Enveloped by hillocks that are dotted with thick greenery and several kalyanis (temple tanks), aesthetically and historically significant monuments are located at Melkote, an important pilgrim centre in Mandya’s Pandavapura taluk, which attracts at least 10 lakh tourists annually.

Melkote is a vast site of monuments and they leave the visitors humble and awestruck. Whilst devotees from different parts of the country arrive here to visit the temples, others come to relish the scenic beauty. The area is surrounded by large rocks and scanty bushes.

Records say the historical Vairamudi festival, the procession of Cheluvanarayana Swamy’s idol adorned with a diamond crown known as Vairamudi, attracts at least 1.5 lakh tourists every year.

Located at Yadava Giri in Pandavapura taluk, Melkote dates back to the Kritha Yuga and is referred to as Dakshina Badri. Melkote has around 76 ‘mantapas’ and 29 ‘kalyanis’. Saint Ramanujacharya named the main temple Cheluvanarayana Swamy Devalaya, say sources at the temple. Devotees from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu throng the town every day.

But the pilgrimage centre lacks basic facilities. The visitors have to depend on various mutts, private cottages and residences of local people to spend the night. Some prefer to stay in private cottages or lodges at Mandya and Mysore.

But, after a long wait, the visitors can now expect some basic infrastructure in place with the State government releasing funds for the overall development of the town.

Recently the Mandya district administration began the work of re-laying the steps leading up to the Sri Yoganarasimha Swamy temple atop the Yoganarasimha Swamy hill. The ‘Nirmiti Kendra’ was given the responsibility of this work at a cost of Rs. 87.5 lakh. The State government has released a sum of Rs. 2 crore to take up developmental works in the town. The district administration is expecting Rs. 10 crore from the government to give the much needed facilities to the visitors besides giving a touch-up to the historical monuments.

A sum of Rs. 12 crore had been earmarked for the development of the pilgrimage centre during the reign of D.V. Sadananda Gowda as Chief Minister. But only Rs. 2 crore was released in the first phase. Recently, Melkote MLA C.S. Puttaraju announced that he has been assured by the Chief Minister, Jagadish Shettar, that Rs. 10 crore would be released to develop Melkote.

With the State government releasing funds, the Mandya district administration is getting ready to provide the much needed facilities to the visitors besides giving a facelift to the historical monuments.

P.G. Venugopala Swamy, Cheluvanarayana Swamy temple’s executive officer, said the plan of constructing a ‘dasoha bhavan’, a 50-room dormitory and public toilets has been finalised.

The lack of basic facilities has been irking the tourists. The Pandavapura taluk administration is also chalking out plans to improve the infrastructure at the pilgrimage centre. “We are ready to provide the necessary facilities to the visitors,” Pandavapura tahsildar Shivananda Murthy told The Hindu .

Heritage structures

Melkote houses two major and around 20 small temples. While the Archaeological Survey of India maintains the historical Cheluvanarayana Swamy temple, the State Department of Archaeology and Museums is taking care of Sri Yoganarasimha Swamy and other temples.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has identified the significance of the historical monuments at Melkote, and the Mandya district administration is making efforts to get a place for Melkote in the ‘World Heritage Site’ list, which is recognised by UNESCO.

To a query, the Cheluvanarayana Swamy temple’s executive officer, Mr. Venugopala Swamy said: “Talks are on at the governments’ level regarding including Melkote in the ‘World Heritage Site’ list.”

M.T. SHIVA KUMAR

Melkote needs a facelift and adequate facilities for tourists