Located in the coastal region of Western Ghats about 60 km from Mangalore, Udupi is a popular pilgrimage centre and tourist spot.
To say that Udupi is a town that is always abuzz with action and a picture of busyness is no understatement. Located about 430 km from Bengaluru, this coastal city is a vibrant centre of education, a religious hub, a seat of some frenzied social activity and home to some lip smacking cuisine. Recently the place is bustling with activity as always. So whether it is the Udupi utsav which is an annual event held between December and February each year or the annual diocesan eucharistic procession organised on the feast of Christ the King at Milagres Cathedral, there is a perpetual hustle and bustle in the town.
But the greatest event of them all takes place in January when Udupi witnesses one of the biggest religious rituals of all time, the ‘paryaya’ which is held in January every alternate year. As per tradition, there are 8 ‘mathas’ and ‘puja’ and day to day working of the Krishna temple is helmed by each of these ‘mathas’ in rotation for a period of two years each. The preparations for the muchawaited event start as early as a year in advance and reaches a frenzy in January of the scheduled year. This year the tower of the temple is expected to be adorned with pure gold ahead of this extravagant event.
Krishna mutt: soul of the town
Founded in the 13th century, the Krishna temple in Udupi is world renowned. The small yet highly powerful deity, decked with jewels attracts patronage from devotees like none other. It is believed that one who visits Udupi never goes back disappointed and the ‘Balakrishna’ who is believed to have come here directly from Dwarka, fulfills everybody’s desires.
The main idol here faces west and devotees obtain darshan through a window known as the ‘Kanakana kindi’. Legend has it that Lord Krishna himself turned in this direction to provide darshan to his ardent devotee, poet Kanakadasa who was a Dalit and hence was denied entry to the main temple. A unique feature of the Lord here is that He holds a ‘Kadakol’ or churner with which he is known to extract pure devotion from the devotees. It is a tradition that only ‘Balasanyasis’ perform pooja at the sanctum sanctorum in Udupi.
Other Holy connections
Located just seven kilometre away from Udupi, is the town of Pajaka which is best known due to the fact that it was the birth place of the great saint Sri Madhwacharya. Also called Pajakakshetra, the little village houses the ancestral home of the saint who was known as Vasudeva during his childhood years. There are several anecdotes and symbols related to the saint’s childhood and his home has been converted to the Anantha Padmanabha temple. There is also a small temple in the complex dedicated to Madhwacharya. Apart from this, there is a small hillock located close to Pajaka called Kunjarugiri which is believed to have been the abode of Parashurama, who installed a temple of Goddess Durga temple atop the hill. A climb to the top treats you to some stunning views of the surrounding greenery and landscape.
Native produce and authentic cuisine
Udupi and the surrounding villages are home to some indigenous species of flowers and vegetables. While the flower of the areca nut tree is considered a sacred offering at temples, the slender white jasmine flowers available here are a true speciality. Grown in the surrounding village of Shankarnarayana, these flowers have a special standing and their rate is fixed by the commodities exchange each day. The flowers are exported to Dubai as well. The elongated flowers that have a typical, sweet fragrance and are packed in bundles known as ‘attas’. The flowers are considered a ‘precious’ commodity and have obtained the GI (Geographical Indication) tag.
If you are a lover of local food, Udupi cuisine is a total treat for vegetarians. Characterised by the use of fresh spices, coconut and vegetables like yam, gourds, jackfruit and pumpkin, the food is healthy and wholesome. While here do not miss the native variety of green rounded brinjals called the ‘matti gulla’. Grown in the nearby village of Matti, it is believed that the seeds of this vegetable were given by the famous saint Vadiraja himself. Also called ‘mattu gulla’, these brinjals are low in moisture content and have also been registered with a GI tag. In fact, ‘gulla’ sambhar is something not to be missed while in Udupi. You can also feast on the delectable yam fritters, shavige (home-made rice noodles) and steamed dumplings cooked in the leaves of the jackfruit tree that are some signature dishes of this cuisine.
Words: RASHMI GOPAL RAO