Vadakkunnathan Temple at Thrissur
Kaladi near Thrissur is the birthplace of Adi Sankaracharya. It is believed that Sankara’s parents Sivaguru and Aryamba offered worship at theVadakkunnathar shrine at Thrissur prior to their begetting Sankara.
Thrissur is a major railhead on the railroad between Coimbatore and Cochin/Tiruvanandapuram. Near Thrissur is the well visited pilgrimage centerGuruvayur. Also nearby are Kodungallur andTiruvanchikkulam.
The name Thrissur is derived from Tiru Siva Perur. Thrissur was also once known as Vrishachala or the hill of Nandi. Indeed the Vadakkunnathan temple stands on a small hillock and is the most prominent landmark in the town of Thrissur.
Legend has it that the deities Shiva, Sankaranarayana and Rama were installed and worshipped by Parasurama. It is believed that Parasurama, wishing to install an image of Shiva, meditated upon him, only to find an image ofMahavishnu upon opening his eyes. He installed this image as Rama, and then continued his meditation, at the culmination of which he saw a Shivalingam, ie. Shiva on one side and Rama on the other. Upon further continuing his meditation he saw Sankaranarayana or the combined form of Shiva and Vishnu.
There are thus three shrines in this temple – dedicated to Shiva, Rama and Sankaranarayana. Behind Shiva’s shrine is a shrine to Parvati.
Vadakkunnathar is worshipped in the form of a mound of ghee or clarified butter. The Shivalingamis enclosed within this ever growing mound of ghee. Ghee is offered during abhishekam, and this 10 feet high mound of ghee stays solid despite the multitude of lamps in the sanctum. The ghee offered over centuries stays here without acquiring any foul odor of any sort.
Other shrines here include those toVettakkorumakan – a Keralite guardian deity andGanapati, Dharma Sastha, and Gopalakrishna. There is also a roofless shrine with a Shankh and a Chakra commemorating Aadi Sankaracharya.
The Vadakunnathan temple is a vast one covering a nine acre area, surrounded by fortified wall pierced with towered entrances on all four sides. The circular sanctum is crowned with a conical vimanam. As one enters the temple through the western entrance, a massive Koottambalam or the theater hall is seen to the left. This structure is considered to be a masterpiece of its kind, crowned with three kalasams.
Festivals: Thrissur is the site of the annual Pooram festival attracting thousands, however the festival is not associated with the presiding deity here, although it is conducted in the vicinity of the temple. Shivaratri is the major festival celebrated in the temple.
Vaikom Mahadevar Temple
The Vaikom Mahadevar temple is one of the most celebrated Shiva temples in South India. Vaikom is located at a distance of 33km south of Ernakulam and 40 km north of Kottayam on the railroad between Ernakulam and Tiruvanandapuram.
Offering of prathal, or food is a form of worship here. In ancient times, feasts used to be cooked and offered to all devotees; Vaikom Mahadever is also referred to as Annadaana Prabhu.
The Deity: Shiva – Vaikom Mahadevar manifests himself as Dakshinamurthy in the panthirathi pooja in the morning. He is worshipped as Kiraata Murthyduring the Uchcha pooja at noon and asSatchitananda in the evening.
Legend has it that Khara (of the Khara Dhooshana demon duo) of Ramayana worshipped Shiva at Chidambaram and obtained from him three Shivalingams and journeyed holding one shivalingam on each hand and one in his mouth. He sojourned at Vaikom, and set the shivalingam on the ground and to his dismay realized that it had gotten rooted to the ground. Kharan therefore installed the other two shivalingams at Ettumanur and Kaduthuruthy. He entrusted the shivalingam at Vaikom to the care of Vyagrapadar. Vaikom therefore acquired the name Vyagrapuri which ultimately became Vaikom for short.
At Triprayar, north of here (near Thrissur), Rama is held in worship as the slayer of the demon Khara.
Legend has it that Shiva appeared in front of Vyagrapadar under a peepul tree, south of the eastern gateway on the morning of Ashtami in the dark fortnight in the month of Scorpio. This incident is commemorated in the annual Vaikattu Ashtami festival.
Legend also has it that Parasurama, the incarnation of Vishnu built this temple and set up the worship protocol here.
It is believed that the Tiruvilaiyaadal associated with the tamil saint poet Manikkavaacakar, where jackals were miraculously transformed into horses – occurred here.
The temple: The elliptical sanctum here is covered with a copper plated roof crowned with a golden kalasam. The height of the wall of the sanctum is just about a third of that of the roof. The building dates back to the 11th century, and the wooden panels and the murals date back to the 15th and 18th centuries respectively. The mukhamandapam in front of the sanctum houses the nandi. The wall of the inner prakaram is lined with columns of lamps (vilakkumaatam) on a wooden framework. The flagstaff rises to a height of 317 feet. The Uttuppura or the dining hall is on the northern side of the sanctum. There is a shrine to Pananchikkal Bhagawati in the outer prakaram.
Festivals: As mentioned before, the annual festival is celebrated in the month of scorpio, and the twelfth day of the festival is Vaikkattu Ashtami. Each day witnesses special rituals, elephant processions, music and dance performances etc. The Ashtami festival involves a special darshan in the wee hours of the morning under the peepul tree, a feast at noon and a procession at night from the nearby Udayanapuram Subramanya temple. This procession involves the meeting of Shiva and Subramanya in celebration of Subramanya’s victory over the demons. Deities from nearby temples also converge at this procession amidst elephants, lighted torches and musicians. The two kilometer long procession takes about 3 hours to complete and it reaches the northern gate of the Vaikom temple at about 130 AM. Subramanya and Vaikom Mahadevar then circumambulate the temple and then a touching farewell is enacted as Subramanya returns to Udayanapuram.
The aaraattu festival on the 13th day takes place at a tank, near the temple, and the deity from Udayanapuram participates in it too.
No poojas are carried out on the Ashtami festival inside the temple as it is believed that Mahadeva fasts, feeds guests and prays for his son’s victory in the battle against demons.
Ettumaanur Mahadevar Temple
The Ettumaanur Mahadevar temple is one of the most celebrated Shiva temples in Kerala, and is on the Ernakulam Tiruvanandapuram railroad south of Kottayam.
Legend has it that Khara (of the Khara Dhooshana demon duo) of Ramayana worshipped Shiva at Chidambaram and obtained from him three Shivalingams and journeyed holding one shivalingam on each hand and one in his mouth. He sojourned at Vaikom, and set the shivalingam on the ground and to his dismay realized that it had gotten rooted to the ground. Kharan therefore installed the other two shivalingams at Ettumanur and Kaduthuruthy. It is believed that visiting these triad of temples in a single day is of great significance.
Legend also has it that Khara installed an image of Krishna in the north western corner of this temple.
There are several other legends associated with this shrine. Legend has it that Shiva created a deer and set it to play in an island; whenParasurama reclaimed land from the sea, this island is said to have become part of what is Kerala now. The isle of the deer is referred to as Harinadweepa. The malayalam word for deer is Maan, and hence this place came to be known as Maanoor.
Legend has it that this is a very ancient shrine and that it was in wilderness thanks to a curse of Lomaharsha rishi, a disciple of Vyasa, and that worshipped was restored here by Vilwamangalaswamy who is associated with several other temples in Kerala. Inscriptions testify to renovations that were carried out in the 16th century CE here.
The temple: The west facing temple here has a circular sanctum covered with a conical copper plated roof crowned with a kalsam. The mukhamandapam in front of the temple bears two images ofNandi, one of stone and another of metal. Although there is no shrine to Parvati, the rear of the sanctum is revered as Parvati’s shrine.
A rectangular circumambulatory passage surrounds the sanctum. The sanctum bears wood carvings of superior workmanship portraying legends from the Ramayana and the Bhagavata puranam.
Also of great workmanship are the murals on the western entrance to the temple; mention must be made of the painting of the dance of Shiva.
There are also shrines to Saasta, Ganapati and Dakshinamurthy in the temple.
A golden staff, visible from a distance is in front of th e shrine.
At the entrance to the temple is a large metal lamp; visitors make offerings of oil and the soot that collects from the burning of the oil is believed to have medicinal value.
Festivals: The 10 day long festival in the malayala month ofKumbham concluding on the Ardra asterism is the temple’s annual festival.
On the eigth day of the festival, the processional image of the deity is taken to a specially decorated site in the north east corner of the temple, when thousands throng to visit the shrine.
On this day, a unique treasure of the temple (offered by the Maharaja of Travancore) – the seven and a half elephants (ezhara pon aana) representing the eight dik paalakas or the guardians of the cardinal directions are displayed. Seven of these golden elephants are two feet in height while the eighth is a foot high.
Triprayar located south of Thrissur, near Irinjalakuda bears a magnificient temple to Rama which is associated with many interesting legends. Associated closely with this temple are temples dedicated to Lakshmana at Tirumoozhikkalam(which is one of the 108 Vaishnava Divya Desam temples),Bharata at Koodalmaanikkam and to Satrugna atPayammel.
Legend related to the origin of the image
The peacock legend
Legend has it that four images of the heroic brothers Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Satrugna were washed ashore and were discovered by a local chieftan Vakkey Kaimal and were installed at the sites mentioned above. All of these four images are those of Vishnu, but are referred to as Rama, Lakshmanaperumaal, Bharata and Satrugna. Offering worship at each of these four shrines on a given day, is considered auspicious.
Deities: The image of Rama resembles the chaturbhuja Vishnu form with four arms, bearing a conch, a disc, a bow and a garland respectively. It is believed that the deity worshipped here possesses some of the aspects of Shiva too. The image is adorned with necklaces and othe fine jewelry. Images of Sridevi and Bhudevi are on either side. Rama has been conceived in the form of the victor over the demon Khara.
There is an image of Dakshinamurthy, in the sanctum facing the south.
It is also believed that the portrayal of Rama with a garland held in the image’s hands is also suggestive of aspects of Bhrahma and hence the deity is said to be a manifestation of the Trimurthis.
An unseen manifestation of Hanuman is worshipped in a mandapam across the hall from the sanctum. There is also a shrine to Ganapathi in this temple.
In the outer courtyard of the temple is a shrine to Saasta or Ayyappan. It is believed that the Saasta shrine was located originally at the site corresponding to the temples sanctum.
Architecture: This temple is rich in wood carvings. The namaskara mandapam which faces the circular sanctum (srikovil) has 24 panels of wood carvings and several ancient murals. The circular sanctum has several sculptural representations of scenes from the Ramayana.
History: The Triprayar temple was originally under the domain of the Zamorin rulers of Kerala. It later came under the posession of the Dutch, the Mysore sultans and the rulers of Cochin.
Daily worship services: Five worship services are carried out each day – (usha, etirthu, panthirati, uccha, athazha). A processional image of the deity is carried around the temple three times a day.
Festivals : The seven day Pooram festival is celebrated in the malayala month of Meenam , and it concludes in the Pooram asterism.
The Ekadashi festival in the month of Scorpio (November – December) is also a festive occasion, along the lines of the Guruvayur temple. The day preceding Ekadashi witnesses a procession of Saasta, while the Ekadasi festival is marked by a procession of Rama flanked by 21 elephants and royal paraphernalia.
Performing Arts: Angya Koottu is a local theater form (pantomime) which is offered as a worship service in this temple, inside the temple premises. In the 12 day performance season in the month of Scorpio, episodes from the Ramayana involving Hanuman’s bringing back a ring from Sita to Rama are enacted.
The peacock legend: Many legends unique to this part of the country prevail in this temple. It is said that when the image of Rama was discovered and was about to be consecrated, it was divinely ordained that a peacock would appear and mark the exact spot on which it was to be installed. Apparently the devotees installed the image in a spot where a devotee bearing peacock feathers appeared. It is said that they regretted their decision later when a peacock actually appeared at another spot. To make up for this deficiency the sacrificial altar or the balikkallu was installed at the spot marked by the peacock.
It is believed that the sacrificial altar kept spinning on its axis until a yogi stabilized it by hammering a nail through it amidst the chanting of mantras.
Thus, the fact that the image was not installed at the divinely ordained site, caused a dosham or a blemish. To make up for the blemish, images of Sridevi and Bhudeviwere installed on either side of the deity. It is believed that Vilvamangalam Swami who is associated with several temples of Kerala, installed these images and shut the Western doors of the temple. The western doors of the temple remain shut even today.
Description: This is an ancient temple of Kerala – considered equivalent to Banares, located on the Bharatapuzhaa river. Across the river are temples to Shiva and Bhrama. Tirunavaya is located on the Malabar railroad from Palakkad to Mangalore. The railhead Tirunavaya is about a mile away from the temple.
Deities: The presiding diety here is Navamukundan. There are subshrines to Ganapati on the south west corner and Bhagavati on the north east corner.
The base of the temple is built of stone, while the superstructure above is of laterite, stucco and timberwork. The temple is considered to be demonstrative of the evolved Kerala type of architecture, dating back to the 13th -14th centuries although in a comparatively poor state of existence today. There is a separate shrine for Malarmangai Naachiyaar unlike the other Divya Desam temples in Kerala.
Legends: The name Tirunaavaai is said to have stemmed from the legend that nine yogis offered worship here. Legend has it that Lakshmi and Gajendran the king of elephants worshipped Vishnu here with lotus flowers from a lake;with two devotees using flowers from the same source, supply dwindled, and Gajendran appealed to Vishnu, who took Lakshmi by his side on the same throne and accepted worship offered by Gajendran. The name of the theertham Senkamala saras arises from the legend of the lotus filled lake.
The image of Navamukundan is portrayed only from above the knee, the rest of the image being concealed within the ground. There are interesting legends associated with this state of the image. There is believed to be a bottomless unexplored pit behind the image in the sanctum.
Another legend has it that a group of nine yogis or siddhas offered worship to Vishnu at this shrine and attained moksham or salvation; hence the name Nava Narayanan.
The Bharatapuzha river, the presence of temples to Bhrahma, Vishnu and Shiva on its banks, accords this temple town a stature equivalent to Benares. As in Benares, cremation of the dead is carried out in ghats along the river.
Legend also has it that Markandeya, fleeing the clutches of Yama appealed to Vishnu for help at this shrine and upon his direction crossed the river Bharatapuzha to worship Shiva, while Vishnu blocked the rear entrance to the temple, to prevent Yama from clutching him.
Festivals: The Maasi makam festival used to be celebrated at this temple in great splendour on the Bharatapuzha river bank for a 30 day period commencing with Thaippoosam, once in 12 years (corresponding to the Maha makam festival at Kumbhakonam)
The word Sarpa Kaavu – meaning ‘Abode of the snake’ is a common phrase in Kerala. Many ancient homes have a small corner of their yard set aside as an abode for serpents. Evidence of earlier forms of nature worship that existed in this part of this world is seen in the form of these sarpa kaavus.
Mannaarsaala, near Haripad, near Trivandrum is one such center of snake worship.
The Mannaarsaala temple dedicated to Naga Devatas is located in the middle of a large grove dedicated to serpents. There are several hundred granite images of snakes covering this area. The central temple contains images of Nagaraja the king of serpents and his consort Sarpayakshi. Some of the many images are said to have been brought and left here by families who were unable to maintain the snake groves within their homes.
Worship services are performed by a female priest who resides within the confines of the grove.The priestess adheres to austere lifestyle. From the moment of assuming priesthood, the priestess is considered to be a bride of the snake king Nagaraja. Her very residence is considered to be a temple, and it is believed that a guardian serpent dwells in the cellar of the home.
Legend has it that when Parasurama reclaimed Kerala, the new inhabitants of the land waged a war with the then inhabitants Nagas. Parasuraama intervened and decreed that a small corner of each yard be dedicated to the original Naga inhabitants of the land and hence the concept of a Sarpa Kaavu.
Interestingly, it is believed that the priests at Mannarsaala are descendants of a family that escaped the ravaging fire at the Khandava forest set by the Pandava princes. It is also believed that all of the serpents that escaped the fire settled down in the grove at Mannaarsaala. (The fire at the Khandava forest is enacted at the Aranmulatemple).
Festivals: The annual festival here is celebrated in the month of Libra on the Ayilyam asterism. This festival witnesses a procession of images of serpent Gods to the residence of the priest.
Beliefs: It is believed that childless couples are blessed with progeny upon the completion of a form of worship where a small bell metal vessel offered to the temple.
The Pancha Pandavas and Kerala
Legends from the Mahabharata are an intricate part of the cultural web of India, that transcends regional and linguistic affiliations. The southern state of Kerala is an outstanding illustration of this fact. While the historic sites of Indraprasta, Hastinapura and Kurukshetra are believed to be in what is now Uttar Pradesh in Northern India, the Kathakali dance form of Kerala is one of the best forms of expression of the legends from the Mahabharatam.
Kerala has a strong temple culture, and the temples of Kerala are noted for their austerity and strict adherence to age old worship protocols. Five temples of Kerala, dedicated to Vishnu (Krishna) are connected with the Mahabharatam. Legend has it that the Pandava princes set out on a pilgrimage throughout India, after installing Parikshit as the ruler of their vast empire. During their tour of Kerala, the five brothers built a temple each. These temples are:
Description Tiruchenkunroor is one of the five ancient shrines in the Chengannur area of Kerala, connected with the Mahabharatam. (Chengannur – Yuddhishtra, Tiruppuliyur – Bheema, Aranmula – Arjuna, Tiruvamundur – Nakula and Tirukkadittaanam – Sahadeva). Nammalwar describes Chenkunrur as a town where the smoke emanating from the vedic ritual yagnas fills the sky and as a place surrounded by rich lush vegetation (of bananas and coconuts).
The Chengannoor Mahadevar temple with a shrine to Bhagavati is of great significance in this town.
In its good days, this temple’s annual festival in the malayalam month of Meenam witnessed elaborate celebrationss with performances of Chakkiyar koothy, Koodiyattam etc.
Legend has it that Dharmaputra (Yuddhishtra) offered worship to Vishnu, seeking pardon for his act on the battlefield, where he uttered the words ‘Ashwattaama hatah kunjaraha’ in an attempt to deceive Drona and lead him to a defenceless state resulting(Drona’s) life to an end.
Description Tirupuliyur is one of the five ancient shrines in the Chengannur area of Kerala, connected with the Mahabharatam. (Chengannur – Yuddhishtra, Tiruppuliyur – Bheema,Aranmula – Arjuna, Tiruvamundur – Nakula and Tirukkadittaanam – Sahadeva). It has been glorified by the tamil hymns of Nammalwar of the 1st millennium CE. Another of the Alwars, Tirumangaialwar has mentioned Tirupuliyur in one of his verses in his Siriya Tirumadal.
Legend has it that Bhima the Pandava prince built this temple and worshipped Vishnu here. A colorful legend regarding the saptarishis and a great famine that occurred in this area is associated with this temple. Other local legends associated with feudal warfare amongst the local rulers and the priests are also associated with this temple. It is believed that this temple lay without worship for a 200 year period after which it was consecrated and reopened.
At Malanad near Kollam there is a temple dedicated to Duryodhana of the Kauravas of Mahabharata. A local community known as Kuravas offers worship at the Duryodhana temple. It is widely believed by the Kuravas that harm would befall them if they spent a night at Tiruppuliyur housing the temple established by Bheema.
The food offerings made at the Tiruppuliyur temple are vast in magnitude. At least 400 measures of rice are used in the preparation of special offerings, acknowledging the hearty appetite associated with Bheema the builder of the temple.
Description Aranmula is a beautiful village located further inland from Chengannur, (9 km west) on the Ernakulam Quilon railroad. It is on the left bank of the Pampa river. ; it is from here that the sacred jewels of Ayyappan are taken in procession to Sabarimalai each year. Aranmula is also known for the watersports involving a spectacular procession of snake boats. It is also linked with legends from the Mahabharata.
Among the Krishna temples in Kerala, the most important ones are at Guruvayur, Trichambaram, Tiruvarppu, Ambalappuzha and Aranmula.
Aranmula is one of the five ancient shrines in the Chengannur area of Kerala, connected with the Mahabharatam. (Chengannur – Yuddhishtra, Tiruppuliyur – Bheema, Aranmula – Arjuna, Tiruvamundur – Nakula and Tirukkadittaanam – Sahadeva). It has been glorified by the tamil hymns of Nammalwar of the 1st millennium CE.
The temple has four towers over its entrances on its outer wall. The eastern tower is accessed through a flight of 18 steps. Descending 57 steps through the northern tower, one can reach the Pampa river.
Legend has it that the Pandava princes, after crowning Parikshit left on a pilgrimage of India, and in Kerala, each of these brothers installed Vishnu on the banks of the Pampa and nearby places and offered worship. (Chengannur – Yuddhishtra, Tiruppuliyur – Bheema, Aranmula – Arjuna, Tiruvamundur – Nakula and Tirukkadittaanam – Sahadeva). It is said that Arjuna built this temple at Nilackal near Sabarimalai. and the image was brought here in a raft made of six pieces of bamboo to this site, and hence the name Aranmula (six pieces of bamboo).
Legend has it that Arjuna built this temple, to expiate for the sin of having killed Karna on the battlefield, against the dharma of killing an unarmed enemy. It is also believed that Vishnu (here) revealed the knowledge of creation to Bhrama , from whom the Madhukaitapa demons stole the Vedas.
There is yet another legend associated with Parthasarathy here. On the ninth dayof the battle of Kurukshetra, the Kauravas reigned supreme under the leadership of Bheeshma, when krishna motivated Arjuna to take initative and vanquish his foe. Upon his hesitating to do so, Krishna jumped down in rage, and took up his discus; seeing this sight Bheeshma surrendered to him and Arjuna beseeched him not to kill Bheeshma, as it would bave been against Krishna’s vow to take up arms in his battle. It is believed that it is this image of Krishna that is enshrined here, with a discus.
The Water Carnival: This temple is located
Description Tirukkodittanam is one of the five ancient shrines in the Chengannur area of Kerala, connected with the Mahabharatam. (Chengannur – Yuddhishtra, Tiruppuliyur – Bheema, Aranmula – Arjuna, Tiruvamundur – Nakula and Tirukkadittaanam – Sahadeva). It is located near the town of Changanacheri near Kottayam. This ancient temple has been glorified by the tamil hymns (Tiruvaimozhi) of Nammalwar.
Legend has it that this temple was built by Sahadavan of the Pandavas. It is also believed that this village was ruled by Rukmangatan, a king of the Solar race.
The Temple: This temple has a vritta (circular) vimanam. Several murals (possibly from the 17th century) adorn the walls of the sanctum, portraying images of Shiva Tandavam, Karatarjuniyam, Vinayaka, Sasta, Yoganarasimha, Rama Pattabhishekam, Mahisasuramardhini, Mohini, Venugopala, Anantasayanam etc. The temple structure dates back to the 11th century. There are subshrines to Narasimha and Dakshinamurthy here. The Narasimha image is said to date back to the Vijayanagara period. The wood carvings and murals date back to the 16th through 18th centuries. Inscriptions from the period of Bhaskara Ravivarman (10th century) are seen in this temple.
High walls surround it and give it the grandeur of a fort. Stones are so carefully chiseled and joined that it is impossible to distinguish joints. There is a large 2-3 acre tank outside the temple. On the bank of the tank, near the temple gate, there is a big pillar on top of which is kept hanging a human figure in granite stone, with a crown, sacred thread and a conch. This image is related to a historic story of petty feudal warfare. Stone inscriptions found here are of significance .
Festivals: A unique custom of sprinkling rose water along the circumambulatory path is seen in this temple. Deepa Mahotsavam is celebrated in the month of Vrischikam (Nov 15 – Dec 15). This festival is said to commemorate the self immolation of Madri the mother of Sahadevan. In this unique festival, plantain leaves are arranged in the form of a pyre, and torches are inserted and lighted to the accompaniment of unique percussion instruments
Description Tiruvamundur is one of the five ancient shrines in the Chengannur area of Kerala, connected with the Mahabharatam. (Chengannur – Yuddhishtra, Tiruppuliyur – Bheema, Aranmula – Arjuna, Tiruvamundur – Nakula and Tirukkadittaanam – Sahadeva). It has been glorified by the tamil hymns of Nammalwar of the 1st millennium CE. It is located 6 km north of Chengannur on the Ernakulam Trivandrum railroad.
The temple: This temple has a circular vimanam – a namaskaramandapam and a gopuradwaram. Much of the present structure dates back to the 14th century CE.
The deity Kamalanathan is portrayed in a standing posture; the name Pambaniyappan which also refers to Kamalanathan arises from the fact the river Pampa cicrles the town (Pampa nadi appan). There is also a shrine to Gopalakrishnan here.
This temple dates back to the period of Kulasekhara Perumaal and was renovated by the Travancore kings (Moolam Tirunaal) in early 20th century. The image of Gopalakrishna was lost many years ago and was rediscovered in the 1960s and reconsecrated.
Legend has it that Nakula the Pandava prince built this temple. Narada is believed to have been blessed here with the duty of preaching the truth to humanity. Vishnu is said to have created a text describing the protocol to be adopted for worshipping him, at this shrine.
Haripad is located north of Kollam and is home to the Subramanya temple. The other well known shrine dedicated to Subramanya in Kerala is atUdayanapuram. Also near Haripad is Mannarsala, where a serpent grove is held in great reverence.
This temple enshrines an imposing image of Subramanya said to have been worshipped by Parasurama. Much of the temple is a result of renovations carried out in the 20th century.
This temple celebrates annual festivals in the tamil months of Aavani (Aug-Sep), Maargazhi (Dec – Jan),Chittirai (Apr-May). Kaartikai Deepam and Thai Poosam are also celebrated here. Kaavadi dances are offered in this temple as with Murugan temples in Tamilnadu.
The annual festival commences on the first day of the malayala new year Vishu. Paraphernalia for Vishu celebrations here are brought from the Kalarickaltemple at Karuvatta near Mavelikara, and gifts from the Haripad temple are reciprocated.
Description Tiruvanandapuram (Trivandrum) gets its name from the grand Anantapadmanabhaswamy temple, enshrining the tutelary deity – Anantapadmanabha of the Travancore kingdom. It is one of the grandest temples of Kerala, exhibiting an amalgamation of Dravidian and Kerala temple architectural styles. It is a temple vibrant with tradition, having been associated for years with the arts and music. The rulers of Travancore have held this temple in the highest regard. Even today, an elaborate worship protocol is followed in the strictest sense and this is one of the best maintained temples in India.
This is an ancient temple and has been revered by the tamil hymns of the Alwar Saint Nammalwar of the 1st millennium CE. Eight shrines in Kerala Tirunaavai, Trikakkara, Moozhikkalam, Tiruvalla, Tirukkodittanam, Chengannur, Tirupuliyur, Aranmula, Tiruvanvandur and Tiruvanantapuram and two in Kanyakumari district (formerly in Travancore) Tiruvaattar and Tirupatisaram have been revered by the tamil hymns of Nammalwar. Tirumangaialwar has sung of Tiruvalla, and has mentioned Tirupuliyur in one of his hymns.
Deities: This temple enshrines an imposing image of Vishnu, in the Anantasayanam posture; an image viewed through three doors in front of the shrine. The original image was of wood; the current image was fashioned out of 1200 saalagramams which were specially brought down for this purpose and moulded into shape with a special paste kadusarkara – a mixture of lime, granite, molasses and mustard. Vishnu is viewed through three doors in a row – the face on the southern side, the feet on the northern side and the nabhi (navel) in the middle. Padmanabhan is enshrined in the yoganidhra posture, reclining on Aadiseshan -( making offerings of vilvam to a small Shivalingam, to his right).
The sanctum of this temple is fashioned in the style of the temples of Kerala, while the surrounding walls and the towers resemble that of the Tamil (Dravidian architecture)temples. Interesting murals adorn the outer walls of the sanctum. There are shrines to Narasimha, Hanuman and Krishna near the sanctum.
An interesting legend surrounds the origin of the imposing image. A rishi by name Divakara Yogi, who was engaged in the worship of Vishnu, was enraged by the sight of a two year old toddler swallowing his Salagramam, the object of his worship. The toddler, upon being chased by the yogi, entered a tree; the tree split, and Vishnu revealed himself in all his splendour to the Rishi, who then requested him to assume a form that could be held in worship, upon which Vishnu assumed the form of the image, now held in worship in this temple.
History: Martanda Varma of the Travancore Kingdom, in a spectacular ceremony in 1750 surrendered the kingdom to the presiding deity of the temple, and received it back as a fiefdom and ruled Travancore as a servant of Padmanabhan; all of his successors adopted this custom. Much of the present structure dates back to the period of Martanda Varma, who made several renovations and built the eastern gopuram, which got completed by 1798.
The flagstaff is enclosed in a casing of gold. The Kulasekhara mandapam near the flagstaff has fine sculptures dating back to the 17th century. The long prakaram, with a terraced roof with 324 columns, mesaures 540 feet by 325 feet, and is about 24 feet wide. It has two rows of granite pillars, and every pillar bears an image of a Deepalakshmi. Also here are images of yalis (mythological animal), with non removable stone balls in their mouths.
Festivals: There are two annual festivals here – one in the month of Pankuni (Pisces-Meenam) March 15-April14, and the other in Aippasi (Tulaa-Libra) (Oct-Nov).
More will be featured about this magnificient temple shortly on Templenet.
Three of the best known Krishna temples in Kerala areGuruvayur, Ambalappuzha and Trichambaram.
Ambalappuzaha is located south of Aalappuzha and is rich in legend and tradition.
Krishna is worshipped here as Unnikrishna or the child, although the image enshrined here is that ofParthasarathi.
Historically, this temple dates back to early 17th century CE. It is associated with the Guruvayur Krishna temple from the standpoint that the image of Krishna from Guruvayur was brought here for safekeeping during the raids of Tipu Sultan.
This temple is well known for the offering of the paayasam sweet dish during the afternoon worship service.
Sabarimala – where millions converge
Sabarimala is one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in South India during the festival season in the months of November, December and January. A pilgrimage to Sabarimala involves severe austerities, and a trek through the Western Ghats. Sabarimala enshrines Sastha or Aiyappan – Hariharaputran – the son of Shiva and Vishnu-maya.
Sastha is a popular deity in Kerala, and is enshrined in several of its temples. Five temples dedicated to Sastha are of great importance. Kulathuppuzha enshrines Sastha as a child, Aryankaavu enshrines him as a young lad, Achan Koyil enshrines him with as a householder with his consorts Poorna and Pushkala, Sabarimala enshrines him as his Vanaprasthasramam, and Ponnambala-medu enshrines him as the highest yogi. These five shrines represent the five stages of life as described by the scriptures. Ponnambalam is a spot on a hill where the Makara Jyoti (light) is seen on the day of Makara Sankranti.
Legend: Sastha or Aiyappan is revered as the son of Shiva and Mohini – Vishnu-maya. Legend has it that this divine child was discovered on the banks of the river Pampa by the ruler of the kingdom of Pandalam. The childless king brought up this child Manikandan as his own. A plot hatched by the vile queen sent the valiant Manikandan in search of leapord’s milk, as the only suitable cure for the queen’s feigned illness. The valiant prince killed the demon Mahishi in the jungle and relieved its inhabitants of untold suffering and returned to the kingdom with a herd of tigers. The divinity of the child revealed, he requested the king to build a temple on the hill Neelimala, where the saint Sabari was engaged in penance.
The temple: Eighteen steps are seen leading to the sanctum, and these steps are considered to be very sacred. Only those who have observed the 41 day penance (see below) are allowed to climb these steps. The pathinettu padi shrine is also seen at the Azhagar Koyil temple near Madurai, which has a subsidiary shrine to the guardian deity Karuppannasami.
Millions undertake the (once)arduous pilgrimage to Sabarimala with 41 days of penance. Much of the route used to be accessible only on foot through rocky jungle paths. Much of the route now is on motorable road.
The annual festival at this temple is celebrated in the malayalam month of Meenam, concluding on the Tiruvonam asterism. On the ninth day, a grand feast is held in honor of the percussionists who play drums for the festival.
he Tirunakkara Mahadeva temple is located inKottayam on the Ernakulam Tiruvanandapuram railway line. South of Kottayam is the ShivastalamEttumaanur and north of it is Vaikom.
Legend has it that a local ruler was an ardent devotee of the Vadakunnatha temple at Thrissur and that he would make frequent trips to Thrissur from Kottayam. Such trips became harder as the king advanced in age.
During one of his trips, he had a dream in which Shiva of the Vadakkunnathan temple told him that he would manifest himself in the Tirunakkara hill in Kottayam.
True to the dream, a plough struck rock on the Tirunakkara hill and blood started oozing out; further careful excavation yielded a buried Shivalingam and a Nandi.
The theme of this legend is seen at several Shiva temples all over the land, where the Shivalingam is regarded as a self-manifested one and not one created with a chisel.
This temple celebrates its annual festival during the first ten days of the malayala month of Meenam.
The city of Ernakulam is home to the Mahadeva – Shiva temple, which celebrates its annual festival in the month of January. Located in its vicinity are temples to Subramanya and Anjaneya.
A legend associated with this temple is believed to be related to the name of the city itself.
Legend has it that a rishi by name Devala killed a serpent by accident and was cursed by his guru. The curse turned his face into the hood of a snake and he acquired the name Nagarishi. It was ordained that a sustained period of Shiva worship would relieve him of the curse.
Nagarishi lived his life in prayer and had a vision in which he was blessed with a Shivalingam – the same Shivalingam which was worshipped by Arjuna in his quest for the Paasupat astram. (see legend – Kiraataarjuneeyam).
Nagarishi continued travelling throughout the land with the Shivalingam and came to the site of this temple and realized that the Shivalingam had gotten stuck to the ground and that it could not be removed.
He realized that his curse was about to be lifted and he bathed in a nearby tank, shed his mortal coils and disappeared.
This lake was referred to as the Rishinaagakulam; the name is said to have changed to Ernakulam gradually.
Description: The Vamanamurthy Temple at Trikakkara is an ancient one, located 14 km north east of Irinjalakuda on the Thrissur Ernakulam railroad. It has been glorified by the tamil hymns (Tiruvaimozhi) of Nammalwar, of the 1st millennium CE.
This temple is associated with the Onam festival; Tiruvonam is celebrated in the Malayalam month of Chingam (Leo), the last day Onam marking the avataram of Vamana and the banishment of Mahabali Chakravarti to the netherworld. Onam is the most important festival celebrated in Kerala. Even today, an image of Trikkakkara Vamana is symbolically used in Onam celebrations in several places in Kerala.
This temple celebrates the legend of the origin of Vamana – Trivikrama and his conquest of the worlds with his massive Trivikrama form and his placing his foot on Mahabali Chakravarti’s head. Local legends even associate the Kapila theertham with the source of water with which Mahabali Chakravarti symbolically made his offering of land to Vamana.
Legend has it that Mahabali returns to the earth once a year during the Onam festival and that his return is marked by celebrations involving floral decorations and more.
There are interesting non-puranic local legends surrounding this place. A devout farmer, appalled by the lack of crop from his fields of plantain trees, worshipped the deity here, with an offering of a bunch of plantains fashioned out of gold, upon which, he was blessed with a more than bountiful harvest of a breed of bananas now known as Nendiram Pazham.f
An extension to this legend has it that a yogi was accused unjustly of stealing these golden plantains; acquitted later after undue punishment, the yogi cursed the place to befall into ruins. The legend states that the yogi, thanks to his untimeley death caused by the undue punishment and humiliation turned into a bhramharakshasan and that a shrine was built to propitate his spirit. The region went through wars and conquests and suffered poverty, apparently due to the yogi’s curse. It was only later that the administration of the temple was taken over by the Travancore kingdom and the temple began to see better times.
Deities: The presiding deity here is Vamanamurthy. There are subshrines to Sastha and Mahalakshmi. This temple is characterized by its vritta (circular) vimanam. A Shivalingam in the temple is said to have been held in worship by Mahabali Chakravarti. There are inscriptions here from as early as the 10th century CE the period of Bhaskara Ravivarma. This temple is said to have received endowments from the Chera king Kulasekhara Perumaal of the 9th century CE.
Chottanikkara or Jyothianikkara
Chottanikkara enshrines Bhagawati – the mother Goddess, one of the most popular deities in Kerala. The town of Chotanikkara is located near the city of Ernakulam. Enroute is the Poornatrayesa temple at Tripunittura.
The Deity: Rajarajeswari is the presiding deity here. The image of Bhagawati (Rajarajeswari) is of laterite; untouched by the human sculptor, this image is of irregular shape. and is covered with a golden kavacam. The image has four arms. The upper right holds the discus, the left a conch. This deity is worshipped in three different forms – as Saraswati in the morning – draped in white, as Bhadrakali at noon draped in crimson, and as Durga in the evening decked in blue.
Adjacent to this image in the sanctum is an image of Vishnu in granite. Vishnu and Bhagawati together are referred to as Lakshminarayana. The prayers here address the deity as Amme Narayana, Devi Narayana and Lakshmi Narayana.
Interestingly, the image here is not fixed to the ground and is mounted on loose sand. Water offered during ablution ceremonies percolates underground.
There is also a shrine to Sastha depicting him with his consorts Purna and Pushkala. In front of the shrine are the flagstaff and the bali pitham. To the south is a platform known as Pavazhamallithara where the deity is believed to have appeared first. To the south west is a shrine to Shiva. To the north east there is a flight of steps leading to theKeezhkaavu, a shrine to Bhadrakali.
In the keezhkaavu shrine is a paala tree with hundreds of nails driven into its trunk, as a mark of devotees having been exorcised here. Worship here is believed to rid devotees of evil influences, psychological ailments, evil spirits etc.
Much of the structure in this temple is a result of renovation carried out by the government of Cochin, in late 19th century.
Legend has it that a ferocious dacoit by name Kannappan who dominated this area, brought home a cow with the intent of slaughtering it. The cow escaped his butchering knife, and set him running in hot pursuit. His chase in vain, Kannappan returned home to find his beloved daughter playing with the very same cow. Complying with her request, he forsake the idea of killing the cow. His daughter passed away, and this greatly grieved him. Goddess Bhagawati appeared in his dream, and revealed to him that it was she who had come to him in the form of a cow. To his surprise, he saw two images in the cowshed the following day; the images were those of Devi and Vishnu. Kannappan built a humble shrine and worshipped the images in the cowshed. Eventually this shrine fell under repair and was discovered later and sanctified. It then grew into a shrine of the magnitude seen today, over a period of time.
The annual festival here is celebrated in the month of Kumbha or Aquarius (Feb – Mar). Maasi Makam, coinciding with the full moon, during this festival attracts vast crowds. Legend has it that the deity appeared in front of Vilvamangalam Swamigal a saint associated with this shrine and with Guruvayur. Vilvamangalam Swamy is said to have discovered Bhadrakali enshrined in Keezhkaavu.
Sree Krishna Temple at Guruvayur
Guruvayoor is one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in South India. It is well connected by rail and road to Thrissur and hence to the rest of the country. Guruvayoor enshrines the youthful form of Krishna. This is a temple rich in legend, tradition and festivals.
Legend has it that Guru – the preceptor of Gods (Brihaspati) and Vaayu the wind God established this temple. Legend has it that this image was originally worshipped by Bhrama and gifted to Vishnu who retained it with him at Dwarka during hisKrishnavataram. At the brink of destruction of Dwarka, Krishna instructed Uddhava to seek Vayu’s and Guru’s help to find a safe haven for the image. Accordingly Guru and Vayu installed this image at Guruvayur, on one side of a lotus lake, on the other side of which was a shrine to Shiva and Parvati.
It is believed that worshipping here relieves people of bodily ailments. Legend has it that Janamejaya, son of Parikshit was cured of leprosy upon installing the image of Krishna and worshipping here. Yet another legend has it that a Pandya King was cured of a snake bite while worshipping here.
History: The famous work Naaraayaneeyam – authored in the 16th century was composed in the presence of the presiding deity here, and its author is believed to have been cured of an incurable bout of arthritis.
The temple: The temple faces east. Crowds throng the entrance, and are let in through a queue system. The sanctum can be viewed from the temple entrance. There are also shrines to Durga (Edathidettukkaavu Bhagawati), and Sastha here.
Worship: It is believed that Bhagvan Shri Adi Sankaracharya set up the worship protocol here. The Nirmalya Darisanam is celebrated in the pre-dawn hours (3 am). The sanctum closes at 9 pm, and it stays open throughout the day except for a break between 1pm and 4 pm. A series of worship services are conducted throughout the day. A festival image of the deity is carried in procession around the temple during various rituals. Worship at Guruvayur is considered complete after visiting the Mammiyur Mahadevar temple nearby.
Festivals: The mandala ulsavam is celebrated for a period of 41 days towards the end of each calendar year. The annual ulsavam or festival is celebrated in the month of Kumbha, and this festival concludes with an elephant race.
There are many more beautiful Temples in kerala making it land of temples that is why the land is called Gods own country.