Melukote, a three hour drive west of Bangalore is an unlikely tourist destination. There are no hotels to stay in town. And you don't see garishly expanding hotels and restaurants or new construction coming up everywhere, and neither do you see truck loads of people hogging the place in the weekends. Yet, it is a very pretty, quiet and pleasant place to visit, anytime of the year.
Overview. Melukote is a town that is still living in history. A large number of the town's population are priests, and you see them wandering in traditional attire. The temples in the town are hundreds of years old and are well maintained and remain intact. It is a quiet, calm and clean place that has a feel good attached to it. Walking along the streets, the houses look old and you get a feel that you are living in a world centuries old. Melukote is an ancient Vaishnavite town where people worship Vishnu, and has its history rooted in the times of Sri Ramanujacharya who made this town his home. The town is known for Vairamudi festival which attracts more than 100,000 people every year.
Orientation. Melukote is a small town. Once you get there, it is easy to go from place to place walking. It is no more than a kilometer's length, which has all the sightseeing locations within this stretch. How-ever, there are a few more places that are worth a visit but can take 15-20 minutes of driving. Most people prefer to drive from Bangalore or Mysore, as it is only a short distance.
Sight Seeing and Activities
Yoganarasimha temple. Standing on the top of a hill, this is the most prominent and most visible structure of Melukote. The ancient temple dedicated to Vishnu is reached by a series of steps, and once you are there, it offers you 360 degree vista of the plains around it.
Kalyani. This is a large tank at the base of the temple and is surrounded by small temples. The shelter around it is adorned with series of pillars which makes it look interesting. The place has been used for shooting many Kannada movies.
Kalyani as seen from Yoganarasimha Temple
Cheluvarayaswami Temple. This is the other major temple in the town which has a history of almost 1000 years, and the deity was worshipped by Ramanujacharya. Wikipedia says - "According to a legend, this metallic image[of the deity] was lost and was recovered by Sri Ramanujacharya...The temple is richly endowed having been under the special patronage of the Mysore Rajas, and has a most valuable collection of jewels.."
Raya Gopura. Past Cheluvarayaswami temple is an incomplete tower with four rising pillars called Raya Gopura. The pillars are thick and impressive and have carvings all around it. It is said to be built overnight, and with the huge pillars and stones used for construction, seems hard to believe.
Akka Thangi Kola. Just besides the Raya Gopura are ancient twin ponds called Akka Thangi Kola, built by two sisters. Next to these is an old Hanuman temple, which is now abandoned.
Thondanur Kere. 15km from Melukote is the large lake at Thondanur which is so huge that you will not be able to see its other end. The lake is one of the biggest in the region and is usually full with water, makes an excellent sight even in summers.
How to reach. Melukote is approximately 150km from Bangalore. Take Bangalore-Mysore highway and reach Mandya. Ask for directions to Melukote once you reach Mandya town. You need to turn right in the town before bus-stand at Mandya and drive for another hour to reach Melukote. There are a few buses available from Bangalore, but the frequency is low. If you plan to take a bus, catch a Mysore bound bus to Mandya and change to another bus heading to Melukote.
Food and Accommodation. There is no accommodation available in Melukote. A few basic restaurants in the town serve simple vegetarian food. People of Melukote proudly proclaim of their specialty foods - Poliogre and Sakkare Pongal - both are a must try.