Thirunarayanapuram (Melukote), the pilgrimage center in Mandya district Karnataka was glittering the whole yesterday night on the occasion of Vairamudi Utsava. The Moola Virat (Principle Deity) of the place is Sri Cheluvarayaswamy, the Utsava Murthy (Processional Deity) is fondly known as Chella Pillai. The Utsava Murthy is adorned with the Vairmudi (Diamond Crown) which has a legend behind it on this occasion.
While in Melukote, Srimad Ramanuja had a dream that the Utsava Murthy that had been taken away by invading Mughals, was in Delhi. Srimad Ramanuja went there with his disciples, met the Sultan who had plundered temples in South India, and requested him to return the deity back. The Sultan said that the idol was in the possession of his princess. Sultan told Srimad Ramanuja that if he wanted the idol, he would have to ask the it to come to him. If it did come he can take it
Srimad Ramanuja sang a sweet song and called out, Varai Chella Pillai (Please come, my dear child). The idol is said to have come sat on his lap like a small boy. Srimad Ramanuja embraced the boy with great affection, calling him Sampat Kumara (Youthful Lord), and brought Him to Melukote.
Meanwhile the Sultans daughter, unable to bear separation from the deity, followed Srimad Ramanuja. Sultan then sent his army to accompany the princess, but when they couldn't enter a rival's kingdom, the princess continued on alone. When she came to Melukote and decided to spend her life there adoring the idol. Years later she walked in and merged with the Lord.
Srimad Ramanuja installed a deity of the princess, Bibi Nachiyar, at the feet of Cheluvanarayana, the principle Deity. Since then every offering to the Deity made in the temple is done through her.
Several legends are associated with this Vairmudi Utsava. Vairmudi, the diamond crown adored to the Utsava Murthy (Procession Deity) has a legendary story. As per legends Vairamudi belonged to Aniruddha, the grandson of Sri Krishna. Prahlada`s son Virochana once stole the crown. Garuda, the mount of Maha Vishnu was assigned to bring Vairamudi back. Garuda defeated Virochana in a fight and recovered the crown. While returning he found Sri Krishna in Brindavana and handed Vairamudi to Him.
Sri Krishna place that Vairmudi on the Utsava Murthy at Melukote and the Vairmudi Utsava started since then. Vairmudi Utsava is a traditional celebrations dating back to many years. This Utsava happens on the fourth day of Brahmotsava. On this day the Utsava Murthy along with Sridevi and Bhudevi mounted on Garuda are decorated with flowers and taken around the temple town.
The preparation for the Brahmotsava starts well before 2 weeks. Actual celebrations take place for 13 days. Garudotsava is celebrated a day before the Brahmotsava at Melkote. The district administration of Mandya makes rigorous arrangements for bringing the priceless Vairamudi crown from Mandya treasury to the temple amidst stringent security measures. It is believed that the crown must not be exposed to daylight. Hence it will be placed in a special casket. Under vigilance of Mandya police it arrives at the town. It is from here it is taken up to the temple with honors in a special palanquin. It reaches the temple by late evening.
The crown is placed in front of sanctum of Srimad Ramanuja and the head priest places the Vairamudi and fits it to the Deity. It is tradition that even the head priest cannot look at the Vairamudi in physical eyes till it is fitted to the Deity. Hence the priest covers his eyes with a silk cloth while fitting the crown.
Utsava takes place whole night with the Deity and his consorts traditionally decorated and procession continues to the dawn of the next day.
I was once fortunate to have the glimpse of the Deity adoring the Vairamudi. It was a ecstatic experience indeed.