The Vadakkumnathan temple is one of the oldest temples in the state.
It is a classical example of the Kerala style of architecture and contains
many decorative murals and pieces of art. It stands on a beautiful hillock
at the center of Trichur overlooking the town. The vast ground around
the temple is called Tekkinkadu or forest of teak woods. The massive
stonewall enclosing an area of nearly 9 acres forms a strong fortification.
The our lofty gopuras around the main shrine indicate the four cardinal
directions-North, South, East and West. A complex having three principal
shrines dedicated to Siva or Vadakkumnathan, Sankaranarayana and Rama
are in the center of this vast enclosure.
striking feature of the temple is the Kuttambalam,
which can be seen on the left side as one enters
the temple through the western gopuram. This is
the theatre hall for staging kuttu, an ancient
dramatic form of art famous in Kerala. The temple
opens at 3.00 in the morning and closes about 10.30
AM after the morning rites. It opens at 4.00 PM
for the evening worship and closes at 8.30 PM at
night after the Trippuka, the last rite for the
is the venue of the world famous Pooram festival
celebrated annually in April-May. The fireworks
at the Pooram Festival are a spectacular sight.
Non-Hindus are not allowed entry into the temple.
is noteworthy that the Union Government under the
Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and
Remains Act has declared the Vadakkumnathan temple
a national monument.
The beautiful city of Thrissur (originally called as Trichur), is one
of the oldest in Kerala State and is mainly famous for its ancient shiva
temple dedicated to Vadakkunathan, which is situated on an elevated hillock
right in the centre of the city. The temple attracts thousands of devotees
adn visitors from all over teh land. Like many South Indian Temples,
it has a solemn atmosphere, associated with age and centureis of devotion,
which we do not find in many of the temples of North India .
the capital of old Cochin State , Thrissur changed
hands from the Zamorin of Cochin to Tippu Sultan
of Mysore in the 18th century. In the ancient days
the place was known as “Tiru Shiva Perur' or the
town with the name of Lord Shiva.
years ago, the vast open region around the temple
was a beautiful plantation forest of teak treees
called ‘Tekkinkadu'. Today, the forest is totally
cleared but the tranquil atmosphere of the temple
prevails all round. With it is associated the famous
Parasurama, the incarnation of Maha Vishnu, who is
said to be the founder of this Shiva temple. The
name of Parasurama is always with Kerala, as is the
naem fo sage Agastya with the Pandyans in Tamilnadu.
According to local tradition, it is believed that
the great Kerala teacher Adi Shankaracharya was also
connected with this temple. Aryamba, the mother of
Shankara Worshipped Shiva at this temple to beget
a son. It is said that she used to walk to Thrissur
first feeling one gets on entering through the gates
of the temple is the incredible space and light.
The elegant architectural style that is unique to
Kerala becomes evident. As a major departure from
all other South Indian temples with their towering ‘gopurams',
the temples of Kerala are not imposing in appearance.
of the largest temples, it contains several shrines
surrounded by a large enclosure wall with four gateways,
crowned by pyramidal ‘gopurams' with multiple roofs.
While the basement of the gateways is made of moulded
granite stone, as in Tamilnadu, the ‘Gopurams' are
in the typical style, having elaborately ornamented
gables. The shrine is circular in forms and the tower
has only one tier. The pillars are arranged in an
interesting manner. The comparatively low, tiled
roofs and teh liberal use fo wood harmonise with
teh natural environment.
to the left of the entrance is the theatre hall called ‘Kuttambalam'.
It si a remarkably beautiful structure with elegant
sloping roof of copper plates. Within this is staged
the ancient dramatic art form of ‘Chakyar Kuttu'.
three principal shrines in the tempel are dedicated
to Shiva, the main deity called Vadakkunathan, Vishnu
adn Harihara. The architectural plan of these shrines
is peculiar, with the ‘Vritta' plan and conical brass
plated superstructure over it. The conical roof is
distinct architectural idium neccessitated bythe
heavy reinfall in the west coast. Shrines with square
basements as in Tamilnadu are also here. A separate
shrine has been built in the enclosure for the Devi.
of the main shrine has a huge ‘Linga' of Shiva. This
however, cannot be seen as it is covered by the traditional ‘Abhishekams'
with ghee by devotees over the centuries. Over the
Linga, generations of devotees have poured ghee by
way of offering, which is never removed, has solidified
into a pyramid. With continuous ‘Abhishekam' with
ghee over the years, it hs the appearance of a mound
of ghee almost three metres around th core of the
Linga. It is strange that the ghee does nto melt
even inthe hot tropical climate of summer or with
the heat of the hundreds of bright oil lamps burning
nearby. The ghee mound does not get spoilt even though
it is a collection of several hundred years. Small
scrappings of this solidified ghee are given to devotees
as ‘Prasada', which is believed to have medicinal
and curative properties of herbal medicines.
Harihara shrine, popularly called here as Shankaranarayana
temple, is next to the main Shiva temple. This is
also circulr in plan and the tower has two tiers.
On the other side is the shrine for Vishnu, is also
similar to that of Harihara shrine. In addition,
there are subsidiary shrines for Ganapathi, Dharma
Shasta and also for Parasurama, of the very few of
its kind in Kerala.
has several other shrines including Paramekkavu Kshetram
at the bottom of the hillock on which the Shiva temple
stands. Behind is the Bhagavathi temple. Thiruvembadi
temple is a little further away in the heart of the
town dedicated to Krishna .
tall and spacious Kootambulam is an impressive structure,
containing exquisite vignettes of wood carving and
interesting bracket figures. While the artists of
Tamilnadu showed their skill in stone by carving
magnificent and ornamental sculptrues, their counterparts
in Kerala had wood as their medium adn produced intricate
workmanship. The Koothambulamis the hall where the
kootu or expositon fo a religious story by Chakkiyar
is performed through dramatic gestures. From about
the 9th century, the Kootu developed into an important
art associated with the temples of Kerala.
outer walls of the shrines are studded with fine
mural paintings, the origin of which might date back
to 16th century, though retouchings have been done
much later. Scenes from the Mahabharata epic and
the Tandava poses of Shiva are depicted in typical
Kathakali style. The paintings are noted for charm
only festival celebrated with great pomp and religious
fervour is Maha Shivarathri. According to the custom
in certian temples in South Indian in general and
Kerala in particular, pilgrims and devotees have
to take off all tailored clothing and wear only dhoti
should be of white color only.
temple of Vadakkunathan is noted for its grand annual
Pooram festival in Medam (April-May) which attracts
a large number of visitors and tourists from far
and wide. A procession fo richly caparisoned elephants
and magnificent display of fireworks mark the occasion.
The organisers vie among themselves in securing thebest
elephants in the localtiy, and the most ornamental
parasols to decorate the elephants. Commencing early
in the morning, the celebrations go on throughout
the night and end the next morning.
per the normal rituals, the Shiva temple is not directly
connected with the Pooram festival. Infact, it is
a festival of two Goddesses, Paramekkavi Devi and
another Goddess residing in Tiruvambadi. It is said
that a rular of Kochi , Saktan Tampiran who reigned
from 1790 to 1805 A.D., founded this ritual and organised
it into the present form of festival. At a later
date, the Raja of Kochi sponsored the ritual. During
the recent times, it is organised by the public out
of donations collected from business houses and devotees.
the present basis of ‘Pooram' as the assemblage of
many divine processions ahs been adopted elsewhere
also; for instance in Tiruvaiyaru in Tamilnadu. What
makes the Thrissur ‘Pooram' festival distinctive
seems to be its elephants, and some perhaps will
add, the competitive fireworks. While it is largely
made by the elephants, the festival is nothing without
Vadakkunathan temple. At present, eight deities assemble
for the ceremony; six from the Devi temples including
Paramekkavu and Tiruvambadi Devis and two from Sasta
fifty elephants participate in the grand procession.
These are magnificently caparisoned with the ‘Nettupattam'
which covers the forehead. This is a thick cloth
int which are sewn about six thousand gold plated
glittering metal pieces. Each elephant carries three
men; one holds the coloured silken parasol; the other
two stand on the back. The ‘Panchavadyam' players
precede the procession. As all the deities assemble
near the Vadakkunathan temple, there will be a musical
feast for two hours. A little later, the umbrellas
on the elephant are changed to different colour,
known as ‘Kudiakazeh'. As the parasols are unfurled,
there is an entrancing spectacle of rich array of
mixed bright colours. Generally, there will be ten
sets with each party. After the functions, the elephants
return to their respective temples.