Most Indians know of Udupi as a type of inexpensive restaurant that generally serves vegetarian food in the South Indian style. Not many know of the sleepy coastal town from which this great cuisine originated, that does duty as the headquarters of the eponymous Udupi district in the Karavali, or coastal region of Karnataka. Still fewer know of its reputation as the location of a Krishna temple with rich history and a monastery established by the founder of one of the three main philosophical strains of present-day Hinduism. Many, however, have heard of Manipal, a major educational centre, and a suburb of Udupi, that attracts students from all over India and internationally.

Rather confusingly, the town of Udupi lies in Udupi taluka which in turn is in Udupi district. This article covers not only the town, but also its surrounding areas, the region roughly corresponding to Udupi taluka. The taluka is one of the three divisions of Udupi district. It lies on the coast, with the Arabian Sea to its west. The other two talukas are Kundapura on its north and Karkala, which on the west, at the foothills of the Western Ghats. To the south of Udupi is Mangalore, which is the headquarters of the Dakshina Kannada district.



Krishna Mutt at Udupi

The history of Udupi revolves around the story of the Krishna temple and matha (monastery, also spelt mutt)

While the temple is believed to have been in existence for over 1500 years, the idol was installed by the sage Madhvacharya in the 13th century. He is the founder of the Dvaita philosophy, which is commonly translated as dualism. In contrast to the older Advaita (non-dualism) propounded by Sankaracharya, Dvaita philosophy holds that the human and animate souls have an independent existence from the divine Universal Soul, of the Paramatma. The adherents of the Dvaita philosophy are generally Vaishnavites, who worship Vishnu in his various incarnations, among whom Krishna is one.

Legend has it that Madhvacharya used his divine powers to miraculously save a ship that was in the thick of a storm. The ship happened to have set sail from Dwaraka, the city that used to be Krishna's home, and was carrying an idol of him. The captain of the ship, in gratitude, gifted the idol to his saviour, who then went on to install it in the Krishna temple where he worshiped.

In the midst of propounding his philosophy and performing miracles, Madhvacharya also found time to establish a monastic order consisting of eight mathas (Ashtamathas) located in various places around Udupi. Each of these mathas were headed by one of his main disciples, and he decreed that after he passed on, they and their successors would head the main Udupi matha in rotation for two months each. One of his notable later day successors, Vadiraja of Sode Matha, who lived during the 16th century, changed the tenure from two months to two years. This practice, called Paryaya continues to this day. The handover to the new head of Udupi matha happens on 18 January on even numbered years, and is an occasion for much celebration and many religious ceremonies.

Politically, the city had an uneventful history. It was ruled by various feudatories of the Mysore kings till it was taken over by the British, who then made it part of the administrative district of Kanara, which was then divided into South and North Kanara. Udupi was part of the former. After independence, South Kanara became Dakshina Kannada, and in 1998, Udupi district was hived off from Dakshina Kannada, with the city as the headquarters of the district.

It had a nascent career as a financial hub till the 60s, with many banks being established here, but most of them got nationalized. Manipal, a suburb of Udupi city is an important educational and medical centre owing to the efforts of T M A Pai in the 60s.


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 32.8 33 33.5 34 33.3 29.7 28.2 28.4 29.5 30.9 32.3 32.8
Nightly lows (°C) 20.8 21.8 23.6 25 25.1 23.4 22.9 23 23.1 23.1 22.4 21.2
Precipitation (mm) 30 150 940 980 590 260 200 70 10

The weather is fairly equable throughout the year, due to the nearby Arabian sea. Temperature ranges from 30 to 35 degrees celsius in day time and is around 25 degrees at night. Humidity is normally high most of the time.

The rainy season is from June to September. At this time the monsoon shows its colours. Within seconds, you could find yourself soaked in rain water.

The best time to visit is October to March, when the weather is cool. April and May will be hot and June to September will be wet, so if you are visiting during this time, you will spend most of your time indoors. But then, April and May is when you get the ripe mangoes, and June to September is when the rains make the area green and beautiful, so life isn't fair.

Get in

Kanaka's window, Udupi Krishna temple

Udupi is well-connected with the cities on India's west coast. NH-66 (formerly NH-17) runs right through Udupi, connecting it to Mumbai and Goa to the North and Mangalore and Kochi to the South. Konkan Railway connects Udupi to the same cities. The city is around 406 km from Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka. Rail connectivity with Bangalore is good, but travelling by road is a nightmare due to the poor condition of the roads near the Western ghat sections.

By plane

Mangalore International Airport is 59 km from Udupi. The airport is well-connected with major Indian cities and a few Middle-eastern destinations.

Pre-paid taxis (non air-conditioned) can be booked from the counter located inside the arrival terminal at ₹780 (as on 14-Jun-2008). They take approximately 1.5 hours to reach.

Goa's Dabolim airport is around 300km from Udupi. Getting in via Goa is not the most practical or convenient way to get to Udupi, but if you are planning to combine a vacation in Goa, this is a good option.

By train

Udupi is a major station on the Konkan railway route. There are connections with Mumbai, Bangalore and Mangalore. Major trains including Rajdhani Express stop at Udupi Railway Station. A night train is available from Mangalore to Bangalore, known simply as the Mangalore-Bangalore express. Yeshwantpur-Karwar express is another train which connects Bangalore to Udupi and runs on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

By car

Udupi is located right on National Highway NH-66 (formerly NH-17) connecting Cochin with Mumbai. See Karavali#Get in about the lowdown on this route. This connects Udupi with Kerala, Coastal Karnataka (including Mangalore), Goa, and the Konkan region of Maharashtra. Drive in on your own only if you are used to driving on Indian highways. Alternatively, hire a driver or take a cab.

From Bangalore, you first need to come to Mangalore via roads which mostly pass through zig-zag hilly roads, or ghats. NH-75 (formerly NH-48) is the road that connects Bangalore and Mangalore, which passes through Shiradi Ghat. However, the ghat roads seem to get damaged every year during the monsoon, so make inquiries in advance and decide which of the four ghats is relatively passable and adjust that portion of the route accordingly.

By bus

Buses regularly ply from major southern cities and Maharashtra to Udupi. Choose from the Volvos (AC buses), Airbuses or KSRTC buses depending on your budget. Private buses generally have two stops in Udupi the service bus stand at the centre of the city, and near Tiger circle at Manipal.

Get around

Buses, cabs and auto-rickshaws are ways to get around the city. Udupi has excellent city bus services run by various private companies. Buses generally start and end at the main bus stand. Bus stops are located throughout the city. Ask around. Tickets can be bought once you board or from the conductor just before boarding. Rates start from ₹5 per 2 km.

Hired cabs are available, though they can't be hailed off the street. They are unmetered, but as a general guide, ₹15 per kilometer for an non-airconditioned compact car for short distances is a good starting point.

Autorickshaws can be found on the street, and are generally a cheap mode to travel. For autos, fares start at ₹20 for the first 1.5 km and go up by ₹14 every kilometer after that. This is assuming that they agree to go by the meter, which they generally do not. Nonetheless, this is a good guide to estimate the rate you should agree to.

Walking around the city when the weather is good is a nice experience. There aren't any footpaths though, so you will have to share the side of the road with autos and bikes.


Udupi has some nice beaches, lush greenery, the quaint charm of a small town and many temples. Many of the places to visit are not very well known to many people outside of Udupi. If you are an adventurous person who loves nature, there is a lot to explore in Udupi.

Map of Udupi Krishna temple complex

Sri Krishna Temple and Mutt

The main temple itself is constructed in the architectural style typical in Kerala and Dakshina Kannada, with multiple layers around the inner sanctum sanctorum, with no massive sikhara over it as is found elsewhere in South India. There are shrines to subordinate deities including Garuda and Hanuman. On special occasions, the temple area is beautifully decorated with flowers and lamps.

The unusual feature of this temple is that the statue faces west, and away from the devotees. The reason for this, apparently, is that a lower-caste devotee named Kanakadasa was denied entry into the temple, so he tried worshiping from a small window outside it. The Lord was so pleased at his devotion that He turned around to face the window. The window is now known as Kanakana kindi, or Kanakadasa's window. Look for a massive Gopura (or tower) that has since been built over this window.

Remember to take the blessings of the temple elephant located outside the temple. To enter the temple, men have to take off their shirts and vests. Offerings can be made and "prasadam" can be bought inside. The temple offers free lunch to everyone at three dining halls, or Bhojana Shaalas.

Outside the temple is the "Ratha beedi", or "chariot street". On major festive occasions such as the "Paryaya", the deity is taken in procession in temple chariots. The chariots themselves are usually stationed at Ratha beedi most times. All around the Ratha beedi are the headquarters of the 8 mathas, or Ashtamathas. These mathas are places of worship in their own right. There are other temples located around the area. In addition, Gita Mandira and the Rajangana, where cultural programmes and discourses held, located a short walk away. The Ratha Beedi is also a shopping street, interesting in its own right. Free.

Other attractions

Kaup Beach, Udupi


Volcanic rocks at St Mary's Island

Udupi has some great beaches, but thankfully, they aren't big water sports destinations like Goa, though there are some options. If you are the adventurous sort, you can head south to Mulki, Mangalore where the Ashram surf retreat combines surfing with spiritualism.

If the mountains are what you are after, turn east to Karkala, where Agumbe and other places provide some excellent trekking opportunities.

See if you can catch a performance of Yakshagana, a Bhoota Kola or a Naga Mandala. The latter two are essentially religious rituals, but a sight to watch. The Yakshagana is a genre of dance-drama that is native to the Karavali region. The performances are advertised only in local Kannada newspapers, so it might be somewhat difficult to catch them. Also, to fully appreciate Yakshagana, you need to understand Kannada or Tulu.


The library at Manipal University


While Udupi, like any other city of moderate size, offers many opportunities to shop, and the Ratha Beedi area around the temple is a popular and interesting destination to buy what the city is best known for. Most people who visit the temple combine their religious sojourn with a shopping expedition. On major festive events, the area around the Krishna temple comes abuzz with many temporary shops set up for the occasion. Befitting Udupi's status as a culinary paradise, many of the items on the must shop list at Ratha Beedi are culinary. Snacks and juice extracts top the list. Spices and oils used in traditional Udupi cooking can also be bought here. Shops that sell vessels and other implements used to prepare Udupi-style cuisine are scattered all over the street. Among these are aluminium pans to make guliyappa and the aruvamane used to scrape coconuts.

Other items to look out for are wood handicraft items such as agarbatti stands, idols of deities, altars, etc. This is also a good place to buy Ayurvedic medicines and massage oils.

Clothing, particularly silk sarees but also other traditional Indian and western dresses, and jewellery are the other two big items that are on many visitors' shopping lists in Udupi.


Merchants at the temple. Shopping at Ratha Beedi

For your saree/dress purchases:


Udupi is famous for traditional jewellery. Famous jewellers are:

Snacks and packaged food

You can also buy traditional packaged food here. Wheat halwa and banana halwa that is made up of ghee and banana chips are well-known local specialities. Mango pickles from here are great as well. Purchase these items from any local store. Enquire in any of these local stores for other local coastal delicacies.

General Purchases


The story of Matti Gulla

Vadiraja Swamy, a 16th century successor of Madhvacharya, was a great devotee of Hayagreeva, the deity that is reputed to be an Avatar of Vishnu in the form of a horse. He also had rivals who once tried to poison his food. But because he always offered his food to his god before consuming it, they effectively ended up offering poison to the deity. When said rivals realized their folly, they rushed to Vadiraja and asked for forgiveness and asked how they could make amends. Vadiraja, through his supernatural powers, gave them a few seeds of eggplant and asked them to plant them in Matti, a village near Udupi. The resulting variety of eggplant would be free of all "poison" - i.e. it would have a mild taste and be easy on the stomach. To this day, the variety of eggplant grown in Matti, known as Matti Gulla, is famous for these properties.

The vegetarian cuisine of Udupi is famous all over India and among Indians abroad. For this reputation, it must thank the Sri Krishna temple and its traditions. The temple offers free food to everyone who wants to partake of it. The cooks have traditionally been the Brahmins belonging to the Shivalli sect, who, over the centuries, have perfected the art of cooking that adheres to "Satvik" principles. This requires not just vegetarianism but also the avoidance of onion and garlic, as these are said to excite the baser senses. In spite of these limitations, the food of Udupi tastes great, with subtle flavours.

While the eat section of the Karavali article more than adequately covers the cuisine you are likely to encounter here, Udupi has some items of food that are unique to the place. One of them is the Matti Gulla (see infobox) a variant of eggplant. Ibbulle, a kind of musk melon is a speciality here. The best way to consume it is by turning it into rasayana, a kind of thick, pulpy juice. Ibbulle is such a localized fruit that there are people who've lived in Mangalore all their lives and have never heard of the fruit. Then there is Hayagreeva Maddi a sweet made of chickpea, coconut and jaggery that is offered as prasadam to Hayagreeva (see infobox) Golibaje, a traditional fried snack item made from maida (all-purpose flour) and yoghurt, is another speciality of Udupi. Also, try out the "Charmuri Upkari", a famous snack from the handcarts around Rathabeedi. The Ginger Soda is a famous drink available in many local shops.

Starting from the middle of the 20th century, many people from Udupi (and the Karavali region in general) migrated to Mumbai for better career opportunities. Often, the migrants were bachelors who naturally craved food from back home, and a significant number were Brahmins who would not let go of caste related taboos against eating food cooked by non-Brahmins. The Udupi Restaurants came up in Mumbai to cater to this group of people. Very soon, these eateries, serving cheap, nutritious and vegetarian food became very popular and spread all over India. However, very few of these restaurants have stayed true to their roots - and today, you are likely to find the usual South Indian-North Indian-Chinese cuisines in those restaurants.

Meat-eaters will not be disappointed in Udupi either. Do not forget to try the famous non-veg dishes Kori Sukha (Chicken in spicy masala with grated coconut), Kori Rotti(Chicken curry with crisp rice roti) and seafood.

Udupi is, by and large conservative in its taste for food, sticking mostly to South Indian-North Indian-Chinese. If you are looking for international cuisines, Manipal is the place to go to.


Manipal town, Udupi




Temple elephant at Udupi

It is fair to say that Udupi, being a temple town, is not a great place to have alcoholic drinks, and this sleepy town is not known for a vibrant night life. Manipal, however, is a short hop away from the city centre, famous for its student population, and this is where you go if you want a drink.

You can try the unfermented toddy which is extracted early morning from coconut trees. This can usually be found near the beaches. Be very very careful about the quality and safety, however.


Hotels are reasonably priced and cheap. Most hotels are concentrated around the city centre and the temple. The other option is to look for a hotel near Manipal, which is more expensive. The Paradise Island Beach Resort (see under "Do") is an option if you are looking for a beach holiday.

Go next

To the west of Udupi lies the historic town of Karkala, which is a major religious centre for Jainism. There stands a 42 feet statue of the saint Bahubali (known as Gomateshwara), completely naked, as is the custom. At Moodabidri in Dakshina Kannada district, there is a Jain temple with thousand pillars (saavira kambada basadi).

There are many Hindu religious sites in the neighbourhood of Udupi. At Kollur in Kundapura taluk, there is a famous temple dedicated to the Goddess Mookambika. Further north is Uttara Kannada, home to many nice beaches like the Murudeshwar beach, around 150 km away, and Gokarna beach, around 250 km away. North of Uttara Kannada is Goa, which is around 5 hours by car.

Other attractions

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