Karnataka · Travel

A philosopher’s home: Pajakakshetra, Udupi

Located about seven km from the temple town of Udupi is the quiet, seemingly nondescript town of Pajaka. This town is off the conventional pilgrimage circuit of Udupi.  However, Pajaka is a town that is significant for a variety of reasons. The foremost of these is the fact that this town is the birthplace of Sri Madhwacharya, the founder of the Dvaita school of philosophy.

Pajaka is located south-east of Udupi’s Kunjarugiri which is also known as Durga Betta. Legend has it that Parashurama had taken up his abode on the nearby hill and Goddess Sri Mahalakshmi in the form of Durga was consecrated on Kunjarugiri by Parashurama himself. Hence, the region of Pajaka or Pajaka Kshethra is said to be the abode of ‘Lakshmi Narayana’. It is here that Vayudeva (Lord of the Wind) descended as Madhwa. Therefore, Pajaka Kshetra is the confluence of three gods: Lord Vishnu (Narayana), Goddess Durga and Guru Madhwacharya. 

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In the vicinity are the four holy teerthas or tanks that are believed to be created by Lord Parashurama, the eastern Parashu Teertha, the southern Dhanus Teertha, western Gada Teertha and the northern Baana Teertha. Taking a dip here is considered highly sacred.

A tank in the temple complex
A tank in the temple complex

Steeped in legends
Pajaka Kshethra is home to the ancestral house of Sri Madhwacharya who was born as Vasudeva and spent his childhood here. The same has now been converted into a temple complex that houses the Anantha Padmanabha Temple.

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There are several anecdotes and objects intrinsically associated with the life of Madhwacharya in the temple complex. Close to the shrine is the holy stone where Vasudeva’s aksharabhyasa (knowledge initiation ceremony) was performed.

The 'aksharabhyasa' stone
The ‘aksharabhyasa’ stone

There is a banyan tree in the complex that is believed to have been sprouted when Vasudeva stuck a dry stick in the soil while proclaiming that he would establish Vaishnava dharma. There is also a holy pond created by Vasudeva in the complex. Named Vasudeva Teertha, the pond is situated close to a tamarind tree and is steeped in legends.

It is believed that Vasudeva once gave a few tamarind seeds from this tree to a merchant who had lent Vasudeva’s father a cow. It turned out that these seeds were made of gold by which his father’s debt was repayed.

Two large stone slabs are also present near the temple’s cow shed that are believed to have been used by Vasudeva to cover pots of milk and curd when his mother instructed him to watch the same.

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The complex also has the temple of Madhwacharya which bears the foot prints of Vasudeva in the front.  It is believed that once Vasudeva was playing atop the Durga Betta when his mother called him. Hearing the call, Vasudeva jumped down the hill and landed on the rock in one hop leaving the imprints of his feet. It is at this spot that Sri Vadiraja Teertha of Sode Mutt installed an idol of Sri Madhwacharya.

The temple is highly revered among the Vaishnava community and attracts huge crowds on Vijaya Dashami, the birthday of Madhwacharya. Managed by the Shri Kaniyooru Matha of Udupi, there is also a Madhava Mandira near the temple complex where students study Sanskrit and Vedic texts.

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When in Pajaka, you can also visit the Durga temple atop the Kunjarugiri hill. The hillock offers some panoramic views of the surrounding landscape and is especially beautiful during dusk from which the sunset is truly a compelling sight.This article was originally published in Deccan Herald.

For other temples in Udupi district, read my posts here and here.

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