Temples are the abodes of God and serve as centres for spiritual practice. The idols installed therein have been duly sanctified by religious leaders and have acquired vibrant energy. The forms of the images carved out of stone or moulded in metal are based on description about Gods contained in scriptures or prescribed by saintly men who have been privileged to get His vision.
Visit to the temples will purify the mind and expand one’s spiritual awareness. In some cases, the idols have sprung out of their own accord because of Divine mercy while some have been enshrined by sages while some by devotees.
Though the country abounds in temples, some among them have acquired extraordinary fame. One is in Udupi on the west coast where the Balakrishna image attracts thousands of devotees. The idol is unique in that it was installed in the 13th century by Sri Madhwacharya, one of the three religious reformers. The greatness of the place has been explained by Vadiraja Swami in his Theertha Prabhanda, a travelogue.
How Sri Madhwacharya obtained the idol of Balakrishna has a suprising background. He was meditating near the sea shore at Malpe on the west coast when he noticed a ship caught amidst the rough sea in distress. By waving his saffron coloured robe, he was able to bring it safely to the shore. Grateful for having saved the vessel and the crew, the Captain of the ship requested him to choose whatever he liked from the ship as a compliment.
The Acharya wanted only a dried heap of sandal paste, which he knew by his insight, contained an idol of Balakrishna. He carried it to Udupi singing the popular Dwadasa Stotra. The idol itself is believed to have been worshipped by Rukmini. When Dwaraka was submerged, the idol got covered by the sandal paste, only to be retrieved bv the saint.
Sri Madhwa entrusted the responsibility of uninterrupted worship of the idol of Balakrishna in the Udupi temple to the heads of eight Maths founded by him, each for two months. This period of the temp1e’s administration and worship was changed to two-years by Sri Vadiraja of Sode Math. To give darshan to Kanakadasa, a great devotee, the idol turned westward.
Sri Vidyavarinidhi Thirtha Swami, senior head of the Kaniyoor Math (one of the eight) explained in a lecture how daunting and challenging the tenure of the Paryaya was, but added that when one actually assumed charged ofthe assignment, the period of two years passed off without any difficulty as it had been the case over the past seven centuries.