Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Sree Vallabha Temple at Thiruvalla, Kerala - a historical place of Hindu worship

Sree Vallabha Temple  at Thiruvalla vaikhari.org/
Sree Vallabha Temple  at Thiruvalla in Pathanmthitta district of Kerala, which is believed to be one of the big Hindu temples of that state, is  400-years old. Located on the  banks of the River Manimala,  this temple has a huge 8-foot tall idol of Sree Vallabha in Srikovil (sanctum). 

It is believed that Lord Vishnu appeared here as Sreevallabhan before mendicant/ sage Durvasa and Khandakarnan.  As wished by the old   Brahmin lady,  Sreevallabhan  took an avatar of a   brahmachari (bachelor) and killed the demon Thokalaasuran who had been troubling the people and the sages for a long time.. The presiding deity installed in 59 BC here is said to have been worshiped by Lakshmi and Krishna.   Since ancient time the puja protocol that has been  followed here is a different one not being followed in other temples. The belief has been that  Sage Durvasa and Saptarishi visit the temple at  midnight for worship.

Known for its architectural beauty and rich orthodoxy, the architect  of Sri Vallabha temple is the famous Perunthachan who had a  54-foot  tall Garuda Sthambha (flag-staff) built. The striking feature of this dwjasthambham is it is monolithic - made from one block of rock of granite, a tough job ingeniously done  by artians of this place way back in the past. The interior of the temple is known for exquisite stone and wood carvings  besides impressive mural paintings. It is one of the Divyadesam shrines recognized by the Tamil devotional scholars/saints - Azhwars. The Tamil Vaishnavite saints Nammazhvar of the 5th century AD (2612-2622 in Divya Prabhandham) and Thirumangai Azhvar of the 9th century AD (paasurams 1806-1817 in Divya prabhandham) had praised  in profusion the  glory of the temple.

For several centuries the temple had been managed by  Thiruvalla pattillathil pottimar (Brahmins of ten families) till 1752-1753. The Sreevallabha Temple  became popular and once had 15 main priests (melsanthi) and 180 assistant priests (keezhsanthi) all the time and another 108 for only daily noon pooja. The temple had boarding and lodging facilities for all devotees, students, teachers etc. It also held  daily  annadanam (serving food to the poor).  Yet another interesting fact is daily only once  about 400 devotees were provided with Naivedyam of Lord Sreevallabhan.  This temple had large income and held vast cultivable lands. Now, those lands do not exist.  During 1752-1753 Marthanda Varma of Travancore  took possession of the temple under force from the Brahmins  and later Ramayyan Dalawa looted  temple assets  and transferred them to Thiruvananthapuram. Unlike other temples of Kerala, for unknown reasons, till 1968, ladies and elephants were not allowed  to enter the temple. Women were  allowed  twice a year during Thiruvathira of Dhanu month and Vishu in Medam.
Sree Vallabha Temple  at Thiruvalla keralatourism.org/
A note-worthy feature of this temple is it showcases the impressive ancient  traditional dance  of Kerala.  ''Kathakali'' is  performed every day on the temple premises and this place of Hindu worship is believed to have  been once a center of learning centuries ago.  This temple's immense contribution to  maintain the cultural legacy of Kerala can not be ignored. Further, it is, perhaps, the only one temple in this state where  the daily Kathakali dance is performed as a ritualistic offering to the almighty.

The well known annual festival falls in the month of  February-March,  This10-day annual festival  attracts a large number of devotees from Kerala and neighboring states.  As part of the festival, on the first day itself  12,000 bunches of padatti pazham (a variety of bananas) are made as offerings. Best Time to visit this temple which is referred to as  the vallabha kshethram mentioned in Garuda Purana and Matsya Purana is during the festival time of  Thiru Utsavam (Feb/March), Uthira Sreebali (March/April). The  temple is being managed by Travancore Devaswom Board.
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sreevallabha_Temple