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THIRUVILWAMALA TIRUVILWAMALA
SRI VILWADRINATHA TEMPLE - INFORMATION - DEVOTEES GURUVAYUR EKADASHI -PUNARAJANANI

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Kavyam Sugeyam,

Katha Raghaveeyam...................

SRIVILWADRINATHA KATHAMRITHAM

by Sri Raghavan  Nair

(Translated by Srimati Sarojini Raghavan)

You should see

The rays of the sun reaching the eastern shrine in the morning.

Bhootamala, Vilwamala and Moorikkunnu.

The peepul tree in the east and the cave underneath.

The place where 'Bali' is offered under the Panjanam.

Idols inside the temple namely Lakshmanaswami, Ganapathi and Sri Rama.

Sri Hanuman.

Bhutanatha (Sri Ayyappa) with Siva and Parvathi on either side, on the same pedestal.

Saraswathikundu.

The closed door on the wall near the southern gateway .

The flights of granite steps on three sides especially to the Bhagavathichira in the north.

The small tank from which water is taken for use inside the temple .

Punarjani and the Thirthas.

The wooden chain, aaroodham work and the carvings on the wall showing Nara Narayana Tapas.

The stone carvings near the door of the dining hall.

The sunset when the sun is about to leave the horizon after worshipping Vilwadrinatha of the western shrine.

The Vilwadrinatha temple at Thiruvilwamala enjoys a unique status in different ways among the ancient sacred temples of Kerala. Located at Vilwamala, near Lakkidi Railway Station, beyond the "Eighteen and a half hills", lapped in the luxurious abundance of the beauty of nature and caressed by the lullabies of the famous river Nila, this temple captivates the eyes as well as the hearts of all the visitors. The valuable records, which contained the details of the grandeur of this temple, were destroyed twice by dreadful flames, when the temple caught fire. But devotional stories depicting valuable information are available otherwise.

Temple Structure

This temple is built at the western most end of the Vilwamala. High granite walls have been erected in the north, west and south sides of the temple. The pathway inside the compound wall, which is used by the devotees to circumambulate the deities, has been completely paved with granite slabs. Long flights of granite steps are seen at the south, west and north sides of the temple. The granite steps in the north take us down to the "Bhagavathichira".

On the eastern side an 'Agrasala' is seen stretching out from north to south. This is supposed to have been constructed by the kings of Palakkad, known as "Edathil Achanmar", using clay brought from their own place. Even though these kings were not entitled to enter the temple, they used to erect a temporary shed on one side of the temple and conduct a feast in connection with the famous 'Ekadesi' celebration, purely as their offering to Vilwadrinatha. The basement of the "Kizhakke (East) Gopuram" can be seen very close to the "Agrasala". There is the compound wall in the remaining part. The temple of Hanuman faces the west and is quite adjacent to the "Kizhakke Gopuram" inside the compound wall. The store?house of the temple and a stage for the performance of various entertainments connected with the temple festivals have been built very close tothetemple of Hanuman. Inside the compound wall and "Pradakshinavazhi" is the "ViJakkumadathara" on which nine rows of oil lamps are fitted. On festival days it is a spectcular sight even from a distance when the temple is illuminated with all the nine rows of oil lamps lit on all the four sides. A courtyard is seen all round inside the "Vilakkumadathara". Beyond this courtyard are the "Chuttambalam" (Buildings around the sanctum sanctorum of the temple). We can go inside the temple through the "Panjanam" (as it is called), on the eastern side of the temple. The self built "Balikkallu" is seen here. We reach the Kizhakkambalam when we pass the "Arathotti" near the Balikkallu. The "Thidappilly" where rice and other articles for pooja are prepared, and the mess hall are on its western side. Next to that is the "Padin}arambalam". Here the building in which the Balikkallu exists is near the western entrance of the temple just opposite to the western shrine. This entrance has "Vathilmadam" on the north. Next to that is "Eeduveppu", the "Dark room" and "Vadakke kettu". The "Chuttambalam" which encloses these structures surround the sanctum sanctorum of both the shrines. One has to cross the compound wall, Vilakkumadathara and Chuttambalam in order to reach the sacred inner Qourtyard of the temple. There are two seperate shrines here, one facing the east and other facing the west. Both contain the idol of Vishnu with four arms. The eastern shrine accommodates the idol installed by Parasurama while the western shrine is blessed with the self-built idol of Vishnu as He appeared before Rishi Amalaka. In the west the idol is seen under the hoods of serpant Anantha attended by Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Earth on either side.

 

The shrine of Mahaganapathi can be seen facing the east in the southwest corner of the inner courtyard. The entire grand architecture has been set in a divinely magnificent background. While the peepul trees in the west seem to be immersed in chanting prayer hymns in a rhythemic style, the peepul tree in the east with its roots firm in the rock seems to meditate with the name of Ram on its lips. Hills with green trees can be seen all around the temple.

The Bharathapuzha clappping her hands at the sound of the roaring trains, the gentle breeze providing health and longevity and the beautiful green forest around make the temple and its premises serene, divine and blissful.

 

 

Origin

 

Parasurama went all over India twentyone times killing all the Kshatriyas, and thereby incurred a lot of sin. He did not know how to get over the sin and attain Moksha. So Paramasiva blessed his disciple Parasurama by giving him an idol of Vishnu which he himself was worshipping daily. Parasurama found Vilwamala the most suitable place to install the idol. He installed the idol at the western end of Vilwamala over which the eastern shrine of the temple is built. Parasurama did this for the welfare of all the people in the world. The "Bhutas and Pretas" (souls of dead people who never attained salvation) of Bhutamala lying close to the Vilwamala got relieved of their bondage and got salvation by the sight of this idol. As the glory of this idol spread far and wide, the Pandavas also came here. They made offerings to their 'Pitrus' (ancestors) in the presence of Lord Krishna on the shores of the river Nila. They installed separate "Sivalingas" at Someswaram and Kothakkurissimangalam and returned to their place happily.

The present temple at "Ivormadhom" is the place blessed by Sri Krishna by his presence. It was Dharmaputra who installed the Sivalinga at Someswara temple. The huge Sivalinga installed by Bhima alongwith other Sivalingas, which are supposed to have been installed by his brothers, are still among the thick bushes at Kothakkurissimangalam in a forgotten state. Eveilthough the "Pindappara", the rock where the Pandavas made their offerings to their Pitrus, was run over by the river, the land between Kothakkurissimangalam and Ivormadhom is still called "Bharathakhandam" and the name Bharathappuzha is yet prevalent for the river Nila.

Every year thousands of people from far and near come to Bharathappuzha to offer their oblations to their Pitrus espe?cially on the new moon days in the Malayalam month of Karkidakam (June-July) and Thulam (Oct-Nov).

It is believed that even Sitadevi after having been banished from Ayodhya due to the scandal, came to know of the sanctity of the idol of Vishnu at Vilwamala, reached this place and lived in the spot which is at present known as "Parakkottukavu". During the same period Amalaka, one of the sons of Rishi Kasyapa was practising severe penance chanting the name of Rama, eating only gooseberries as his food at Saraswathi Kundu, below the temple. This penance, which horrified even Devendra culminated in the appearance of Lord Vishnu, at?tended by serpent Anantha in front of Rishi Amalaka. Hearing the trumpets beaten in high pitch by the Devas heralding the approach of (Vishnu) Sri Rama, Sitadevi jumped into the lake nearby, which had kept its mouth open, ready to receive her and disappeared. This lake was known as "Vaikkattirichira" ( "Vai" means mouth, "Katti" means showing and "Chira" means lake). Even now the "Bhoothaganas" and "Vanadurga" here are supposed to be continuing their search for Sitadevi.

Most probably this must be the reason why the famous devi temple Parakkottu kavu and Vaikkattirichira on the south-west side of this temple came into being. However at the request of Rishi Amalaka, Lord Vishnu who appeared before him took the form of the stone image of himself to bless the devotees forever. The presiding deity in the shrine facing the west came to be known as Srirama from that day onwards.

The wicked Rakshasas were afraid of the sanctity of both the idols of Vilwamala. Knowing this, Kumbhanasa, their leader, waited for an apt time to break down the idols. He disguised himself as a brahmin and tried to lift the left leg of the idol in the western shrine on the day of Ekadesi in the month of Kumbha (Feb - Mar) without being noticed by anybody. This attempt caused a great tremor not only in Kailasa but also in the whole universe. Then Sri Mahavishnu appeared and shut up all the rakshasas in a cave nearby. This place is now known as "Rakshasapara". Owing to this incident Shiva's power also entered this idol, to avoid further attacks from the rakshasas. Because of the presence of Siva in the western idol lots of devotees reach the temple to pray to Vilwadrinatha on Mon?days, Pradosha days and the Mahasivaratri day observing the necessary ritualistic formalities. A special lamp is daily lit for Siva in this shrine and Siva is worshipped with "Vilwapushpas" at the time of pooja.

Though the rakshasas could not approach the vicinity of the temple they continued to cause trouble in many ways and succeeded in setting fire to the temple. It is believed that Sri Hanuman, the enemy of rakshasas, himself came here and took charge of the security of the temple after this incident. The idol of Hanuman installed in a special shrine inside the com?pound wall is sufficient proof for this. Sri Hanuman's forefinger is seen pointing towards Vilwadrinatha indicating his extreme devotion to Sri Rama.

It is worth saying that no kind of threats either from fire or from anything else has occured ever since. The number of people who worship Hanuman is increasing day by day. The main offering is "Vadamala" for achieving the desired ends. The devotees also offer "Beaten rice" (Avil), garlands made of betel leaves and paper garlands with names of Srirama written inside. The devotees circumambulate the shrine of Hanuman several times in the morning and in the evening for different purposes. Many young ladies do the same for the realisation of their marriage. A number of devotees go round the shrine counting the distance by foot. Anjaneyaswami (Hanuman) is all in all for the Tamil Brahmins.

Sri Hanuman is very much liked by his devotees as he fulfils the needs of his dear ones, he himself being the most devoted servant of Sri Rama (Vishnu).

 

The Cave of punarjani

 

The cave of punarjani, near Vilwadrinatha temple, is a wonder?ful phenomenon. Its location is towards the east of the temple at a distance of more than two kilometers.

The three rocky hills "Bhoothamala", "Vilwamala" and "Moorikkunnu" which stretch out in the east-west direction on the southern bank of Bharathappuzha are known as "Vilwamala" as a whole. The "punarjani" cave is in between the Vilwamala and the Bhoothamala. It is believed that the punarjani cave was built by "Viswakarma" having been ordered by "Devendra", as per the request of Parasurama for the salvation of spirits of dead people, who were already purified by the sight of Vilwadrinatha (the idol in the eastern shrine). Before starting to Punarjani we have to touch the "Ganapathi theertham" (which never gets dried up) on the northern side of the mountain about quarter of a mile eastwards from the temple.

Next we can reach a steep rock about seventy feet high on travelling about one and a half miles over the mountain. The broad "Papanasini Theertha" is seen if we proceed a little further in the southwest direction over the narrow projection on the rock. This was made by Parasurama and the presence of Ganga has been brought in this Theertha. Railings have been provided here for the devotees to walk easily without fear of falling down from the narrow projection of the rock. The

. entrance of Punarjani cave can be seen at a height of about six feet when we reach at the bottom of the steep rock after purifying our body by a dip in the papnasini theertha. Entering the cave we can walk a little towards the north bending the body. Then we have to move in the northwest direction in the sitting posture inside the cave. The only relief in the darkness is the streaks of light comming through the crevices of the rock. After that we have to cover some distance lying flat on the back and moving towards the east in that position touching the overhanging rock. Covering some distance in utter darkness in which even the person preceeding or following cannot be seen, a place can be reached where we have to lie over our belly. The divinity of the cave is based on the path beyond this. Any person, fat or lean, has to continue his movement upwards with' another's help (touching the feet of the one who preceeds) through a hole, which has only a diameter of about one foot, in the absence of breathing air. Then we have to creep over our belly along a broad slope, which ends in a square place of sides about twelve inches and then reach the exit. Once we enter the Punarjani cave it takes about three-quarters of an hour to reach the exit.

The custom is to go to papanasini again to purify the body and then go to the entrance once again. Next the devotees have to bathe or wash their hands, feet and face in the "Pathala Theertha" on the west at a distance of about thirty feet. It is believed that Parasurama who had brought the presence of the purified water of "Brahmakamandalu" here made this also. The next step is to take holy water in our hands from the "Kombutheertha", which was formed when Indra's elephant Iravatha struck his tusk on the rock. Nearby lies the "Ambutheertha" from which water has to be taken out using some stick or anything like that. People believe that one "Janma" or span of life is reduced from the cycle of births and deaths if we go through the punarjani cave once. The "Punarjani noozhal" (going through the cave) is done only once in a year on the day of Guruvayoor Ekadasi, which comes before the full moon day in the malayalam month of Vrischikam (Nov - Dec). On that day several people take part in this sacred attempt from morning till evening.

When the temple was rebuilt in the year ME 1055(Malayalam Era) after the fire accident, an opening as that of a cave was noticed in front of the western shrine. Eventhough some people went down the steps and tried to explore the cave the attempt was dropped because of the unending number of steps and the horrifying darkness inside. The cave was closed using 'granite slabs leaving a small hole in the stone slab to identify the spot. The granite slab seen with a small hole near the pathway of "Padinjarambalam" gives a clue to this. The Vilwampurana says that there is a 'Vilwa tree' in golden yellow colour under the western shrine and the fruits of this tree can liberate people from recurring births and deaths. Thiruvilwamala derives its name from this sacred tree. It is also said that the pathway inside the cave seen near the peepul tree close to the eastern gateway of the temple had been connected to 'Tirunelli' through an underground passage. The story goes that when a priest returning through this passage after worship?ping the deity at Tirunelli, the young lady walking in front showing light to the priest got impure and consequently the underground passage behind was sealed forever. Even now a part of this underground passage where extreme darkness prevails is explorable.

The humming sound heard through the cracked wall of the "Saraswathikundu" and the disappearance of any small object put through the small hole in the Padinjarambalam evidently prove the existence of a cave under the temple. Years ago, water for "Abhishekam" (bathing the deity) in the western shrine used to spring up through a small hole in front of the idol. It is also seen closed at present due to unknown reasons. There are a lot of legends about 'Moorikkunnu', 'Thalavettipara', 'Monnuruttikallu', 'Maharshipala', etc. which are only just men?tioned in this booklet.

Administration

The temple land extends upto "Kozhisseripadam" in the east, "Ganapathitheertham" in the west, "Bharathapuzha" in the north and "Kovilakaparambu" in the south. The whole area formerly belonged to Sri Ayyappa, Lord of the Bhuthas. But Parasuraman has entrusted the trusteeship of the whole property to the Moosads of five brahmin families namely, Vavath, Changanath, Kandanath, Kizhakkillath and Kandangath. The eldest of the Moosads held the status of "Parasu-utayavar". Whoever received this status gave up his relationship with his family and continued to reside in the temple itself. The Parasu-utayavar and 'Samudaya' appointed by the "Ooraymas"1 and "Karanmas"2 took up the administration of the temple. The Mahayogam (great conference) including the Ooraymas and the Karanmas and other representatives of the temple used to be held twice a year, one on the 'Dwadasi' before the new moon day in the month of Medam (March-April) and the other on the tenth of Karkitakam (June-July). The Parasu-utayavar was all powerful and was empowered to inflict any punishment including death sentence in the temple area. In Kali era 3493 the Cheraman Perumal gave over the temple land to the Perumpadappuswarupam. It is seen that the Perumpadappuswarupam enlarged the area of land under the temple and entrusted the administration to the very same body, that is the 'Great conference' or 'Mahayoga'.

Eventhough the Swaroopas of Tarur, Arangode and Nediyirippu had voice in the administration of the temple, the entire power got vested with the Perumpadappuswaroopam. Gradually the management of the temple came to be the responsibility of the Cochin Devaswam Board. At present the Devaswam office functions in the south west corner of the temple inside the compound wall. Although several changes have occured to the positions held by the trustees, the claims of Edasseri Mana, Kunnath Mana, Marutheri Mana and Mundakkal Mana as the main poojaries (priests) and those of Kuniyil Mana and Elayidath Mana as helping priests stand established permanently. The 'Tantri' of the temple is Kunnath Bhattathiri of Peruvanam village, near Thrissur.

It was in ME 1002 that a covering was made for the idol in the western shrine as a measure of security consequent to the fire accident. Two 'Kalasams' have been conducted, one in ME 1058 following the reconstruction of the temple and another in ME 1112 after renewing the metal covering. A 'Dravya kalasa' was also conducted recently. The Devswam Board, in collabo?ration with the temple welfare committee is conducting 'Laksharchana' and 'Ekadesi' celebrations, every year.

The mode of worship

This temple shines as a crown to the mount on which it is built and has got its own lakes on all sides. They are 'Ramanchira' in the west, 'Bhagavatchira' in the north and 'Vaikattirichira' near Parakkottukavu in the south. 'Nairchira' in the east has already been reduced to the size of a well. When we go to the temple after taking bath it is custom to touch the first footstep and then touch the head as a sign of respect.

Long ago a brahmin who was a resident of Killikurissimangalam used to come to Vilwadrinatha temple to learn Vedas after praying to Lord Siva in the temple at Killikurissimangalam. Even now praying in the Vilwadrinatha temple and Killikurissimangalam temple on the same day is considered most sacred. This may be the reason why this brahmin, an ardent devotee of Vishnu came to be called as Vilwamangalam Swamiyar. Years after when this Swamiyar visited the temple, the surroundings seemed to him as occupied by Serpant Anantha on whom Lord Mahavishnu takes rest. So in order to avoid walking over this sacred place and touching it with his feet, he crawled on his belly bending his knees. Wherever his feet touched the ground, he touched the place and put his hand on his head as a sign of respect to Vishnu. Even now some devotees do likewise when they enter the temple.

From whichever gateway we enter the temple, the first thing to be done is to circumambulate the temple of Hariuman and worship him. With the permission of Sri Anjaneya who himself has assumed the duty of safeguarding the temple we can enter the eastern shrine where the idol of Vishnu, which is also supposed to be that of Lakshmana, exists. Then we go direct to the shrine of Sri Maha Ganapathi. After praying to Mahaganapathi we proceed to the western shrine where the deity is Lord Vishnu, under the hoods of serpant Anantha, attended by Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Earth on either side, as he appeared before Amalaka Maharshi. Here the deity is worshipped as Sri Rama also. Then we proceed westwards t,o circumambulate the huge Balikkallu in padinjarambalam. Again we come to the western shrine. Thus after praying to both the Vilwadrinathas, we have to come out through the pathway in front of the eastern shrine itself. While circumambulating the temple outside, on the south we can see the Bhutanatha known as "Kundil Ayyappa" seated below several steps down the Vilwamala.

The sight of Hariharaputra who used to get satisfied with the accounts relating to the daily expenses of Vilwadrinatha temple, along with Hara (Lord Siva) and Gouri on the same pedestal will give a hair raising experience to the devotees. The rice for "Tripputhari" to the Vilwadrinatha temple is ceremoniously taken in a procession from this temple.

After paying respects to the Sribhutanatha the devotees climb up the steps of the southern gateway of the temple to reach back the "Pradakshinavazhi" inside the compound wall. As we proceed towards the west, the peepul tree in the southwest corner welcomes us with leaves fluttering in the wind making the whole atmosphere cool and serene. This peepul tree is supposed to contain the presence of all Gods especially Sri Guruvayoorappa. So the circumambulation of this peepul tree is considered to be extremely sacred.

Proceeding further, we reach the western gateway of the temple. Getting down the steps we can see the "Saraswathi kundu" on the left side where Rishi Amalaka practised his penance. Here the devotees write 'Hari Sri', place stones one above the other in odd numbers and pay homage to Rishi Amalaka. By doing these the devotees become entitled to three kinds of blessings, that is, bathing in the river Ganges, witness?ing the Almighty and doing "Giripradakshina". Experienced devotees follow these customs even now.

Important days of celebration

The days of celebration in the Vilwadrinatha temple begin with 'Thripputhari' brought in a procession through the eastern gateway accompanied by drums, pipes, etc. with the consent of Hariharaputra (Sri Ayyappa) in the month of Chingam (Aug-?Sept), the first month of the Malayalam Era (ME). The 'Niramala' on the first Thursday in the month of Kanni (Sept-Oct) captures our hearts with the fragrance of lotus flowers, high quality of various programmes, and the glamour of decorations and illumination by oil lamps lit all around the temple on the Vilakkumadathara and Deepasthambhams. The fact that art?ists from different parts of the country reach here oh their own accord, seeking the blessings of Vilwadrinatha, to begin their year's programme from this temple and elephants are sent in large numbers for participating in the 'Siveli' procession of this temple, is a notable feature of 'Niramala'. The continuous chanting of the name of Rama by devotees who reach here after propitiating their 'Pitrus' in the river Nila on the new moon day in the month of Thulam gets echoed over the entire area. The distribution of 'Pancha gavyam' commences on the first of 'Vrischikam' and ends with 'Kalabhabhishekam' and sacred procession of Sri Vilwadrinatha on the 10th of Dhanu (Dec-Jan). Devotees after devotees reach here to have darsan of Vilwadrinatha, before crawling through the Punarjani on the day of Guruvayuoor Ekadasi. The month of Makara (Jan-Feb) being the month of temple festivals, experts playing various instruments especially drums, maddalas, etc. get a chance to exhibit their talents far and near. Thiruvilwamala Ekadesi comes in the dark fortnight of Kumbham, before the new moon day. The Ekadesi festival begins from Ashtami day. The whole Vilakumadam is illuminated on that day. The 'Annadanam' or feast conducted on that day with a minimum of 101 Paras (about 1000 litres) of rice is also very famous. The temple will be kept open all the 24 hours on the Dasami day. The ritualistic poojas come to an end by noon on the Ekadasi day. Lots of people far and near are attracted by the Vilwadrinatha Music Festival, conducted during these days.

It is customary to have 'Nadaswara' in the evening and 'Tayampaka', 'Keli' and 'Panchvadya' at night during the festival days. The ritual procession conducted at night on Ekadasi day after the conventional "Vilakkacharam" lasts till five O'clock in the morning. It is believed that Vilwadrinatha has given permis?sion to Kumbhanasa and his companions to move about freely and visit him on this day because he had touched the feet of the Lord's idol though with the evil intention of destroying it.

The 'Nangiarkoothu' (the exposition of puranic stories with suitable actions, jokes, etc. by a lady of the chakyar family) which begins seven days before Ekadasi is a rare item of entertainment in this temple. There is a story behind this. Years ago once the 'Chakyarkooth' was going on in the temple. While enacting the role of Varuna in the Ramayanam Koothu the Chakyar in his own style made fun of Sri Rama getting ready to build a bund across the sea. It is said that just at that moment the door of the eastern shrine of Lakshmana suddenly got open. The Chakyar who was horribly frightened ran away from the temple. After running fast for some time he turned back and made sure that nobody was following him. Thereupon he took off his crown and other items of makeup. This place came to be known as 'Mudiyazhichapara' ever since. After this incident it is the Nangiar who performs this entertainment in the place of Chakiar.

The pooja at night on the Ekadasi day is supposed to be done by Devas and Devis. So the convention is to keep open a small portion of the temporary shed near the shrine. Anyhow it is a fact that unusual crowd is seen here on this particular day.

In the month of Meenam (March-April) 'Sudhikalasam' and 'Sribhuthabali' are conducted in the presence of the Tantri. Besides this 'Sriramanavami' is also celebrated here in this month. The 'Vishukkani' (1 st Medam) is also important in this temple.

After the fire accident, the pooja at noon used to be delayed very often since offerings for worship flowed to the temple. Once some women devotees from Vallapuzha did not get anything to offer. They reached the temple late after the pooja at noon with cucumber cultivated by them. Then the closed shrine was specially opened for them and Abhishekam con?ducted again. Even now the Vishukkani is got ready with cucumber brought as offering to Viswanatha.

The 'Vaisakha' days (April-May) and the new moon days of Edavam and Karkidakam, and 'Thirunira' are other days of importance.

Every year 'Bhagavatha sapthaha' is conducted here. 'Narayaneeya dinam' and 'Geetha dinam' are also observed in this temple. Several people participate in reading

"Sreemannarayaneeyam' and 'Srimat Bhagavad Geetha' on these days. Besides this some devotees read 'Adhyatma Ramayanam' as their offering to Vilwadrinatha not only in the month of Karkidaka but throughout the year.

Formerly this temple had a yearly income of more than one lakh paras of paddy, and a very high standard was maintained in all its performances. As years pass by the ceremonies and festivals of the temple get diminished both in quality and quantity.

Daily worship

The dawn of Vilwadrinatha begins exactly at four O'clock hearing the sound of the blowing of conch. First of all, the flower garlands, etc. used on the previous day are removed. Then 'Sankhabhisheka' is done followed by 'Malar nivedyam'. Nivedyam and pudding with ghee are usually offered for worship in the morning. After 'Siveli' and 'Navakam', comes 'Pantheeradi pooja' between morning and noon. Rice cooked without jaggery is offered at this time.The custom is to have Nivedyam and pudding with milk for the pooja at noon. 'Siveli' follows this.

The temple is reopened at 5 p.m. in the evening. The 'Deeparadhana' at sunset with blowing of the conch is a very attractive ceremony. The 'Sandhyavela' after deeparadhana is usually accompanied by various instruments like drums, pipes, etc. When sandhyavela is over, 'Athazhapooja' (Pooja of the night time) begins. The offerings include 'Appam', 'Nivedyam' and pudding. The day ends with Siveli and 'Trippuka'. Even though all the poojas are common for both the deities, the begining is always from the eastern shrine as in the case of deeparadhana. If any death occurs in the 'Malavattam' (the area surrounding the temple), the siveli in the temple is delayed until the body is removed. This denotes the unbreakable relationship between the temple and the surrounding area.

Offerings

Smearing the idols with sandal paste is an important mode of worship common to all the deities. All the idols fully covered with sandal paste and decorated with ornaments alongwith the bright glow of oil lamps create a divine halo all over the shrine. Besides this, 'Appam' to Ganapathi, 'Vadamala' and 'Avil' to Hanuman and 'Ad a' to Ayyappan are the most important offerings. It is a common mode of worship to light the oil lamps inside the temple with ghee. In addition to this, strange gifts as bow and arrow, cradles, etc. are also offered by devotees.

Giripradakshinam

The? devotees in olden days used to consider the 'Giripradakshinam' as a form of worship to get relieved of all their ailments and worries. But the present generation is quite unfamiliar with this practice.

Though the location of the temple stands divided in three sections as Bhutamala, Vilwamala and Moorikkunnu, it is collectively known as Vilwamala.

Among these the Bhutamala was particularly set apart by Parasurama as the abode of Bhutas and Pretas. The famous Punarjani cave lies at the western end of Bhutamala. The Moorikkunnu lying towards the west of Vilwamala is supposed to be the playground of 'Nandikeswara'. This confirms the belief that 'Sivasakthi' is also present in the idol in the western shrine. One has to travel a distance of about 16 kms. for circumambulating the suburbs of the temple as a whole. The first Giripradakshinam was done in March 1976 when the 'Laksharchana' was conducted. Nowadays Giripradakshinam is done on special occasions. The set of devotees for Giripradakshinam assembles in the temple atfive O'clock in the morning. Together they circumambulate the temple praying to the Lord and get down the steps of the western gateway and proceed chanting the Lord's name along the Kakkakund road near Moorikkunnu which later joins the main road. They move along the road going through Pampady, Kollaikal, Naduvathapara, Malesamangalam and Chunkam and at last reach Kakkakund road again. Then they climb the steps of the western entrance to the temple and the Giripradakshinam comes to an end with the circumambulation of the temple. It takes about five hours to complete this and anybody without any discrimination of class, colour or creed can take part in this. Even Adi Sankara has described the Giripradakshinam as a mode of worship, which gives happiness and peace of mind to anybody, who is after longevity, health and prosperity.

The calm and sacred form of Vilwadrinatha keeping aloof from the pomp and show of the outside world removes the impurities of mind, elevating it to a higher level of peace and bliss.

Some peculiarities regarding this temple

The water used inside temple is taken from the 'Thirthakulam' specially set apart for the purpose. It exists in the north-east corner just outside the east compound wall. If it gets impure, water has to be brought from Bharathapuzha with the retinue of drums, pipes and other musical instruments.

The huge peepul tree near the eastern gateway of the temple growing on the rock, where there is no soil at all, is really a wonderful sight. The roots of this tree are seen even inside the temple among the crevices in the rocks.

It is worth mentioning that the 'Naranarayan tapas', 'Aroodham work' and the wooden chain seen in this temple bear witness to the wonderful specimens of wooden carvings. It is only in this temple that the 'Arathothi', 'Panjanam' and 'Nadappura' of the eastern shrine and 'Balikkallu' and 'Padinjarambalam' of the western shrine are seen together at a glance. There is no flagstaff in this temple. The 'Bali' is offered on the 'Balikkallu', which came up without any human effort under the Panjana in front of the eastern shrine. It is really surprising that the rays of the rising sun fall directly on the idol in the eastern shrine, and the rays of the setting sun fall directly on the idol of the western shrine on 8th, 9th and 10th of Kanni and Meenam. Though both the shrines are built seperately with enough space in between, the craftsmanship is so wonderful that anybody visiting the temple feels that there is only one shrine in which one idol faces the east and the other faces the west. As far as the idols are concerned people consider them both as idols of Vishnu, yet they are worshipped as Sri Rama and Lakshmana in the west and east shrines respectively. But importance is seen for the assumption that it is Vilwadrinatha to whom the prayer is offered in both the shrines. Some of the legends Kolakkattiri Namboodiri was very rich but had no progeny. One day Vilwadrinathas of both the shrines went to him as guests in the guise of brahmin boys. When drinking water was given to them, they said, "Konden, Kolakkattiri", which means "Re?ceived, Kolakkattiri" and disappeared. The Namboodiri realised that Vilwdrinatha had taken away all their property. Naturally he was very much worried. Then his wife persuaded him to go to the temple and have 'Sankha theertha' saying, 'Veenden, Vilwadrinatha", meaning that I have taken back my properties. But when Kolakkatiri Namboodiri reached the temple the watchmen did not allow him to enter the temple. From that day onwards the custom of giving 'Sankha theertha' was stopped forever. After this incident the ladies of Namboodiri families never used to go inside the temple till recent years.

The holy places where the presence of Vilwadrinatha was felt are known as 'Koottalas'. There are several folklores about the Koottalas. Vilwadrinathas are said to have appeared before an old woman at Vallikkottu Padippura (one of the Koottalas) and promised to help her. They were very much satisfied with the milkand fruits given by her. Laterthe Thiruvilwamala Devaswam undertook all the assets of that woman and looked after her until her death and carried out the customary rituals after her death. Even today, light is lit, conch is blown and special pooja is done in that house.

Once upon a time a poor brahmin of Mangalathumana was very much worried since he did not have enough money to conduct the marriage of his daughter. It was then that the king of Cochin had come to worship Vilwadrinatha. It dawned upon the brahmin that his property was to be donated to the temple in the presence of the king. He did accordingly. The king gave all possible help to the brahmin and saved him from all his worries and anxieties. The place so donated by the brahmin in the name of Malayditya mangalam is now known as Malesamangalam.

Years ago people belonging to the lower castes were not allowed to go inside the temple. They could have darsan of Vilwadrinatha only from outside the temple. At that time the 'Balikkallu' in front of the eastern shrine was as high as the 'Balikkallu' in front of the western shrine. So it was not easy for them to see the idol. In order to save the devotees from this difficulty that 'Balikkallu' went down automatically and another one rose up under the Panjanam. The western side of the 'D~pasthambham' in front of the eastern shrine where the balikkallu lowered down itself is still considered to be sacred. There was a time when the temple was rendered extremely beautiful with towers on the east and west, which were fully decorated with Puranic pictures. In these days the 'Parasu?utayavar' and some of the priests used to spend the night time in the western and eastern towers respectively. It is said that these two towers were knocked down by thunderstroke when the truth came to the limelight that the lamps lit in the towers of this temple could be seen from the base of the peepul tree in front of the temple at Thirunavaya. The rebuilding of these towers was not admissible as per findings of astrology, con se?quentlythe bases of these broken towers are kept as such even now.

A nair woman who was in the habit of praying daily in the temple from early childhood used to speak a lot considering Vilwadrinatha as her husband. Others used to neglect this, saying that they were words of a mad woman. Once it so happened that she saw a 'Tali' (an ornament) in the neck of the idol of Vilwadrinatha. The ornament was given as an offering by a devotee. The woman got terribly angry and said that it was something to be worn by ladies like her. The next day the priest was astonished to see that the Tali had disappeared fror)1 the idol and the same appeared on the neck of the lady. Everybody was wonderstruck. From that day onwards articles given as offerings to the deities were being sold in public auction and the amount credited to the funds of the temple.

 

Further information received from the devotees  

  • There is a presumption that the idol seen in the Ayyappa Temple in the south is that of Ayyappa as a householder with his wives Poorna and Push kala.

  • The right leg put slightly forward in the case of the idol in the eastern shrine (Lakshmana) is considered as evidence to the story of Chakyar Koothu, as described earlier.

  •     Vilwadrinatha is mostly pleased with Archana done at his holy feet. So only the bare essentials required for the daily routine are taken inside. When subjected to astrological consultations, Laksharchana was not permitted in an open place in the premises of the temple where everybody might witness the function. So it is conducted at the lotus feet of the important deities inside the sacred shrines.

  •   It is well known that the power of the "Swayambhoo Vigraha" in the western shrine pervades the entire area, Malavattam. When the temple was renovated after the fire accident, the power of the deity was being reinvoked by 'Mantras'. The Tantri was a newly appointed priest. He could not do the 'Avahanakarma' successfully though he tried again and again. The tendency for urination came to him again and again and he came out several times very much worried. An old servant who had come with him enquired what the matter was. He reminded the Tantri that the old priest used to say that the whole Malavattam was to be taken as a unit while doing the Avahanakarma. His counsel was accepted and the work was completed quite satisfactorily.

  • On the Ekadesi day, people belonging to all kinds of creeds come here in large crowds. They include excited young men and women as if possessed by spirits, those who massage their body with flaming torches, those who circumambulate the deities on nailed shoes, those who worship the Lord by beating 'Udukku' (a small kind of drum), and those who distribute crushed and rolled plantain fruits, chanting 'Govinda, Govinda'. Nobody creates any obstacle to any one for any of these. It is said that the display of all these denotes the joy in having been given a chance for all. It also reminds us of the 'Burning of Lanka' by Sri Hanuman.

  •  During the days of 'Mappila mutiny' (an agitation by the Mappilas of Malabar) a combined shouting was arranged here to protect the temple. All the employees of the temple who were staying there at night used to shout "Kavalkare", " Srambikkare" and" Ittiare" at ten O'clock at night from the north-east and south-east corners inside the compound wall of the temple. Some others used to shout back answer ing the call. This sound echoed in all the. places at Thiruvilwamala including Pampady and Chunkam.

  • Sri Vilwadrinatha has been of help and protection to all who worship him with faith and devotion. It was in recent times that a devotee who was observing vow to go to Sabarimala reached the temple with his wife. He was praying with hands folded in front of the Swayambhoo shrine. The door was opened for Deeparadhana, and as soon as he had darsan of the Lord, he fell down and joined the almighty. Death without any difficulty occurred to old people like Narayana Poduval who was always in the vicinity of the temple chanting Ram nam. Mr.Krishna POduval who was an em?ployee in the temple from his very childhood is another example.

  • The sudden and easy death of Sri. Venketeswaran Master who used to plant peepul trees in the premises of the temple and spend a lot of time in falling prostrate before Vilwadrinatha praying, is a surprise to one and all.

  • The Attakatha of Kharavadham is not played in this temple even now. Once, when Kharavadham was being played, the person who was enacting the role of Khara spoke beyond his limit ridiculing Srirama and others. Vilwadrinatha got angry and killed him. The s~ord with which the actor was beheaded was washed in a tank near Ganapathi Theertha in the valley of Vi/wamala. It is known as "ValkazhukiyaKulam"( the tank in which the sword was washed) and the water still remains red in colour.

  • There is a legend regarding the peepul tree growing in the south-west corner inside the compound wall. It is said that to see lizards on that tree is a blessing for the devotees. People believe that seing lizards on this tree is equivalent to seeing Guruvayoorappan and Lord Siva with Goddess Parvathy.

  • When Tippu Sultan attacked the temples in this area he looted the "Mannurkunnu" temple at Malesamangalam. After that while proceeding towards this temple he reached a banyan tree very close to the 'Mudiyazhichapara'. There was a huge army ready to face any attack, seeing which he turned back and ran away. That banyan tree is not there now. But the name "Tampuran tirinha aal" (the banyan tree which checked the progress of Tipu and made him turn back) still exists.

  • The following facts and stories are seen narrated in the famous Sanskrit work 'Vilwadri Mahatmyam' or the Glory of Vilwamala, which is in the form of a conversation between Uma (Devi Parvathi) and Maheswara (Bhagavan Siva).

  • The temple of Vilwadrinatha is the most important of all the 'Beejakshetras'. The 'Atma' (soul) passing through births and deaths according to 'Vasanas" or instincts finds it very difficult to take birth as a human being. To be born as human being and that too in India (Bharath) especially near Bharathappuzha is a rare privilege.

  • The goal of Indian culture is to lead the living beings to the path of Salvation or Moksha. It'is believed that worship in temples can play an important role in attaining this goal.

  • The tom pie of Vilwadrinatha is the foremost among such temples. This temple is accepted as the most important of all the Beejakshetras because the old men of knowledge knew that Vilwadrinatha, after nurturing these instincts of people assigns them proper circumstances to work them out and finally attain 'Moksha'.

  • The forest around this place were inhabited by 'Kaattalas' (foresters) in ancient days. Once a Gandharva named Vichitra Veerya was grazing here in the form of a deer due to the curse of a Rishi. He could regain his original form only when he happened to fall and die in the premises of this temple struck by an arrow shot by a Kattala. It so happened that one of the Kattalas shot the deer and he died. Then the Gandharva appeared in his original form and blessed him. Because of this blessing, a daughter was born to him who finally turned out to be Sabari. The girl hated the ways of her tribe. She moved freely among the devotees in the temple premises and in course of time took birth as the famous 'Sabari' mentioned in Ramayana.

  • Lord Vilwadrinatha shows very much interest in promoting the welfare of the people who worship him, without caring for anything else.

  • If any death occurs in Malavattam, the Siveli in the temple is suspended until the body is removed. In addition to all these, people resort to the extraordinary practice of crawling through the cave Punarjani, near the temple, to get rid of the fear of rebirth. It is believed that a large spacious cave exists under?neath the temple. The story goes that there is a golden Vilwam tree in the cave and those who eat the golden fruits of this tree will be able to attain a body of golden colour and lead a high spiritual life without the fear of any more births and deaths.  

  • A great sage called Sidhachara came to know about this tree from Sri Narada who was in the habit of wandering all over the universe. Sidhachara narrates the story of his visit to the temple to Bhadrasarma as follows:

This area was under a prominent hunter named Sahyapala. Since the whole area was surrounded by thick forest and vigilant guard had been arranged, it was difficult to reach this place and find out the temple. After a long period of enquiry Sidhachara came to know that Sahyapala was seriously ill and disputes were on the way in search of his successor. Somehow he got friendly with Nisasoora, one of the faithful followers of Sahyapala, and made him believe that he had the spiritual power to save Sahyapala and bring him back to life even if he was dead. Sidhachara managed to bring him to a solitary cave and arranged a suitable place for his deep meditation. Strict sentry arrangements were made to avoid others' interference. When Sahyapala died, Sidhachara who knew the technique of 'Parakayapravesa' (spiritually entering the body of another person), kept his own body in a safe place inside the cave and entered the body of Sahyapala. He then came out ofbve as Sahyapala recovered from his illness and took charge of adm?inistration of the forest area. (It is for the researchers to find out whether the cave mentioned above is same Punarjani cave). Sidhachara in the guise of Sahyapala announced that the Guru who brought him back to life was in deep meditation and sentries were alerted not to have any sort of disturbance there in any way. At times he entered his own body and moved about as sage Sidhachara. At last he found out the temple. He drove away all the hunters within a short period of his administration. It is believed that Sidhachara is still in good health and practicing penance at Sidhachalam. Bhadrasarma who came to know of the glory of this place from Sidhachara, reached Vilwadri and tasted the fruit of the golden vilwam. The story of Rishi Amalaka who came here hearing about the importance of this region is well known. It is said that the rakshasas who tried to disturb Amalaka in many ways were cursed to take the shape of rocks and this is how the Rakshasapara near the temple came into existence. The 'Swayambhoo' idol in the western shrine is that of Sri Mahavishnu (as He appeared before Rishi Amalaka) turned into a stone image according to the request of the Rishi to bless the devotees for ever. The Vishnu vigraha in the eastern shrine was installed by Parasurama who received it from his Guru Paramasiva. Bhuthanatha & Durgadevi who had accompanied Parasurama at that time settled down nearby below the temple. Sri Bhuthanatha controls the affairs of the temple while Durgadevi attends to the protection of the area. The day set aside for them to visit Vilwadrinatha without disturbing the premises is now celebrated as 'Parakkottukavu Vela'. Usually on this day Sri Durgadevi starts with the Bhutaganas in a procession, from the temporary shed built for 'Paana' (a religious ceremony) near Bhuthanatha or Kundil Ayyappa, and sits near 'Vaikaattirichira' and blesses all the living beings on that day.

This temple with the sanctity of ancient heritage and extremely pure and beautiful scenery, combined with skilful craftsman?ship will shine forever as an ornament on the forehead of Kerala.

 

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