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Alathur Rendu Murthy Temple

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By P.R.Ramachander


This temple has two goddesses as the presiding deities, viz Annapurneswari (the Goddess who bestows peace and prosperity) and Mahishasura Mardini (the incarnation of Durga who slayed the asura Mahishasura, who was half man and half wild buffalo) This temple is located in the small town of Alathur, which is about 20 km from the town of Palakkad, which is in Kerala. Both the goddesses are facing west. While the Annapurneswari idol is made of stone, that of Mahishasura Mardini is made from the wood of the jackfruit tree (Artocarpus heterophyllus). The temple is on the right bank of Bharatha puzha (Neela River). The etymology of the place name is that this place was called Thiru Valathur, meaning 'the village situated on the right side'. However, today it is known simply as Alathur. It is believed that the idol of Mahishasura Mardini was consecrated by Parasurama himself. The temple is being presently managed by members of the Naduvil madam, a Madam (meaning a Brahmin family) originally founded by Adi Sankara. This temple is also called Pani Theeratha Kovil (unfinished temple). It seems that despite great efforts, people were unable to complete the construction of this temple. Seeing this, it is said that the Bhoothas or the forces from the nether world who were the soldiers of King Yama finished the construction in fourteen days. Both temples have roofs clad with copper sheathing. While Annapurneswari temple is at a lower level, the other temple is at a higher level.

Normally statues made with the wood of the jackfruit tree are coated with a saffron paste (Chandan) to prevent decay. However, in this temple, there is no practice of applying Chandan to the Mahishasura Mardini vigraha. In spite of that, the statue is in a very good condition. While no Abhishekam (anointment) is performed to this idol, it is performed on the Uthsava moorthy (idol used for perambulation around the temple) only. Another peculiarity of this temple is that Brahmins do not sit on the Mandapam facing the sanctum.

People pray at this temple for getting their children married without delay as also for them to beget children after marriage.

It seems that due to the Kerala Land Reforms Bill, the temple lost all its land and decay set in. It is said that when those people who got the temple property from the government started having untold sufferings, realizing the cause, all these land holders took it upon themselves to maintain the temple in a glorious way.

There is a ten day grand festival in this temple in the Malayalam month of Vrischigam (November-December). On the Ekadasi day, there is a tradition having elephants run around the temple in a race.

In the month of Mesham (April-may), the foundation day of the temple is celebrated. On that day the four thousand stone lamps of the temple are lit in what is called 'Chittu vilakku'. It seems that the oil used for these lamps comes from a nearby village called Enna Padam (oil field).

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