Thiruvilwamala Ramabhadra Swamy temple
Thiruvilwamala(The sacred mountain of Vilwa) is a small village on the shores Of Bharatha Puzha. The main temple houses two temples. The one in the west is supposed to be a temple dedicated To Sri Rama and the one in the east is dedicated to Lord Lakshmana. But both idols are of the form of Lord Vishnu with four arms holding conch, wheel, mace and lotus flower. Near this temple there are two more rivers viz Cheerakuzhi puzha and Padur puzha. Though in the olden times there were no bridges in any of these rivers, the approach was only through Pazhyannur but now there are bridges in all the three rivers and Thiruvilwamala can be approached from several sides. It is believed that behind the idol of the temple there is deep hole in which there is a golden Vilwa tree. The name of the place comes from this legend. The temple also has idols of Ganapathi, Hanuman and Ayyapan which are consecrated there . There are many stories about this temple.
One of them says that Lord Parasurama after killing all the royal families of India wanted to give salvation to their souls. So he did great penance addressed to Lord Shiva. It seems Lord Shiva appeared before him and gave him an idol of Vishnu. Sage Parasurama liked Thiruvilwamala most because Vilwa trees were growing there. He consecrated the Vishnu idol given to him by Lord Shiva . Then Lord Parasurama summoned the souls of all those killed by him as well as his manes. Most of them got salvation and some of the very bad ones did not. Lord Parasurama chained all of them in a place near by called “Rakshasa Paara”(The stone of the Rakshasa.)
There is another story about the origin of this temple. There was a sage called Amalaka who was the son of Kasyapa Prajapathi. He started doing penance in this place. Indra , under the impression that this sage was doing penance to get his post, sent dancing girls Urvasi and Thilothama to disturb the penance of the sage. When their tricks failed Indra approached Amalaka’s father Kasyapa, who told him that Amalaka was doing penance to get salvation and nothing else. Then Indra stopped harassing the sage. Then the Rakshasa thinking that sage was an agent of Indra started harassing him , by causing rain and throwing stones at the sage. At this when the sage opened his eyes , fire came out of it and burnt all the Rakshasas. The ash of those Rakshasas joined together and became a big rock. This according to the local people is the Rakashasa para. Later it seems Lord Vishnu appeared before the sage and requested him to ask for the boons that he wanted. The sage requested for undying devotion to Lord Vishnu and also requested God to bless all the suffering human beings of the world and requested the Lord to stay there itself to do it. The Lord then became an idol of Lord Vishnu which was consecrated in the west temple of Thiruvilwamala. So people believe that the idol in the western temple is Swayambhu( Not man made). Sage Amalaka liked to chant the holy name of Rama in front of this lord. So slowly the other devotees branded the idol there as that of Lord Rama. Normally it is believed that we have to worship fist Lord Lakshmana and then Lord Rama . There are others who believe to the contrary. Several times both temples have been ravaged by fire but it is a miracle that the idols have never been damaged. The last such reinstallation of the temple took place in the year 1882 by the then king of Cochin. There is another custom in the temple of saluting Pazhani Andavan, Vadakkunathan, Guruvayurappan and Thirunavaya Mukundan in the different places of the temple . Some people believe that the Guruvayur temple can be seen from a particular point of the temple. There is also a story that after the Mahabaratha war the Pandavas came to the Bharatha puzha near here and did oblation to the souls of all those who died in the war. It seems that they built a temple for Lord Krishna called “Ivormadam Sri Krishna swami temple.”.
“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 worshipping 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.”
On the northern side of the temple there is a beautiful Kulam (Pond) , known as Bhagavathi Chera and on the north-west side another pond called Raman Chera.
The Priests who perform the worship in the temple take bath in Bhagavathi Chera before entering the temple. On that day the men devotees enter a cave called Punarjanee( which is km from the temple) on one side and come out on the other side. The priest of Thiruvilwamala temple , comes there after the main poja and then rolls a gooseberry(Nellikka) in side the cave from one side. It easily emerges from the other side. The cave is about 15 meters long and is of different heights. It starts from the southern side of the mountain. To cross it is difficult because it involves standing , sitting , lying down and crawling. It is believed that if we cross the Punarjanee on that day, we will not have any more births. Nowadays there are men available who, if paid money would cross the cave on our behalf.
Before entry in to the Punarjanee cave , we have to touch the Ganapathi Theertham which is on the northern side of the mountain. Then we have to climb a narrow and steep rock for some distance and reach the Papanasini thertham. People believe that Sage Parasurama has consecrated river Ganges in this Theertha . After crossing this we have to enter the Punarjani cave(Punarjani noozhal) , come out and then again go to the Papanasini theertham and take bath there. Then we have to go to the Pathala Theertha, wash our hands and legs and then go to the Kombu Theertham (Made by dashing of the tusk of Indra’s elephant Iravatha) and visit the Ambutheertham.
The manes are worshipped in this temple during the new moon day in the Karkidaga(July-august) month and other festivals are Niramalai in the month of Kanni (Aug-Sept) and Ashtami vilakku which ends on Ekadasi day in the month of Kumbam (Feb-Mar). Sri Rama Navami also is celebrated in this temple. On the Ekadasi day many people observe fast and do not sleep at night and remain in the temple.