Trichur / Trissur, Guruvayur, Kaaladi, Tiruvanantapuram, Tiruvattar, Janardana and Tripunittara

Trissur: Trichi at British times and now as Trissur is titled as the Cultural Captial of Kerala which itself is called ‘God’s own Country’ and is the abode of Temples, varied religious faiths, Palaces, Churches, beaches, water falls, wild life sancturies and forts. Built as a hilloc city around an area of 65 acres, this historic Place around the famed Tukkinnadu Maidan is proud of renowned Temlpes especially of Vadakkunathan, Parmekkuva Devi, Tirumambadi Sri Krishna, Guruvayur Temple, Shri Rama Temple, Koodalmanikkam Temple, Kodurgallur Bhagavati, Mammiyor Temple, Tirukkur Maha deva, Tiruvallakkuvu Shri Dharma Shaasta, Tiruvanchikulam Temple, Arupathu Puzha Temple etc. The most significant of these are however are the three mentioned of these:- Vadakkunathan Temple was referred to in Brahmanda Purana in the context of Parashuramas many battles to uproot Kshatriya Kings in view of their sustained evil acts and performed a Maha Yagna to purge his killings and as a dakshina tothe Brahmins to have performed the Sacrifice so sincerely desired to reward them with land; he prayed to Varuna Deva to carve the land from the Sea and as advised him threw his axe into the Sea and Varuna allotted a piece of Land which now is Kerala the God’s own country! Of this massive area he carved for his Tapasya as also to worship Maha Deva, Devi Parvati and the Shiva Parivara where Vadakkunathan Temple viz. Vrishabhachala got materialised. Adi Shankaracharya’s parents Shiva Guru and Aryamba meditated for long for an excellent son to be bestowed and Vrishabhadheesha in their dreams gave the option to them to choose for a short lived but epoch creating Pandita Gyani as against or a dull and very ordinary son with unduly long life. The parents opted for a Gyani and named him Shankara! This magnificent Valakkunathan / Vrishabheshwara Temple to day stands despite ravages of time and onsloughts of aliens today as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, albeit with the evolution of modernisation, rebuilt as time evolved, in typical Kerala Architecture with Towers and wall mural pantings depicting legends of Maha Bharata. The Sanctum (Garbha Sthaana) displays a Big Shiva Linga covered by a huge mould of ghee of some 16 feet as collected from years of daily Abhishakas of ghee with three serpent hoods stuck on the mould and thus the Shiva Linga is invisible. The shrines outside the Garbha of Vadakkunatha Linga include a Maha Ganapati, Vattekaran (Hunter) Shiva, Nandeeshwara, Nandi Keshawa, Krishna as a Cow herd, Parashurama, Adi Shankara etc. The biggest festival in Kerala is the ‘Trissur Puram’/ Festival held during the period between mid-Apri-mid May with the massive display and procession of some 50 elephants colourfully decorated along with ‘Pancha Vadyams’- a symphony of five musical inssuments of drums and pipe music sounds drawing surging crowds passing through the Vadakkunathan Temple and climaxing in the Tukkunaadu Maidan. ‘Pulikali folk art festival’ in the fourth day of Onam Celebrations in Kerala, and ‘Annayottu’ Gaja Puja and Elephant Feeding to invoke Ganesha’s blessings are two other popular festivals of Trissur. This City is also popular for excellent masterpiece architectural wonders of Churches like the Asia’s tallest Syro Malabar Catholic Basilica, the renowned underground Christian Cathedral, Assyrian Church of the East and so on.

Guruvayur: Some 30 km. away from Trissur is the most celebrated Krishna/ Vishnu Temple in Bharat, counted among the Pancha Maha Keshava Mandirs or the Five Outstanding Vishnu Temples viz. Jagannatha of Puri on Orissa; Dwarakaadhessha in Dwaraka, Gujarat; Nathwara Krishna in Rajasthan; and Venkateshwara Balaji in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh and now the Guruvayur Ayyappan in Kerala. Guru-Vayu are the two Devas viz. Deva Guru Brihaspati and Vayu Deva were invoked by Sage Uddhava the close associate of Lord Krishna, at the time of destruction of the City of Maha Dwaraka as Yadava vamsha was destroyed and Lord Krishna too terminated his ‘Avatara’.Udhhava was shocked at the tide of events and more so the ancestral Pratima of Vishnu at his Dwaraka abode was found missing from his worship chamber. He was somehow able to savlage the Idol and prayed to Guru and Vayu. As per Bhakta Uddhava‘s supplication they carried it along the coastal line and on way stopped over to witness the Shiv-Parvati Nrittya which was mesmorising even as they had the obligation to safe deposit the Vishnu Pratima some where properly. After theTandava of Shiva Parvati, they prostrated to them who asked them of the purpose for which there halted there. On knowing the purpose, Bhagavan Shiva heartily recommended that place where they themselves spent their soujourn at Rudratirtham the northern side of the Place they suggested the ‘Guru Vayu’ Place for the proposed Krishna Mandir suggested for installing Uddhava’s Vishnu Idol! Meanwhile Parashu Rama after witnessing the insallation of Vadakkunatha Shiva Linga at Trissur was in search of a further Place for his Tapasya appeared and after prostrating Shiva Parvatis also endorsed the precise spot for the Guruvayur Krishna Temple. Rudra Tirtham eventually got dried up in parts and extended upto Mammiyur where there stands as Mammiyurappan Temple some 3 km distance away. This was because Prachetas the ten sons of King Prajinabarhi and Suvarna sang Rudra Gita a hymn in praise of Lord Vishnu and thus the Rudra Tirtham got extended till Mammiyurappan Shiva Temple. Guru and Vayu consulted Vishwakarma who created the original Guruvayur Temple. The Temple eventually became the nucleus of Dharma and magnificence of Vaishnava Karyas to such an extent that Narada Purana made elaborate references to the last days of Dwapara Yuga and Maha Bharata events: As King Parikshit died of Taksha Sarpa Raja and King Janamejaya performed Sarpa Yagna to avenge his father’s death in which thousands of serpents were called up and sacrificed till Brahmana Astika stopped the Yagna and Takshaka was saved, Janamejaya became a victim of incurable leprosy. Then Sage Atreya, the illustrious son of Atri Maharshi, counselled to visit Guruvayoor and worship Lord Krishna in the form of Guruvayurappan and fall on his feet till his cure; King Janamejaya rushed to that Temple and worshipped him for ten years. Finally he was cured of leprosy and called up Sage Atreya who showed signs of snake bite as that bite proved ineffective due to his saving the King by Ananta Maha Sarpa / Bala Rama, the brother of Lord Krishna!  In course of time, the Temple was totally dilapidated and was in ruins.The King of Pandya desha was stated to have been cursed by Sarpa dosha and went on a TirthaYatra awaiting a specific day and time for his death. As he saw the ruins of Guruvayur, he decided to re-build trying to follow the original architectural grandeur and got involved so much that the day and time of what was suggested for the curse to happen was over and the Brahmanas who made the calculations earlier for his death suggested that the impact of the curse was totally washed out by the fruits gained from the reconstruction of theTemple! It is also stated that Adi Shankara stayed at Guruvayur Krishna Temple for long and established the Puja Rituals since followed till date! The legend is that Adi Shankara and Sage Narada were travelling by the Sky on every Ekadashi in the Prabhata time well before sunrise and on one occasion Adi Shankara overshot and was about to miss the Temple, but the Lord pulled down the Acharya by his ears and the surprised Acharya found hmself at the feet of of Guruvayurappan’s feet and the Acharya broke down into the recital of ‘Govindashtakam’. Indeed the Principles and details of Rituals laid down by Adi Shankaracharya are valid till date. The day starts with the the waking of the Lord with the melodious notes of Nadaswara followed by Nirmalya Darshana or the clearance of ‘Nirmalya’ of the previous night’s puja at 3am. Sriveli or taking the Utsava Vigraha around theTemple premises on decorated elephant is performed every day thrice. Dress code to seek darshan inside the Temple and the Sanctum is strictly enforced. Guruvayur Utsavas are for 10 days in the month of Kumbham (Feb-Mar) when Elephant race is a special draw; the Devassom maintains 45 andodd elephants donated by devotees. Guruvayur Ekadashi of Vrischika (Nov-Dec) is significant too. In fact, every Ekadashi is special, especially for Vilakku (Lighting) Puja.

Kaladi: ‘Kaal adi’ in Malayalam and Tamil literally means ‘Foot Step’ or ‘ Foot Print’. The original name of Kaaladi was Shiva Rahasyam on the banks of River Purna now named Periyar. From the important Shornoor Railway Junction, Kaaladi is some 30 km via Angamaali Station, where a ‘Shrotriya’or Vedic Brahmana couple called Shiva Guru and Aryamba. To recall a reference from Trissur Kshetra in this Script, the couple worshipped Vadukunatha Shiva Linga and prayed for an excellent son who would be an erudite Veda-Shastra Pandita; in their dreams Maha Deva gave an option of either a ‘Murkha’ or a useless and ignorant son with long life span or a very short lived but brilliant Vedic Brahmana and the combined desire was to grant the latter option. Thus was born Shankara but even at a very age, the father died even as the son’s knowledge was just flowering. The mother some how dragged a life of want and misery in bringing up Shankara against odds. One day she returned back home in fetching drinking water for the house from Purna River some distance away and fainted on return. The hapless boy Shankara prayed to Krishna, his favorite God of Miracles, whose Idol that he kept for his daily prayers and recited ‘Achyuta Ashtakam’.Lord Krishna was too pleased to slightly change the course and direction of the River whispering to the boy that Purna would be at your foot step, Shankara! And since then indeed the mother had no difficulty in collecting water as the flow touched the back yard of their house garden! Today Shankara Temple with the Pratima of Adi Shankaracharya as also of Goddess Sharada Devi at Kaaladi is run by Shringeri Mutt and manned by Smarta Brahmin from the Main Shringeri and not Nambodirs. There is also the Samadhi of Aryamba, the mother of Shankaracharya whose last rites were performed by himself!Adi Shankara Kirti Stambha Mandapa with eight sides is also erected not far from the Shankara Temple. Both Shringeri and Kamakoti Mutts too are adjacent to the Keerti Stambha.The Temples near Kaaladi are of Manikyamangalam Katyayani, referred to in Soundarya Lahari, Vellamman Thuli Shiva, Shankara Narayana etc. The famed two Ghats at Periyar are Kaaladi Kadavu where the course of the Purna River changed direction and Muthala Kadavu or Crocodile Ghat where young Shankara threatened to be killed by a crocodile if she did not consent to take to sanyasa. The two major festivals are Shankaara Jayanti for five days (April-May) and Navaratras climaxed with’ Rathotsava’or the Chariot Festival.

Tiruvanantapuram: Trivendram, the Capital of Kerala State, is better known as the Unique Tirtha Sthana being the Abode of Ananta Padma Swami in ‘Anantavanam’ mentioned in Maha Bharata and Brahma Purana. Lord Padmanabha as relaxing in Yoga Nidra on the soft bed of of Ananta the celestial Serpent bestows the fulfillment of desires of Deva-Danavas, Yogi-Rishi Ganas and sarva charaachara jeevas, especially human beings.The legendary background of this manifestation of Maha Vishnu the singular Preserver of ‘Srishti’/ Creation as known through Puranas and Epics was that Maha Vishnu disguised as a mischievous boy, who wantonly spoilt a Sacred ‘Salagrama’-representing Bhagavan Himself-which a Sage worshipped and out of anger he chased the boy. As the Swami found the boy subsequently wandering on the Sea Beaches, a fisher woman heard a shouting at a boy whom the Swami identified ; she was threatening to throw the boy into the forest near Anantankadu Nagaraja Temple ie the place infested with poisonous serpents. Having got a clue, the Swami discovered the mischievous boy at the Temple forest; as expected the boy was hanging on the top of a ‘Illuppa’ Tree; even as he saw the boy, the tree branch got broken and suddenly he manifested himself as huge figure of Anantashayana Murti the Vishnu Swarupa with Ananta as his head at Tiru Vollom, nabhi at Tiruvanantapuram and lotus feet at Tiruppadapuram! Swami was dazed as he never ever even in dreams was that boy full of pranks! He broke down in a trance and having recovered somewhat, prayed to the Lord in ecstasy and beseeched him to shorten his alarmingly big swarupa to that of thrice his ‘danda’ or staff. Even so, the figure got shortened in three parts viz. Tiru mukham, Tiru vudal and Tiruppaadam- that is: Mangala Muhka-Mangala Deha-Mangala Paada or Lotus Feet of Auspiciousness. The Swami offered Naivedya of Rice Kanji, Uppu manga or Salted Raw Mango pieces in a coconut shell. The huge Swarupa of Ananta Padma naabha was installed in a Temple after anointing with chandana kasturi etc. and so on in an appropriate new Temple with the assistance of the King, Brahmanas and Bhaktas on a single massive stone patform with carved embellishments. The Swami is reclining on the Maha Sarpa Ananta / Adi Sesha with hoods facing inwards signifying contemplation. Down his right hand is a Shiva Linga while the Swami has her consorts Sri Devi representing prosperity and Bhu devi representing Patience and Power are seated nearby even as Lord Brahma seated on a Lotus emerges from the Swami’s navel.He is surrounded by some 1200 shaligrams from Nepal’s Gandaki River banks. Over the Samadhi of the Sadhu Mahatma who discovered the Swami was arranged to the west of the Main Temple, and subsequently the Bilwa Mangala Krishna Mandir stood up over the Samadhi. Two major Shrines inside the Temple are of Ugra Narasimha and Krishna Swami. Ekadashi days are special. Two major Festivals are Alpashy in Oct- Nov and Phanguni in Mar- Apri each for 10 days; besides every Navaratra is celebrated when Alankaras change daily. Also Laksha Deepam festival is celebrated for 56 days onec in every 6 years, the latest being in Jan 2014 when the atmosphere is simply celestial with Veda Pathanas, Cultural and other activities are continuous and full of faith. Dress code is compulsory and entry restrictions are strictly enforced. The Temple is indeed very opulent with considerable gold, jewellery and liquid cash.Besides ths glorious Temple, Tiruvananta puram is proud of very many other illustriousTemples of repute and faith venerated by thousands of yatris through out the year despite the Seasonal aberrations.

Tiruvatttar Adi Keshava:From Trivendram to Tiruvattar the distance is some 7 km where on the banks of River Tamraparni, the Temple of Adikeshava is popular. The height of the idol of Adi Keshava as Sesha shaayi Adi Keshava. is as of some 16 feet; from one ‘Dwar’ or gate, the Bhagavan who is in a lying posture is visible with his Shri Mukha or propitious Face, the second ‘dwar’ displaying his ‘Vakshasthala’ or the region of his heart, and the third dwar displays his lotus feet, with his body crushing a Rakshasa. The legendary belief is that the Demon prayed to Brahma and in his liberal mood, allowed free access to a ‘Kadali phala vana’/ banyan fruit garden to assuage his hunger; but the demon started harassing the Brahmanas and Rishis interfering in their ‘Dharma Karyas’ and the latter appealed toVishnu who suppressed the demon; the latter appealed to Vishnu to always be under his body in that posture.

Janardana: From Trivendrum to Varkala is some 16 km where Janardana Temple is famed for ever-emerging ‘dhup’or the scented smoke of ‘Sambrani’or Agarbatti made of scented crystals called ‘mengruk’ a bye- product of bamboo. In fact yatris collect the raw material of dhup from the Temple as that wards off diseases of skin as also a ‘drishti’ to children and garbhinis or pregnant women. Yatris bathe in a water fall collected from the Arabian Sea merging into a local sub-river and this Tirtha has sweet water called locally as Paapa Mochan or Rinamohan, Savitri, Gayatri and Saraswati; in fact persons observing Samudra Snaanas invariably take their baths at this Sacred Tirtha and then seek the darshan of Janadana whose Temple is at a height after ascending a few steps and washing their feet at a Chakra Tirtha near the entrance of the Temple. In the Center of an open area is the Temple surrounded by smaller Mandirs of Shasta Kumara, and Shankaa beside a Varta Vriksha, in which the main Deity Lord with a four handed Form of Shyama Janardnaa. The story of the Temple is reacalled that once Brahma was performing a holy yagna and during this austerity period, a Sadhu who was moving about at the yagna premises asked for food and as food was served, the Sadhu exprssed at the disappointment at the variey and quality of food served. Bahma being the host apologised for the quailty. Brahma realised that the principal host Vishnu himself was the Sadhu and prostrated to Janardana who displayed his own form as Brahma requested him to be in same form for ever as the latther consented and eversince the miracle of the Vigraha emitting the scented smoke of Agarbattis always with the scented crystals available aplenty!

Tripunattarai: Being a suburb of Kochi, the then Capital of Cochin kingdom, in the banks of River Purna and the Palace Township of the King, Tripunittara is known in olden days as the Purna Veda puri or the Place of all Vedas; it was also called as the Pooneeram or the quiver to keep arrows in which Arjuna kept an Idol of Vishnu which Lord Krishna gifted to Arjuna and as the Place identified for the installation of the Idol, Arjuna was asked ‘Pooneram terai’ or open the quiver! ‘Terai’ also denotes harbour or the mouth of the Sea, is Tripunattarai happens to be the Gate of the back waters of the Sea at the harbour! Being the Palace Hill Town, Tripunattari is also the erstwhile Capital of the Kingdom and continues still as the Culture Capital hosting the major dance forms of Kathakali, Mohini Attam and Fine Arts especially of percussion instruments etc. all developed and sustained for long under the Royal patronage.But more importantly as the Tirtha Place with famed Temples, like Poornantaresha Temple with Santana Gopala Moorti as the central arrtaction, Dharma Sasta-Ayyappan Temple and several Bhagavati Temples, Rama, Shiva and other Devi Temples. Santana Gopala Poornaanttaresha Temple is indeed outstanding as is referred to in Maha Bhavagta Purana: a pious Brahmana lost his child even soon after it was born; he accused the King Ugrasena of Mathura as a Brahmana Dweshi, Vishaya maanasa, and Kshatriya bandhu -all typical disqualifications of an Ideal King as in the earlier ages there were kings like Prithvi, Harishchandra and Rama whose main concern was ‘Praja kshema’ and none else. Unfortunately, the Brahmana couple lost their children in succession and the frustrated Brahmana attempted suicide in the Royal Court when Arjuna and Krishna were also present as Ugrasena was the grandfather of Krishna. Arjuna felt very bad at the tragedy befallen to the Brahmana and announced that he would bring back the dead kids from any part of the Sapta Dwipas, as he had the boon of entering all the Dwipas. He then explored Jambu-Plaksha-Salmaali-Kusha-Krouncha-Shaka and Pushkala Lokas and as a desperation decided to offer his life by jumping into Homagni. Being his best friend and devotee Krishna prevented Arjuna to do so and together they searched the higher lokas like Vaayu-Agni-Varuna- Yama Lokas and even Brahma Loka. The then launched the search for Vaikuntha but the path to that Loka was of pitch darkness; Krishna accompanied by Arjuna with the help of the lustrous radiance of Sudarshana Chakra ahead landed with difficulty at Vaikuntha where Maha Visdhnu welcomed them as Nara and Narayana and blessed them with the boon of returning the Souls of the children of the Brahmana. It was at that time that Maha Vishnu himself gifted an Idol of himself to Arjuna and install it at an appropriate Kshetra and with an appropriate name; Lord Ganesha was commissioned by Maha Vishnu to assist Arjuna in this Mission. Ganesha disciverd the suitable place at Poorna Vedapuri on the banks of Poorna River and at the Sacred Time of installing the Vishnu Idol, Ganesha asked Arjuna saying ‘Poornam terai’ to enable the Vishnu Vigraha to be installed and both of them named the Vigrah as Poornataresha Santana Gopala since who so ever worships the Lord in that form would indeed be blessed with auspicious and illustrious children!Tripunattarai is also famed for the Shiva Temple where Bhagavan Shiva is displayed as in the form of a Kirata or a hunter when Maha Deva once again sought to test Arjuna’s prowess of archery or Dhanurvidya of which the latter was rightfully proud of since he had the distinction of destroying ‘Matsya Yantra’to win the hand of Devi Draupadi and even giving a historic twist of destiny in landing Draupadi to the dilemma of having to wed all the Pancha Pandavas simultaneously! Hence the test that Maha Deva gave to Arjuna the opportunity to examine whether his Kirata Swarupa’s arrow could just strike the wildpig at the same speed and finesse that would kill by Arjuna’s arrow as that of Maha Deva in Kirata form! As a gift of appeciation, Maha Deva gave the boon of ‘Paaashupataastra’ to Arjuna. Such indeed was the mercifullness and magnanimity of Maha Deva, instead of Arjuna’s claiming the fame of equalling Arjuna’s equality! Shiva Swarupa is thus extolled: Dharaadhara shyamalaankam chhurikaa chaapa dhaarinam, Kirata vapusham vande Paraatmaanameeshwaram! (To Maha Shankara,with the body manifestation of blue sky like unique splendour and as in the Swarupa of a Forest Hunter, my sincere and faithful prostrations to you!)

Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India The author can be contacted at