The history of Udupi is integrally connected with a small but great centre of spiritual importance, known as Pajaka Kshetra. Situated only 11 kms. north-east of Udupi, this little known locality is a part of the Kunjaru grama, locally called as ‘Pajeyi’ in the Tulu language.
This village has been renowned for the worship of Durga in the Mahishasuramardhini form and is accepted as one of the earliest centres of Shakti worship in Dakshina Kannada. The temple of Durga is situated on a hill called Vimanagiri, about 150 metres above sea level and commands a captivating view of the surrounding regions to a vast distance. The hill top is accessible through four routes and directions. The temple structure as seen today is modern as a result of renovations.
Very close to the hill is the historic Pajaka Kshetra. This was the birth place of Sri Madhvacharya, the great Vaishnava saint and teacher. The place, as such, is very sacred to all the followers of the Acharya. It has claims to as much greatness as Udupi itself. The architectural significance of the ancient Matha of Sri Madhva at this place is not worthy of any special mention. But the icons are of perennial source of spiritual experience.
The icon of Vasudeva is of such sculptural feature that is rarely found elsewhere in this district. It is 25 cms. in height and is cast in bronze. It is supposed to have been worshipped by the father of Sri Madhva, Madhyageha Bhatta also known as Naduvantillaya. On the three coils of a five-hooded serpent, the Lord is seated with the right leg hanging down and the left leg folded and made to rest on the serpent. In the back right and left hands ‘chakra and ankusha’ are held and in the front right and left hands are the ‘gada’ and the ‘padma’. These attributes are held in the ‘prayoga’ form. The iconographic features of this idol are undoubtedly ancient and the icon may be placed at the 10th century A. D. Perhaps, Madhvacharya was named Vasudeva because his father was a devout worshipper of this Vasudeva.
The Lakshmi Yoga Narasimha icon is a unique idol of striking iconographic peculiarity. It is a bronze cast of about 23 cms. in height and is charmingly lovely. This figure is depicted in a Yogasana with ‘purna yoga patta’ and with Lakshmi placed on the left thigh. This is also a rare specimen of beautiful sculpture.
The most significant aspect of this icon could be seen in the attributes held by the icon – ‘Chakra and Chapa’ are held in the upper right and left hands respectively, while the lower two are in the ‘abhaya and varada’ pose. The sculptor’s skill is depicted in the lotus flower delicately held in the lower right hand, side by side showing ‘abhaya hasta’. Another unique feature is that a milch cow is depicted as holding its head towards the Lord as if craving for His mercy. Garuda relief is shown on the pedestal. This icon may belong to Madhva’s time, but not definitely later than that of Vasudeva image.
In a separate shrine is installed the stone image of Sri Madhvacharya which is about 25 cms. high and is carved out of black marble. This image is supposed to have been brought by Sri Sode Vadiraja Swamy from Badarikashrama in the north. This may be regarded as the real and the best representation of the Acharya in sculpture. The icon has two hands, the right one being in the instruction pose (chin mudra) and the left holding a book. ‘Kamandalu’ is placed on the left side. On the ‘Prabhavali’ to the right, the relief of ‘danda’ appearing like an axe is seen.
The Lakshmi Narayana vigraha is also a medieval bronze cast icon, 16 cms. high and is unique. The image is eight handed and the attributes are strange. The right four arms hold discuss, arrow, shield and the ‘abhaya mudra’, while in the left hands are held the conch, bow, sword and ‘varada pose’. This is perhaps the best icon of its type ever casted in this part of the country.
The significance of representation of Lakshmi Narayana in this posture is yet to be determined and appreciated. Iconographically, this is of great merit. Lakshmi is seated on Vishnu’s thigh and Garuda is at service. There are various other bronze icons in this Matha. A few of them are Janardana, Ugra Narasimha, Vittala, Navaneetha Krishna, Hayagriva and the like. All these icons are of much iconographic interest.
The Hayavadana Swamy icon is a 15th or 16th century solid bronze, 14 cms. high and has the attributes of ‘chakra’ and ‘shankha’ and ‘japamala’ and pusthaka’ in the four hands. The Lord is seated in ‘padmasana’ on the ‘padma peetha’. The curious image of Ugra Narasimha, is 10 cms. high is in ‘purna yoga patta’ with ‘prayoga chakra and shankha’ held in the upper two hands in action. There is yet another Yoga Narasimha icon, 12 cms. high which may be of the 14th century. This is also a solid bronze casting.
It may be mentioned that a remarkable Chalukyan bronze of elegant workmanship 25 cms. high which is the domestic deity of a local family of this Kshetra. The figure is certainly of the 11th century and may be regarded as one of the best specimens of the kind. Pajaka Kshetra being also the important centre of Shakti worship, it is a sacred place of pilgrimage.