[themify_box style=”gray info”]I lead mentored photography day trips to Melkote. This is a temple town near Mysore, in Mandya district. The photos here were shot during my many visits. On the day of the tour, we leave Bangalore early in the morning, spend 6-7 hours in Melkote, and return the same day. For information on upcoming tours, see: http://www.darter.in/.[/themify_box]

The route to Melukote from Bangalore is via Mandya. After taking a right turn on the highway, we travel through serene Indian countryside. The green belt of Mandya is rich in sugarcane plantations, and a treat for one’s sore urban eyes.

Fields near Mandya in Karnataka

It takes about 2.5 to 3 hours to reach Melukote from Bangalore. Once we arrive, we head straight out to the large tank which is locally known as kalyani. Almost every temple in South India features a water body known as kalyani or pushkarini.

Kalyani or Pushkarani in Melukote

The Kalyani in Melukote is unusually large. Many regional movies have been shot here for its dramatic views.

Pilgrims use the kalyani for ritual cleansing. Consequently, a lot of interesting activities take place around the kalyani.

Adventurous young pilgrims dive into the Kalyani

We spend the first half watching and taking photographs of people around the kalyani.

A number of old Dasayyas spend the day near the kalyani. Dasayyas are men with huge trumpets and colorful namaas who bless people and sing praises of God.

A Dassaya in Melkote

If you hear loud trumpet sounds, don’t be alarmed! The dassayas are doing their job.

Dassayas blow a long trumpet quite frequently

The dassayas bless the pilgrims by putting a tilak or namma on the forehead.

Dassaya with Pilgrim putting a naama

And sometimes the local priests visit to see what is happening at the kalyani.

Iyengar priests at Melkote

The corridor around the kalyani has beautiful stone pillars which makes for an interesting composition.

Pillars at the corridor surrounding the Kalyani

Moving on from the kalyani, we have lunch at Subbanna’s Mess. This place is famous for puliyogere and sweet pongal – a dish that Iyengars know best to make.

Subbanna's mess at Melkote famous for Puliyogere

After lunch, we go to see a structure known as Raya Gopura. This is an unfinished building at the back of the town.

Raya Gopura at Melkote

Stone Carvings at the Raya GopuraFrom the Raya Gopura, walking down, we reach two tanks beside each other known as Akka Thangi Kola. This literally translates into ‘two sisters tank’. The water in one tank is potable, while in the other it isn’t.

Tourists at Akka Thangi Kola

There are plenty of old structures and temples scattered around the town. This one is near the Akka Thangi Kola.

Old Ruined Temple Near Akka Thangi Kola

From the Akka Thangi Kola, we walk past the Cheluvanarayana Swamy temple. If lucky, you’ll get to meet this very photogenic priest 🙂

Melkote Priest

If not this one, there are others!

An Indian Priest With a White Beard and a Sacred Thread

We may also come across students of the Vedas who reside in Melkote.

Iyengar students who stay in Melkote to learn the Vedas

The town bazaar near the temple has managed to retain its old world charm. This is an opportunity to see locals and photograph them.

Local vendor in the bazaar of Melkote

Young Market Seller

The local villagers go about their activities oblivious to the pilgrims and tourists, like this lady who was drawing a huge rangoli.

Lady putting rangoli

Most houses in Melukote are quite old, which adds to the flavor of the place.

Young Tourists at Melkote

The bazaar usually sells offerings for the temple, and souvenirs that you can take home.

souvenir at melkote

If the weather is right, we also stop by Danush Koti. This is about a kilometer away from Raya Gopura. From this place, you get a panoramic view of the landscape around Melkote.

Danush Koti in Melkote

Crossing the bazaar, we arrive at the kalyani once again. From there we start walking up to the Yoganarasimha temple.

Yoga Narasimha on top of the hill

It takes about 45 minutes to climb up to the temple, which is on top of a hill. The walk up on the stone stairway is very interesting.

Occasionally, you may get to meet the priest of the  Yoga Narasimha Temple. As per tradition, the priest carries water up the stairs before opening the temple doors in the evening. Imagine carrying a large vessel of water up a 100 stairs!

Priest Carrying Water at melukote

We reach the top of the hill in time for sunset. From here, we have a beautiful view of the town of Melkote.

Melukote Town View from Yoganarasimha temple

We close the day at sun down after witnessing the sunset. This is a great reward for staying on foot all day and exploring the temple town of Melkote.

Yoganarsimha Temple during suset

Town of Melkote as seen from Yoga Narasimha tempe during sunset