Arulmigu Thiruvattaru Sri Adhikasava Perumal
Sree Adikesava Perumal temple is one of the most ancient Vaishnava temple of South India. A striking feature of the temple is close resemblance with Sri Ananthapadmanabha Swami Temple at Thiruvananthapuram. It is presumed that the later was modeled after this temple as this belonged to an older period. This sacred Temple is also known as Adi-Dharma-Stalam, Dakshina Vaikundam, Parasurama Kshethram, Srirangam of Cheranadu and Adi Anantham. Sri. Adikesava Perumal Temple consists of a Garbhagraham, having three door-ways and an Ottakkal Mandapam in front. It is built in granite and provided with a copper sheeted roof. This temple is one of the shrines sacred to the Vaishnavites. The great antiquity of this place has been described by the Tamil poet Malkudi Kilar in a verse of purananuru. Namalvar has sung few poems in praise of Adikesava Perumal Temple.
We don’t know the early history of this temple. But it is mentioned in the ancient works inscriptions of other copper coins etc. On the base of the belikkal plat from an inscription relating to king Rajendra Chola I (of Chola dynasty 1013-1045 AD 188/220 M.E) appears. This is the earliest inscription here and it describes the deity as the Thiruvattar God. A Belikkal inscription of 1582 AD/757 MD records that the metal casting of the stone belikkal in the temple of Adikesava Perumal. In 1603 AD/788 ME inscription records that the wonderful Ottakal Mandapa was put up by kind Veera Ravi Varma Kulasekhara. The inscription dated 1605 AD/780 ME mention repairs and addition made to the temple by him and his brother. His younger brother Adithya Varma paved the inner quadrangle with stones. While the next brother Rama Varma installed the two metal Dwarapalakas. The Thiruvattar temple possess twenty two inscription in Tamil Vattezhuthu and Sanskrit Nagari script relating to Chola and Chera royalty. Most of the Chera inscriptions were damaged. These inscriptions seems to date from sixteenth Century AD and deal mainly with grants donations structural additions and alternations made time and again by many especially by the royal trustees. The figure in the copper coins consists of Sree Adikesava on one side and Sree Padmanabha on the other side. This coin are dated during the period of king Bhothala Veera of cheras.
3. Historical Events
In the later half of the 17th Century, Venad, the historical place where the temple now stands was a tiny kingdom comprising a part of the present Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu and adjoining district of Thiruvananthapuram of Kerala State. At one time it was in a state of local turmoil. Umayamma Rani queen of the kingdom had fled from Thiruvananthapuram to Nedumangadu a place about 20 kms. away, after the murder of her five sons in a plot known in history as the “Kaliappankulam incident” shocked and overcome by grief she stayed at Nedumangadu paying little attention to the affairs of the state. The chaotic and weak condition of the kingdom drew the attention of a Petty Sardar under the Mughal Emperor and he swept over the country to camp near Trivandrum the capital and encamped at a place near by called Manacaud. The helpless Rani sought the assistance of a relative King Raja Kerala Varma, who hastily organized an army at the crucial time. When the Sardar’s forces where scattered over there and busy in collecting revenue. The Sardar was forced to retreat to the south hotly pursued by the forces of Keralavarma. While retreating the Sardar camped on the hill side near Thiruvattar. It was an ill-chosen spot for him. The rocks and jungle made it difficult for passing but they afforded protection from the Rajah’s archers and slingers. The fighting was severe with great loss of life. When the fate of the battle hung in a fine balance an unforeseen event took place. The tree under which the mughal sat aside as tide watching the battle was near the temple. The Rajah entered the temple and prayed to the Lord for punishment for the Sardar. He sung a verse composed by him which later came to be known as ‘Paada Sankeerthanam’ or Adi Kesava Sthavan’ Before the Keerthana was over large number of wasps came out of the temple and rushed the mughal army. Before he could understand what was happening they attacked the Sardar, stinging him and his horse threw down its master on the floor, where stones and arrows rained threw down its master on the floor, where stones and arrows rained on him, killing him on the spot. The Mughal army that was demoralised by the death of their leader was thoroughly beaten and most of them were captured. With the three hundred horses and equipment captured Kerala Varma established a Cavalry of his own. A cross still mark of this spot where the Mughal’s remains are said to be buried. Near the battle ground stands the famous temple dedicated to the Adikesava Perumal. It is considered to be one of the oldest in the country. The Alwar great hymn singers of the 8th century had made reference to this. Kerala Varma also a poet stood before the Mugha Mandapam and recited fourteen verses before going the battle field Thiruvattar. These verses are popularly known as “Padda Sankeerthanam”.
“Ahi kula vara sayana rama vara
Mahitha padambuja Natha Pathaka
Dahana janardhana dhanujan Dhaka
Dara Saraseeja dhara Karunakara
Aha maha mikayodu poruvan varu
Mathitha ray udhi sapthi jayippan
Adhara hari havara marulenam
Kasi madhanal Nadha Thozhunnen”
In 1741 Marthanda Varma Rajah of Venad made offerings to this temple and worshiped her before going direct to the famous battle of Colachel in which he vanquished the Dutch. Another episode associated with the temple is the attack made by the Nawab of Arcot, Desth-Ali-khan. The Muslim army plundered the temple in 1740 AD, and carried away the beautiful idol (M.R.915 Kumbham 26) This story tells that this idol which was left in a lumber room along with several other used to appear on top of the pile every day, whenever weights were put on it. The Nawabs relatives Chanda Sahib and Baba Sahib therefore had it chained horing two holes on its pedestal. Even then the idol could not be controlled and about this time the Nawabs Begum was attacked by a very painful stomach trouble. The Azhati (body guard) of the Lord at Thiruvattar had a dream directing him to meet the Nawab and recover the idol. The Azhati explained the greatness of the idol and assured the Nawab that the Malady (childness) of the Begum would be cured only after the restoration of the idol to its original place. The Nawab ordered the return of the idol and the Begum was also cured of her disease. As repentence, the Nawab donated a gold cap and a plate of weighting 388 tholas of pure gold to the temple, to be used by the priest. When the deity was taken around the temple for daily Sreebali. He also made endowments for a special pooja called ‘Thiru Halla Pooja’ to be performed at night from the yoga mandapam. During the two uthsavams this pooja is performed in the temple even now. The story also narrates that when the Azhati was returning with the idol he hated near the Siva Temple at Thaliyal and went to take bath. When he returned after taking bath he could not lift the idol from where it was placed. He informed the matter to his highness the Maharaja of Travancore. The Maharaja visited the place and made arrangements to restore the idol after performing Suddi Kalasam, (Purifying the idol) This is the significance of the Araat at this place during the festival in Oct-Nov.
4. Structure of the Temple
There is a main double door for entering into ehuttambalam. There is also a Gopuram. This Gopuram consist of some fine piece of wooden carvings. Some excellent examples of Dravidian sculpture and stone work can be seen inside the temple. The Udayamarthanda mandapam infront of the sanctum. Sanctorum is elaborately carved and is regarded as an remarkable example of Kerala art and architecture. The pillars inside the mandapa contain some fine pieces of wooden carvings. In the wooden celing of the mandapa the figure of vinayaka pooja, procession and palazhi madhanam are exequistely curved The mugamandapam in front of the Sreekovil is otherwise called Ottakal mandapam (mad of one single stone) which is an engineering marvel. It is three feet thick, measuring 18 feet by 25 feet. One of the inscriptions state that Thirumaliga, Thirumandapam Neerara under the orders of the his highness of Sriveera Ravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal in 1603 A. D. Even though the temple is one of the famous Vaishnavite shrines. It is facing westward, which is an usual factor. The worshippers generally enter the temple to the entrance of the easternside. On entering they proceed outwards through Sree Balipura to worship Sri Bhoothanadham. After that, they move on the southwest corner where the idols of Vishnu, Venkatachalapathi , Vinakayakar, Lord Krishna and Salagraman and the goddesses are enshrined. The room is known as ‘Upa-Devaayam’. Then they reach the Dwaja Stambam (flag staff) at the western entrance where there is a Nalambalam through the Balikkapura (Khitra Sabha) Among them Sri, Adikesava Perumal temple in Kanyakumari District is called as Vaikundam of South India. There were 108 temples of Vishnu in India. Among them Sri Adikesava Perumal Temple is one of the famous temple. The Dwajasthambam is made up of copper. It is inscribed that the existing Dwajasthembam was installed in 1895 A.D., by his highness Sreemoolam Thirunal Maharajah of Travancore. On all four sides of Sree Balipura are founded 224 granite pillars, each of them bearing marvallous sculptural images of Deepalakshmi, the traditional lamp bearer images vary from pillar to pillar in dressing and hairstyle. The life size image of Lakshmana, Indrajith, Venugopala, Kangalanathar, Vishnu, Sanghaehoodan, Kaala Bhairavar, Nandhi, Nammalwar, Viagrapadar and Hanuman bearing musical instruments cut in stones are seen on either side of the Balikkal puramandapam. The images of Rathi and manmatha present an enchanting picture. Beautiful wooden carvings are founded over the Sreekovil and Udayamarthanda mandapam. A rod with a chine curved out of a single piece of wood is sure to attract any once attention. On the eastern side of the western Sree Balipura is the shrine dedicated to Sree Krishna of Thiruvampadi. At Thiruvattar Lord Kesava appears as Adhikesava reclining on the serpant king Adisesha. A full view of the long image can be had only through the three doors to Sree kovil. The left-hand of the idol is hanging down. The woods of the serpant king can be seen over the head of the image. The main idol is made up of peculiar combination known as ‘Kadukusarkarai yogam’ and 16,008 Salagramams, which cannot be washed with water. Dailly anointments and decorations are therefore made to the Archanadeity which is placed and worshipped just below the breast of the Lord along with three other idols of Bhooma-devi, Lekshmidevi and Kathaleyas.
Two festivals are conducted in the Adikesava temple every year. One during October-November and the other during April-May. The duration of each of these festivals is ten days. During the October-November Festival the Arrat or holy immersion takes place in the river parali, near the shrine of Lord Siva of Thaliyal and during the April-May festival takes place at Moovattukumam, two miles west of the temple, at parali and Kothayar. The Lord installed on the golden Garuda, is being taken procession by the Brahmin priest during these two festivals is a magnificent sight. In addition to these Ashtami, Rohini (Sree Krishna Jayanthi) Vaikunda Ekadasi (Swarga Vasal Ekadasi) Kalabham, in January the two Sri Balis in January, February and July-August are held in Thiruvonam in August or September and the Perunthanmirthu Pooja in July-August and January- February are sacred celebrations of the temple. – Dr. M. Anusha Angel
i. Huzur Copper Plates of Kokkarunandadakkar inscription found in the temple of Sri Adhikesava Perumal (Balipeeda Cover)
ii. Kanyakumari inscriptions, Vol. II, Archaeological Department, Chennai, 1972, P. 153.
iii. Travancore Administrative Report, 1946 – 1947, Trivandrum, 1947, P. 132.
iv. Chakravarty Gupta, R., Early History of South India, New Delhi, 1984, P. 72.
v. Bhaskara, C., Temple and Culture of Tamilians, Madras, 1967, P. 87.
vi. Eknath Ranade, M., Theme Temple India, Madras, 1981, P. 96.
vii. Ganguly, C., Indian Architecture, Bombay, 1954, P. 124.
viii. Gopalakrishnan, P.K., Kerala History (Malayalam), Trivandrum, 2000, P. 182.
ix. Kandaswamy, V., Intiya Tamilaham Varalaru, Panpadu (Tamil), Madurai, 1936, P. 156.
x. Maraimalai Adigalar, A., Religions of Tamilians, Madras, 1967, P. 68.
way to River
Thiruvattar Sree Adikesava Perumal Temple is situated 6 km north-east of Marthandam and 30 km north-west of Nagercoil (in Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu). The temple is surrounded on three sides by rivers (Kothai,Parali and Thamirabarani). Paraliyar takes a turn in this place and it is called vattaru and when the temple of Adikeasav Perumal was created it came to be known as Thriuvattaru.
Sree Adikesava Perumal Temple, situated in Thiruvattar in Tamil Nadu (formerly a part of southern Kerala), has been in existence for circa two and half thousand years. It is one of the 108 Vaishnava temples, Divya Desam, in India. However, during recent past its significance has become understated. The Deity is an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Ananthasayanam, as Lord Adikesava he is in recumbent pose (Yoganidra), with eyes closed dreaming of manifesting the universe whilst reclining on the coiled body of the Serpent King, Adiseshan, who is a symbol for the beginning of time.
According to the Puranas, Lord Brahma performed a Yaga without Saraswathi Devi, as a result of Saraswathi’s anger two asuras, Kesan and Kesi emerged out of the sacrificial fire, these asuras troubled the Three Worlds. The Devas approached Vishnu for a solution. Following an almighty battle Lord Mahavishnu in the form of Kesava, Perumal defeated Kesan, and then to secure him Adiseshan coiled around him. This is how Lord Kesava Perumal became known as ‘Adi Kesavan’. The second asura Kesi, who had seen her brother Kesan defeated, wanted revenge and with her friend, Kothai they both took the form of rivers and surrounded the temple with the intention of submerging it. Bhoomi Devi (the earth Goddess) raised the temple away from the waters, and today the temple is surrounded by the rivers Parali and Kotha and stands at a height of 55 feet from ground level. The Puranas say ‘the rivers’ repented and were forgiven, then Perumal had a dip in Moovaatru Mukham, the place where the rivers joined with the Arabian sea and even today, during Painguni Utsavam, Perumal comes on a golden Garuda for a dip in the river, re-enacting the Shapa Vimochana incident. Thiruvattar Temple is orbited by a protective necklace of Shivalingams, and in March, during Mahasivarathri, pilgrims visit these shrines chanting ‘Govinda’, Lord Vishnu’s name. The famous Shivalaya Ottam is said to be only complete when the devotees end their trip in the Perumal temple. There are too many sacred associations and agamas to mention here but scholars and devotees may approach the temple for further discovery.
Typically a temple is built around a gigantic single block Mandapam stone on which the Vigraham/ idol is placed. The earthly representation of Adikesava is constructed as the human body, a Karungali wood framework forms his skeleton, a concoction of coconut husks adheres to the skeleton representing the nervous systems and 16,008 strategic Shaligrama stones from Nepal replicate his organs and his human form. His skin has seven applications of Kadusharkara Kalkam polished to perfection. His visions of evolution from fish to horseman are manifested in stone on the southern wall of the Ottakkal Mandapam; the last two avatars, Buddha and Kalki are being repaired and will soon return to the northern wall. The daily poojas are performed in the Archana Vigrahas and the daily Abhishekas (bathing) of the Lord takes place at the Ottakal Mandapam. Inside the Sanctum Santorum are the symbols of the Sun, Moon and manifestations of the Discus and Mace, Vishnu’s weapons. These ancient carvings according to Purana wisdom demonstrate the cosmic science of Hindus. Artistic wooden carvings are all around the temple and there are infinite geographical, architectural, astrological, historical and literal references to the divinity of the idol.
This Temple is older than Padmanabha Swamy Temple at Thiruvananthapuram. Its structure is similar to that of Padmanabha Swamy Temple. The style and the architechture of this temple is taken as the sample to construct the Padmanabha Swamy Temple. The idol of Adikesava and Sree Padmanabha are installed in such a way that they face each other. The lord is lying on his snake couch and has to be viewed through three doors. We could see Lord Shiva near the Lord Adikesava Perumal inside the sannidhi.
Lord Brahma performed a Yaga without Saraswathi Devi and as a result of Saraswathi’s angry, two asuras by name Kesan and Kesi emerged out of the Yagagni (sacrificial fire). They were troubling the three worlds. The Devas approached Vishnu and requested him to find a solution. Lord Mahavishnu in the form of Kesava Perumal fought with Kesan. Perumal threw Kesan who fell on top of Mahendragiri and Perumal blew His conch.Instantaneously, Adisesha wound himself around Kesan thus disabling the asura to move and immediately Perumal laid on Adisesha thus putting His weight. When the asura tried to get out of Adisesha’s coils, Perumal made 12 Shivalingams to stand as guard around the asura and Perumal. These famous Shiva Temples are Thirumala, Thikkurussi, Thrupparappu, Thirunandhikkara, Ponmana, Pannippakam, Kalkkulam, Melankodu, Thiruvidaikkodu, Thiruvithamkode, Thiruppanrikkode and Thirunattalam. Even today, the worship to Lord Shiva on Sivarathiri day – The famous Shivalaya ottam – is said to be complete only when the devotee after visiting the 12 Shiva shrines ends his trip in the Perumal Temple.
Kesi who saw her brother defeated wanted to avenge and 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 Bhoomi devi raised the temple . 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. The rivers were cursed by Perumal and they repented for their action. Perumal forgave them and had a dip in Moovaatru mukham. Even today, during Painguni utsavam, Perumal comes on golden Garuda and has dip in the river thus enacting the saapa vimochana incident.
In 1740 the men of the Nawab of Arcot looted this temple and the golden idol (ulsava vigraham). It was so heavy. He kept the idol along with rubbish in a lumber room. Every day, the idol would come on top and in spite of being tied down with ropes, the idol would come to the top. At that time, the Nawab’s wife developed serious illness which could not be cured by anyone. Perumal appeared in the dream of the temple priest and ordered him to go to Nawab’s palace and inform the Nawab that if the idol was returned, his wife would be cured of illness. The Nawab acted accordingly and his wife was cured. The Nawab gifted a silver plate and a cap to Perumal and this is used at the time of Sheeveli everyday.He also provided the fund for conducting annual puja -Thiru Alla Pooja. When the priest who was bringing back the idol halted in a place for completing his evening rituals, the idol got stuck to the ground. Later under the supervision of the King, suddhi kalasam was performed and this is carried out every year during the last day of the utsavam in the month of Tulam. The idol is taken from Thiruvattaru to River Parali on the golden Garuda.
This temple is noted for its beautiful sculptures in stone and wood. The Ottakkal Mandapam (single stone hall) made of single stone 3 feet thick is a marvel. The inscriptions in the Balikkal mandapam belongs to the period of Rajendra Chozhan I (A.D 1013-1045). It refers the deity as the ‘thiruvattaru pallikondu arulkindra perumal’. Udaya marthanda mandapam has exquisite wood carvings and the highlight is the wedding procession of Lord Ganapathi. The corridor has 222 salabhanjikas (feminine forms holding a lamp), and are unique. There is also a small shrine for Lord Lakshmi Narasimhaswamy near the river and opposite to the Adikesava Perumal Temple.