Monday, June 24, 2013

Temples of Kerala: The Rajarajeswara Temple, Kannur

If there was one temple I knew I had to visit during my Kannur Yatra, it was this – The Rajarajeswara Temple of Thaliparamba.

Why? Because a bit of research on the internet had informed me that it was ancient, historical, mystical and filled with legends - adjectives enough to arouse intrigue and kindle an interest to include the temple in our Kannur itinerary right from the very beginning. Come along!

One among the troika in the temple group of Shree Krishna Temple and  the Vaidyanatha temple, the Rajarajeswara Temple also occupies a prominent place amongst the 108 ancient Shiva Temples of Kerala. What makes it unique amongst the many Shiva temples from all around the country is its location, Thaliparamba, an ancient Shakti Peetham – the place where the head of Sati (Consort of Lord Shiva) fell during the Shiva tandav dance.

Sree Rajarajeswara Temple, Thaliparamba - Kannur, Kerala
Entrance to the Rajarajeswara Temple, Kannur

As one delves deeper, the legends of the temple emerge which make it even more captivating in its appeal.

Legends have it that once Sage Parsurama (incarnation of Lord Vishnu) passed by an ancient shrine and was disappointed to see it in a dilapidated condition. Curious to know more about it, he invoked Sage Narada and requested him to narrate the temple’s history.

Sage Narada obliged and began narrating,

Once upon a time, Sage Sanaka along with his siblings (the sons of the creator Lord Brahma) shook up the disc of the Sun to soften down its fierce intensity. The resulting dust got blended with the nectar of immortality to produce 3 spiritually powerful Shivlingams as outcome which were passed on by Lord Brahma to Goddess Parvati.

Goddess Parvati, pleased by the penance by three different kings from different yugams (a specific cycle of era in Hinduism), presented one Shivlingam to each of them with a little condition that the shivlingam be installed only at that place where there was no trace of death or burial.

Maandhatha, the first king from the Threta Yugam zeroed in on a small place satisfying the condition, a place which was big enough to hold a small plate and installed the deity there. Gradually, the lingam sank down in the earth but left its spiritual aura behind. Subsequently, the second king, Muchukundam from the Dwapar yugam (a different era) who was presented with the shivlingam with the same condition, was attracted to the same place but the shivlingam met the same fate as the first one thereby increasing the spiritual power of the land.

The third king, Shathasoman too was naturally attracted to this place and placed his shivlingam there. However, when he saw his lingam sinking in the earth, he got worried and invoked Sage Agasthya for help. The sage appeared and lighted a ghee lamp before prostrating in front of the Shivalingam. Following this, the third Shivalingam was installed permanently and the spot became spiritually vibrant three times in magnitude.

After the conclusion of the story, Sage Parsuram decided to revive the temple for the good of mankind. The divine architect Vishwakarma took on the renovation work and Sage Agasthya was invoked for the final installation. Sage Agasthya lighted a ghee lamp which is said to have been burning continuously till date. The place became famous as Thaliparamba, a place big enough to hold a disc or a plate (Thalika) and this spiritually powerful temple attracting devotees from far and wide came to be known as the Rajarajeswara Temple.

Sree Rajarajeswara Temple complex, Thaliparamba - Kannur, Kerala
The Rajarajeswara Temple complex, Thaliparamba in Kannur

Today... one can see a continuation of this legend in the offerings that are made to the Lord (Vazhipadu). Brass, silver or gold pots containing ghee (Neyyamrithu) can be brought from the temple which are then placed at the steps of the sanctum. This ghee is used for the daily rituals and to light the ever burning lamp in the sanctum inside, thus unifying the faith of all the devotees coming from far and wide.

The temple has many unique features of prayer differentiating it from its other counterparts. Thus, there is no bilwa leaf nor is there any pouring of water / milk on the shivlingam (Rudrabhishekam), not even on the festival of Shivratri. Instead, the sanctum gleams surrounded by an array of deepams (lamps) hanging all around with a golden Kalash (pot) placed at the dome. The view of Lord Rajarajeswara, the Emperor of emperors, in such a scene is indeed enlightening. It is also one of the very few temples in the country where presence of Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvathi and Goddess Laxmi is felt together, a symbolic amalgamation of both spiritual and material fortunes for a mortal seeker at the same time.

Sree Rajarajeswara Temple deity, Thaliparamba - Kannur, Kerala
A shop outside selling portrait pictures of the deity - Lord Rajarajeswara

The most peculiar aspect of the temple is its '8 pm entry rule' for the female devotees who wish to seek the blessings of the Lord. It is believed that after this time, Goddess Parvati accompanies Lord Shiva in the sanctum and they bless the devotees together. The view at night in the twinkle of the dangling deepams is a sight to behold. When one couples this view with a rich history of legends dating back unaccountable years ago, one feels the temple's aura radiating even more. An aura that can be felt at a deeper level... A level that is closer to the soul of our very existence.

The darshan (prayer) culminates with the prasadam or the pushpanjali: a leaf with a smear of turmeric and Tulsi leaf which I carefully tuck in my bag and and head back towards my home stay. So much for the blessings... time to call it a day.

Travel Tips and other Information:

Distance of Rajarajeswara Temple from Kannur: 25 km.

Pooja / Prayer timings: The temple opens at 4 am and remains closed in the afternoon from 12 to 5.

Wednesday, the day when the lingam was installed, is the most important day for prayer instead of Monday.

Festivals: Shivratri, Puthari, a festival of the harvesting season; Karkadaka Sankramam (July) and Nira are some of the auspicious days celebrated in the temple with pomp and festivities.

Codes and guidelines: Men are allowed to enter the shrine at any time, but woman are allowed only after 8 PM. Non Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple. Mundu is the dress code for men.

Cloak room: One has to deposit their purse and other belongings in the cloak room outside. Photography is prohibited in the temple.

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  1. Fascinated by this 8pm rule. Another great post, as always my thanks.

  2. Your pix of that temple look magical Arti - radiating with atmosphere that touches the soul. have little time now, but will be back later, to read the full story. Have a great start to your week!

  3. Interesting that women are allowed at the later time during the evening. I always enjoy reading the details about your culture.

  4. Wonderful writing...its so good to read your writing

  5. Interesting stories and also here is one that you visited at night!

  6. A nighttime visit for your blessing, Arti. The temple lit with lamps looks lovely.

  7. Interesting story Arti ,I love the big stone betwen the door, realy old ya. Hmm because i learn seriously about bharatanatyam , i should visit Rajarajeswara Temple next time, and get Shiva Bless :)

    Hope im lucky and they allow me to enter inside :)

  8. Divine narration of the legend. Great post, Arti!

  9. Arti, this was very fascinating and enjoyed the stories around Rajarajeswara Temple! You are lucky to have seen some very beautiful places and are so full of information about the culture and history!

  10. beautiful photos and nice info...

    history about temple is nice...


  11. I dont like when photography is prohibited...we have such magnificent temples in India!!

  12. Have heard a lot about this famous temple. Nice article on it with its interesting stories.

  13. Temple looking sheer beautiful and has an open environment. Nice informative post.

  14. So much rich legend! Fabulous storytelling.

  15. Hi Arti... you have done very thorough research on the legend behind the temple. It looks very old, and the pillars at the entrance in first picture look straight out of history books. A divine place indeed.

  16. Enjoyed reading the legends associated with the temple. Seems like a good place to visit. Wish they remove the 8pm rule for women though. These are some of the discriminatory practices still prevalent in our society whatever be the garb in which we try to them.

  17. Great info thanks!
    Lot many such treasures there, good you blogged on this.

  18. Arti, Great to read your post. Thanks a lot for sharing another nice from your Kannur Yatra.So nice photos, Waiting for more posts :) ~ Dada

  19. Remarkable. One thing I find weird is the Non Hindu rule. God himself does not have a religion and is certainly not a hindu (or a muslim, sikh or christian) .. will these priest allow god inside the temple ?

  20. Fascinating story and such an interesting place to visit! It's a remarkable temple..

  21. I had no idea about his wonderful temple earlier. Excellent account. The main entry made of stone looks weird. The architecture seems to be quite different from the ones we see in Kerala. Thank you for sharing and enlightening.

  22. I enjoyed the legends. I saw sach the portrait of the deity for the first time. They give me the intense impression.
    Have a nice weekend!

  23. Dear Arti,
    The Rajarajeswara Temple lit with lamps is so beautiful.
    Hope you have a good day,

  24. Wonderful post with magical pics.thanx

  25. beautiful photos and nice story


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