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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Vadakkunnathan Temple

Vadakkunnathan Temple

Vadakkunnathan Temple, also known as Thenkailasam and Vrishabhachalam, is an ancient Shiva temple located at the heart of Thrissur town. This temple is a classic example of the Kerala style of architecture and has formidable gopurams on all four sides and also a Koothambalam and contain the sacred shrines of Paramashiva, Paravathy, Sankaranarayana, Ganapathy, Sri Rama and Sri Krishna. Legend goes that Parasurama founded this temple. Mural paintings that depict various episodes from the Mahabharata can be seen inside the temple. The shrines and the Koothambalam display exquisite vignettes carved in wood. According to popular lore, the temple was built by Parasurama. The sprawling Thekkinkadu maidan, encircling the Vadakumnathan temple, is the main venue of the Thrissur Pooram. The temple, along with the mural paintings, has been declared as a National Monument by the Union Government under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act.

Temple Structure

Vadakkunnathan temple is surrounded by a massive stone wall enclosing an area of nearly 9 acres (36,000 m2). Inside this fortification, there are four
gopurams each facing north, south, east and west directions. Apart from these four gopurams, there is a multi-shrined complex in the centre with three principal shrines dedicated to Shiva as Vadakkunnathan,Shankaranarayana and Rama.
In the northern side, there is a circular structure with Lord Shiva facing west. Since facing the setting sun, he is in his angry form, as seen at
Ettumanur. The figure of Parvati faces east and is just behind Shiva in the same shrine. These non facing installations denote the Ardhanariswara concept.The two-storied rectangular shrine of Sri Rama facing west is located in the south. Between these two srikovils stands a third one, circular and double-storied in shape, which is dedicated to Sankaranarayana and facing west. There are mukhamandapams in front of all the three central shrines.
The temple is famous for the rarity of the temple murals. Vadakkunnathan Temple also houses a museum of ancient wall paintings, wood carvings and art pieces of ancient times.

Temple Architecture

Vadakkunnathan Temple is a 1,000 years old temple, built by Lord Parashurama. The statue of Shiva, which is not visible, is covered under a mount of ghee, formed by the daily abhishekam (ablution) with
ghee over the years. A devotee looking into the sanctum can now see only a 16-foot-high (4.9 m) mount of ghee embellished with thirteen cascading crescents of gold and three serpent hoods at top. According to traditional belief, this represents the snow-clad Mount Kailash, the abode of Parvathy and Parameswara. This is the only temple without seeing Shivalinga.

It is said that the ghee offered here for centuries does not have any foul odor and it does not melt even during summer. Inside the Vadakkunnathan Temple is a multi-shrine complex called nalambalam or chuttamabalam in the center with three main shrines dedicated to Shiva or Vadakkunnathan, Shankaranarayana or Hari-Hara (a combined deity form of Shiva and Vishu), and Sri Rama. There is a circular structure in the northern side with the deity facing west. Parvati is seen facing east, just behind the idol of Shiva, in the same shrine.

Located in the south is the two-storied shrine of Lord Rama facing west. The idol of Sankara-Narayana faces west and is placed between these two Sri Kovils (sanctum sanctorum). It is circular and double storied in shape. Mukhamandapams are found in front of all the three central shrines. There is a shrine dedicated to Lord Vettekkaran (Shiva in a hunter form) within the nalambalam. The shrines of Lord Krishna, Vrishabha, Parasurama (sixth avatar of Maha Vishnu), Simhodara, Dharmasastha (Swamy Ayyappan) and Guru Adi Sankaracharya are located outside the nalambalam. Located on the verandah of the Nalambalam is a large white bullock Nandikeswara or Nandi bull.
The temple theatre, known as
koothambalam, has no parallel to cite anywhere else in the world. The four magnificent gateways called gopurams and the lofty masonry wall around the temple quadrangle are also imposing pieces of craftsmanship and skill. Ganapathi shrine is positioned facing the temple kitchen and offering of Appam (sweetened rice cake fried in ghee) to Mahaganapathy is one of the most important offerings at the temple. Propitiating Ganapathy here is believed to be a path to prosperity and wealth.

The devotees refer to elephants as Lord Ganesh's incarnation. It has been the regular annual practice at the Vadakkunnathan Temple for the last 20 years to conduct a large-scale Ashta Dravya Maha Ganapathy Havana and Aanayoottu on the first day of the Karkidakom month of the malayalam calendar. Gajapooja also is conducted once every four years.

Temple Festivals
Vadakkunnathan Temple is famous for the Thrissur Pooram festival celebrated annually in the Malayalam month of Medam (April – May). One of the most colourful temple festivals of Kerala, Thrissur Pooram is a majestic event which combines the imposing elephant pomp with the furious playing of drums and cymbals. The fireworks at the occasion are fabulous sight.
Besides, there has been a regular annual practice at the temple to conduct Ashta Dravya Maha Ganapathy Havana and Aanayoottu (ceremonial feeding of elephants) on the 1st day of Karkadakam month of Malayalam calendar (July - August). Gajapooja is conducted once in four years. Maha Shivaratri is another major festival celebrated here with much religious importance.
Temple Timings
The temple opens daily at 03:00 AM and closes at 10:30 AM. The temple reopens at 04:00 PM and closes at 8.30 PM after 'Trippuka', the last rite for the day.

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