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Ritual Enactment in Temple Tradition (Cheluvanarayana Svami Temple Melukote)

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Item Code: NAN857
Author: Choodamani Nandagopal
Publisher: B.R. Publishing Corporation
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9789386223623
Pages: 296 (Throughout Color Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 14.5 inch X 11.0 inc
Weight 2.20 kg
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Book Description
About the Book

The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) is an Autonomous Trust set up by the Government of India under Ministry of Culture. IGNCA is visualized as a centre encompassing the study and experience of all the arts – each form with its own integrity, yet within a dimension of mutual interdependence, interrelated with nature, social structure and cosmology.

The Temple of India, particularly of South India and more specifically of Karnataka, is a living to the efficacy of the sacred world of consecrated images: they are integral to the conception of enlivened image. The ancient modes of worship authenticated by the agamas have continued to this day, and the practicing priests provide material on these for conducting holistic studies to get a unifying vision. These resources are termed today as ‘Living Traditions’ or Living Human Treasures’, which come under the category of Intangible Human Heritage. They have relevance to the category of socio-psycho and socio-cultural elements of human values experienced through the sense both strong and fragile, as they rely on ‘community to pass it on’. It has symbolic relevance, so it is intangible symbolism inlaid.

The project on Ritual Enactment at the shrine of Cheluvanarayana svami Melukote’ is conceived keeping in mind the vision of Indira Gandhi National Centre for Art, IGNCA, to documents the temple traditions and bring them into the fold of scholastic and academic framework. Melukote, the alaya ashrita grama is endowed with the tangible and intangible cultural heritage has the charismatic installed Melukote as temple town received its due patronage from Hoysalas continued in Vijayanagar and Wodeyar times. This publication pertains to the year- long ritual tradition laid down by Sri Ramanujacharya almost 900 years ago. With accompanying text supported by beautiful photographs, meaningful illustrations authenticated the value of research and documentation of the the Ritual Enactment performed on specific days and months at this temple town. This seriously researched and beautifully designed volume will be a valuable reference work to whom it matters and an interesting to devotees, seekers and common readers.

About the Author

Prof. Choodamani Nandagopal, a reputed Art Historian, with M. A. Sociology, M. A. History and Archaeology, a PhD from the Dept of History and Archeology, Mysore University. She is awarded International and two National Research Fellowships, including the first scholar to receive the UK Visiting Nehru Fellowship at Victoria & Albert Museum London, UNESCO Silk Road Fellowship at Paris, UNSW Senior International Fellowship Sydney and Exeter Visiting Professor Research Fellowship UK. Her first National Fellowship was from ICHR for her research on Kalyana Chalukyan Temples.

She served as Academic Head of IGNCA Southern Regional Centre Bangalore during 2003-2007. Initiated several projects at that time and one prestigious project among them is Research and Documentation of Temple Traditions of Cheluvanarayanasvami Temple Melukote. This publication ‘Ritual Enactment’ is the outcome of this project. This will follow with the DVD of year – long ritual enactment and an exhibition portraying the Ritual Enactment. At Present she is researching on ‘The Symbolism of Sacred space in Early Dravidian Architecture’ ICHR Research Project. She is an author of 10 International publications and five Kannada publications. Her book ‘Dance and Music in Temple Architecture’, 3 Volume of Temple Treasures’, Arts and Crafts of Indus Civilizations’, ‘Classical Dance Heritage of Karnataka’ and the recent one. ‘The Art of Image Making is in great demand. She has published 70 research papers to her credit and invited as key – note speaker in International conferences.

Dr. Choodamani is actively associated with National and International Universities, Research Institutes, Museums and Academies Academician of high repute, she served earlier as head of Academics at Chitrakala Parishath, and Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, the IGNCA, responsible for setting up Art History Department in south India. She is known for Interdisciplinary and multi – disciplinary research has set up the Department of Cultural Studies at Manipal University and later as the Dean Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences Jain University Bangalore she set up an Interdisciplinary Research Department of Cultural Studies, where more than 50 PhD and 50 M Phil scholars are pursuing their studies under her mentorship. 15 PhD and 20 M Phil students were able work under the guidance of Prof. Choodamani Nandagopal, in addition to guiding 5 PhD scholars from Chitrakala Parishath under Bangalore University. Retired from regular service, she wishes to serve the cause of interdisciplinary research in the field of Indian Art History and Cultural Studies.


Standing true to the time-honored attribute of devalaya dsritagrama, the temple town of Melukote itself, a heritage site uninfluenced by the urban vagaries has retained its medieval character and charm. The town wears a ceremonial garb during the utsavas comprehending the spiritual aspirations of devotees leading to a direct ritual enactment in which the participant rediscovers his own self or her own self each time. It is an experience which confirms the way in which the rituals are conducted with a deep sense of devotion.

The project 'Research and Documentation of Srivaisnava Temple Tradition at the shrine of Cheluvanarayana svami Temple Melukote', initially began as a audio-visual CD production and later evolved as a publication. Dr. Choodamani Nandagopal and her team of scholars and technicians from IGNCA Southern Regional Centre Bangalore conducted the study with an interdisciplinary approach. The inscriptional sources (more than 100 epigraphs recorded from Melukote itself) authenticated the historical interpretation of the ritual system. The study of agamic and devotional literature like Sattvata Samhita and Isvarasamhita and Divyaprabandha provided the understanding of the rituals in proper perspective. IGNCA has published five volumes of Isvarasamhita in 2009 under Kalamulasastra series, which was much awaited by scholars to help authenticate the ritual process documented. This project is in continuation of the said tradition. By exploring the mystic experience of dlvdrs and the philosophical tenets of prapatti and saranagati of Visistadvaita theory, we could understand better the relevance of the ritual procedure prescribed by Sri Ramanuja for the Temple of Melukote. The direct interaction with the performers of rituals, believers and seekers as devotees has had immense impact on the writing of the chapters in this publication.

Based on these sources, a methodology was drawn to view the rituals in a comprehensive manner, so as to provide a holistic vision with which we integrate our efforts. This project started almost ten years back, but enough care has been taken to update the manuscript as and when required. A work of this nature needs consultation from all concerned quarters and IGNCA is grateful to all those who have supported the research, documentation and publication of the project 'Ritual Enactment in Temple Tradition - Special Significance to Cheluvanarayana svami Temple Melukote.

While seeking the blessings of the Miiladevatii and the present seer of Yadugiri Yathiraja Matha, Sri Sri Sri Yadugiri Narayana Ramanuja Jeeyar, we are happy and blessed to publish this well - researched illustrated volume, at a time when the world is celebrating the millenium year of Sri Ramanujacharya.


The temples of India, particularly of South India and more specifically of Karnataka, are a living testimony to the efficacy of the sacred world of consecrated image and integral to the conception of the enlivened image. Art historians and archaeologists have so far been interested only in archaeological monuments and not the living traditions or modes of worship. The temples have become architectural edifices of only historical interest.

Of late however there has been a renewed interest in temple rituals, and many scholars from different parts of the world are examining archaeological evidences that include ritual traditions that are still alive. The ancient modes of worship authenticated by the agamas have continued to this day, and the practicing priests can provide material on these for conducting holistic studies to obtain a unified vision. In contemporary language, the architecture and sculpture, the paintings, images, jewellery, modes of worship, music and dance, constitute a single ensemble. (Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan in the Foreword - Temple Treasures Volume II Temple Jewellery)

From the perspective of cultural history of our country we are endowed with two facets of cultural heritage namely, tangible heritage and intangible heritage. In the present technological terminology they can be equated to hardware and software respectively. The tangible sources are obviously visible: but intangible sources can only be felt through the intrinsic values. These resources are termed today as 'Living Traditions' or 'Living Human Treasures', which come under the category of 'Intangible Human Heritage.

Intangible culture can be precisely defined as non-physical cultural heritage, something unable to touch. But it has relevance to a category of socio-psycho elements of human values. It is experienced through the senses both strong and fragile, as it relies on 'communities to pass it on'. It has symbolic relevance, so it is intangible symbolism inlaid. For example, if the hand-bell used in the daily rituals is tangible, the shape, the metal, the insignia and the way in which it is handed over to us is intangible. To fully understand and appreciate the rich cultural history of our social system it is necessary to observe and record the ramifications of each of the ritual content in the system and procedure of worship.

Intangible culture is least often written down. It is also an aspect of culture most easily lost in the turbulent recent past and it is the one that gives a vital extra dimension to the monuments we preserve and to the objects we display in museums. Thus, intangible culture is truly the 'living culture'.

Under UNESCO, the socio-cultural facets, which shaped human endeavor have been brought under two categories: The Tangible Human Heritage and Intangible Human Heritage. The tangible human heritage covers historical monuments, sites, written records and other things which have the nature of permanency and they have survived over centuries reflecting technology, concepts, executive skills, and the capacity of using natural resources available in the context of time and space. The intangible culture in most of the places is in an endangered state and needs immediate preservation. The chanting, hand gestures, storytelling, the right sense of using of ritual objects in the practices handed over by the scriptures figure out to be the absolute intangible forms without which the tangible forms prove lifeless. In this context the study of artefacts, ritual objects, folk, tribal and oral traditions, dance and music traditions, the ways and means of worship and many more living traditions with literary interpretations are seemingly significant.

The sporadic growth of Bhakti movement triggered off the devotional current among common people upholding the relationship between the devotee and the Almighty. The temple through its elaborate rituals, modes of worship. ceremonies daily procession of the deities and celebration of the chariot festivals connected the people to their spiritual aspirations. From the historical point of view, architecture, sculpture and painting are visual records of the past and they are in static forms. Whereas ritual tradition in continuous in nature, very much living and hence are dynamic forms. Thus, the temple is the fusion of both the dynamic and static elements.

With deep sense of respect to our national cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible, and to the temple culture, which in its true sense makes a person more humane, I take this opportunity to place before the scholastic community and the devotees the dimension in which this project was conceived.

The project was conceived keeping in mind the vision of Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, IGNCA, to document temple traditions and bring them into the fold of scholastic and academic framework. In the first phase it was decided to produce multi-media CD, which will display the interesting facets of Srivaisnava ritual system in general and Melukote temple tradition in particular. This is the most cohesive and comprehensive documentation covering the entire customary rituals such as daily, fortnightly, monthly, annual and special rituals and festivals conducted in the Cheluvanarayana temple Melukote. It is for the first time an effort of this stature is made covering research study on the year-long festivals that takes place in the temple town of Melukote. Our archives at IGNCA Southern Regional Centre Bangalore contains more than 30 hours of video and audio recording of the entire procedure of nitya (daily) and visesa (special) pujas, which by itself is a credible cultural resource collected while conducting research and documentation of the project.

The Sattvata Samhita of Pancharatragama authenticates the modes of worship in this temple, where the priests are well aware of the holistic approach and its influence on the minds and spirits of the devotees. The tradition believes that Sri Ramanujacharya, the champion of Visistddvaita philosophy reconsecrated the image of Cheluvanarayana svami worshipped personally and handed over the ritual procedure and system to the institution of 52 Vaisnavas in 12th century CE. since then the rituals have been held uninterrupted and the Temple of Cheluvanarayana at Melukote also known as Yadavagiri has a distinct reputation and recognition of being one of the four premier divyadesas of Srivaisnava piligrimage entourage, besides the other three, Srirangam, Tirumala and Kanchipuram.

Another important source of the puja paddhati, the ritual system of Melukote is the lsvarasamhita. IGNCA has published in 2009 the English version of this text in five volumes. The critically edited text along with an annotative Sanskrit gloss and English translation is one of the foremost works of the Pancharatragama which is still followed and in practice in number of Vaisnava temples in South India, especially in Melukote. It is one of the most authoritative texts of Vaisnava Agama and is supposed to be based on an earlier Pancharatra text Sattvatasamhita. The valuable gloss on it was composed by Alasimha Bhatta in the early part of the 19th century and is very helpful in understanding the difficult portions of the text which can be comprehended only with the help of a deep knowledge of the tradition received directly from the Guru (Preface, lsvarasamhita, IGNCA publication).

Owing to such an understanding and background, the puja paddathi be it nitya, paksa, masa or samvatsara - daily, fortnightly, monthly or yearly rituals and festivals were observed with care and concern, and the data for research was drawn directly from the offerings of the principal priest of the Cheluvanarayana svami Temple. The processes followed here were concurrent and simultaneous with an underlying principle of external as seen and internal as unseen paths leading to spiritual attainment experienced by the devotee through the ritual process offered or performed by the priest and the associates. When considered from the socio-cultural relevance, the rituals are indispensible and they form the layers of preparedness and interrelatedness moving from one phase to another to experience the unmanifest through the panchendrias, the five senses and offering the panchamahabhutas, the five primordial elements. The sacred space in the form of shrine, the unmanifest in the form of image, all the offerings in the form of rituals and the human beings in the form of priest and devotees all enter into one framework of time and space only to speculate and experience the divine. It is a personal experience to see and understand the rituals conducted with deep sense of devotion, bhakti, the touching of the images by the priests with a sense of vatsalya, the conduct of the services with the sense of seeking the benign grace, krupa of the Master, the Deva and the decoration of the images, in the sense of alamkara, so intrinsic to this sacred world of the enlivened temple culture of Melukote. The rituals here are endowed with a spiritual ideal, and serves as the only means to bring the believer closer to his own cultural ethos. This research publication introduces such socio-cultural experience as it is the sequel of the benign presence of the manifestation of the God Cheluvanarayana and the saint Ramanuja. Melukote remains socio-culturally relevant as long as the devotees and seekers relate themselves to this space.



  Foreword vii
  Prologue ix
  Acknowledgement xi
Chapter I Introduction 1
Chapter II Ritual Topogrpahy and Temple Complex 23
Chapter III Srivaishnava Iconography 49
Chapter IV Contributions of Alvars and Acharyas to Srivaisnava Temple Tradition 71
Chapter V Myths and Legends 85
Chapter VI An Introduction to the Pujapaddhati and Utsavas 109
Chapter VII Major Rituals and Festivals 119
a Angamani Utsava 123
b Brahmotsava-Mudi Utsava- The Festival of Ceremonial Crown 133
c Vaiyilmalige Utsava - Procession on the Temple Terrace 155
d Bhasyakara Tirunakstra- The Celebration of the Renal Star of Sri Ramanuja 163
e Muladevara Abhiseka - Krishnaraja Mudi and Serti Seva. Ceremonial Bath to the Principal Deity. 177
f Kalyanotsava - The Marriage Ritual for Kalyana Nayaki, the Tayar 195
g Pavitrotsava or Prayascittaseva - The Ritual of Purification 207
h Tondanuru Utsava Celebration of the Entry of Sri Ramanuja to Melukote 221
i Kotharotsava - Adhyanotsava - Moksotsava 233
Chapter VIII Epilogue 245
Appendix I Inscriptions 247
Appendix II Table of 52 Vishanavas 261
Appendix III Purusa Sukta 264
Appendix IV Sri Suktam 266
Appendix V Myths and Legends 268
Appendix VI References 276
Appendix VII List of Divyadesas 277
  Bibliography 280
  Index 283


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