Chariot festival to mark Sankranthi

Commemorating Sankranthi The Madhva Sarovara at Udupi, and (below) Kattige Ratha (logwood chariot). Photos by the author.

A week-long chariot festival called Sapthotsava is held every year on a grand scale in Udupi during Makara Sankranthi to commemorate the consecration of the deity of Lord Krishna. It was during Sankranthi that the famed deity was known to have been some 800 years ago.

The annual Sapthotsava better known  as thri-rathotsava (three-chariot-festival) remains an age-old temple tradition in Udupi. Locals and outsiders alike witness the Sankranthi Sapthotsava in thousands, when grand Rathotsavas (using three different chariots) are performed to the presiding deities of the famous Anantheshwara, Chandramouleshwara and Krishna temples located on either side of Rathabeedi (car street), the tourist landmark in Udupi. Udupi, Pajaka Kollur,  Kukke Subrahmanya, Kodeshwara, Shankaranarayana and Gokarna are the seven prominent pilgrim places in the region. Udupi got its name from the god of stars Chandra, as Udu (in Tulu) refers to stars.

Madhva Sarovara

At the rear side of Krishna temple is a pond called Madhva Sarovara. At the south west corner of Madhvasarovara is the shrine of Goddess Bhagirathi seated on a crocodile. Regular poojas apart an annual Aradhana is held in the month of June when special poojas are performed to this shrine. There is an eye-catching Mantapa inside the holy pond. Devotees from all over witness the popular Theppotsava (annual boat festival) held at Madhvasarovara. The eyecatching log wood chariot that can be seen from Madhva Sarovara (to the north east of the pond) is known as Kattige Ratha, a look alike chariot shaped from the fire wood stocked for the kitchen requirement of the Paryaya Mutt.

During the Paryaya festival the log wood chariot is gifted by the outgoing seer to incoming seer taking charge of the temple administration. This innovative tradition of piling fire wood artistically is known to have been started by Vadirajaru, the reformist saint of Sode Mutt. The main attraction of Udupi is undoubtedly the famed temple with the deity of Balakrishna that was installed here in the 13th century by the mystic saint Madhvacharya, founder of the Dwaitha philosophy.

The biennial Paryaya remains an eagerly awaited temple festival coinciding with Makara Sankranthi. Paryaya is to celebrate transfer of the temple management from one seer to another seer of the Udupi Ashta Mutts.

S V Upendra Charya