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Peruvanam Shiva temple

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Sri Ganapathi Iyer

( I am reproducing a remarkable and very informative account Of Peruvanam Shiva temple as found in My acknowledgements to that web site. P.R.Ramachander)

The Peruvanam temple is at Cherpu comprised in Oorakam village of Thrissur taluk in Thrissur District. It is located about 10km south of Thrissur town on the Thrprayar route, near Thayamkulangara bus stop, at a distance of 100 meters south.
Temple Layout, Structure and Architecture
The temple stands on a sprawling 7 acre ground surrounded by a tall and hefty compound wall. The mathilakam (the bounding enclosure) is very extensive and has two dvarasalas, at west and east, the latter in ruins. Some 10-15 Aswatha trees punctuate the temple grounds with their wide spreading canopies.
As one enters the western dvarasala, the make-shift Koothambalam on an old foundation is seen in front of the Naalambalam. There are two Balikkals (of 2 mt height) in front of the naalambalam coinciding with the axis of the two shrikovils, that of Eratttayappan on the north and that of Maadathilappan on the south. Of these the Erattayappan shrine is raised on a circular base (14.33 mt diameter). It is an ekatala vimana built on a granite adhishtana. The superstructure (bhithi) is made of laterite blocks, duly plastered and decorated with Kudya stambhas, niches etc. A recessed mukhamandapa exists, at the top of the flight of steps in the Sopana, with a free-standing pillar facade and shrine door proper at the rear wall. The Sopana is having lateral steps meeting at a common landing, screened by a carved phalaka in front of the western entrance to the Shrikovil.
There are two dvarapalakas on either side of the Shrikovil entry, standing on the coils of a snake. One of the legs entwines the club and the other rests on the hood of the snake. The coil of the snake in turn is placed on a lotus seat. The garbha-grha is square in shape enclosed by the circular shrikovil. Two rows of pillars - the inner row having twelve and the outer row sixteen - have been arranged around the square sanctum. The idol consists of two lingas, contributing to the concept of Erattayappan, the lord in the double, signifying Ardhanareeswara to some and Shankaranarayana to others. The pratishta is also considered as that of Shiva in the role of Thripuradahanan as per some early references.
There are three functional openings and a ghanadvara (dummy door) in the circular ground plan. Apart from the Shrikovil entry on the west, those in the south and east accommodate Dakshinamoorthy and Parvathy respectively. The ghanadvara is on the north, just above the pranala, which is supported on a bhuta-gana figure in the pose of drinking lustral water from a bowl.
There is a spacious namaskara mandapa in front of the circular Shrikovil, built on a square plan. As in all traditional swastika mandapas, there are twelve pillars along the periphery with four numbers larger ornamented pillars inside the mandapa. Its pyramidal roof, like the conical roof of the main shrine, is covered with copper sheets. Beautiful wood carvings adorn the mandapa ceiling as well as the pillars.
The southern side of the shrikovil has Kiratham katha engraved in wood, starting from Parvathi's shrine. Another woodwork which is worth mentioning is that of Garuda swallowing Jeemoothavahana and that of Dakshinamoorthy.
To the south of the Erattayappan shrine is the Maadathilappan shrine, facing west. It is a tri-tala-vimana (one of the earliest in Kerala, the others being the ruined one at Uliyannur and the one at Parambu Tali) built on a high podium and approached by long flight of steps. Two lateral flights of nine steps (one each in the north and south direction) meet at a common mid landing from where ascends the middle flight of fifteen steps in an easterly direction towards the shrikovil. The ground tala (floor) constitutes the plinth with the shrine on the upper tala (first floor). The ground as well as the upper tala are plastered over with pilasters and panjaras. Wall decorations include ghanadvaras in the centre, kudyastambhas (ornamental pilasters) and false niches with panjaras. Pilasters are tetragonal in the lower half and octogonal in the upper with potikas or bevelled projections on top. The pranala at the first floor level is a plain one without any ornamentation and issues out on the northern side.
Axially, the plan of the first tala consists of a square shrine integrated with a narrow, pillared mukhamandapa in front. The garbha-grha, which is circular inside has a domical roof. Above the first story of the shrikovil, rise in succession the dvitala and tri-tala parts of the vimana. But for the octagonal shikhara with copper roofing, all the floors are made of tiles; in the upper talas, wood has been used profusely with shukanasa projections. There is no namaskara mandapa in front of the maadathilappan shrine. A small Nandi is seen placed on the midlanding.
These two main shrines apart, there exists a flat roofed stone vault like structure, in between the shrine of Erattayappan and Maadathilappan, comparable to the Ganapathy shrine of the Vadakkunnathan temple complex; it used to serve as the treasure chest of the temple, according to local people. The temple complex is surrounded by a nalambalam which houses the shrines of Raktesvari and Manikantan in the north, Ganapathy and Pooru Maharshi both facing east on the north-west and south-west portions of the Valiambalam. There is a separate shrine of Vishnu on the northern side of the naalambalam
According to legends, of the 64 gramams which Parasurama created, Peruvanam remained the greatest for centuries. Four Shasthas - Akamala in North (beyond Wadakkancherry), Kutiran in East (midway between Thrissur and Palakkad), Edathuruthy in the West (2 kms east of Edamuttom Junction in Kodungallur-Thrprayar route) and Uzhathu Kavu in south (near Kodungallur) guarded the boundaries of its domain, roughly that part of central Kerala between Bharathapuzha in the north and Periyar in the south.
In a Brahmanippattu current in the locality, Peruvanathappan (Lord of Peruvanam) is described as the annihilator of the Thripuras. In a shloka attributed to Vilvamangalathu swamiyar, the pratishta is supposed to be of Ardhanareeswara.
"ardhanareeswaram devam poorunancha pratishtitham mateswaram mahadevam parvatheencha ganeswaram"
Certain others claim that the two swayambhulingas reperesent Shankara and Narayana, a pointer to the amalgamation of Shaivism and Vaishnavism. Like in the Vadakkunnatha temple here also a certain order is followed in worshipping the deities (pradakshina krama), which is Erattayappan, Shri Parvathy, Dakshinamoorthy, Erattayappan, Maadathilappan, Pooru maharshi, Ganapathy and Erattayappan.
Peruvanam does have some historic references. Peruvanam Kottam, the abode of the Lord of Peruvanam, figures along with nearby Oorakam in the Thrkkakkara inscription of Ko Indu Kothai Varman (No. 37, TAS - Vol III, Part II, p 173) of tenth century A.D.
The earliest historical reference to Peruvanam occurs in A.D. 583 ("Ayathu Shivalokam Nah" - kalivakyam denoting the starting of Peruvanam pooram as per Peruvanam Granthavari) which is also the first record of the oldest pooram festival. 108 temples coming under the Peruvanam Kshetra sanketham, which extended from Bharathapuzha in the north to Periyar in the south, used to assemble at Arattupuzha Shastha temple which was the venue of the gala pooram gathering. This was known as Peruvanam pooram or Peruvanam Pallivetta. Due to the detachment of the various temple participants later for various reasons, the pooram festival faltered some five hundred years back. Later, the now famous Thrissur pooram was started by Shakthan Thampuran of Cochin, in eighteenth century overshadowing the Peruvanam pooram which is now a tame affair comprising of only 23 temples.
The temple administration was vested in local Namboodiri chieftains with an elected Yogiyathiri from among them who had his Avarodha as the representative of the Lord in the presence of the ruler of the state (Cochin). The King of Cochin had only nominal control over the temple. One pooja in a day used to be conducted by the Yogiyathiri himself. The general administration were looked after by a council of 21 brahmins of Peruvanam village and 21 brahmins from 21 other villages. Administration of the temple affairs under a Yogiyathiri was the order in the nearby Vadakkunnathan temple also.
The temple suffered extensive damage during the invasions of Tippu Sultan. For about 6 years from AD 1756, the temple property came under the overlordship of the zamorin of Calicut when he annexed these lands from Cochin. The Zamorin's representative renovated the Maadathilappan shrine as per an inscription seen on its basement. The Cochin ruler defeated Zamorin later with the help of the King of Travancore and consequently Travancore King got some control (of Uchcha pooja) over the administration of the temple. Later due to prolonged disputes with Cochin, Travancore state renounced its rights. The temple is controlled at present by the Cochin Devaswom Board.
Rituals and Festivals
Five poojas constitute the daily ritual in this mahakshetra. Special poojas such as Navakom, Niraputhari, Vishukkani, Pradosha pooja etc. were being conducted in the by-gone days. Vaaram (veda parayana) and Oottu (meals) were a regularily feature. The temple had lands yielding 4 lakh paras of paddy annually and a 29 day festival used to be celebrated with its culminating Arat in Arattupuzha - the mother of all poorams, with an array of about 108 caparisoned elephants carrying Bhagavathies and Shasthas of all the temples falling within the extensive Peruvanam gramom of yore. Ardra asterism in Dhanu and Shivarathri in Kumbham are the other important days in this temple. The tantries of the temple are Kunnathur Patinjaredathu Bhattathiri and Kizhakkedathu.
The maadathilappan shrine is one of the most outstanding temple structures of Kerala. This type of tri-tala-vimana is known as Meru Mandhara Prasaada which uses the whole bhumi of the ground floor for plinth and placing the shrine proper in the upper bhumi or second tala. The octogonal griva and the shikhara resting on it with beautiful shukanasas on all the eight sides constitutes the most ornate and unique pinnacle found in Kerala temple vimanas.
The temple is also monumental by the presence of exquisite pieces of plastic arts. The bracket figures associated with each tala of the temple are examples of fine artistic tradition. These elegantly executed pieces represent various deities in interesting iconographic forms. Scenes from Kiratarjuneeyam form the core material for the figures around the Erattayappan shrine. On the three sides of the sanctum of Maadathilappan, above the ghanadvara portion, the upper tala displays wooden images of Shiva and Parvathy on the south side, Brahma on the east and Vishnu on Anantha on the north side.
The temple had been one of the sheet anchors for the growth of performing arts. In the old days, Koothu was one of the religious offerings to God with the involvement of the presiding lord in every aspect of the pantomime; right from the lighting of the lamp in Kootharangu aniyara with the lamp provided from within the shrikovil, blessing the dress etc. and even reserving one seat for the lord or his representative (Moothathu) in the Koothambalam.
Forty one days' Koothu from Karkitaka sankramam (mid July) was the routine. Manthrankom koothu was traditionally played at Peruvanam. Two chakyar families Mekkattu and Kuttancherri had the right of conducting koothu at Peruvanam temple. Later Mani chakyar family of Kolathunadu got this right after repeated dissents from a section of the Uraymas. Subsequently the earlier sthani families became extinct and Mani chakyar family is now the sole sthani.

History of the Temple
Legend has it that the Saint Parashurama established 64 Gramams or sections after reclaiming Keralam from sea and Peruvanam Gramam is the 1st and most important among them. It is said that the temple was created by ‘Pooru Maharshi’, the son of the Hasthinapura King Yayathy after propitiating the Load Shiva with rigorous penance and the name of the place derived from the word “POORU VANAM”. Further it is believed that while transporting a beautiful, big Shivalinga received from a lake near Badarinath to this place, it happened to stuck in the branch of a tree and the present Madathilappan Temple has been constructed at this place. Shiva in dual linga form is the main feature of the temple and Lord is called “IRATTAYAPPAN” which denote the duality. The Sricovil of Madathilappan is considered to be the tallest Sricovil in South India. Four Sastha temples at Akmala, Kuthiran, Edathiruthy and Oozath are located on the boundaries of Peruvanam Gramam and Thiruvullakkavu Sastha Temple is located at the centre of the Gramam. Irattayappan is the ‘Gramadhipathi’ and Thiruvullakkavu Sastha is considered the ‘Gramaraskhakan’.
Now the temple is under the joint administration of Cochin Devaswom Board and Travancore Devaswom Board. There is a vast area of land and an office called ‘Cherikalam’ are existed near the south ‘Gopuram’ of this temple. It is important and rare that the Maharaja of Travancore had interest in this temple and therefore, the expenses for ‘Utcha Pooja’, ‘Prodhosha Nivedhyam’, ‘Nira Puthiri’, ‘Koothu’ are borne by him. It still continues.
Darshana Kramam
There are two approaches to the inner courtyard (Chuttampalam) of the Peruvanam temple, from the west and east sides. The main entrance is from the east.
As you enter from the east you are facing Sreeparvathy, the Goddess who is the consort of Irattayappan. You may start the Darshanam there, but, have to come back later. There you are in front of a large circular sanctum sanctorum (Sreekovil) of Irattayappan facing west. It is the custom to start the worship with Irattayappan.
Next, you go behind in an anticlockwise direction (Apradakshinam ) and pray to Sreeparvathy facing east. There is a taboo all over Kerala in crossing the imaginary ray (Soma Rekha) emanating from Siva and going north. Hence, one does not make a complete perambulation in the inner courtyard of Siva temples.
Most devotees at the Peruvanam temple go round the Bilva tree to the north and return clockwise to the south side where there is a shrine of Ganapathy and Dakshinamoorthy. You, then, go back to the west and worship Irattayappan once again.
There is an independent, large, Sreekovil of another Siva, the Matatthilappan, on the south. It is a three storeyed structure and you reach the shrine of Matatthilappan after ascending a flight of over twenty steps. You will find a huge Sivalinga at the back of a large Mukhamandapam (hall). It is believed that the Sivalingam worshipped by sage Puru for long years is beneath that.
The sage, himself, has been enshrined to the south west corner of the inner courtyard (Chuttampalam). After getting down the stairs of Matatthilappan you pay obeisance to the sage.
If you keep to the western border of the courtyard and walk to the north you reach the shrine of another Ganapathy, with his trunk twisted right. You pray to him for the ultimate goal in human life, for salvation and turn to the north side. There you get to the front of the last of the shrines inside the inner courtyard. Two deities are housed there, Raktheswary and Manikantha. The former is a form of Bhadrakali and the latter a form of Lord Siva.
You must worship Irattayappan once again before coming out of the inner courtyard, through the same entrance you got in. There is a shrine, of Gosalakrishna, outside the main structure (Chuttampalam) of Irattayappan on the north side. This is Lord Krishna in the company of his dear cattle. You go in a clockwise fashion to worship Him. That ends the Darshana Kramam at the Peruvanam temple.

There is a verse (Sloka) describing this order of worship, as follows:
“Poorvan Pooruvane janais savinayam dwithwaasrayas sankaro
Vandyah, caatha gireendrajaa, punaratas sanyaasayogee kramaal
Yugmesasca, mahalayoparivasan maateswaro anantaram
Yogeendrasca, gajaananah, punarato yugmeswarasca kramaal.”

First, at Peruvanam, Siva in dual form is to be worshipped humbly by the devotees.
Then, Sreeparvathy and then the Lord in meditation (to be worshipped).
Then, Ganapathy and then the Lord occupying a high abode (to be worshipped).
Next the sage, Ganapathy and finally Irattayappan (are to be worshipped)
We note here that the order of Ganapathy and Dakshinamoorthy is reversed and praying to Irattayappan after this is omitted. The omission of Raktheswary, Manikanthan and Gosalakrishnan must be as they have been enshrined in a later period.