Charmed by the beauty of the river, royals, priests, believers and commoners made the bank of the river the site of many a palatial building and place of worship
The banks of the Karamana river was the locale of many a majestic building and temple. Although many residences and palaces, a part of our built heritage, has vanished with the passage of time, many places of worship still exist.
On the banks of the river is a beautiful palace – the Satelmond Palace at Mudavanmugal, which was the residence of Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, Maharani Regent of erstwhile Travancore from 1924-1931. It was later acquired by the government and it presently houses the Sree Chithra Thirunal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology. Very elaborate padavus (steps) can be seen on the river bank inside the palace premises.
The Sree Sathyavageeswara temple is only one of the temples on the bank of the Karamana river. There are many more.
Close by is is the Attinkara Murugan temple. Farther away is the Karamana Thaliyil Kshethram, where the scholars of the Kanthallor University are believed to have stayed. The Neeramankara Shiva temple on the way to the NSS College for Women and Arakath Devi temple in Kaimanam Idagramam are both famous temples around Karamana. The former is believed to be associated with Koopakkara Madom of the Ettara Yogam fame, according to S. Santhakumari, former Principal of NSS College for Women and a resident of Neeramankara. It is dated to the 14th century AD and was declared a protected monument in 1940. There is also the Chirakkara Mahavishnu Temple at Kaimanam, with the Chirakkara Palace adjacent to it, which has been demolished. Chilanthivala Dharma Sastha and Chuttumala Devi Temple are in Nedumcaud area, the latter being close to Puthumana house of Irayiman Thampi and having been the subject of a Carnatic song by Thampi (‘Kamaladala Nayane’ in Shankarabharanam raga).
Thiruvallom Parasurama temple was built during the 12th and 13th century and is now a protected monument. It is famous for ‘bali tharpanam’ during the Karkidaka Vaavu day when devotees pay homage to departed souls after taking a dip in the Karamana river. It is known to be the only Parasurama temple in Kerala. It is believed that Adi Sankara offered ‘bali’ for his mother at this temple, which is believed to have been built by Chera King Athiyaman Perumal. The temple has separate shrines for Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. It is now hailed as ‘Triveni sangamam’ of Karamana River, Killi River, and Parvathiputhanar, though the third one is barely 150 years old and at present makes the Triveni sangamam stink.
This temple has strong connections to Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple. Legend has it that Lord Vishnu appeared in divine form with his head at Thiruvallam, feet at Trippapur (near Kazhakuttam) and torso in Ananthankadu (the present site of Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple).
K. Sivasankaran Nair, a historian in the capital city, opines that the Parasurama temple was established by the merchant community who arrived through the ports at Poonthura and entered the city at Thiruvallom. He holds that the temple had Krishna (Sreevallabha) as the principal deity, and Parasurama was a later addition.
The 800-year-old Thrivikramamangalam Mahavishnu temple overlooks the Karamana river and is famous for its rich stone sculptures. It was declared a protected monument in 1965. The Vishnu temple at Aruvikkara is also famous and a protected monument since 1966. Kundamankadavu has the Kundamankadavu Devi temple and Bhadrakali temple nearer to the bridge, which is currently planned to be widened and reconstructed.
The mosque at Palayam used to hold Kaduva kali during Muharram, at Panjappura, near Bakery junction. They used to go on a procession carrying the sacred crescent to the Karamana river. The Karamana Juma Masjid is also an important land mark of Karamana.
(Continuing the weekly series on the Karamana river, written by Dr. Achuthsankar S. Nair, head of the Department of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, University of Kerala. He is a music and history buff.)