Sri Adi Kesava Temple

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By editor - 18.5 2017

Sri Adi Kesava Temple, Thiruvattar, Where Sri Caitanya Discovered Brahma-samhita

LORD SRI ADI KESAVA PERUMAL at Thiruvattar

Sri Adikeshava Perumaal temple is an ancient and a very important temple situated in Thiruvattar.

Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited this temple in 1510 AD during His South India tour. This is the temple where Lord discovered the 5th chapter of Sri Brahma-samhita. Brahma-samhita is said to contain 100 chapters. This scripture is so old and so sacred it was practically lost to the general population. But Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu understood the supreme importance of this scripture and He found it in the Sri Adi Keshava temple at Thiruvattar. As soon as Lord began to hear and read the content of Sri Brahma-samhita, He was overwhelmed with ecstatic love. Lord transcribed Brahma-samhita to take it with Him and to share it with His devotees and ultimately with the whole world.

Lord Sri Adi Keshava Perumal is huge 22 feet in a Bhujanga Sayanam (sleeping in the opposite direction - Head in the South, Feet in the North). For a full darshan, the Deity must be viewed through three doors. One of the unique occurrence at this temple is that between the 3rd and 9th day of Puratasi and Panguni, during dusk, sun’s rays directly falls on the Lord inside the sanctum, almost as a mark of respect from the Sun God to Sri Adi Kesava Perumal. Other interesting facts are: Parasurama is said to have undertaken penance at this place and performed daily poojas for Sri Adi Keshava Perumal; Sage Vashista is said to have stayed here for several years. Another remarkable feature is the Otraikkal Mandapam (single stone hall) outside the main sanctum of the temple altar is measuring 18ft width and 3ft height that has been built on a single stone in the 12th Century AD. This is three feet thick and 17½ by 15 feet long. It certainly shows the skill of which the stone carvers had during the day when this temple was built.

Sri Adi Keshava Perumal at Thiruvattar is located near the Kerala - Tamil Nadu border about 6 km north-east of Marthandam town, 30 km north-west of Nagercoil (in Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu), 54 km from Trivandrum and 46 km from Kanyakumari. Temple is one of the 13 Malai Naatu Divya Desams. Though this Divya Desam is located in Tamil Nadu, there are no big temple towers that are typical of Divya Desams in Tamil Nadu. The temple has been built in typical Kerala style on a three acre land. All poojas are in Kerala style - Thaanthriga Vithi and the priest is from Kerala as well.

The temple is surrounded on three sides by rivers Kothai, Parali and Tamraparni. River Paraliyar takes a turn in this place and diverges to flow forming an island and it is called vattaru and when the temple of Adikeshav Perumaal was created it came to be known as Thriuvattaru. One has to climb 18 steps to reach Sri Adi Kesava sannidhi (altar). This Temple is older than Sri Ananta Padmanabha Swamy Temple at Trivandrum (50 km from here). The temple is situated in a compound of 1½ acres. It is surrounded by a massive 30-foot tall wall. The inner sanctum of the temple was constructed over 4,000 years ago. In the temple there is a spot, the very place that Lord Caitanya sat and read the Brahma-samhita. On western side of the temple is the ghat where Tamraparni river flows. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu took the dip at this river before taking the darshan of Sri Adikeshava Perumal.

The structure of the temple is similar to that of Sri Ananta Padmanabha Swamy temple at Trivandrum. The style and the architecture of this temple is taken as the sample to construct the Sri Ananta Padmanabha Swamy Temple. There are close to 50 inscriptions inside the temple in the outer prakarams in both Tamil and Sanskrit. In addition to the inscriptions, one also finds a number of stunning sculptures on the pillars. No two images are the same. Walking along the outer hallway, we reach the place of the copper flagstaff, the dwajasthamba. This was installed by Maharaja Mulam Tirumal of Travancore in 1895. Next we come to the Nalambalam, the circumambulatory passage around the sanctum (Sri Balippuram), which is a hall with 224 ornately carved granite pillars. The pillars nearby in the Balipeeta Mantap have life-size images that include Visnu, Laxmana, Indrajit, Venugopal, Nataraja, Parvati and others. There is also a shrine to Tiruvambadi Krishna. Additional shrines to Adi Kesava, Venkatachalapati and Taayar are also found.

This temple has been glorified by a decad off 11 verses composed by Nammalwar in the first millennium CE. Vaikuntha Ekadasi is celebrated with pomp and glory. Paal Payasam (Milk Kheer), Aval and Appam are delicious prasadams at this temple. It is an important center of worship and is also referred to as Adi Anantam and Dakshina Vaikuntham.

The Deity of Sri Adi Keshava Perumal is 22 feet huge, made out of  16008 Saligrams, is seen in a West facing Bhujanga Sayanam (sleeping in the opposite direction - Head in the South, Feet in the North). The Lord is lying on his snake couch and has to be viewed through three doors. Lord Siva is near the Lord Adikeshava Perumal inside the sannidhi (altar). Sri Adi Keshava Perumal is faces west as it is said that He is looking toward Sri Ananta Padmanabha Swamy temple in Trivandrum. This Deity of Adikeshava is considered the Elder brother of Sri Ananta Padmanabha Swamy.

Legend:

Lord Brahma performed a yajna without Saraswati Devi and as a result of Saraswati’s anger, two asuras (a brother and a sister) by name Kesan and Kesi emerged out of the Yajna agni (sacrificial fire). They were troubling the three worlds. The demigods approached Lord Vishnu and requested Him to find a solution. Lord Vishnu in the form of Adi Kesava fought with Kesan. Lord threw Kesan who fell on top of Mahendragiri and Lord blew His conch. Instantaneously, Adi Sesha wound himself around Kesan thus disabling the asura to move and Lord immediately laid on Adi Sesha thus putting His weight on the asura. When the asura tried to get out of Adi Sesha’s coils, Lord made 12 Siva-lingams to stand as guard all around the asura and Him. These famous Siva Temples are Thirumala, Thikkurussi, Thrupparappu, Thirunandhikkara, Ponmana, Pannippakam, Kalkkulam, Melankodu, Thiruvidaikkodu, Thiruvithamkode, Thiruppanrikkode and Thirunattalam. These are situated at quite a distance from Adi Keshava temple. Even today, the worship to Lord Siva on the occasion of Siva-ratri, the famous Sivalaya ottam - is said to be complete only when the Siva devotee after visiting the twelve Siva shrines ends there trip in the Sri Adi Keshava Perumal Temple.

Meanwhile, Kesi who saw her brother defeated wanted to take revenge. Hence she along with her friend, Kothai took the form of rivers and encircled the temple with the intention of submerging the temple. At that time, it is believed that Bhumi deviraised the temple  at a height. Hence, the temple is situated at a height of 55 feet from the ground level. The image of the Gopuram clearly indicates this. The rivers joined with Arabian Sea at a place known as Moovaatru mukham. These rivers were then cursed by Lord to remain as sinful rivers and they later repented for their action. The merciful Lord forgave them and purified them by taking a dip in them. Even today, during Painguni utsavam, Lord’s utsava-vigraha comes on a golden Garuda and have a dip in the river thus enacting the incident.

Thiru Allah Puja

In 1740 AD the men of the Nawab of Arcot looted this temple and the golden utsava-murti. Out of contempt, Nawab kept the Deity along with rubbish items in a godown. However every day, the Deity would automatically come on top pushing aside all the weights that were put on it. The perplexed Nawab had it chained down, boring two holes in the pedestal. At that time, the Nawab’s wife was afflicted with a serious illness. She was unable to withstand the excruciating pain. The physicians could do nothing about it. Then the Deity appeared in the dream of the temple priest (Azhathi) and ordered him to go to Nawab’s palace and inform the Nawab that if the Deity was returned, his wife would be cured of illness.

 

Explaining the greatness of the Lord, the Azhathi convinced the Nawab that the illness would be cured once the Deity was restored to its original place in the temple. The Nawab complied and acted accordingly. Nawab’s wife was cured. He was surprised that the illness of his wife had disappeared. The Nawab repented for his blasphemous deeds and as a token of gratitude, he offered a pillow, crown, a golden plate and cup to the Lord. A special pooja or worship was performed wherein a cap that is used to crown the Deity is fashioned like the Muslim head-dress. This was instituted by the Nawab and is still performed during the two annual Utsavams and the paraphernalia offered by Nawab is used at the time of Sheeveli puja every day. He also provided the fund for conducting annual puja, which is called Thiru Allah Pooja. The Thiru Allah mandapam within the temple is linked with this episode and is the place where 21-day Thiru Allah puja takes place even today.

Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu discovers Brahma-samhita

Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Madhya lila Chapter 9 verses 234-241 state: That very night, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His assistant Krsnadasa arrived at the bank of the Payasvini River. They took their bath and then went to see the temple of Adi-kesava. When the Lord saw the Adi-kesava temple, He was immediately overwhelmed with ecstasy. Offering various obeisances and prayers, He chanted and danced. All the people there were greatly astonished to see the ecstatic pastimes of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. They all received the Lord very well.

In the temple of Adi-kesava, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu discussed spiritual matters among highly advanced devotees. While there, He found a chapter of the Brahma-samhita. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu was greatly happy to find a chapter of that scripture, and symptoms of ecstatic transformation - trembling, tears, perspiration, trance and jubilation - were manifest in His body. There is no scripture equal to the Brahma-samhita as far as the final spiritual conclusion is concerned. Indeed, that scripture is the supreme revelation of the glories of Lord Govinda, for it reveals the topmost knowledge about Him. Since all conclusions are briefly presented in the Brahma-samhita, it is essential among all the Vaisnava literatures. Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu copied the Brahma-samhita, and then with great pleasure He went to a place known as Ananta Padmanabha.

Lord Caitanya came to the holy Payasvini river, bathed, visited the Sri Adi Keshava temple and took darshan of the ancient deity of Lord Visnu reclining on Ananta Sesa. Lord danced, offered obeisances, prayed and loudly chanted the holy names. In the temple of Sri Adi Keshava, Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu discussed spiritual subjects with very highly advanced devotees. Bhagavad-Gita Chapter 10 verse 9 states:

mac-citta mad-gata-prana bodhayantah parasparam
kathayantas ca mam nityam tusyanti ca ramanti ca

Lord Sri Krishna tells us in the Bhagavad-Gita that real pleasure is when devotees come together and share their love for Krishna with each other, by discussing the teachings, pastimes and the loving service of the Lord. This is the highest form of relationship, not to get something from each other, not to exploit each other, not to enjoy various temporary thrills with each other. The deepest relations we can have are when we enlighten each other, when we share our love, for God with each other and this is actually one of the tests of how we are spiritually advancing.

At that time Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu found the 5th chapter of Brahma-samhita.Brahma-samhita is said to contain 100 chapters. This scripture is so old, so sacred it was practically lost to the general population. But Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu understood the supreme importance of this scripture and He found it in the Adi Keshava temple. As soon as He began to hear and read the content of Brahma-samhita He was overwhelmed with ecstatic love. Lord copied this scripture to take it with Him and to share it with His devotees and ultimately with the whole world.

Lord Krishna is the Supreme controller: Srila Krishna Dasa Kaviraja Gosvami explains how Brahma-samhita is a supreme scripture which encapsulates the very essence of all the Vedas. It reveals not only the path of perfection and how to achieve it but the highest revelations of spiritual world and the most inner secrets.

Sri Brahma-samhita begins with the verse:

isvarah paramah krsnah
sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah
anadir adir govindah
sarva-karana-karanam

This verse explains how Lord Krishna is the supreme controller. In fact everyone to some extent is thinking that I am controlling my destiny. But isvarah paramah krsnah, there is a supreme controller.

Lord Krishna is the controller of all controllers, the supreme controller. All the things that are attractive in this world Krishna possesses them unlimitedly and eternally. In this world whatever we can have, we can have it only for a little time. Even the most beautiful, lovely, charming people of the past, they are either ashes or washed into the rivers or became food for insects underground. Wealth, fame, beauty you can’t hold on to it, nothing. It all slips through our fingers, however hard we try to cling on to it. But Krishna’s beauty, strength, fame, knowledge, wealth, is not only forever but its forever increasing.

Lord Krishna’s form: Lord Krishna is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha, it is not that Lord Krishna’s body is just a temporary manifestation of goodness for the purpose of helping people to get knowledge and direction in life and then that body merges into nothing, a formless state. Scriptures state sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah, His form is eternal, full of knowledge and full of bliss. He is the origin of everything. Lord Sri Krishna explains in the Bhagavad-Gita 10.8,

aham sarvasya prabhavo mattah sarvam pravartate
iti matva bhajante mam budha bhava-samanvitah

“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service and worship Me with all their hearts.”

Lord Krishna’s abode: Then Brahma-samhita goes on to explain how the scripture was written and what is its purpose. It begins at the highest planet of spiritual world Gokula or Goloka Vrindavana. This is the eternal abode of the Lord and that same Goloka, is manifested in this material world as Gokula Vrindavana. The Gokula in this world is called the manifested spiritual world and Goloka is unmanifested because it is not visible to mundane eyes. But the Brahma-samhita says,premanjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santah sadaiva krdayeu vilokayanti. When our eyes are anointed with love of God then we can see the form of Shyamsundar with in our hearts. But to the degree that love is absent all that the eyes could see is simply earth, water, fire, air and ether.

Brahma-samhita explains that Lord Krishna is Rasa Bihari. He is the supreme enjoyer and He is engaging in intimate loving pastimes with Srimati Radharani and all living beings of the spiritual world. He has no direct connection with this material nature. Indirectly through Their expansions They are manifesting the material existence and sustaining it.

Brahma’s bewilderment: Lord Brahma is born on a lotus sprouting from the navel of the Lord. By the will of the Lord, Brahma had the deep inclination to create, but he didn’t know who he is, he didn’t know what to create, he didn’t know where he was? All around him is nothing but darkness and there is no one else in the universe but him. In order to do big service you have to be willing to go through a lot. Great things don’t come cheaply.

So according to Srimad-Bhagavatam, Lord Brahma after trying a lot sits down on the lotus flower and the original goddess Saraswati speaks to Brahma. The original Saraswati is an expansion of Srimati Radharani. She tells him to practice chanting an 18 syllable mantra. By the grace of the mantra and by the grace of the Lord he develops an attraction for Govinda. In reciprocation Lord filled his ears with the song of His flute which was replete with all Vedic knowledge and realizations and eventually he had the vision of the spiritual world. From the total bewildered darkness of desperation he was now actually seeing Krishna’s abode. What he was seeing, what he was feeling, what he loved, he explains and reveals to the world through the verses of Sri Brahma-samhita.

What is of true value?: Brahma the original father of all beings the original spiritual master is sharing with us what Krishna is revealing to him. In the spiritual world, every grain of dust is ‘chintamani’ more precious than any jewel in this world or in the heavenly abodes. People want diamonds, pearls, rubies, emeralds; because they hope that it is going to satisfy some desire. But they can’t save us from old age, disease and death. They really can’t fulfil any of our desires because what we really desire is happiness and jewels just don’t make you happy, love makes you happy.

 

The pure devotees have only one desire, to please Lord Sri Krishna and His devotees. This is a consistent prayer among the great souls. Dhruva Maharaja wanted a kingdom greater than his father and his great grandfather but when he saw Lord Vishnu, Dhruva said, I don’t want anything in this world. I was looking for broken pieces of glasses and I have found the precious of all diamonds, greatest of all jewels that is your loving service. Srila Bhaktisddhanta Saraswati Thakur explains, everything is connected to love because that is truly the only thing that anyone wants, to love and be loved.

Lord Caitanya hand copied Sri Brahma-samhita but now we can have it in our phones. But the question is, are we wiser or more realized or knowledgeable than those people who were copying it in hand or palm leaves. So whatever the form may be, what really matters is our eagerness to hear.

Lord Caitanya travelled for two years through the southern, eastern and western parts of India and He kept two books with Him; Sri Brahma-samhita and Krishna Karnamrita. When He met Ramananda Roy, He gave these two books to him and told him that, “all the wisdom, knowledge and realization that you shared with Me is fully supported in these two books.”

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder-Acarya of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) explains that the Brahma-samhita was revealed when Brahma was in the maturity of his spiritual realization. And now by Srila Prabhupada’s mercy, millions of people all over the world have received it.

Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu taught, that all of this knowledge is revealed to one who learns how to take shelter of the holy names. Sri Caitanya Caritamrta Adi Lila 17.22 states:

kali-kale nama-rupe krsna-avatara
nama haite haya sarva-jagat-nistara

 

“In this Age of Kali, the holy name of the Lord, the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, is the incarnation of Lord Krishna. Simply by chanting the holy name, one associates with the Lord directly. Anyone who does this is certainly delivered.”

Just as everything is revealed in Brahma-samhita and other literatures; everything is contained within the names of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna, if we chant with sincerity:

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

[References: His Holiness Radhanath Swami Maharaj South India Yatra 2010 and Sri Sri Radha-Gopinatha Temple - ISKCON Chowpatty, Mumbai]

Entrance of Sri Adikeshava Perumal temple, Thiruvattar

Divya Desam’s refer to the 108 Vishnu temples that are mentioned in the works of the Tamil Azhvars (Vaishnava saints). Divya means "premium" and Desam indicates "place" (temple). Of the 108 temples, 105 are in India, one is in Nepal, and two are outside the Earthly realms. The Divya Desam’s are revered by the 12 Azhvars in the Divya Prabandha, a collection of 4,000 Tamil verses. Out of 105 Vaishnava Divya Desam’s that are in India, 13 of them are in the state of Kerala.

Sri Adikeshava Perumal temple, Thiruvattar

Deity of Sri Adi Keshava Perumal is 22 feet huge, made out of 16008 Saligrams, is seen in a West facing Bhujanga Sayanam (sleeping in the opposite direction - Head in the South, Feet in the North). For a full darshan, the Deity must be viewed through three doors. The Lord is lying on his snake couch and has to be viewed through three doors. Lord Siva is near the Lord Adikeshava Perumal inside the sannidhi (altar). This Deity of Adikeshava is considered the Elder brother of Lord Ananta Padmanabha Swamy in Trivandrum.

One of the unique occurrence at this temple is that between the 3rd and 9th day of Puratasi and Panguni, during dusk, sun’s rays directly falls on the Lord inside the sanctum, almost as a mark of respect from the Sun God to Sri Adi Kesava Perumal. Other interesting facts are: Parasurama is said to have undertaken penance at this place and performed daily poojas for Sri Adi Keshava Perumal; Sage Vashista is said to have stayed here for several years. Another remarkable feature is the Otraikkal Mandapam (single stone hall) outside the main sanctum of the temple altar is measuring 18ft width and 3ft height that has been built on a single stone in the 12th Century AD.

Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited this temple in 1510 AD during His South India tour. This is the temple where Lord discovered the 5th chapter of Sri Brahma-samhita. Brahma-samhita is said to contain 100 chapters. This scripture is so old and so sacred it was practically lost to the general population. But Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu understood the supreme importance of this scripture and He found it in the Sri Adi Keshava temple at Thiruvattar. As soon as Lord began to hear and read the content of Sri Brahma-samhita, He was overwhelmed with ecstatic love. Lord transcribed Brahma-samhita to take it with Him and to share it with His devotees and ultimately with the whole world.

There are close to 50 inscriptions inside the temple in the outer prakarams in both Tamil and Sanskrit. In addition to the inscriptions, one also finds a number of stunning sculptures on the pillars.

Traditional classical Kathakali dance performance at Sri Adikeshava Temple during the festivals for the pleasure of the Lord

In the Kalkulam area of Kanyakumari district, this is a Vaishnava temple built many centuries ago in this place called Thiruvattar totally surrounded by river water. (Thiru is equivalent to Sri in Tamil and denotes auspiciousness, Vatta means circle, aar means river, i.e. a sacred place surrounded in a circle by a river).

In the 108 Diyva Desams this one is 76th in the order. Of the 13 Divya Desams in Malai Nadu (Hill country, in this case the Kerala region), this is an important shrine.