The Pride of Thrissur - Vadakkunnathan Temple

Kerala is no longer an unfamiliar territory for me. Last 5-6 years I have been to many places in Kerala, from Tarjan territory in Lakddi, Waynad to Tea plantation estates amidst hills and sharp peaks in Munnar. From Fort overlooking the Arabian sea in Bekal to Malabar coast drive in Talacherry & Kannur. But one things I couldn't explore much during my previous Kerala trips was Temple and its architecture.

Kerala is truly God's own country not just because of the beauty of backwater, roaring waterfalls, enchanting beaches, flora and fauna, rolling hills but also because of its rich timeless tradition and culture. Kerala is full of legends & tales, has many ancient and magnificent temples.

This time I covered the two most popular, ancient temples in Kerala and spent more time understanding its architecture. Before this trip, I always wondered why temple architecture in Kerala is unique and different from other parts of the country. Why we see many sloping roofs and the enclosures built-in wood in almost all temples in Kerala? Why Temples in Kerala roof resemble those found in the Himalayan regions and those in East Asia? Why there is not much influence of other Dravidian architecture like Hoysala, Vijayanagara, Cholas? I got the answer this time, true or not? I don't know but it seems logical to me.

The reason is the mighty Western Ghat

Western Ghat on the east of Kerala prevented the influences of neighboring Tamil rulers. Western ghat isolated Kerala to a greater extent from other Indian empires. Also because of the Arabian sea, ancient Kerala come closure to other civilizations like Chinese, Egyptians, Romans, Arab, Europeans. Don't forget Kerala's rich spice cultivation and its history of the major global maritime trade center.

The architecture of Kerala has been influenced by Indian Vedic architectural science (Vastu Shastra) and then style evolved because of a long history of influences of its major maritime global trading partners like Chinese, Arabs, and Europeans. Kerala's peculiar climate also contributed to this.

The first temple I visited was Vadakkunnathan Temple, an ancient Shiva temple at Thrissur. Its a classic example of Kerala's temple architecture.

Before I talk about architecture, let me tell you the legend associated with this temple.

There are difference but many agree on the fact that Temple was founded by Parashurama. He wanted to retire to some new land to perform Tapasya and selected this land. Then he went to Mount Kailash to his guru, Lord Shiva and requested him to take abode in Kerala and bless the region. Lord Shiva accepted his request and reached Kerala with Parvati and Ganesha along with Parashurama. Lord Shiva stopped at a spot (Now Thrissur) for his seat, later disappeared and then manifested his presence through the linga at the foot of the banyan tree. This is the banyan tree known as the Sri Mula Sthana.

This story of the origin of the Vadakkunnathan Temple is briefly narrated in Brahmanda Purana
For some time, the linga remained at Sri Mula Sthana. Later The ruler of the Cochin Kingdom decided to shift the linga to a more convenient place and enclose it in a temple. Linga was moved with all due rituals and installed in the new place where it has remained till now.

The Vaddakunattham Temple
As I said before, its classic example of Kerala architecture. Unlike big, mighty Gopuram (Gateway) made of stone in other south Indian temple, here its crowned with wooden roofs.

Taking pictures inside the temple is not allowed, so I could not take any pictures there.  Here is a google satellite image

Temple is surrounded by a massive stone wall enclosing an area of nearly 9 acres and has four magnificent gopurams (gateways) facing each direction. Pradakshina Path for circumambulation or parikrama around the shrines.

The quadrangular building you see in the image above is Nalambalam. Outside the nalambalam, there are shrines for Lord Krishna, Vrishabha, Parasurama, Simhodara, Dharmasastha, and Adi Sankaracharya.

Inside Nalambalam (quadrangular building) has shrikovil (sanctum sanctorums) and four main shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva or Vadakkunnathan, Shankaranarayana,  Rama and Ganesha. The main attraction here is the exquisite murals depicting Mahabharata.

If you see the image above carefully, you can see pyramidal or conical shape roof. These are of main shrines (Shrikovil). As per Kerala temple architecture, the shape of the roof is based on the plan of the Shrikovil. So for circular plan Shrikovil , you could see a conical roof over and for the square plan you could see the pyramidal roof.

A giant lamp post in front of the gateway. 

This temple is most famous for its Thrissur Pooram festival every year. Grand display of more than 30 elephants decorated with golden headdress, one hour of amazing fireworks starts at 3am, traditional drum beats certainly make this "the mother of all" temple celebration.

 Credit - Kerala Tourism

Another famous and important temple I visited during my recent Kerala trip was Guruvayur also known as "Dwarka of South India". More about Guruvayur in next blog....

1 comment:

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