Temples of Kerala- Vadakkunnathan Temple

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

The Vadakkkunnathan Temple located in Thrissur of Kerala is one of the largest temples in Kerala which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This 1000 year old temple is a classic example of the Kerala style of architecture with beautiful murals of the 17th century depicting the story of Mahabharata pictorially.

According to the legend, the parents of Adi Sankaracharya prayed this god for the child as they were childless for many years. Shiva appeared to both husband and wife in their dreams, and offered them a choice to select a mediocre son who would live a long life, or an extraordinary son who would not live long. Both Shivaguru and Aryamba chose the latter. The son was named Shankara, in the honour of Shiva. It is also believed that Tipu Sultan camped near this temple during his raid on northern Kerala. But this fact has been disputed by a number of historians.

The temple being built by Parashurama has the shrines and the Koothambalam displayed in exquisite vignettes carved out of wood. An elephant salutes Vadakkunathan during Thrissur pooram. The temple has a massive stone wall enclosing an area about 8 to 9 acres. It has four gopurams indicating four directions of north, south, east and west.

There is a multi-shrined complex in the center with three principal shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva or Vadakkunathan, Shankaranarayana and Rama. The circular structure has the deity facing west. The image of Shiva Parvati facing east is behind Shiva in the same shrine. In the south, there is a two-storied shrine of Sri Rama facing the west. The third Srikovil which is circular and double storied in shape, dedicated to Shankaranarayana stands in between these two srikovils. The mukhamandapams surround the front of all the three shrines.

The idol of Siva, which is not visible, is said to have been covered under a mount of ghee, formed by the daily abhisheka with ghee over the years. There is a high mount of ghee embellished with thirteen cascading crescents of gold and three serpent hoods at top.

It is believed that this represents the snow-clad Mount Kailas, the abode of Parvathy and Parameswara. Apart from Lord Shiva, Sree Parvathy, Sree Ganesh, Lord Sankaranarayana and Sree Rama are also enshrined within the main nalambalam of the temple. Within the nalambalam enclosure, Lord Vettekkaran or Shiva in the hunter form is also worshipped. The shrines of Lord Krishna, Vrishabha, Parasurama, Simhodara, Dharmasastha and Adi Sankaracharya are located outside the nalambalam.

There are rare murals in the temple and two of them, Vasukisayana and Nrithanatha are even worshipped regularly. The fairly large white bullock on the verandah of the Nalambalam is worshipped as Nandikeswara. The temple quadrangle has specified spots where the devotees can offer their salutations to Lord Siva of Kasi and Lord Chidambaranatha of Chidambaram, Lord of Siva of Rameswara, Sree Kali of Kodungallur, Urakam Ammathiruvadi, Lord Bharatha (Koodalmanickam) at Irinjalakuda, Sree Vyasa, Sree Hanuman and serpent gods. The temple theatre, known as koothambalam is one of the best cites in the world.

Lord Ganesh faces the temple kitchen and offering Appam or sweetened rice cake fried in ghee to Mahaganapathy is an important tradition of this temple. He is believed to bless the devotees with prosperity and wealth. Another tradition at the Vadakkunnathan Temple for the last 20 years is to conduct a large-scale Ashta Dravya Maha Ganapathy Havana and Aanayoottu or the ceremonial feeding of elephants on the 1st day of karkidakom month as per the Malayalam calendar. Once in four years, the Gajapooja is also conducted.

 

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