Thiruvanchikulam Mahadeva Kshetram.
The temple is located in Methala Panchayat, south of Kodungallur Municipal town. It is one of the four Tali temples of Kodungallur, the ancient Cera capital, its old name being Mel-Tali. The temple (West nata) is situated at a distance of 2½ km from the heart of the town on the Kodungallur-Ernakulam NH 17.
Temple Layout & Architecture
Entering through the three storeyed eastern dwara gopura one lands in the aanapandal coming in the outer praakara. West of the aanapandal is situated the dhwaja stambha beyond which is the Agramandapam containing the Valia Balikkal and serving as a porch of the Valiambalam. The Valiambalam is part of the chuttambalam or naalambalam in the front portion. Past the valiambalam one enters the inner praakara sighting the Shrikovil through the namaskara mandapa.
The shrikovil proper consists of a square garbha-grha with a mukha mandapa in front. It is a dvi-tala vimana facing east. The special feature of the shrikovil is that the floor level inside is almost level with the paaduka in contrast to most temples having the floor as the top level of the adhishtana. As such there is no sopanam steps in front and the pranala (water shute) does not exist as a separate free standing feature. The exit for the ablution water is at the floor level, both inside and out and takes the shape of a natural drain.
The pratishta is considered to be of Uma Maheswara as revealed to Sage Parasurama. There are two dvarapaalakas of granite, standing on either side of the shrikovil entry. There is a namaskara mandapa with 16 pillars and the floor level of the mandapa is well above the adhishtana. The mandapa is also of the dvi tala type, a rarity among namaskara mandapas in Kerala temples. The shrikovil as well as the namaskara mandapa are built of granite up to the vedika level (i.e. paadukam and adhishtana portions). The superstructure walls of the shrikovil in both floors are constructed with laterite and plastered over with decorations of ghanadvaras, panjaras, toranas etc. Horizontal wooden slat-work embellish the mandapa in both the floors. Both the shrikovil with mukhamandapa and the namaskara mandapa have copper sheet roofing, the former with shuka-nasa. There are carved wooden figures supporting the ground floor eaves at regular intervals as also on the four cardinal directions in the upper floor of the shrikovil.
Thiruvanchikulam temple scores another point in having the maximum number of subsidiary shrines (more than 25 in number). South of the shrikovil, in a tiled rectangular enclosure, running East-West are located the Saptha mathrukkal (Brahmi, Maheswari, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Vaarahi, Indrani and Chamunda) as well as Ganapathy and Veerabhadra. East of this is located one of the two thidappallies (kitchen), the other being located diametrically opposite, beyond the namaskara mandapa. The forenoon and afternoon nivedyams are alternatively prepared in the two thidappallies.
Taking the perambulatory path south-west of the thidappalli on the southern side, one comes across the pratishta of Ganapathy on the kannimoola position (south-west). A well is also located nearby. Inside the southern side of the naalambalam is located the sannidhi of two of the sixty four naayanmars (preachers of the Shaiva canon) of the mediaeval era. One of them Cheraman Perumal Naayanar was the ruler of Cera country at Maakotaipattinam - the "City of the Great Cera King" (Kodungallur as it was known in the 9th century A.D.) and the other was his friend Sundaramoorthy Naayanar of Thiruvennainalloor (near Villupuram in Tamil Nadu) who chose to spend the evening of his life at Thiruvanchikulam in the company of the royal devotee.
On the south-west corner of the western stretch of the naalambalam is located the Pallakkumuri (Palanquin room) followed by the jutting out sannidhi of Sandhyavelakkal Shivan. The Bhringeeradi pratishta (another three legged devotee - gana of Lord Shiva) in between Sapthamaathrukkal and Sandhyavelakkal Shivan. On the north west direction of the shrikovil are located Palliyara Shivan, Palliyara (the divine bed room) and the sannidhi housing Shakthi Panchakshari, Bhagavathy and Parvathy-Parameswara. In the last enclosure, facing South is Shiva-Nataraja depicting Pradoshanrtta.
Taking an anticlockwise round without crossing the ambu-marga (ablution water channel) and circumwinding the sanctum and namaskara mandapa one comes across the thidappalli on the north-east of the mandapa. On the west side of the thidappalli are the well, the pratishta of Unni Thevar and Chandikesan.
Getting out through the Agra mandapa in front of the valiambalam one lands in the outer praakara which also contains a good number of upadevatas. Taking a clockwise round one comes across the sannidhi of Dakshinamoorthy beyond the tank. Past Dakshinamoorthy are the pratishtas of Ayyappan, Nagaraja and Nagayakshi. An idol of Hanuman has also been located here of late. The south-west corner contains another tank. South of the aanapandal on the west nata is the pratishta of Pashupathi and in between aanapandal and naalambalam comes Natakkal thevar. North of the aanapandal are located the sannidhis of Subramonia, Durga (with a mandapa in front) and Ganga Devi in a tank (Ganga). Further east of the Ganga Devi comes Konnakal Shivan (Shiva at the foot of a Konna tree). In the north-west corner of the courtyard leaning on the compound wall are the Devaswom offices and the oottupura (dining hall) comes along the northern boundary wall.
Outside the western dwara shala foundation are located the Gopurathinkal Thevar and Kottarathil Thevar (both pratishtas of Shiva) nestling on either side of the west nata. (The pratishta of Kottarathil Thevar is supposed to be that of the Lord of Arathali of the famous 18½ thalis that existed in the Cera country. When Arathali premises which is close to Thiruvanchikulam was gifted to the early Moslem settlers of the West Coast to build their mosque, the idol was shifted to Thiruvanchikulam). There is also a large tank outside the temple premises on its south-east side.
For emancipation from the sins of Mathruhatya, Sage Parasurama did penance here and the Lord with his consort blessed him in the form of Uma-Maheswara, the tradition goes. Swayambhu Shiva linga with only 4 ft. height from the surrounding paddy fields accounts for the low level of the pratishta.
One of the earliest temples of Kerala, it was the tutelary deity of the emperor turned sage Cheraman Perumal Naayanar in the 9th century A.D. The daily nivedya of the lord was of the order of 7½ paras of rice in its hey-day.
This is one temple of Kerala which still retains its ancient Tamil flavour and connections. The daily Palliyara pooja of the Lord and his consort is one such event following the Tamil tradition. The pratishtas of the two Saivite saints within the cloister are quite significant. Tradition speaks of their reaching the Paramapada (Shiva loka) from Thiruvanchikulam on the day of Choti (Swathi) asterism in Karkitagom, a day of great celebration in the temple even today. The Sannidhi of Tillai Sabhapati on the northern side of the shrikovil cannot but point to the connections of this temple with the Nataraja temple at Chidambaram. A pair of old Konna trees (cassia fistula) forming a canopy over the Shiva linga in the outer praakara blossom all through the year, though usually the flowering season for such trees are only from March to May. Some consider this as the moolasthana of the temple.
Rituals and Festivals
Five poojas and three shribalis are the routine. The day starts with Palliyunarthal (waking up of the lord) at 3.00 a.m., escorting the lord and his consort from Palliyara to Mukhamandapa, changing of Nirmalyam, Abhishekam (ablutions), and leading them to the Moolasthana, Usha pooja, Dhaara to the accompaniment of Rudram, Pantheeradi pooja, Navakam, Panchagavyam, Uchapooja and closing of temple for noon at 11.30 a.m. The sanctum opens again at 5.00 p.m., changing of Nirmalyam followed by Abhisheka, Deeparaadhana, Athazha pooja, escorting the lord and consort to Palliyara and conducting Palliyara pooja (Dampathi pooja).
The festival of 8 days duration is celebrated in Kumbhom with the concluding Aarat in the sea on the new moon day. Aanayottam is also conducted as part of the festival. Shivarathri coming on the 7th day of utsavam is also a day of special celebration as also Dhanu Thiruvathira (Ardra - Lord's birthday) and Karkitaka Choti, the day of emancipation of Cheraman Perumal Naayanar and Sundaramoorthy Naayanar.
The tantra of the temple is bequeathed to Urakathu Padinjaredathu Illam.
A subsidiary Shiva shrine just outside the main complex has an adhishtana with an inscription ascribable paleographically to the twelfth century.
On the basis of sculptural art in stone, particularly those of the Saptha Mathrukkal, archaeologists suggest the existence of the nucleus of the temple from as early as 8th century.
The temple suffered war damages in 1670 and in late 18th century. In the late mediaeval ear Thiruvanchikulam was under the ruler of Cochin but occasionally, the Zamorin of Calicut had usurped the control. The fight between Cochin and Calicut rulers led to the Dutch, a foreign ally of Cochin at that time ransacking the temple in 1670 A.D. in revolt against the suzerainty of Zamorin.
A Sanskrit verse in Malayalam characters found on the east and south bases of the namaskara mandapa records that one Govinda, the Paliyesa being commanded by the Maata Bhoopati (Cochin ruler) restored the temple of Vanchulesha, desecrated sometime by a shastra-baahya or heretic. This reconstruction took place in A.D. 1801 and it is likely that heretic desecration refers to the Mysorean invasions in the latter half of 18th century.
Another inscription of A.D. 1831 in the eastern base of the chuttu mandapa records that King Rama Varma of Cochin had the deepa maadom (lamp pavilion) raised by his minister for God Vanchulesha. On the west base of the shrine, a vatteluttu inscription refers to the gift of a garden.
Gundert has recorded that the Copper plate issued by the Cera emperor to Knayi Thoma, the leader of the Syrian Christian emigrants in A.D. 345 lies buried under the north nata of this temple, though a copy is now available in the British museum.
This ancient temple is noted for its structural and ritualistic peculiarities in contrast to other temples of the period in the west coast region.
The namaskara mandapa in front of the shrikovil has a dvi tala roof which is a landmark in contrast to the simple pyramidal roofs of namaskara mandapas in other temples.
This is the only Shiva temple in Kerala with pratishtas of Shaivite Naayanmars.
In this temple, Lord Shiva is worshipped as Uma (sahita) Maheswara, in contrast to other temples where the Lord's consort has a separate sannidhi. Dampathi pooja (pooja for divine couple) and Pallikuruppu (Divine slumber) are done as offerings in this temple.
In spite of the astonishingly large number of upa-devatas within and outside the cloister there is no separate shrine of Vishnu in the premises.
Floor level of sanctum is the same as the level of the outer court in spite of the adhishtana mouldings being present on the outside of the shrikovil. There is no sopanam and no pranala, two characteristic architectural features of temples. Namaskara mandapa floor level is above the adhishtana i.e. about 2½ ft. above the floor level of the sanctum.
Shrikovil wall bear murals portraying Rama and others in five panels for a total of 105 sq.ft. The exterior of Palliyara walls also have mural paintings.
Out of 274 Shaivite thiruppathies in India, only one is in Kerala and it is Thiruvanchikulam.
Dwaragopuram - West Nata - Thiruvanchikulam
Shrikovil Superstructure - Thiruvanchikulam
Shrikovil, seen from Sapthamathrkkal Shrine - Thiruvanchikulam
Shrikovil and Namaskara Mandapa - Thiruvanchikulam
Shrikovil, Sapthamatrkkal shrine and Naalamabalam beyond - Thiruvanchikulam
View of Temple Complex from Western side - Thiruvanchikulam
Agramandapam & Dhwajastambha - Thiruvanchikulam
Layout Outside Naalambalam - Thiruvanchikulam
Layout Inside Naalambalam - Thiruvanchikulam
Last Revised (contents): 12 august, 2001
Last Revised (design) : 6 october, 2004