Vadakkunathan Temple, Trichur

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By P.R.Ramachander


Vadakkunnathan temple also known as Then Kailasam and Vrishabhachalam occupies the pride of place on a hillock in the center of Thrissur town of Kerala. The Malayalam name for Thrissur also pronounced as Trichur is Thri-siva-Perur (The place where holy Shiva resides Shiva).

People believe that this temple is one of the fist consecrations done by Sage Parasurama after he reclaimed the present land of Kerala from the sea. It seems he requested Lord Shiva to show him the proper spot to build a temple. Lord Shiva then sent his steed Nandi and Simhodara to choose a proper place for the temple. They chose the present place and Lord Parasurama consecrated the temple here for Lord Shiva. It seems he also consecrated the idol of Lord Rama and Lord Shankaranarayana in this temple. Besides these three Gods, the temple also has Lord Ganapathy, and Goddess Parvathy.

In the Sankara Vijaya, it is mentioned that Adi Shankara’s parents came to this temple and did Bhajanam(prayer) for begetting a son. Lord Shiva blessed them with Adi Sankara. Some people also believe that except for the Lord Shiva in this temple all other Gods were consecrated by sage Adi Sankara when he visited this place. There is also a belief that Adi Sankara wrote his magnum opus “Soundarya Lahari” extolling the virtues of Goddess Parvathi of this temple.

There are many interesting stories about this great temple. Some of them are:-

  1. When Poonthanam Namboodiri, a bhakti-poet of Kerala (circa 16th CE) did pooja in this temple., Lord Shiva appeared before him as Lord Vishnu and told the assembled people about the oneness of the Gods.
  2. When Adhi Shankara came here he first did Pooja to Lord Shiva. But he was not able to walk to the temple of Parvathi which is behind this temple. At that time a baby girl came and offered him a cup of milk. But Adi Sankara could not lift his hands to receive the milk. He told the baby, “I do not have Shakthi (strength) to receive this cup from you.”. Then the girl told him, “That is because you seem to have forgotten about Shakthi.” It seems then he realized his mistake and started composing prayers in praise of the Goddess. Soundarya Lahari is among the first and it was composed here.
  3. Once a handsome saint used to daily sing the praise of the Lord. All the women devotees used to watch him with great devotion. But it seems, all the children born after that had the features of the handsome saint. People started getting perturbed. Lord Shiva then sent his white bull to this temple. Thereafter the people noticed that all the Calves born after that period in their homes were of white color! They now realized their mistake and begged pardon of the great saint. The statue of this white bull can be seen in this temple.
  4. The vi graham or deity of Vadakkunnathan is that of a hunter who gave Pasupathasthra to Arjuna. The legend says that in altercation which ensued between them, Arjuna seem to have hit the Lord with his bow. This caused a wound. When doctors were consulted, they prescribed that pouring of Ghee over the wound would cure it. On this basis, the main worship of the Shiva temple is Abhisheka (Anointment) with ghee. Since this has been going on for ages, the idol is fully covered in solidified ghee and hence we will not able to see the vi-graha but only a mount of ghee. It is a wonder of wonders that this ghee neither gets spoiled nor melts. Once in a while a small portion of the ghee falls from this mount. This is given to the devotees and it is believed that it has a lot of curative properties.It is also said that if at all the ghee melts, then disaster would ensue.
  5. There is a large area - around 18 acres surrounding the temple. This was once upon a time a teak wood forest and even today it is called Thekkin Kadu meaning a teak wood forest. One great king of Cochin who was interested in the development of Trichur town ordered the clearing up of the forest. However, the soothsayer of Paramekkavu temple,which is another great temple nearby, told him that the teak wood trees are like the hair of the goddess and should not be cut. But it seems, Shakthan Thamburan the king, first cut off the head of the soothsayer and later cleared the forest.

Another strange fact about the temple is that though Tippu Sultan marched through Trichur he did not either loot or cause any harm to the temple.

There are no intrinsic festivals in this temple except for the observation of Shiva Rathri. However, the presiding deities from several temples in the neighborhood viz Thiruvambadi, Chembakkavu, Paramekkavu, Naithalakkavu, Panekkam palli, Karamukku, Ayyanthol, Lalooru, Kannimangalam and Panekkampalli come to visit Lord Shiva on the Trissur Pooram day along with their caparisoned elephants accompanied by an orchestra of musicians playing typical instruments such as the 'chenda', 'maddhalam', 'edakka', 'ela- thalam', 'kombu' etc which form a type of temple art musical offering known as the 'pancha vaadyam'. Thirty elephants assemble in the courtyard, followed by an eye catching exchange of huge parasols known as ;kuda maatham' in Malayalam. The festivities last 24 hours, watched over by more than a million people from all over including foreign tourists, culminating in a fantastic display of fire works which steal the show. This festival is one of the greatest if not the grandest festivals of Kerala.

In this temple there is a very elaborate ritual for a visit. First, visitors must take a bath in the tank to the west of the temple after which they must go around the banyan tree seven times. Only then are they to enter the temple through the main gate. There is a procedure for doing the perambulation ('pradakshinam') of the deities which is to be followed and which a new pilgrim could learn from the regular temple goers there.

The ritual visit should be on the following path. On the left side, there is a pit said to have been made by Arjuna’s bow. We have to wash our legs there and visit and pray at the Lord Krishna’s temple. There after we have to offer prayers to the statue of Nandi followed by Lord Parsurama’s statue. Here we have also to salute the Simhodharan who was one of the co-founders of the temple. Later we have to walk towards north and salute Lord Viswanatrha of Benares. We then have to walk towards south east and climbing the stone,pray to Lord Ramanatha of Rameshwaram and Lord Nataraja of Chidambaram. Thereafter we move south and salute the Bhagawathi of Kodungallore, the Bhagawathy of Oorakam. and then Lord Bharatha of Irinjalakkuda. We have to meditate thereafter on Veda Vyasa and write the 51 alphabets on the stone of Vyasa. Then we have to salute Lord Ayyappa and walk towards north. There we have to pluck a flower, wear it and after saluting the conch and the holy wheel enter the temple of Lord Shankara Narayana.