There are many stories and legends in Hindu mythology about the divine intervention of gods and goddesses who descend to earth to destroy evil and protect mankind. Several places where such incidents are said to have occurred have since been held in high regard and considered to be holy places. Temples constructed in the deities’ honour are often thronged by devotees to pay obeisance and seek their blessings. The Mahakali Janardhana Temple is one such destination.
Located in Ambalpady, close to Udupi, the story surrounding this place goes that Goddess Mahakali descended to earth to reside here in order to safeguard the place. The region thus derives its name from the original term Ammana Padi, meaning the woods belonging to the Mother or Mahakali. Alternatively, some sources also say that the name means the Mother located atop the hill. Over time, the term underwent many transformations and is today known by its present name. The story also goes that Lord Vishnu or Janardhana, who came in search of the goddess, decided to reside here and help the goddess in protecting her devotees. The temple dedicated to them is thus known as the Ambalpady Mahakali Janardhana Temple.
The architecture of the temple follows the coastal temple style. With the Janardhana pushkarni (temple pond) situated on the right, the entrance of the temple is wide and appears prominent. Immediately after entering, one is taken in by the hugeness of the compound. The Janardhana Temple which lies directly ahead is a very massive and imposing one. The Mahakali Temple is located to its left. With the practice being that one first has the darshan of the goddess, we headed over to the left.
The goddess’s shrine appears to have been renovated and is decked with many artistically sculpted idols of the various incarnations of the goddess around its outer walls. The entire shrine is painted in white, giving the temple a very appealing look. The sanctum sanctorum consists of the wooden idol of Mahakali, which is about 6 feet tall. Some sources say that initially the deity was worshipped in the incarnation of a stone before being worshipped in the idol form. The stone is still said to be present close to the idol and worshipped. Having very few devotees on a weekday, the premises was very calm and we were able to have a good darshan.
After the darshan, exploring around, one can find small shrines dedicated to Ayyappa Swamy and the navagrahas located on the right. Lying straight ahead in front of the Mahakali Temple is a beautiful garden which is said to be the Brindavan created by Raghavendra Swami.
Adorned with the statues of various animals, gurus etc., this attractive garden is a visual treat. The lush green lawn dotted with trees all around the compound offers respite from the blazing sun that occasionally peeps out from behind the clouds. Enjoying the garden for a while, we went over to the Janardhana Temple.
Built in typical coastal style with an inner core surrounding an outer periphery, the Janardhana Temple is a fairly huge structure with an imposing Garuda stambha at the entrance. The idol of Janardhana is carved out of black stone and is very beautiful. The sanctum sanctorum itself is very exquisite and preserves its antiquity. In addition to the main deities, Mukhyaprana Anjaneya is also worshipped here. Believed to be a very old temple with powerful deities who resolve their devotees’ problems, this temple is definitely worth a visit when in Udupi.Ambalpady is about 3 km from the Udupi bus stand and is well-connected by roads. Buses or autos can be hired to reach the temple.