When Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited Udupi, he danced in ecstasy before the Udupi Krishna deity which had been brought and installed by Madhvacharya.
This was the deity which belonged to Rukmini. A similar deity made by Vishwakarma of The child Lord in 4-handed form belonged to Devaki and when Dwaraka disappeared the deity was brought by Brihaspati and Vayu to the place now known as Guruwayur. (see CC Madhya lila) Hence the name Guruvayurappan.
The temple town of Udupi, which is also the world seat of Madhwa Philosophy, is truly an abode of lord Krishna who gave the glimpses of his presence just 400 years ago when he gave the Darshan to Kanakadasa the singing saint belonged to Kuruba community (Shepherd) by breaking open the walls of the temple on the Western side. The legend goes to say that the Krishna's idol which was facing East turned West where Kanakadasa was standing. Since then Udupi is known for Krishna's leela in the Kali Yuga.
Udupi gets its name from the moon-god because at this place, the moon god performed penances to attain the mercy of Lord Siva. To commemorate this, there are two important temples to Siva here – the temple of Candramoulesvara and the temple of Anantesvara.
Udupi is famous however as the main center of the Madhva sampradaya. Sripada Madhvacarya established his Dvaita Vedanta philosophy and propagated it from this place. He also installed the Deity of Krsna that had previously been worshiped by Rukmini-devi in Dvaraka. He obtained this Deity when he saved a ship from sinking off the coast of Udupi and was presented a large piece of gopi-candana. When he washed this candana away in the Madhva-sarovara (the pond adjacent to the temple), a beautiful Deity of Bala-Krsna was discovered. Madhva initiated eight of his chief disciple into the sannyasa order and they established eight mathas around the Sri Krsna Temple.
Another legendary event that supposed to have taken place towards the end of 13th century goes to say that the Dwaita philosopher Madhwacharya was conducting his morning prayer at Vadabandeshwara coast near Malpe when he saw a ship caught in a storm. Madhwacharya with his power over controlling the course of wind calmed down the storm in the sea and coasted the ship to safety. The captain of the ship landed on the coast and offered Madhwacharya anything from the ship. Madhwa being an ascetic did not want anything else but two sacks of Gopichandan (a type of paste that is used by the devotees of Krishna to embalm them before the poojas) Inside the sacks were the two idols of Krishna and Balarama. Madhwacharaya consecrated Krishna in Udupi and Balarama in Vadabandeshwara.
The city with such a hoary past is celebrating every year its favourite festival of Sri Krishna Janmashtami. The festival has a special significance in Udupi.
The Krishna Janmashtami is the favourite festival of this town, naturally so, considering the fact that the very idol of Krishna adored by Rukmini at the end of the Dwarpara Yuga was consecrated here.
The Krishna Janmashtami will be celebrated on midnight when the devotees in Udupi observe fast for the entire day and bathe three times a day. After the midnight bath, they offer "arghya" to Lord Krishna by offering water through a conch and "Bilva" leaves. They also offer "arghya" to the moon. At the Sri Krishna Math, the Sri Krishna Swarna Mantapa and Lord Balakrishna are decorated with flowers and Tulsi. On this occasion special Alankara will be made by the swamiji and special Havissu is offered to the lord. The Utsava Murthy is taken on a Theppotsava in the Madhwa Sarovar. The "Chaturveda parayana," the "Bhagawata parayana" and "Vishnusahasranama" are recited. At about 10 p.m., the paryaya swamiji begins the "mahapooja" and then "arghya" is offered. According to the Chandramana (Lunar) almanac the Janmashtami event has to co-incide in a congregation of two different cosmic events - The Rohini Nakshatra (daily star) and The Ashtami (the eighth day).
The Vittla Pindi is held the following day. It is derived from "Vittala," one of the names Lord Krishna is known by, and "pindi," which means a vessel or pot containing milk, curds or butter. Thousands of youth take part in this event.
The event starts at around 3 p.m. Thousands of devotees from different parts of the State come to watch it. On the occasion, an "utsavamurthy" of Lord Krishna made of clay is worshiped and carried in a chariot around Car Street in Udupi. Similar celebrations are done in Mangalore also, but not to the scale of Udupi.
On this day youth dressed as tigers, bears and various other legendary figures also move around the city and dance in the accompaniments of percussion and other traditional musical instruments. People give them cash and home made goodies.
On this occasion every household indulges in elaborate afternoon lunch. A sweet dish is a must. It could be anything from Sukrunde to Halubai or Holige or Rave Unde. Lord Krishna is also offered at least five types of Laddus- Ashtami Unde is a must. This delicacy is prepared with mixture of various ingredients rounded with gummy jaggery, various types of fruits, dry fruits and raisins five types of flowers and Tulsi is also offered.
As a part of the celebrations special Krishna Kathas are also held in the Krishna Math and Krishna leela Yakshgana and Bayalata are held in surrounding areas in Udupi. The entire environment is charged with a festive mood the Krishna Math is given a fresh coat of paint and decorated with lights.
The famous temple of Udupi has a fascinating idol of Lord Krishna that is richly adorned with jewels.
The main attraction of the Udupi Krishna Mutt temple is the 'Kanakana Kindi' -a small window through which Krishna is believed to have given darshan to his ardent devotee, Kanakadasa. Lord Narayana, in his incarnation as Parasurama, after making twenty one assaults on the Kshatriyas and destroying them, performed a great yajna. In this yajna, he gave away all the land as gift to Brahmins. Finding that he was not left with any land for himself and reluctant to stay in the land already given away as gift, he reclaimed from the Arabian sea a strip of land from Gokarna to cape Comorin.
This coastal strip of land, obtained by Parasurama from Varuna the Sea God, is known as Parasurama Kshetra or Parasurama's land. Ramaboja, a great devotee of Parasurama, was proclaimed king of this land. Intending to perform Ashwamedha yajna or horse sacrifice, Ramabhoja got the site for sacrificial fire ploughed up. While ploughing, a serpent got killed by the ploughshare. Although this serpent was nothing but a demon in disguise, Ramabhoja was greatly worried as it was a sin to kill a serpent. To atone this sin, he was directed by lord Parasurama to build a big silver pedestal with the image of a serpent at each of its four corners and to worship him who would be seated in spirit on the pedestal and also to distribute gold equal to his own weight to deserving persons. Ramabhoja did likewise and performed the Aswamedha yajna successfully. At its conclusion, Lord Parasurama appeared and declared that he was pleased with the yajna and that henceforth the sacrificial land 'Roopya Peetha' (silver pedestal) would become a famous pilgrimage. This land is also known as 'Thoulava' land and because Ramabhoja performed 'Tulabhara'. This in brief is the ancient history or the legend, of this land.
This Roopya Peetha land is now known as Udupi. The name has been derived from the Moon. The moon was once cursed by Daksha Prajapati. To ward off his curse, the moon performed penance in propitiation of God Iswara in this forest land. Iswara was pleased, appeared before the moon and removed the evil effects of the curse. This place has since been known as Chandramuleeswar and there is an ancient temple of this name in this place. The actual spot where the moon performed penance is known as Abjaranya. There is a sacred tank Chandra-Pushkarani by its side. In Sanskrit, 'Udu' means stars; 'pa' means lord of. Hence 'Udupa' means lord of the stars, that is, moon. The place where the moon performed penance and obtained grace is known as Udupi.
It is believed that the idol of Sri Krishna, installed in Udupi by Sri Madhvacharya, was got made by Sri Krishna himself by Viswakarma out of Saligrama stone. Towards the end of Dwapara yuga, Devaki felt a keen desire to see once again Krishna's balaleelas. These leelas which were enacted by Krishna for the benefit of his mother were also witnessed incognito by his wife Rukmini, who falling in love with this balaroopa requested him to get her a similar image for her daily worship. Thereupon Sri Krishna asked Viswakarma to make such an idol of Balakrishna with a churn in its right hand and a cord in the other.
The temple has an interesting history; it is said the idol of lord Krishna got covered with sandlewood in the city of Dwarka. The idol was carried by a mariner who took it for a sandlewood lump. In the middle of the journey, the ship was caught in a storm on the western coast of Malpe. Sri Madhvacharya pulled the ship out of storm with his saffron robe and calmed the sea storm with his divine powers. Saint Mahdhvacharya asked for the sandalwood lump and as a gesture of gratitude, the mariner gifted him. Saint bathed the idol with water, purified it and installed it in the temple.
Kanakadas, a staunch follower of lord Krishna visited the temple in the late 16th century but was forbidden to enter the temple as he belonged to a lower caste. It is said, pleased with the devotion of Kanakadas, lord Krishna created a hole in the back wall of the temple so that he could see the idol. The hole is now famously known as the Kanakanakindi. Special poojas are performed on Janmashtami. The temple is beautifully decorated and hymns are sung in the praise of Lord.