Once, Lord Vishnu was deeply engrossed in Yoga-Nidra, a type of contemplation on cosmic developments, and a demon king called Virochana stole the Lord’s crown. Virochana took the crown to the neither worlds and hid it there. Garuda, the Lord’s chosen vehicle, became furious as soon as he came to know about the theft. Garuda went in search of Virochana and located him in the neither worlds. Garuda asked Virochana to return the Lord’s crown and Virochana refused to give the crown back. Being blinded with the pride of being the king of demons and his immense power, Virochana provoked Garuda to fight with him. Garuda vanquished Virochana in a fierce battle and took back the crown from him. Garuda was taking the crown to Vaikuntha to give it back to the Lord and, on the way, Garuda saw little Krishna playing in the hot sun in Vrindavan. As it was very hot, Garuda expanded his wings to protect Lord Krishna from the scorching rays of the sun. Being captivated with the enchanting form of the Lord, Garuda presented the crown to Lord Krishna. Lord Krishna presented the same crown to the deity.
Some sages were performing a sacrifice at Naimisharanya and Lord Balarama came there. All the sages rose from their seats and received Lord Balarama. However, Romaharshana, a Suta disciple of Sage Veda Vyasa, did not rise from the Vyasasan as he was delivering a spiritual discourse. Lord Baladeva became angry and killed Romaharshana with a blade of Kusha grass. As Lord Baladeva had killed Romaharshana, who was regarded as a wise sage, the sages at Naimisharanya advised Lord Baladeva to go on a pilgrimage to various sacred places including Tirupati, Sri-Rangam, Kurma Kshetra and other places to atone for His sin. During the course of His pilgrimage, Lord Balarama visited Melkote and was captivated by the beautiful deity of Lord Thirunarayana. As Lord Thirunarayana’s deity was very similar to that of Lord Sampath Kumara’s deity, which was being worshipped by Lord Krishna, Balarama told Lord Krishna about Lord Thirunarayana’s deity. Both Lord Krishna and Balarama came to Melkote once again to see the deity. Lord Krishna was so impressed with the deity that He handed over Lord Sampath Kumara’s deity to the temple as the temple did not have an utsava deity for Lord Thirunarayana. As Lord Krishna and Balarama worshipped Lord Thirunarayana the place came to be known as Yadavadri. Lord Krishna also gave away the crown along with the deity. To commemorate this pastime, Ramanujacharya included the practice of decorating Lord Sampath Kumara with the crown that was offered to the deity by Lord Krishna on the penultimate day of the Brahmotsava. As the deity is decorated with diamond crown on the penultimate day of the Brahmotsava, people started calling it Vairamudi seva.
Vairamudi seva is celebrated during every Brahmotsava even today. The crown, which is normally kept in Mandya Treasury, is brought in a casket to the temple on the day of the seva. As the crown is not supposed to be exposed to the sunlight and one should not see the crown directly unless it is decorating Lord Sampath Kumara’s head. The crown is placed before Ramanujacharya’s sannidhi till evening. A designated priest covers his eyes with a cloth, takes the crown from the casket after sunset and decorates the deity without directly seeing it. The deity is brought out of the temple after it is decorated with the crown and taken in a procession around the temple. At the conclusion of the utsava the deity is taken back to the temple. The crown is removed from the Lord’s head and placed back in the casket before the sunrise on the following day. People can see the crown only when it is worn by Lord Sampath Kumara on Vairamudi day. Therefore, thousands of people from all walks of life and various parts of the globe throng Melkote on Vairamudi day.
We will reveal more about Ramanujacharya in the next post.