Sunday, 23 June 2019

Twin Vishnu temples of Sri Narasimha moorthy and Sudarsana moorthy, Thuravoor, Kerala


Narasimha temple, Thuravoor, kerala hindu-blog.com
Thuravoor (25 km from Kochi), Kerala has the most sanctified places of  Hindu worship. Often referred to as Mahakshethram, here, within the same compound, there exist two temples with two sanctums/ garbagrihas (locally called srikovil) in a  single Nalambalam, with two very tall gold-plated flag masts - dwajasthambams, a majestically tall  and Anapandhal (elephant shed - the largest in Kerala). Two separate temples in close proximity within the same compound wall - Is it not a strange one far removed from the Hindu temple tradition?

Of  the two temples here,  one  is dedicated to to Sudarsanamoorthy  and the other being Sree Narasimhamoorthy. The former is far older than the other one, whereas the latter is several centuries old.  Though there is  no valid record on the origin of  temple- Sudarsanamoorthyit  is  said to be over 1300 years old. Some scholars suggest that the circular-shaped Srikovil belongs to the Thretha Yuga. Other researchers are of the view that the temple origin goes back to the Dwapara Yuga. As of today, the exact origin of this temple remains a riddle. With respect to the idol of Sree Narasimha moorthy, it is a unique one and is  believed to have come from Kasi (Varanasi) where it was worshipped by  great saint Adi Sankara's (of Kalady), principal disciple Swami Padmapadar (8th century AD). The temple came into being during the reign of a Chera king named Keralendran in the the 7th century AD. His mentor/ Guru happened to be one  Muringottu Adigal, a reputed priest and scholar. 

big  temple tank to keep the Narasimhamoorthy ‘cool’ shrinarasimha.com
The temple priests here are expected to be steadfast in their observance of certain vrathas - fasting, etc and religious rites, particularly in conducting daily pujas and periodic rituals associated with festivals.  Melsanthi (chief priest) has to maintain absolute celibacy; During his tenure, he must stay within the temple compound and lead a life of austerity and strict  regimen religious duties. All through the year, religious discourses and chanting of 
Vedic hymns and mantras are observed strictly. Hence lots of devotees come here to seek the blessings of the almighty as the atmosphere here is charged with religious fervor and dedication, adding sanctity to the places of divinity. 

The other deities in the temples include the shrine of Ganapathy within the Nalambalam, on the southern side of the inner courtyard,  Sastha and Bhagavathy are housed in the shrines outside the two srikovils. The place is also called ‘Surapuri’ -  as the twin temples have numerous powerful deities - both gods and goddesses. 

Legend has it that one Namboodri Brahmin on a visit to Kasi from Angamally had a divine dream, In his dream, he saw a  south westerly moving beam of light slowly descending on the earth. He patiently followed it and saw the light falling on a particular spot and later disappeared into the earth. The spot was in a village called ‘Poothanilam’ in central Kerala. Suspecting divinity in that spot the Brahmin priest had the ground dug. At last he found a  beautiful and resplendent idol of Mahavishnu in Anjanakallu (a rare kind of black stone) buried underneath. The Vishnu idol was later called  sree Narasimhamoorthy and later a temple came up to house the lord close to  the sanctum of Sudarsanamoorthy. Bhagavathy Amman idol enshrined in that part was relocated to another shrine west of it. That the multi-tiered bronze lamp in front of the Narasimhamoorthy temple has the image of a lion - the  vahana of Goddess Bhagavathy confirms the presence of Bagavathy Amman in the present spot.   

The twin temples have a common wall, but are interconnected. Narasinhamuthy temple has a square-shaped, copper-roofed Sreekovil made of granite stones.The  Namaskara Mandapam has many nice  sculptures of lotus blooms and ornate  stone pillars. The sculptures and murals on the outer walls of the Sreekovil are attractive and the entire temple reflects the beauty of Kerala style architecture.  The sculptures of elephant heads at regular intervals attract the visitors. The depiction of  Sree Poornathrayeesa, the family deity of the Cochin royalty is suggestive of the royal patronage. An interesting feature is the depiction of Demigod Indira in the presence of Ugranarasimha with one thousand eyes. It is a rare piece of work seen in a Hindu temple.

  
The Garbhagriha/sanctum with two antechambers houses a  four-armed idol of Mahavishnu in a standing posture. Here, he is referred to as  as Ugranarasima (implying his ubiquitous nature). You can worship him through a window. 

The fascinating feature is here, you can see nine  different perceptions of including Ugranarasimha, Lakshmi Narasimha and Yoga Narasimha.  East facing gold-plated Garudadwaja and a massive temple tank measuring 100 x 80 meters are an integral part of the temple. Cool breeze  from the tank is believed to calm down the lord who assumes a ferocious form to kill a demon king.


The other srikovil has a different form of Vishnu  Sudarsanamoorthy with  four arms, each carrying a different object: a conch shell, a chakra (discus), a gadha (mace) and a lotus bloom. Close to it is the  Namaskara mandapam  where the people prostrate before the lord. This hall has many  impressive carvings of which Ashtadikpalakas (guardians of the eight directions) with Lord Brahma in the middle will never fail to get the attention of the visitors.   Unlike the sanctums of Tamil Nadu temples or elsewhere, the ones in Kerala have 3 large enclosures. This one has two prakaras or prthakshana paths to go round the temple clock-wise. 

On the ceiling of this Mandapam are exquisitely carved figures of Ashtadikpalakas (guardians of the eight directions) with Lord Brahma in the middle. One of them has granite pillars to support the roof.  Adjoining the srikovil within the veranda  one can see the sentinels - Dwarapalas. The outer walls of the srikovil have  intricately carved woodwork. The sculpture of Devi breastfeeding Ganapathy is a rare one.There are images depicting  frozen dance-and-music extravaganza. Ganapathy is depicted in many rows. The  images of entourage of servant gods and the tall  gold-plated flag mast (dwajasthambam) on the eastern side  are worthy of mention, This flagstaff is taller than the one at  the Narasimha temple.


An interesting fact related to the Cochin royalty was though the temple site belonged to the Cochin princely state, the administration came under the Travancore princely state. However, if a royal member of Travancore made a visit to this temple, the temple would follow the protocol of the Cochin state. On account of this proviso in the protocol,  there was no visitor from the Travancore royal family  to this temple until 1951 when  the merger of Travancore and Cochin states  took place. Sree Chithira Thirunal visited this temple for the first time. 

  


The temples conducts  several Utsavams and festivals and, of them,  the 9-day utsavam during the month of Thulam (October) is the most important one. Valiyavilakku is held  on the Diwali day. The Arattu festivities  (holy bath in the river before the closing ceremony) at the temple coincide  with the birth of Sree Chithirathirunal Maharajah. On the day of Pathamudayam, the idols of the two temples are taken out in a ceremonial procession till the spot where Sree Narasimamoorthy’s idol was first sighted.