Friday, July 24, 2015

Thiruvanchaikalam!

The Mahadevar Temple at Thiruvanchaikalam
Thiruvanchaikalam or Thiruvanchikulam is the only Devara Padal Petra Sthalam in Malai Nadu (Kerala). That's not all - It is also the place from where Sundaramurthy Nayanar left to his abode of his Lord on a white elephant that was dispatched to carry him. It also stands testimony to the friendship between Cheraman Perumal (believed to have been the Chera King Rajasekhara Varman) and Sundaramurthy Nayanar.

Thiruvanchaikalam or Thiruvanchikulam as it is also called is about three kms from Kodungallur, the place that has the famous Bhagavathi Amman temple wherein the main deity Bhagavathi is believed to be Kannagi who reached there after the burning of Madurai,  before proceeding to her heavenly abode. Today it is an ASI protected monument as well as a Muziris Heritage site. They say this temple dates back to over 2500 years making it one of the oldest temples in South India and the Mahadevar in this temple was the family God of the Cochin Royal Family over centuries and Mahodayapuram, the capital of the Kulasekaras was built around this temple.


Cheraman Perumal/Kazharittu Arivaar/ Perumakothaiyaar

Perumakothaiyar who was chosen as the Chera King was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva. It is believed that once when he was surveying his kingdom, he saw a dhobi who was returning from the river after washing clothes. There were streaks of dried sand all over his body, which looked like smeared sacred ash to the devout Chera. Thinking the dhobi was a devotee of Shiva, the Chera King got off his elephant, and bowed before the dhobi with folded hands. The shocked dhobi fell at the feet of the King, saying, Oh King! Why are you bowing before me? I am a mere dhobi" The King smiled at him, and said, "So what, I am a mere Chera".

Cheraman perumal spent several hours worshipping Thiruvanchaikalathappar. At the end of his pooja, when he performed the Harathi, he would here the sweet sound of Lord Shiva's anklets which he would consider as acceptance of his sincere prayers.One day, he did not hear the sound of Lord Shiva's anklets atthe end of his Pooja. Fearing that the Lord had not accepted his prayers, he decided to take his life. As he was about to slit his throat, he heard the voice of the Lord, asking him to stop and apologising for having been mesmerised by the hymns sung by Sundaramurthy Nayanar in Chidambaram thereby causing a delay in acknowledging Cheraman Perumal's prayers.

Cheraman Perumal was keen to meet the saint whose songs had pleased Lord Shiva. So he travelled to Chidambaram to see Nataraja and reached Tiruvarur to meet Sundaramurthy Nayanar. Here he sang a hymn on Lord Thyagaraja and after worshipping him, met Sundarar. Soon, both became close friends. On Cheraman Perumal's invitation Sundarar went with him to Chera Kingdom and visited the wonderful temples of Shiva there.



Sundarar leaving for heavenly abode

On his second visit to Kodungaloor, at the age of 18, Sundarar had had enough of the earthly pleasures and wanted to be back in Kailash along with his Lord. So he came to the Vanchaikulathappar shrine at Thiruvanjaikalam on Aadi Swathi day, and sang a hymn on Lord Shiva, asking him to relieve him of the earthly burden and take him back to Kailash. On hearing his plea, Lord Shiva sent the white elephant Airavata, to escort Sundarar. When Cheraman Peruman saw his beloved friend depart to his heavenly abode, he did not want to be separated from him. So he got on his stately mount, chanted the Namasivaya mantra in his ears, which made the horse soar up in the air.

Cheraman Perumal circumambulated Sundarar thrice in his horse and reached Kailash before him. He then sang a hymn called Thiru Kailaaya Ula which described his journey to Kailash and this was sent back by Lord Shiva through Ayyanaar to be inaugurated at the Thirupattur Arangetra Aiyanaar Temple (close to the Tirupattur Brahma Temple. Read about the Brahma Temple on Aalayam Kanden here.

Sundarar also sang a hymn on his way to Kailash and Lord Shiva requested Varuna, the rain God to reach it back to the Thiruvanjaikula Mahadevar Temple.



About the temple:

Vanchikulathappan is a Swayambu murthy. There is no separate shrine for the Goddess here as in the past there was no practice of worshipping the Goddess as a separate entity from the Lord. This is probably the only temple in Kerala which has a Nataraja Bronze. This is said to have been brought from Chidambaram.
There is a separate shrine for Cheraman Perumal and Sundaramurthy Nayanar. On the passage to this shrine, the hymns sung by Sundarar and Cheraman Perumal have been inscribed in Tamil.

During the Aadi Swathi Guru pooja, Sundarar is taken around the temple in a white elephant along with Cheraman Perumal in his horse, signifying the journey to Kailash.

Sundarar and Cheraman Perumal in the separate shrine
This is a huge temple with over twenty five sub shrines. A look at these shrines tell us how ancient this temple is. In the evenings, the lighting of Chuttu Vilakku, all around the periphery of the temple is a delight to watch. Every month, through Aalayam Kanden Trust, we distribute ghee and oil and light lamps at ancient temples. It was indeed our proud privilege to have been able to do this at the Thiruvanjaikalam Mahadevar temple.

Yet another important pooja that happens here is the Dampathi Puja which is followed by the Palliarai Puja, which is putting the Lord to sleep for the night. Watching the Dampathi Puja and Palliarai Puja, is said to bring couples who are split by differences closer, and promote affection among them. There is a huge rush to perform the Dampathi Puja on Full moon nights, sometimes the wait list going up to months.


This temple is an evidence to the life and times of Sundaramurthy Nayanar, the Lord giving himself to his devotee as a friend, the special bonding that existed in life and liberation between Sundarar and Cheraman Perumal, and to true devotion in itself. Please do try and visit this temple, if you happen to be in this part of the world!

To know more about the life and times of Sundaramurthy Nayanar, check out these posts on Aalayam Kanden!

1. Tirunavalur and the birth place of Sundaramurthy Nayanar - In Tambiran Thozhar's land!
2. When and how the lord initiated him as a friend - God's own footwear!

How to reach here:

This temple is about 38 kms from Trichur and about 3 kms from the Kodungalloor Bhagavathi temple on one side and the N.Paravur Mookambiga temple on the other. About this wonderful unique temple, watch this space on Aalayam Kanden.

Temple Timings:

5 am to 11 am , 5 pm to 8 pm