Poothadi Thazhekkavu or Veliyambakotta Temple (Siva)
Situated in Poothadi village of Sulthan Bathery Taluk in Wayanad District. Situated at a distance of 35 km from Kalpetta District Head Quarters in the north-west direction, the temple is approached via Natavayal and Naikappa on Kalpetta - Pulppalli road. From Naikappa forest check post one has to turn east into reserved forest and travel a distance of about 1.5 km by metalled road to reach the temple. The probability of coming across wild elephants in this stretch make this route a bit risky. A more safer route will be to travel forward along Pulppalli Road from Naikappa forest station for a distance of 2 km and then turn south-east and travel a distance of about 3 km; most of the area is inhabited except for the last 200 metres which is through reserve forest. Poothadi Melekkavu Bhagavathi Temple is situated at the beginning of this 200 metre stretch. The temple has been completely renovated and does not sport any old structures.
The Thazhekkavu temple is inside the reserved forest area, on an elevated plateau. The srikovil structure has the unique distinction of being the earliest extant structural temple in Malai Nadu (Kerala Coast). It is also the earliest Gajaprshta srikovil in this region.
The Poothadi Thazhekkavu lithic inscription (Annual of Report of Epigraphy for 1970-71 No. B 64) obtained from this temple dates this temple 157 years after the establishment of Tirukkunavay (Thrkkanamathilakom Temple in Kodungallur) Temple. This vatteluthu inscription has been assigned to the 10th Century (AD 900 to 999). The date of Tirukkunavay temple can be ascertained from this inscription as the middle of 8th Century. The stone containing the inscription was removed by the Archaeological Department from this temple in 1970 and it is now displayed in the Archaeological Museum at Krishnapuram Palace, Kayamkulam.
Tirukkunavay temple lingers only in epigraphs and memory as it has been totally destroyed by the Chola army in their war against the Ceras. Only the place name Mathilakom has survived. But in contrast, Poothadi Thazhekkavu temple is intact but for its ageing and wear and tear imparted by climatic conditions. Lack of frequent apprach by human beings has been a blessing in retaining its pristine form.
An archaeologist can easily guess that this temple is earlier than the inscriptional record. In size as well as in its shape, material of construction etc. it differs from the Tirunelli Temple which is attributed to the 10th Century. Thazhekkavu temple has its mate in the 7th Century Sahadeva Ratha in Mammallapuram near Chennai. The early Pallava Kings were Jains, so also Poothadi and Tirukkunavay were early Jain settlemetns in Mala Nadu. There is every possibility of Poothadi temple taking shape as a Jain temple in about 7th Century. Similarly Tirukkunavayir Kottam was also a Jain settlement earlier from where Ilango Adigal worte the Tamil epic Silappatikaram (Story of star crossed couple Kannaki & Kovalan) at the latest by 7th Century A.D. As such we may conclude that conversion of Jain temples into Siva temples must be subject of reference in the Poothadi Thazhekkavu inscription.
The close similarity of Poothadi Thazhekkavu temple with that of the 7th Century Sahadeva Ratha in Mamallapuram is also accounted for by the reference to the Master Builder of Sahadeva Ratha, the Cera Stapathi Mathrudatta who was commissioned by the Pallava ruler for the Mamallapuram project. This fact has been mentioned in the 'Avanti Sundari Katha' penned by Dandi, a poet in the Pallava court in the 7th Century.
Thus Poothadi Thazhekkavu temple can claim an antiquity of about 1400 years and is definitely the earliest structural temple of Kerala and the forerunner of the later Gajaprshta srikovils in Kerala. It may be mentioned that the earliest Gajaprshta srikovil in present day Tamil Nadu is the one at Pennadam, 17 km south-east of Vriddhachalam. This Siva temple is extolled by Saiva saint Appar (Tirunavukkarasar) as Thoongaanai madom (Gajaprshta temple) in his Thevaram hymns. Appar also lived in the 7th Century. But the foundation of this temple goes even earlier to 5th or 6th Century to the times of Chola Ko chengannan who built around 70 brick temples. The Toonganai madom temple at Pennadam was later rebuilt in stone during Uttama Chola's reign in 10th Century.
The Veliyambakotta Siva Temple complex has an extent of 1.05 acres and the limits of the temple land have been clearly demarcated by the Forest Department. The structurse on this complex include the ancient srikovil and other ancillary structures of later origin. They ar the namaskara mantapam, sub-shrines, well, thitapalli, office cum store, balikkal etc. all coming within a high wall to afford protection from wild animals. The sub-shrines include those of Ganapath, Sastha and Nagars.
The gajaprshta (apsidal) eka thala srikovil having mukha-mandapam faces west. The adhishtanam is built with granite stones and with usual moulding. The granite sopanam has four direct steps with banisters on either side with carvings of vyaali figures on the exterior. The pranalam on the northern side is of the simplified type with a granite peetham beneath it. The walls and roof are made vennakkal (alabaster). The exterior of the wall portion have been simply relieved by pilasters, niches and ghana-dvaras. There are three ghana-dvaras, two on either side and one at the rear. There are ten projecting niches from the bottom line of the roof containing ascetic figures of monks (which point to the Jain Connection of the structure). The roof is also made of alabaster plastered over with lime. On the sourther side of the Srikovil and attached to it there is a small sub-shrine (without roof) having deities of Lorf Ganapathy and Sastha. The Mathru Sila can also be seen on the sourth. The small namaskara mandapam (about 2.65 m side) has four pillars and a pyramidal tiled roof. The thitappalli and office room are located at north-west and the well at the north-east.
Only two poojas are there, the usha pooja and the athazha pooja. The tantri is from Purakkati illom. Sivarathri is observed as an annual festival with special poojas.
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Last Revised (contents): 1 May, 2009
Last Revised (design) : 26 july, 2004