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Vadakkunnathan Temple
Vadakumnathan Temple Gate.jpg
Name: Vadakkunnathan Temple
Primary deity: Shiva
Architecture: Kerala
Location: Thrissur, Kerala

Vadakkunnathan Temple ( Malayalam: വടക്കുന്നാഥ ക്ഷേത്രം ), also known as Thenkailasam and Vrishabhachalam, is one of the largest and ancient Shiva temples in Kerala and India. It is located in the heart of Thrissur city. This temple is a classic example of the Kerala style of architecture with beautiful murals delineating graphically, various episodes from the Mahabharata. 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.


Temple structure

Temple gate.

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 or Vadakkunnathan, Shankaranarayana and Rama.

In the northern side, there is a circular structure with the deity facing west. The figure of Shiva-Parvati faces east and is just behind Shiva in the same shrine. The two-storied 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.[1]


Wood carving in the gate of Vadakumnathan Temple.

Vadakkunnathan temple is one of the oldest in South India. According to legends, it was founded by Lord Parasurama and enshrines Lord Shiva as the principal deity. 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 sixteen-foot high 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 Kailas, the abode of Parvathy and Parameswara. Shiva here is more popularly known as Vadakkunnathan (Sanskrit Vrishabhachala -Tamil Vidaikunrunathan Vidai - Vrishabha, kunru - chala ). Apart from Lord Shiva, Sree Parvathy, Sree Ganapathi, Lord Sankaranarayana and Sree Rama are enshrined within the nalambalam of the temple. Lord Vettekkaran (Siva in a hunter form) is also worshipped within the nalambalam enclosure.

Outside the nalambalam, there are shrines of Lord Krishna, Bullock, Parasurama, Simhodara, Dharmasastha and Adi Sankaracharya. Adi Sankara is believed to have been born to the Shivaguru-Aryamba couple of Kalady in answer to their prayers before Vadakkunnathan, as amsavatara of the Lord. Legend has it that Shiva appeared to both husband and wife in their dreams and offered them a choice. They could have either a mediocre son who would live a long life or an extraordinary son who would die early. Both Shivaguru and Aryamba chose the second option. In honour of Shiva, they named the son Shankara.

The murals in the temple are known for its rarity and two of them - Vasukisayana and Nrithanatha - are even worshipped regularly. A fairly large white bullock on the verandah of the Nalambalam is worshipped as Nandikeswara. In the temple quadrangle, there are specified spots at which the devotees can offer their salutations to Lord Shiva of Kasi and Lord Chidambaranatha of Chidambaram, Lord of Shiva of Rameswaram, Sree Kali of Kodungallur, Urakam Ammathiruvadi, Lord Bharatha (Koodalmanickam) at Irinjalakuda, Sree Vyasa, Sree Hanuman and the serpent gods.

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.[2]

See also


  1. ^ [1] Kerala-History

External links

Coordinates: 10°31′23″N 76°12′49″E / 10.5230°N 76.2137°E / 10.5230; 76.2137


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