A village where time stands still

TRAVELOGUE

A village where time stands still


A view of the Yellur Vishwanatha temple. Photos by Chethana DineshS

itting cozily amidst evergreen forests, lush green paddy fields and farms richly laden with coconut and arecanut trees is the tiny hamlet of Yellur in the Udupi district of Karnataka.

Though a tiny village, Yellur has the distinction of being home to Lord Shiva in its Mahatobhara Yellur Vishwanatha Temple, a temple that is believed to be over 1,000 years old. Surprisingly, not many from outside the district are aware of the existence of this ancient temple in this small, sleepy town. The temple, located on the boundary of Yellur, is a centre of worship for the nine neighbouring villages of Yellur, Belapu, Kunjoor, Kutyar, Maniyoor, Nandikoor, Adve, Santoor, and Padoor.

The magnificent temple, a row of petty shops vending pooja materials and huge piles of tender coconuts is all that can be seen in Yellur.

Many legends abound...

But, if the thought of quenching your thirst with cool, tender coconuts even crosses your mind, then banish it immediately. For, in this holy town of Yellur, nobody has a right over tender coconuts except Lord Vishwanatha, the presiding deity of Yellur! Intriguing, as it may sound, this ancient temple has many interesting stories to relate.

According to puranic legends, Kunda Raja, an honest shoodra king, once requests Bhargava Muni to stay in his kingdom. But, Bhargava Muni refuses the invitation saying he cannot stay in a place where there are neither Brahmins and temples nor sacred rivers and tulsi.

A disappointed Kunda Raja immediately hands over the charge of his kingdom to his deputy and sets out to the banks of River Ganga and performs great penance to please Lord Shiva (also known as Vishwanatha).

Appeased with the intensity of Kunda Raja’s devotion, the Lord favours him with his appearance and asks him to make a wish. An elated Kunda Raja requests the Lord to stay in his kingdom and the Lord readily agrees, saying he will make his appearance at a spot where enmity and hatred are unheard of. Accordingly, he makes Yellur one of his many abodes.

In the meanwhile, a poor and hungry woman who has just lost her son hunts for food in the forest and chances upon a plump tuber. 

In an effort to dislodge the tuber from the ground, she uses her knife and sees blood oozing out of it. Shocked out of her wits, she thinks it is the blood of her son Yello and screams out, “Yello, Yello.” At this juncture, Lord Shiva makes his appearance in the form of a linga. Since the poor lady mistook the Lord for Yello as soon as he landed there as per Kunda Raja’s wishes, the place got the name Yellur.

Further, it is believed that the blood that oozed out of the tuber stopped only when Kunda Raja and his subjects poured tender coconut water on it! Hence, devotees visiting the temple at any given point of time offer tender coconuts to the Lord to appease him.
Yeleneeru (tender coconut) Abhisheka and Yeleneeru Tulabhara are, in fact, the most popular sevas in this temple. And, nobody dares drink tender coconut in the surroundings of the temple as a mark of respect to Lord Shiva. Besides tender coconut, another popular offering to Lord Shiva in Yellur is oil for lamps in the temple.

According to temple authorities, this constant offering of oil by the devotees ensures that the lamps in the temple never go dry. The temple also gets rich offerings in the form of gold coins from its devotees in return for favours received, accounting for all the gold ornaments and pooja utensils of the Lord. According to temple authorities, of the many poojas conducted at the temple, the most popular ones are the shatarudrabhisheka (performed by devotees during auspicious occasions), hoovina pooje (pooja with flowers) and teertha snana. Though the temple is frequented by devotees round the year, it is during the month of Karthika that the temple comes alive with lakshadeepotsava (lighting of a lamps numbering a lakh).

Tenth century shrine

The main temple of Vishwanatha also has separate shrines for Ganapati and Annapoorneshwari, dating back to 10th and 16th centuries respectively. To the north of the main temple is a lake with a small temple dedicated to Bhagirati and about a few meters away from the temple, in the forest, is a small shrine dedicated to Veerabhadra, the loyal assistant of Lord Shiva.

This ancient temple was recently renovated at a cost of Rs six crore, when the interiors of the temple were redesigned without disturbing the original structure. Today, the temple stands as a beautiful structure, affording scenic glimpses of the breathtaking countryside around. The structure of the temple itself is simply astounding with its sheer size, grand design, myriad pillars and exquisite architecture.

How to reach

Yellur is at a distance of 25 km from Udupi and 4 km from Uchchila on the National Highway between Udupi and Mangalore.

There are regular and efficient private bus services to Yellur from Mangalore and Udupi.

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