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