The untold story of Udupi

The untold story of Udupi
Udupi Sri Krishna Math | Photo: Shutterstock Images

Udupi, also known as Odipu in Karnataka, is located at a distance of 59km from the main urban city of Mangalore. The city is famous for many heritage site including the 13th century Krishna temple, the ancient Anantheswara temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and the Corporation Bank Heritage Museum that features coins dating back to 400 BC. Udipi is also known for being the place where our favourite 'dosas' were first invented. Owing to which, many south Indian restaurants in Delhi and Mumbai are often referred to as Udupi restaurants!

Udupi is mainly famously known as a centre for pilgrimage. Although quite popular, the story of the temple and the place is unknown to many.


The holy town of Udupi, situated in coastal Karnataka, is home to the Sri Krishna Math which was founded by one of the greatest saints, philosophers and religious reformers of India – Srila Madhyacharya in the 13th century.

It is said that even before the temple came up in Udupi, the town was considered to be a holy place as it was the centre of vedic scholarly studies and has been the home to two other ancient temples – Sri Anantheshwara and Sri Chandramauleshwara. The Anantheshwara temple is more famous of the two because of its unusual deity, being that of Lord Vishnu and his self-expansion Lord Ananta – Shesha, seemingly residing within the Shiva Linga. The Chandramauleshwara temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva as the one who carries the crescent moon (Chandra) on his head. Udupi got its name from Lord Shiva, derived from the word ‘Udupa’ meaning ‘he who carries the moon on his head’.

So why is the Krishna temple more famous than these two ancient temples?

It is because of the less known and amazing story of how the Bala Krishna deity crossed the high seas from Dwarka in Gujarat and came to Udupi in Karnataka. The story has been told in the biography of Srila Madhyacharya and here’s how it unfolds:

According to the legend, the Balakrishna idol that used to be worshipped in Dwarka was lost to sea many centuries earlier when a massive flood devastated the land. The deity lay concealed within a large mass of clay for many years until some sailors, not knowing what was underneath, loaded the immensely heavy mass onto their ship as ballast. While travelling to the south, just off the coast of Udupi, the ship ran into a storm. Srila Madhyacharya who happened to be present on the shores of Udupi (present Malpe beach) at that time, guided the ship to safety using his angavastram. As a token of gratitude, the captain of the ship asked Srila Madhyacharya to take anything that he wanted from the ship. The saint chose the ballast as his gift.

Being heavy, the lump of clay was carried back to Udupi by Srila Madhyacharya and his disciples, but a short distance away from the beach, the lump broke in a few parts to reveal the idol of Balakrishna. Srila Madhyacharya and his disciples brought back the deity to Udupi, bathed it in the lake now known as the Madhya Sarovara and enshrined the deity – thus laying the foundation to the Sri Krishna Matha.

Udupi Sri Krishna Math | Photo: Shutterstock Images

The deity was placed in the temple by Srila Madhyacharya facing the east as is the norm. However, today you will find the deity facing the west. Legend says that a devotee called Kanaka Das came to Udupi to seek blessings from the Lord and was denied entry to the temple as he belonged to a lower caste. Dejected, Kanaka Das sat in front of the temple and prayed to the Lord. And then a miracle happened - a crack appeared in the temple wall and the idol magically turned to face west to allow Kanaka Das to see his Lord. A proper window was constructed where the crack had appeared and since then the idol faces west! An enchanting story of a truly magical destination.

Apart from being a pilgrim centre, Udupi is also quite the place for a relaxed weekend getaway with friends and family. One can easily drive down to Udupi from Mangalore which is at a distance of 55 kms only and further explore the other beautiful and scenic places from there onwards:

Malpe Beach

Malpe is one of the most popular places to visit when visiting Udupi. Located just 5.7 km from the city centre of Udupi, Malpe, also known as Malapu is a great place to hang out with friends and family. Be sure to catch the sun setting over the sea at Malpe.

St. Mary’s Island

St. Mary's Island | Photo: Shutterstock Images

Legend says that St Mary’s Island is where Vasco Da Gama landed on his journey from Portugal to India. St Mary’s is an uninhabited archipelago of four islands – Coconut Island, North Island, Darya Bahadurgarh Island and the South Island. A beautiful place with white sand and pristine beaches, St. Mary’s Island is the perfect spot for a day trip from either Udupi or Mangalore. To travel to the St Mary’s Island, one needs to take a ferry from the Malpe beach.

Kaup Beach

Built in 1901, the lighthouse is 27m high and is still functional. Treat your eyes to stunning views of the Arabian sea from the viewing deck. Located at a distance of 16km from Udupi, Kaup Beach is quite famous for its local shacks offering delicious seafood and drinks.


A great place to spend time with family and friends, Padubidri located 26 kms away from Udupi offers its sandy beach, panoramic views of the coastline and the sea, and mouth-watering local coastal Carnatic cuisine. Do visit the Padubidri End Point where the river meets the sea for some Instagram worthy clicks!

Padubidri | Photo: Shutterstock Images


Famous for its massive statue of Gomateshwara or Lord Bahubali, Karkala is located at a distance of 40km from Udupi. Having being ruled by some of the Jain kings, one can find many Jain monuments here.

So plan a trip to historic Udipi and its beautiful surroundings as soon you get the opportunity to travel safely. Do try the famous Dosas and the local Mangalorean cuisine and seafood on your visit and share your experiences with us.


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