was installed there. To this day, the serpent god is worshipped and each year on the subrahmaNya shashhThi day a special ritual of naaga maNDala is arranged.

As an aside, there are some scholars who claim that it was King Achyutadeva Raya of Vijayanagar who donated this huge mass of gold to Sri Krishna Mutt.

Over the years the shrine became quite dilapidated and was renovated by Sri Lakshmindra Tîrtha Swamiji of Sri Shirur Mutt during his tenure of paryaaya in the years 1962-63.

Beyond the serpent-shrine towards the East is the wall of the great cow-shed. Beyond the cow shed is located the stable for the temple elephant. At one time all of the eight Mutts in Udupi kept elephants and it was a glorious sight when they were all on parade, but these day only Sri Krishna Mutt has an elephant.

Towards the north, behind Vasanta MaNTapa is what is known as Vrindavan. This is the resting ground of past piiThaadhipatti- s. There are 43 vrindavana-s in this area. There is also a very old ashvattha tree. Each day the paryaaya Swamiji goes round this tree before offering oblation to the vrindavana of the preceptors. This ritual of ashvattha pradakshiNa is one of the duties of the Swamiji in charge of the Krishna temple.

From here we look down towards the vast level of ground known as raajaangaNa (royal courtyard). The paryaaya assembly is arranged here and mass feeding of visitors to Sri Krishna Mutt takes place here during great festivals. Large cultural events, such as yakshagaana, are staged here. These events are known to go all through the night and often the paryaaya Swamiji stays here to watch them.

On one side of the RaajangaNa is a guest house of Sri Shirur Mutt. On the other side is a guest house known as Birla Choultry. In between the two guest houses another well-equipped guest house was constructed by the Tirumalai Tirupathi Devasthanams Trust.

Sri Pejawar Swamiji before taking charge of his third paryaaya in 1984-85 covered a portion of the RaajangaNa with Cuddapah stones. Formerly, about twenty thousand devotees who participate in the congregation of paryaaya had to sit on the bare ground, but now they can sit comfortably on the polished stone slabs and watch the proceedings. The Swamiji also put up a roof for a portion of this area so that when the place is used for cultural and religious events accommodating thousands of people they are sheltered from the elements.

This section is due to Raymond Crawford. Much of the material comes from a book published for the 1984 paryaaya of H.H. Sri Vishwesha Tiirtha Swamiji, by Bannanje Govindacharya, U.P. Upadhyaya, and Muralidhar Upadhyaya.

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Created April 24, 1996; last updated August 10, 2001.