Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thirunelli Mahavishnu Temple

Thirunelli Mahavishnu Perumal Temple in Wayanad district of Kerala is very famous and have the presence of the Trinity Gods 'Brahma,Vishnu,Shiva'.
In Kerala the rituals which are performed by the Hindus for the salvation of
 the departed ancestors are generally known as 'Balitharpanam', Narayana Bali' or 'Bali' and the most suitable places to perform these 'Pithru Karmam'(tribute to the departed souls) are 'Illam Vallam and Nelli'.Illam is our own house,Vallam refers to 'Thiruvallam temple at Thiruvananthapuram and 'Nelli' refers to Thirunelli Mahavishnu Temple at Wayanad District.
Thirunelli  temple is situated 32 km from 'Mananthavady' in Wayanad District.From Mananthavady buses and private vehicles are available to reach this temple.
The temple is situated in an extremely beautiful hilly place known as 'Brahmagiri' surrounded by other mountains such as 'Udayagiri',Harikori and Kambamala.The temple was famous from olden days itself even though it was difficult to access this place through the forest region in those days.
The Mahavishnu of this temple is called as 'Perumal' and he will grant peace and happiness to the devotees that approaches him by removing their sins. He removes the sins of the dead also and give them salvation is the belief.

The temple was established by one of the Trinity God 'Brahma Deva' is the legend.Once while  Brahma Deva was traversing over this place on his celestial Swan bird he became impressed and fascinated by the enchanting beauty of this place and descended there.When he was enjoying the serene ambiance filled with a Godly liveliness he happened to spot a Vishnu idol on an Indian gooseberry tree there.He understood that this place is  an abode of Lord Vishnu and consecrated the idol at that spot after performing pooja rituals and Yagna.Lord Brahma prayed to Lord Vishnu to have his presence for ever in this place and remove the sins of the humans and the deceased alike.Lord Vishnu assured him that if the devotees immerse in the stream near the temple all their  sins would be washed off.Lord Brahma vowed that he would perform Pooja rituals for Lord Vishnu at this temple by himself  every day.
The idol of Lord Mahavishnu is 'Chathurbahu'(having four hands) which is 3 feet tall and holding 'Sanghu,Chakram,Gada,and Padmam.(Conch,Disc,Mace and Lotus Flower).
The temple is a 'Maha Kshetram' which has five times pooja rutuals every day and the priest keeps pooja materials required for a sixth pooja ready at the sanctum sanctorum before closing the sanctum at night every day which is found utilized at night and realizes  about this  when the temple is opened  next day morning.More details regarding this phenomenon could not be revealed by the priest as per an oath they takes before opening the temple every day  morning which is a practice followed traditionally.Anyhow it is a fact that Brahma Deva performs midnight pooja in this temple every day.

The stream close to the temple is known as 'Papanasini'(Papam means sin in Malayalam and nasini means to  remove or destroy).It originates from the mountain here and flows to join the  river 'Kalindi'.Kalindi is a tributary of river 'Kabani' which falls in  the river 'Kaveri'.
Another  belief is that River Ganga and Saraswathi joins 'Papanasini' at this place and hence known as 'Southern Kasi'.
Lord Parasurama performed 'Bali tharpanam' at Thirunelli for his father Sage Jamadagni' and  took a dip in the 'Papanasini' to wash off the sin he committed by the annihilation  of the Kshatriyas.
Lord Sree Rama and Lakshmana during their exile period performed 'Bali tharpanam' for the salvation of their father King Dasaratha at Thirunelli.People perform the 'Bali tharmanam' on a rock beside the stream and believe that Sree Rama performed Bali standing on this rock.The water of the stream has medicinal qualities also since it flows over several medicinal plants,herbs and roots on its way.The other streams which reach Thirunelli are 'Panchatheertham,Gundika,Sahasravijam,Irnamohini,Satwabindu and Varaham.
The most important and sacred is 'Papanasini'.
In another legend it is said that the place name 'Thiru Nelli' derived because this was the dwelling place of sage 'Amalaka Maharshi'.'Amalaka' is another word for 'Nelli' which is Indian gooseberry.
According to Hindu belief the souls of the departed people should merge in to the feet of 'Lord Vishnu' and the Bali Tharpanam ritual helps them to attain salvation by merging in to the divinity.The ashes and small bone fragments of the dead person are immersed in the 'Papanasini' and Bali tharpanam is held 
by the relatives.It is believed that if salvation is not given to the departed soul it will wander here on the earth and curse the relatives which will adversely affect them in many ways by  blocking prosperity,blocking childbirth and causing other problems.
One can remove such problems by performing 'Bali Tharpanam' for the wandering ancestors if any (happened knowingly or unknowingly) by performing this 'Narayana Bali' at 'Thiru Nelli'.
They have to reach on the previous day at the temple and has to take an oath and prayer as per the instructions given there.Next day the 'Bali Tharpanam' has to be performed at the rock 'Pinnappuram Para' and has to take dip in the 'Papanasini' and visit Gundika cave temple of Lord Shiva close by.

A childless devotee who seeks a child of his/her own after performing 'Bali tharpanam' has to stay one day more in the place.On the third day they have to perform a ritual known as 'Santhathi Pindam'.Those who are having children also can perform this ritual for the betterment in all aspects for their children.

There is a belief that while Brahma Deva was consecrating the idol of Lord Vishnu in this temple, Garuda Bird, the mighty celestial vehicle of Lord Vishnu was flying with the 'Amritha Kumbham'(nectar pot) and when he circled above this spot one drop of the immortal nectar fell in the stream which made it 'Papanasini' capable of removing all the sins.
The temple pond behind the temple is known as 'Pancha Theertham' and a boulder in the middle of it has marked the footprints of Lord Vishnu.It is believed that Lord Vishnu stood here to give instructions to Lord Brahma while he consecrated the idol.
There is no temple well inside the temple premises and for bringing water to the temple a stone duct has been constructed by the queen of "Chirackal Raja' which is an astounding sight.
There is a cave temple known as 'Gundika temple' dedicated to Lord Shiva nearby Thiru Nelli temple in which devotees has to perform worship.
Traditionally devotees to Thirunelli temple used to worship at 'Thrissileri Shiva Temple' before proceeding to Thirunelli as a custom.The offerings for Thrissileri Siva temple can be performed at Thirunelli temple at present.
Those who come for immersion of ash of the departed person should not enter the temple but has to go directly to the 'Papanasini'.
The 'Bali Tharpanam' on the new moon days of Malayalam months

'Karkidakam,Thulam and Kumbham' are considered more auspicious.
There is Shrine for Bhagawathy also in the temple and special pooja rituals held there on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Sub-Deities are Ganapathy,Shiva and Bhagawathy.
By praying and worshiping at this temple one can get relieved from their sins and receives blessings for prosperity and well being for all their family members.The devotees get  all the blessings as if they have visited and worshiped at 'Gaya'(Kasi). 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Thiruvallam Sree Parasurama Swamy Temple

Thiruvallam Sree Parasurama Temple is situated at Thiruvallam near  the confluence of rivers Karamanayar and Killiyar.This ancient temple has unique features that this is the only temple dedicated to Lord Parasurama Swamy in Kerala.It is the only temple in India where the sacrificial rites for the departed souls are permitted inside the temple premises.
The tribute to the departed souls and ancestors are known as 'Bali Tharpanam' or 'Bali' and it is an earnest expression of showing our love, affection,care,gratitude and remembrance to the departed souls.Believing the assumption  that our one year is same as their one day in the celestial abode, we provide them a handful of boiled rice on a plantain leaf along with some flowers,milk,water,sandalwood paste,sesame seeds etc as the part of the ritual once in an year.The forefathers up to 21 generations becomes satisfied and happy because of this ritual performed once in an year is the belief and at Parasurama temple this ritual is allowed inside the 'Nalambalam corridors' and the temple priests guide the devotees for performing the 'Bali'.The boiled rice and other materials will be provided from the temple and on 'Karkidaka Vavu' day(New moon day in the Malayalam month Karkidakam-Aadimasa Amavasi Day) the largest gathering of devotees in Kerala to perform this ritual is at Thiruvallam Parasurama Temple.
In this temple 'Bali Tharpanam' can be performed  every day of the year and large number of people visit this temple every day to perform these rites to the departed souls.'Thila Homam(Thila Havanam) is also a ritual performed in this temple by the temple priest in the departed person's name intended for their well being at the celestial abode and can be  performed every day.
It is said that when Vilwamangalam Swami consecrated Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple at Thiruvananthapuram, Lord Maha Vishnu gave vision to him as in his reclining posture on serpent Anantha and as his head at Thiruvallam,middle at Thiruvananthapuram and feet at Thrippappur.
Thiruvallam has another importance that Lord Parasurama performed 'Bali' for his mother at the river ghat of this temple.
It is believed that  Aadi Shankaracharya Swamy consecrated the idol of Parasurama Swamy of this temple.The legend is that at Thiruvallam temple, shrines of  Lord Shiva and Lord 'Brahma Deva' was existed from very ancient period itself and Lord Aadi Shankaracharya visited here and performed 'Bali' in remembrance of his mother at the river ghat of this temple.Shankaracharya Swamy made an idol of Parasurama Swamy from the river sand and consecrated in the temple is the belief.
Lord Parasurama is the sixth incarnation of Maha Vishnu and he is revered as Lord Vishnu itself in this temple.When Aadi Shankaracharya consecrated Parasurama Swamy(Vishnu) the temple became a temple  of Lord Shiva,Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu existing together.The temple where all these 'Trinity' Gods existing came to be known as 'Thiru Ellam'(All the Gods) and later became 'Thiruvallam' as a colloquial transformation. 
There is a saying in Malayalam that for performing 'Bali' three places are most suited which are  'Illam,Vallam and Nelli'.Illam is our own home,Vallam is Thiruvallam and Nelli is Thirunelli.
At Thiruvallam Parasurama temple equal importance is for Lord Shiva and Lord Parasurama.Dhwajasthambam(Flag poles) are existing in front of both the shrines of Lord Shiva and Parasurama Swamy.
Brahma Deva's shrine is in between the shrines of Lord Shiva and Lord Parasurama.
The idol of Lord Parasurama is as like Lord Maha Vishnu; the face is as of Parasurama, the body as of Vishnu.He is depicted with four hands holding Sanghu(Conch),Chakram(Disc),Gada(Mace) and Parasu(a weapon).
Brahma Deva is depicted as sitting on a lotus pedestal and has four hands holding a 'Kamandalu' and a lotus flower in two hands.Other two hands are in 'mudra' pose.Near to the Brahma Deva's shrine is a small shrine for 'Mahishasura Mardini Devi'.
Other deities in this temple are Ganapathi,Sreekrishna Swamy,Matsyamoorthy,Vedavyasan,Subramanya Swamy,Dharma Sastha,Naga Devatas,Kanyavu etc.
The annual festival is in the Malayalam month Thulam for ten days from 'Atham' star day to 'Thiruvonam' star day.
The temple is managed by Travancore Devaswom Board.The timings are morning 5.30 to 1.00 and evening 5.30 to 8.00pm

The distance to the temple from Thiruvananthapuram Central Railway Station and Bus Station is 6 km.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

' Bali Tharpanam '

The tributes that which the Hindus give for the departed souls of their relatives is called 'Bali Tharpanam' or 'Bali'.The Malayalam word 'Bali' was used for the ancient practice of animal sacrifice which used to be  performed in some Bhadrakali Devi  temples but this 'Bali' is entirely different.
In Kerala when a person dies,from the following day after cremation the close relative has to perform Bali.This ritual has to be done in the early morning before 11'O clock and Bali has to be  continued for 11,12 ,16 or 17 days as per the tradition of different sectors of Hindus.This is performed intending for the departed soul to be raised to the eternal world.Hindus believe that if the death rites are not properly done the soul of the departed person will wander here on the earth and they will curse their relatives.So for these 16 days 'Bali' is done expecting the departed soul be raised to the heavens. 
Most of the Hindus   cremate  the dead body by burning it on a pyre and in Kerala mostly mango tree logs are used for this purpose.Some of the ash with certain  small bone fragments are collected along with it  in an earthen pot.This pot with the contents will be immersed in river,pond or sea usually after keeping it in a protected place outside the house for a few days.Some people keep that pot in their premises under the soil for ever and light an oil lamp in the evenings at that spot every day.Some people immerse the funeral ash in waters of some holy places like 'Thiruvallam at Thiruvananthapuram,Thirunelli in Wayanad,Thirunavaya,Thirumullavaram in Kollam,Varkala Papanasam etc with  expectation of getting  salvation for the dear departed ones.Some people take it to the holy  river Ganges and immerse the ash in it .
The elder son of the departed person is the most ideal one to perform 'Bali Tharpanam'.In his absence any other children including females  can perform this ritual.If the person was childless adopted children or   any close relative can do it.One who performs the Bali has to keep his/her  body and mind pure.He/she  should keep away from all kinds of entertainment activities.Only vegetarian food has to be taken and such observances  has to be taken for those days.
Every day morning after taking bath he/she has to prepare some rice outside the house in the lawn.A handful of rice is kept on a plantain leaf supposing it as the food for the departed soul.A herb known as 'Bali Karuka' ( 'Bali Pushpam') is generally used instead of flowers and put on the leaf .Sandalwood paste,water,milk,til etc are added in small quantities, all this time praying for the departed souls and praying to the Gods to safeguard them.The contents of the plantain leaf is thrown to river or pond or given for the crow to eat.
It is believed that one year of the humans is one day for the celestial beings 'Devas'.So the departed soul that lives in the eternal abode will be satisfied if we give them food once in an year.For them it is like getting food every day.So on the death day of the person 'Bali Tharpanam' is performed there after.
There is a belief that  the new moon day in the Malayalam month of 'Karkadakam' is very auspicious to perform Bali and usually on this day most of the people perform Bali intending for  all the departed people of their family.This day is known as 'Karkadaka Vavu'.A handful of boiled rice and some prayers if make them all  happy and in turn bless the family, the living relatives of the departed souls   have the obligation to perform this easy ritual.
The departed souls are called as 'Pithru' and if they become unhappy and curse the relatives it is called as 'Pithru Sapam' which is said to adversely affect the members of the family for their betterment in many ways.
In the Bali ritual the performer takes out a thread from his cloth which he/she  wear at the time of 'Bali Tharpanam' and place it on the plantain leaf uttering the words 'Vasthram Samarpayami'(Here I am providing you  clothes).By all these acts the person who performs the Bali symbolically reveals their love,affection and remembrance for the departed soul and the readiness to provide all their needs to be happy.The departed souls and the Gods will bless the performer and the family is the belief.New moon day in the Malayalam month of 'Thulam' is another auspicious day to perform Bali for all the departed souls.Forefathers  up to 21  generation would become happy and bless the performer is the belief if Bali is performed on Karkadakam Vavu day.
For 'Karkadaka Vavu Bali' there will be heavy rush at places like Thiruvallam,Shankumukham beach at Thiruvananthapuram, Aruvikkara in Thiruvananthapuram,Varkala,Aruvippuram,Aluva Manappuram,Thirumullavaram,Thirunavaya,Payyambalam Sea shore,Thiruvilwamala,Kozhikode Sea Shore etc.
'Bali Tharpanam' provides a feeling as if the departed ones are still around with their support as well as affection  and  they are also

 happy.These obsequies also help the performer to move along the guidelines taught by them earlier  and move towards success goals not feeling alone.    

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Chengannur Mahadeva Temple

Chengannur Mahadeva Temple is one of the most sacred and Prime temple in Kerala which is situated in the heart of Chengannur Municipal Town of Alapuzha District and is only 1 km from Chengannur Railway Station and Bus Stand.
In this Shiva-Parvathy temple the principal deity is Lord Shiva but his consort Devi Parvathy is also having equal importance and hence many people refers to this temple as 'Chengannur Bhagavathy Temple'.
Both Lord Shiva and Goddess Devi Parvathy is consecrated in the same 'Sreekovil' (sanctum sanctorum), Lord Shiva  facing  East and Devi Parvathy facing West.
The temple is a 'Maha Kshetram'(temple having great importance) from olden days itself.During up to the 1960's only nine temples were having the 'Maha Kshetram' status under the administration of Travancore Devaswom Board including Chengannur Mahadevar Temple.Those are 'Vaikom Mahadeva Temple,Thirunakkara Mahadeva Temple,Ettumanoor Mahadeva Temple,Thiruvalla Sree Vallabha Swamy Temple,Kaviyoor Mahadeva Temple,Chengannur Mahadeva Temple,Kandiyoor Mahadeva Temple,Sreekanteswaram Temple Thiruvananthapuram,and Sabarimala Sree Ayyappaswamy Temple'.Later so many other temples were upgraded as 'Maha Kshetram' by Travancore Devaswom Board.
The legends regarding this temple are many.
When all the thirty three crores Gods,semi Gods and Asuras summoned at Mount Kailash for the marriage ceremony of Lord Shiva with Devi Parvathy, Lord Shiva sent sage 'Agasthya' to the south to maintain the balance of the earth with out tilting because of the weight of the 'Devas'(Celestial Beings) assembled together in a place.Shiva was sure that sage with his tremendous power acquired through penance could do that task.Agasthya but was sad that he would miss the divine marriage ceremony.Lord Shiva assured him that the marriage ceremony would be performed  again at the place Agasthya  selects to maintain the balance.
Agasthya chose 'Chengannur' and  at the top of the 'Sonadri'(reddish hill or 'Chemkunnu' in Malayalam and Tamil) he positioned himself  during the marriage of Lord Shiva.
At Chengannur the soft rock (Chemkallu or Vettu Kallu in Malayalam) which is having slight reddish  color is in abundance and was famous as 'Sonadri' and Sonachalapuri in Sanskrit and 'Chenkundroor' in Tamil.In Tamil texts of Saints 'Alvars'(Azhvars), they call this place as 'Thiruchenkundroor.'( The place where reddish hill is existing).
After the marriage ceremony, Lord Shiva and Devi Parvathy reached Chengannur and as per  the agreement to Sage Agasthya the marriage ceremony was again performed  at Chengannur for Sage Agasthya to witness. .Lord Shiva and Devi Parvathy stayed there for 28 days.

 Later after several centuries once a woman while cutting grass from the grassy land of 'Sonadri' she sharpened her knife on a stone lying there.Blood oozed out of the stone and she got frightened.People arrived hearing about this miracle and the local ruler of Chengannur Province 'Vanjipuzha Chief' and 'Thazhamon Thantri' also arrived.It was confirmed that the stone as a 'Shiva Linga' and it was consecrated there.As per the records in the temple '36 Para'(one 'para' is approximately 12 litres) pure ghee was poured on the idol to stop the bleeding.The temple was constructed in due course.
To Commemorate this event every year on 1st day of Malayalam month 'Thulam' a ritual known as 'Neyyattu' is performed in which '36 Para' ghee is showered on the idol of Lord Shiva .This ghee is received  from the devotees and more than double of that quantity is brought by the devotees.
The architect who designed the temple  was the the  master sculptor 'Perumthachan'.Perumthachan felt jealous about the prosperity of the large number of Brahmin  families at chengannur  in those period and purposely did certain works not according to 'Vasthu Sasthram' which resulted in the decline of large number of  'Brahmin families' is a belief.These are all  described in the book 'Aithihyamala'(Legends of Kerala) written by Kottarathil Sankunni.
Two centuries back the 'Koothambalam' which was made by Perumthachan and which had some special features was destroyed completely in a fire.The large elevated  stone basement in an oval shape is still there in front of the temple.

The peculiar phenomenon of Chengannur temple is that Devi Parvathy of this temple is having menstrual periods like any other living females.This happens seven or eight times in an year.When the blood spots are seen on the 'Udayada'(Devi's dress), the dress will be send to 'Thazhamon Thantri's Illam' which is in Chengannur itself and they confirms it as 'Thiruputh'( this is called in this way here) and the Sanctum will be closed.For the next two days, Pooja rituals will be performed on the idol used for procession and blood stains will be seen on the robes of Devi then also.After three days that idol will be taken to River Pamba which is nearby and purification bath is performed.This ritual is known here as 'Thripootharattu'.This 'Arattu' ceremony and the colorful  procession of the Devi coming back from the bathing ghat on an  elephant accompanied by other caparisoned elephants  with music of Nagaswaram,drumbeats of Chenda,Panchavadyam etc will be witnessed by thousands of devotees.Large number of women devotees will accompany the procession with 'Thalappoli'( holding a lighted oil lamp placed in a flower decorated plate) which is considered auspicious and  believes will rectify  menstrual problems of women.
The Sub -deities of this temple includes 'Lord Ganapathi,Lord Ayyappa,Chandeeswaran,Ganga Bhagavathy,Neelagrivan,and outside the temple compound separate shrine for Sree Krishna also is there.
Offerings includes 'Dhara,Abhishekam,Purakil Vilakku,Muzhukappu,Pushpanjali,Koovala mala,Ganapathi Homam,Bhagavathi Seva,Mrityunjaya Homam,Mrityunjarchana,Swayamvararchana,Aravana Payasam,Kadum Payasam, Udayasthamana Pooja and many more.
Usual offering like 'Archana' if performed by a devotee it has to be done for both Mahadeva and Parvathy Devi.Pushpanjali is a favorite 'Vazhipadu'(offering) for Parvathi Devi.
'Swayamvararchana' is done for Devi Parvathy in this temple to resolve the  problems caused by 
'Chowwa Dosham' which is an astrological problem causing delay and obstacles for getting married.This can be done once in every month on full moon day(Pournami) in the devotee's name.If the expenses given to the Administrative Officer of the temple and receipt made in this regard in advance , the 'Vazhipadu' will be done at the temple as proposed by the devotee even  if they could not attend it there every month.The charges for one year(for performing it once in a month) can also be given.It is believed that marriage delay of both boys and girls will be removed by Devi.For more details in this regard please contact  the Chief Priest of the temple at Devi's Shrine  and or  the  Administrative Officer,Chengannur Mahadeva Temple for guidance and proper suggestions.
For already married couples also if the bride or bridegroom is having Chowwa Dosham their  problems if any  can be relieved by performing appropriate  'Vazhipad' for the Devi once in every month for an year or more as suggested by the priest of the temple.For unity between husband and wife also vazhipad for the Devi may be benevolent.
The 'Darsan' time of this temple is from 3.50 early morning to 11.30 A.M. and in the evening 5.00P.M to 8.P.M.

While in most of the temples in Kerala the annual festival is for 10 days, at Chengannur Mahadeva Temple Annual Festival is celebrated for 28 days( One Lunar Month).The flag hoisting will be on Thiruvathira Star Day in the Malayalam month 'Dhanu' and Arattu Ceremony will be next month  on 'Thiruvathira Star Day in the month of 'Makaram'.This is the only temple in Kerala where 28 days annual festival is celebrated in a stretch.
Shiva Rathri,Chithra Pournami,Navarathri,Mandala Makara Vilakku etc are also well celebrated.
Devotees from Karunagapally arrives in groups on Shivarathri festival day in this temple and they organize the celebration on that day according to another legend.
The legends and   other details of the temple are elaborately  described in books 
'Aithihyamala' by Kottarathil Sankunni and in another book 'Chengannur Mahatmyam' written by Kalloor Narayana Pillai which was published several decades ago by Travancore Devaswom Board.This book is still available in book stalls of Travancore Devaswom Board.