Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Ettumanoor - Om Sree Puruharinapuresaya Nama

Ettumanoor, a township just 12 Kms North of Kottayam, is famous for an ancient Shiva temple, built in the 16 th CE, which is a standing testimony for the exotic Kerala style of architecture. The present temple building, with its gopuram and the wall around it was reconstructed in 1542 AD. It is believed by some that Adi Sankaracharya wrote 'Soundaraya Lahari' staying in Ettumanoor temple.

According to the Puranas, Khara(of the Khara-Dhooshana demon duo) of Ramayana worshipped Shiva at Chidambaram and obtained from him three Shivalingams and journeyed holding one shivalingam on each hand and one in his mouth. He sojourned at Vaikom, and set the Shivalingam held in his right- hand on the ground and to his dismay realized that it got rooted to the ground. Khara later installed the other two Shivalingams at Ettumanur and Kaduthuruthy. It is believed that visiting this triad in a single day is of great significance. Khara also installed an image of Vishnu in the north-western corner of this temple facing east. Some say that this is to reduce the destructive power of Shiva as he is facing west. Shiva is considered here to be in his Aghora Bhava or ferocious disposition.

Legend has it that Shiva created a golden deer and set it to play in an island. When Parasurama reclaimed land from the sea, this island is said to have become part of Kerala. The isle of the deer is referred to as Harina dweepu. In Malayalam, deer is called as Maan or Harinam, and hence this place came to be known as Maanoor or Puruharinapuram. Hence the lord here is fearfully called as Puruharinapuresan. Ettumanoorappan is worshipped as Ardhanareeswara in the morning, Kirathamurthy at noon and as Samhara Rudra in the evening by the devotees. Shiva is also worshipped here as Sudha Panchakshari murthy, Sakthi Panchakshari Murthy and Sarabha Murthy. (A kind of bird appeared here to save Indra from Narasimha murthy and it is the only thing that lions are frightened of)

It is believed that the big pillar in the North-East corner of the Mandapam is the abode of a Yakshi and as per the lores, she is Roopavathi, the daughter of the Yaksha king, Manikandhara. Her fascinating charm made her egotistic. She once insolently tried to seduce a sage named Deerkhathamassu and compelled him to have sex with her. Sage cursed her for this peevish behaviour and she was turned into a disfigured woman of ferocious disposition. She was later absolved from the curse by Parvathi devi.

Legend has it that this is a very ancient shrine and was in wilderness for many years due to a curse of Saint Lomaharshana, a disciple of Vyasa, and the worship was restored here by Vilwamangalam Swamiar. In the place of the old Vishnu idol, he reinstalled a new one as the former went under the soil. The shrine of Vishnu came to be known as Keezhthrikkovil. Swamiyar gave the tantric rights of the temple to Thazhamon and management rights to Ashtamangalathu Moothathu.

The west-facing temple here has a circular sanctum covered with a conical copper-plated roof crowned with a golden cup(thazhikakudam). The Mughamandapam in front of the temple bears two images of Nandi, one of stone and another of metal. Although there is no shrine to Parvati, the rear of the sanctum is revered as Parvati's shrine. There are two idols inside the sanctum sanctorum - one is the sacred Shiva linga of three and a half feet height and the other is a golden idol of deva(swaroopa idol) in the standing posture of two and a half feet height.

A rectangular circumambulatory passage surrounds the sanctum. The sanctum bears wood carvings of superior workmanship portraying legends from the Ramayana and the Bhagavatam.The mural that portrays the dance of Shiva aka 'Pradosha Nritham' is absolutely stunning. Some other murals are Bhadrakali, Krishna stealing the bath-robes of Gopis, Anantha Sayanam etc. There are also shrines of Shastavu, Ganapati and Dakshinamurthy in the temple.

The golden flag-staff inside the temple with an image of a bull on top of it, is truly majestic. According to the legend the flag-pole is constructed with the direction of Naranathu Bhrandan. At the entrance of the temple a large Metal Lamp(Ettumanoor valiya vilakku) can be seen and is the largest of that kind in Kerala. Visitors make offerings of oil and the soot that collects from the burning of the oil is believed to have medicinal value. Worshipping this holy lamp is believed to liberate people possessed by evil spirits. This lamp is said to have been installed in 1545 A.D. and burning ever since.

The 10 day long annual festival is in the month of Kumbham with Aarattu on the Thiruvathira day. On the eighth day of the festival, the processional image of the deity is taken to a specially decorated site called as Asthana Mandapa in the north-west corner of the temple. On this day, a unique treasure of the temple (offered by the Maharaja of Travancore) - the seven and a half elephants (Ezhara ponaana) representing the ashtadikpalakas(guardians of the eight cardinal directions) are also displayed. Seven of these golden elephants are two feet in height while the eighth is a foot high. It is also said that the 'Ezharaponnana' represents the 'Ashtadiggajams' which are Airavatham, Pundareekam, Kanmudam, Anjana, Pushpadantham, Supradeekam, Sarvabhauman and Vamana (due to the shortness of Vamana one of the Ezharaponnanas also small in size).

There is another popular story about why the 8th elephant is small is that the temple initially belonged to a Namboothiri family (ettillath) who was given the right to possess one part of any material donated to the temple and which adds upto eight. The golden elephants were made 7 and a 1/2 since one had to be given to the family if eight were given in full.

Usha pooja (pooja at the morning) at Ettumanoor siva temple is termed as Madhavipallipooja. According to legends, Madhavi was the sister of a Calicut Zamorin and had a wound in her head which was hard to cure. Ettumanoor Mahadeva cured the wound and in gratitude she made an endowment for the conduction of pooja in all mornings.

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