Worship of Lord Brahma, Part 65

BY: SUN STAFF - 27.3 2018


Vallasala Kanthalloor Sree Mahadevar Temple

A serial exploration of places of Lord Brahma's worship.


Lord Brahma at Vallasala Kanthalloor

A few kilometers east of East Fort at Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) is the Vallasala Kanthalloor Sree Mahadevar Temple, one of the largest temples in Kerala and the second largest in Trivandrum. The temple is ancient, and is home to presiding (prathishta) deities of the Trimurti, each represented by an independent linga form.

Lord Brahma, Visnu, and Maheswara have been receiving worship here for centuries, and large crowds of devotees and visitors still come in a steady stream to get their darshan. The mandir's upaprathistas, or secondary deities include Sri Krishna, Mahavisnu, Maheswara Mardhini, Subramanya (Murugan), Ganapati, Bhoothathan, and Nagaraja. Some of the Deities are situated in a round sanctum (sreekovil).

Sree Mahadevar Temple is said to have been founded as the result of a rather violent pastime which took place amidst a bloody war between the Chola king and his opponents, the Chery and Pandya kings. All perished in the battle. Their widows, being most disconsolate, performed sati, setting themselves on fire in order to join their husbands. Emerging from the embers on the pyre was a blazing ember that transformed into a Shiva linga jwala mahadevar. In order to pacify this ferocious Shiva, risen from the flames, murtis of Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu were installed nearby. Evidence for this story of the temple's origins is found in 17th century royal orders related to the temple, which refer to it is 'Jwala Mahadevar'.

Other historical records exist which date this place back to the 7th century A.D., including Mathilakam records from the Padmanabhaswamy Temple which mention Kanthalloor, and Chola inscriptions from the late 10th century referring to Kanthalloor. An inscription belonging to Rajendra Chola, found on the rear wall of the sanctum sanctorum, says that the temple came into existence before 1045 A.D.


The Temple Complex

The Vallasala Kanthalloor (Valiyasala Kanthaloor, Kandaloor) temple complex is spread over four and a half acres of land, with three large shrines and eight sub-shrines. The temple grounds are now contiguous to the University of Kandaloor. Flowing by the temple is the Killiya River, a branch of the Karamana. The Killiya is considered to be a holy river, passing through many temple complexes before it merges with the Karamana at the Thiruvallam Parasurama Temple, then flows into the sea.

The temple halls of Sree Mahadevar have sculpted granite pillars, and the roof is similar to that of Sucheendram Temple (which will be our last featured Brahma temple in Kerala), sloping and conical, and covered in copper.

Sree Mahadevar Temple

In the main sanctum, Lord Brahma's shrine is the smallest, but sits in the center. On either side are the shrines of Visnu and Shiva, Lord Visnu's having a 2-story roof above it. Each shrine has a traditional mukhamandapa, or pavilion in front.

In front of Lord Shiva's shrine, the pavilion is missing the usual Nandi, although the pavilion facing Lord Brahma has a Nandi. It is said that Lord Shiva's Nandi departed from the temple, in a show of disdain at the shoddy manner in which the temple priests were conducting the program of worship. In an article by Narayani Harigovindan, entitled "Mystery of the Missing Nandi", we read the following excellent description of Sri Nandi's pastime:

"Shiva's search for the recalcitrant bull led him to the nearby village of Thaliyal, on the banks of the river Karamana. In a conciliatory gesture, Shiva appeared before Nandi, with his consort and gave him permission to take up permanent residence there and in recognition of his courageous and independent stand, offered him food. In memory of this incident, to this day, during the annual Kanthalloor festival, Shiva, accompanied by Vishnu and Brahma, stops by at the Thaliyal Shiva temple to offer food to Nandi and thereafter proceeds for 'aarattu' (the ceremonial bath) in the Thaliyal temple pond.

However, the version of temple priests is different, portraying the missing bull in a less positive light. Here was a Nandi which played truant, leaving the temple premises surreptitiously in the dead of night, in search of greener pastures and making his way back stealthily, before it turned light. One day, it turned out that daylight caught him unawares. Too embarrassed to return to Kanthalloor, he squeezed into the available space at the Thaliyal temple.

Lending credence to the story is the fact that the Nandi in the Thaliyal temple is found in front of the Ganesha shrine, and not in front of the Shiva temple. An assistant priest mischievously adds that Nandi still has not rectified his errant nature and still goes out on nocturnal rampages in the surrounding fields. But what happened to Thaliyal's own Nandi? Perhaps that will make for another tale, another time."

Thousands of devotees visit Sree Mahadevar Temple each year for the annual Kanthalloor festival. Centuries ago, there was a famous Veda Padha Sala here for the Brahmins. The 10 day Aarattu festival celebrated on Thiruvaathira day of Kumbam on the Malayalam calendar brings large crowds. This and other festivals are put on by the temple trustees, Travancore Devassom.

Coming up in December 2013 will be a very special 10 day festival of the Valiyasala Temple elephants, during which many special musical and theatrical performances will be offered. In fact, the Vallasala Kanthalloor Sree Mahadevar Temple has a special relationship with the arts. The Margi Kutiyattam center is a famous school for traditional Kerala dances, including Kathakali, Kootiyattam, Nangyarkoothu, Chakyarkoothu and Paatakom. Margi Kutiyattam Centre is housed in an old building on the grounds of Sri Mahadevar Temple. The annex provides performance space for the group, who have been offering weekly Kutiyattam presentations for the last 25 years.



Kathakali Performance, Margi Center