One of the most important religious places at Melkote is the sacred hill shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu as Narayana is worshipped since Krutha Yuga. Vedadri, Narayanadri, Yadavagiri, Yathisailam and Dakshina Badrikachalam are the Puranic names of Melkote. Melkote can be reached by road either from Srirangapatnam via Pandavapura, a distance of 30 km, or from Mysore.
The presiding and processional deities were given to Brahma by Lord Vishnu Himself. Brahma gave one idol to Sanatkumara, who installed it in Bhooloka for the benefit of Mankind. The processional deity, Sampatkumara or Ramapriya, was worshipped by Sri Rama and His son Kusha. This deity later came to Krishna in the Dwapara Yuga, who later installed it in the shrine.
Sri Ramanuja, the Vaishnavite saint of the 11th century, earned the patronage of Jain king Bittideva, who embraced Vaishnavism and changed his name to Vishnuvardhana. The king built five shrines known as Panchanarayana temples. At that time, Narayanapuram was in ruins, devastated by the invasion of Muslim rulers. Both the idols of Narayana and Ramapriya were lost. Ramanuja had a vision in which Lord Vishnu revealed to him the place where the idol of Narayana was hidden. He found the image among Tulsi shrubs in an ant-hill in Yadavagiri and installed the deity again in the temple.
Ramanuja also brought back the processional deity of Ramapriya from the court of a Muslim ruler, whose daughter was keeping the idol in her custody. The princess, an ardent devotee of Ramapriya, also reached Melkote and attained `mukti` or salvation here. She is known as Beebi Nachiyar, whose image is also installed near the Lord.
The enchanting idol of Lord Vishnu is holding Shankha, Chakra and Gada. The image of Ramapriya is in the Ranga Mandapam in front of the sanctum. The shrines of Vaikuntanatha, Chakrathu Alwar and Anjaneya are on the prakarams. Goddess Yadugiri Nachiyar and Kalyani Nachiyar have separate shrines in a sculptured mandapam.
The Melkote temple is flanked by mathas belonging to different sects of Vaishnavites.
Much significance is attached to the idol of Ramanuja in this temple. When Ramanuja wanted to go back to Srirangam, he made an image of himself and installed it in this temple. The other two images of Ramanuja are in Sriperumpudur (his birthplace) and Srirangam (his Brindavanam).
The spectacular 10 day Vairamudi festival during March-April attracts lakhs of pilgrims. The diamond crown is said to have been given to Krishna by the divine bird Garuda when He was taking it to Vaikunta from the Paathaala Loka. Krishna decorated Ramapriya with this crown, and it came to Melkote along with Ramapriya. The crown is held so sacred that it is seen on the Lord`s head only at the time of the Vairamudi festival. Vaikunta Ekadasi is another important festival.
Kalyani Theertham, Narayana Theertham, Padma Theertham, Veda Pushkarni and Vaikunta Ganga are held sacred.
A shrine dedicated to Lord Yoga Narasimha is on this hill. Prahlada, an ardent Vishnu devotee, is said to have installed the deity here.