Saturday, 9 February 2013

Temple of Rama's brothers

He plays a vital role in the Ramayana. He is as wall-known as Rama, the hero of the first ever epic of India. His unstinted devotion to Rama and his love and affection towards him have made him the stuff of legends.
Even today, when people talk of devotion and love between kin, his name is taken first. He is Bharata, the second brother of Rama.
While there are thousands of temples dedicated to Rama, there are practically no temples to Bharata or Shatrughna. Or that is what I so thought. How wrong I was.
Indeed, there is a beautiful temple  to Bharata in Kerala.
This is the temple of Koodalmanikyam or Kudal Manikkam in Irinjalakuda in Trissur district.
Interestingly this is one of four temples called the Nalambam wjere each temple is dedicated to one person-Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna.
The Rama Temple is at Triprayar (22 Km north west of Irinjalakuda), the Bharatha Temple at Irinjalakuda, Lakshmana temple at Moozhikkulam (30 km south-west of Irinjalakuda) in Ernakulam district and Shatrughna Temple at Payammal (5 km south of Irinjalakuda).
Though the deity in this temple is that of Bharata, the idol in the sanctum sanctorum is worshipped as that of Chaturbuja Vishnu. Therefore, the deity is also called Sangameshwara (Lord of the Confluence).
The temples dates back to the Chera kings and the earliest reference to the temple is dated 854 AD in the reign of the Chera King Stanu Ravi Varman.
The inscriptions tells us about the vast lands that have been donated for the temple.
Koodalmanikyam Temple is a marvel in architecture. The sanctum sancturum is round shaped and the wood as well as stone carvings are so breathtaking that they attract students of art and architecture.
The murals on the walls on either side of the Eastern entry to temple are a visual treat. The Temple has nourished arts such as Kathakali, Koothu, Koodiyattom and Thullal.
This temple is home to some unique practices. There is no Deeparadhane to the deity. Besides, the deity is taken out in a ceremonial procession only during the annual festival.
Moreover, sticks and camphor are not used for pooje. The floral offerings consist of  lotus, tulasi and Cheti (ixora). The lotus garland is important for the deity and no other flower is offered. The lotus garland must have a minimum of 101 flowers for it to be offered to the deity.
The annual festival of the temple is held for ten days during Medam (April and May). The first day of the festival is arrived at by calculating the appearance of the moon. This is signified by hoisting a ceremonial flag.
Generally, the first day falls a day after the famous Thrissur Pooram festival.
On each of the ten days of the festival, caparisoned elephants are taken out in a procession twice. Such a procession is called Seevali. It is held once in the morning and once at night and it is accompanied by Panchari Melam or music.
Seventeen elephants take part in the ritual. Two elephant calves escort the main elephant carrying the deity. The head dresses called Netti pattam in Malayalam, of seven of the elephants are made of pure gold, while for the others it is made of silver.
The last two days of the festival features Panchavadya or the orchestra of sacred music of five instruments.
This temple is 25 kms from Thrissur. It is well-connected by buses and other road transport.

Temple of Shatrughna

The temple to Shatrughna is located at Payammal, which is six kilometers from the Bharata temple at Irinjalakuda.
The idol here is consecrated in a squarish granite santum sanctorum.
The original idol has not been traced after the priests hid it in the temple pond for safety when Tipu and his army desecrated the temple here.
This pond is behind the temple. The existing idol is made of granite. This is the smallest of the four temples.
This is the final temple which devotees visit when they embark on the Nalambalam Yatra. This is considered to be one of the most holy event during the Malayalam month of  Karidakam.
Kerala thus has the distinction of having temples in the names of all the four brothers-Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna. All the four temples are situated near to each other and it is believed to bring good luck and a long life if you manage to see all of them in one single day.
The best place to stay and see all the temples is Thrissur. This city is well-connected by all forms of transport. The best way to see these temples is by hiring a taxi. Thrissur itself has several temples and the elephant race is a famous event.    

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