Monday, 14 March 2016

Chequered history of Thirumala devaswom temple, Gosipuram, Kerala

Thirumala devaswom temple  Gosipuram, Mattancherry, Kerala.www.pbase.com
Thirumala devaswom temple tank, Mattancherry, Kerala.www.pbase.com
The historical Sri Venkatachalapathy Hindu temple in Cochin, Kerala, unlike many temples of Southern India, has a  chequered history, a sort of seesaw battles of survival and finally made it in 1800s. The idol was conceived during the Vijayanagara period, centuries ago.The temple is under the care of the Gowda Saraswat Brahmins of Kerala, who were natives of north Canara (now in Karnataka) centuries ago.

The  Venkatachalapathy temple located at Cherlai in the heart of Mattancherry, Cochin  was established in the later half of 16th century and is being run by the  Cochin Tirumala Devaswom, also known as  Gosripuram. It is believed to be one of the significant socio-religious organizations of Gowda Saraswat Brahmins of Kerala. The organization is pretty old and is  closely linked to this old temple.   

The presiding deity of this famous temple is Sri Venkateswara and  there are  four small shrines dedicated to various  deities - Hanuman, Garuda, Vigneshwara and Goddess Mahalakshmi,  Vigneshwara. The main idol is Sri Venkateswara and his consorts Sreedevi and Bhoodevi  are on his either sides, as one will find in many Vishnu temples of Tamil Nadu and other southern states. In the outer area of the main shrine  a visitor can not miss a unique giant bronze bell  about four feet in diameter and six feet in height, supposed to be rung or chimed during various Kaala Poojas. Also noticeable are the statues of  the Vijayanagara king Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya and Swami Vijayendra Theertha of Kumbhakonam Math. In a corner part of the temple  there is a Tomb or Samadhi of  Vrindavan of Shri Sukrathindra Thirtha Swamiji (1949 A.D, 19th Madathipathi of Kashi Math).

The entire history of this temple is eventful so are the lives of Gowda Saraswat Brhamins of Kerala, the care takers of this temple. The history of the temple goes several centuries back to the colonial period dominated by the Portuguese who first landed in Kozhikode (Kerala) in 1498. Till the end of the reign of the Vijayanagara rulers, Brahmins of Goa or north Canara led a comfortable life, doing their religious duties without fail. After the fall of  the Vijayanagara Empire  in 1568, the autocratic Portuguese took control of the region, including  Goa and  began their vigorous religious persecution and caused all kinds of problems to the natives, in particular,  to Konkani speaking people, including Brahmins. The Portuguese wanted to convert the natives to Christianity at any cost through coercive methods, besides forcing them to learn the Portuguese language, dress in western style and eat western style food, including beef, ham, etc. As their atrocities became unbearable,  the entire Brahmin community began to move down south to Mangalore. A part of the community moved farther down to Cochin( now in Kerala).  Swami Vijayendra Teertha of Kumbhakonam Math brought the idol of Venkatachalapathy to Kochi and the people since then have been living near the temple that was  first built in 1599 (first Prathista). The temple faced the fury of Portuguese again in this part and finally the temple was rebuilt in 1633 (second Prathista)  when the Dutch took over the administration.

In 1791, as ill-luck would have it, the temple was  plundered again,  and the idol was secretly  kept in Alappuzha for many years. It was only in  1853, it was brought back to the temple here. 

This temple has a fascinating legend about the main idol. The famous, pious Vijayanagara ruler named Saluva Narasimha Deva Raya was an ardent devotee of Vishnu (Venkatachalapathy) of Thirumala and,  as time went by, he was unable to visit Thirumala shrine to worship Lord Vishnu. One night the ruler had a divine vision in which the lord himself told him not to come over to his abode for worship and instead he could have his idol installed in his place. Further,  he told him he would send a sculptor to whom he could provide the materials for making the idol. As instructed in his dream, the sculptor  approached him following day.
Cochin Thirumala Devaswom Aarattu - Ratholsavam.www.youtube.com
After getting the materials,  the sculptor got into the room and shut the door behind him to begin his work. As the sculptor did not come out of the room for a long time, the suspicious king had the door break open. To his astonishment, there was a beautiful shining, resplendent idol, very much similar to the one at the Thirumala temple and the sculptor was not in the locked room. Where did he go? The ruler presumed that it a divine act and the Viswakarma was none other than the Lord himself. He was tongue-tied and extremely pleased  at the turn of this auspicious event. However, for various reasons the idol was not consecrated for a long time and the king was not happy about it. Lord told him that he would be with the idol till its proper installation. Later the ruler expired.

Swami Vijayeendra Thirtha of Kumbakonam Math was on a visit to this poorly maintained temple where the idol was hidden. A serpent appeared before him and it   crawled to a place where the Swamiji noticed the idol in a neglected well. Soon after it,  he did some poojas and that night the lord appeared in his dream and instructed him that the idol should be consecrated on an auspicious day in Gosripuram (Cochin). Swamiji, on his visit  to Gosripuram, was met by one Mala Pai, the leader of the Cochin Mahajanams. Their desire was to have the idol installed at the temple there. Swamiji  Vijayeendra Thirtha gave gold coin Abishekam (a part of anointing ritual),  and the contributions were made by the Brahmin families, both the poor and rich, living there. The main contributor was Mala  Pai, a rich man.

Later a temple was constructed for the lord and Swami Sudhindra Thirtha of Kumbakonam Math (Successor of Vijayendra Thirtha) performed the First Prathista of Lord Venkateshwara at Cochin in the Year 1599 A.D. Soon after its destruction, the temple was rebuilt in 1633.  In the year 1791 the Konkanies faced massacre by the ruler of Cochin one  Raja Rama Varma (Sakthan Thampuran) because part of the revenues was not given to him. The community immediately moved over to  Thuravoor and Alleppey in the Travancore Kingdom under the protection of the local ruler.  Only upon the death of Sakthan Thampuran in 1805 A.D the deity was taken back to Cochin  on the Midnight of 7 February, 1853.

The Third Prathista of the Vighraha of Lord Venkateshwara in the present temple built by the Community was performed by H.H. Swami Bhuvanendra Thirtha Swami along with his Shishya Swami H.H. Swami Varadendra Thirtha.

Lots of people visit this historical temple and the temple is well maintained by the Mahajanam with care and devotion.

Ref:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cochin_Thirumala_Devaswom