Udupi: Chariot of Lord Krishna

This semester I’ve been to the Krishna temple about 5 times, but every time I’ve missed the real activity that goes on. Well this time, I went with some Indian friends, and we went for the evening ceremony (7pm). Finally! It was the perfect time to go! I had read about how this is one of the holiest places in southern India, and now I finally was able to catch some of the activity!

candles were lit around the temple

Hundreds of lights were lit outside of the small shops around the temple.

The Udupi Sri Krishna Temple has their own unique way of decorating the chariot that carries Lord Krishna. After a puja ceremony inside of the temple, the priests go for the boat ride in the center of the complex (cover photo). Afterwards the Krishna statue that is kept within the temple is carried into the chariot. Both chariots are then pulled by devotees around Car Street, which circles the different mutts (temples) in the complex.

The two chariots side-by-side. The right one is just larger, it is not any closer (as the picture may indicate) than the left one.

The two chariots side-by-side. The right one is just larger, it is not any closer (as the picture may indicate) than the left one.

They were stopped and firecrackers and fireworks were set off in the middle, adding to the festive air! There were also cloths being burned, and the temple elephant was leading the procession.

These made a huge hissing sound as they shot up from the ground

These made a huge hissing sound as they shot up from the ground

This firecracker spun around and created a shower of sparks in front of the chariots

This firecracker spun around and created a shower of sparks in front of the chariots

A few fireworks were shot up, over the chariots

A few fireworks were shot up, over the chariots

Oil soaked cloths were burned using two metal rods to hold it

Oil soaked cloths were burned using two metal rods to hold it

*There are a few very interesting stories as to how the temple came into existence. The simplified version goes as follows: The main statue of Sri Krishna was enveloped in holy sandlewood. Unknowlingly a sailor loaded this heavy lump (of sandalwood with the statue of Sri Krishna) in his boat as ballast, in one of his trips along the west coast. The ship was caught in a terrible storm while sailing in the western coast of Malpe. When the meditating Sri Madhvacharya divinely sensed that there was a ship in trouble. He waved his robe and was able to save the ship by quieting the storm. The captain was in so much debt to Sri Madhvacharya, that he offered anything from his ship in return. Sri Madhvacharya asked for the sandlewood peice containing the statue of Sri Krishna; this was later taken to the lake, purified and installed into the mutt.

Another version is more grim. Here, because of the storm, the ship crashed to a rock and sank – thus the statue sank. Later, Sri Madhvacharya traveled to Udupi on a missionary trip. While meditating one day, he suddenly awoke with a mission to travel to Malpe Beach. He discovered the statue, which shone for him like a light. He took out the statue from the ocean and placed it into the pond near Udupi. After some time, the statue was removed from the pond and placed inside of the temple.

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