History & Culture

Adikesava perumal temple, Thiruvattaru, sports a new look after 400 years

The entrance to the Adikesava perumal temple, Thiruvattaru.

The entrance to the Adikesava perumal temple, Thiruvattaru. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Seeing the sea-coloured god, my father, reclining on the snake bed melts my body,

What will I do, O, people of the world?

Thondaradipodi Azhwar could not control his emotions after seeing the lord of Srirangam.

He would probably have been at a loss for words if he had seen Adikesava Perumal, the deity at Thiruvattaru in Kanniyakumari district. The majestic 22-ft-long idol is the longest reclining deity among those in the 108 Vaishnavite shrines, and is capable of leaving the devotees awe-struck. As the temple is being readied for kumbabishekam, on July 6, after a gap of 400 years, extensive conservation works have been carried out. It is not just the deity in the sanctum sanctorum, but the entire temple bears a new look.

“It has been undertaken at a cost ₹ 7 crore. The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department allotted Rs. 4 crore and the rest came from donors. Though it was decided in 2009 to perform kumbabishekam, it had taken 13 years to complete the work,” said P.K. Sekarbabu, HR&CE Minister.

Travancore style of architecture

“Thiruvattaru is a melting pot of agamic principles, architectural styles, and worshipping methods unique to Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The East and West entrances exemplify the Travancore style of architecture. It was the deity of the Travancore family,” explains A.K. Perumal, the author of the book, Thiruvattaru Koil Varalaru, which covers every aspect of the temple.

The ornate wooden roof seen inside the Adikesava perumal temple, Thiruvattaru.

The ornate wooden roof seen inside the Adikesava perumal temple, Thiruvattaru. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

What makes Adikesava Perumal unique is that the idol is made of Kadusarkarai. It has been created by covering 16,008 salagramas with lebanam, a paste made of over 60 ingredients and herbs. It is called Kadusarkarai Yogam. The refurbished idol in the sanctum sanctorum looks stunning. It seems that it has been carved out of the best granite block, never giving a slightest idea that it is made of herbal paste. Abishekams are not performed for Kadusarkarai Yogam deities. In the past, 16,008 handful of rice was cooked regularly as an offering for the 16,000 salagramams inside the idol.

According to Perumal, “Thiruvattaru temple covers 3.27 acres and is 90 metre above the sea level. The temple finds reference in the Sangam work, ‘Purananuru’. Mangudi Marudanar one of the poets of the collection, calls it ‘valaneer vattarttu’.” It was a challenge to find skilled artisans with knowledge of the traditional architecture, to restore the exquisite wood carvings and murals on the walls of the temple.

Murals on the walls of the temple.

Murals on the walls of the temple. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Ottraikal Mandapam (made of a single rock) in front of the sancturm sanctorum and the Namaskara Mandapam are fine examples of the unique design elements in the temple. The replica of Adikesava, carved on the temple door, has been fully restored with all the minute details.

The replica of Adikesava carved on the temple door.

The replica of Adikesava carved on the temple door. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Salient feature of Adikesava perumal temple

Another important feature of the temple are the murals on the walls. In fact, a controversy over the restoration of these murals delayed fixing of date for the kumbabishekan. HR&CE Commissioner J. Kumarakurubaran then brought in K.U. Krishnakumar, principal and chief instructor, Guruvayur Devaswom Institute of Mural Paintings, to complete the work. A new dwajasthambam has also been erected.

“The 69-ft-long teakwood pole belonged to the 1952 plantation. It was soaked in oil mixed with 32 types of herbs for two years. The wood has a gold-plated covering,” said a senior official of the HR&CE Department, supervising the work at Thiruvattaru.

One of the carvings depicting Krishna seen on the temple door.

One of the carvings depicting Krishna seen on the temple door. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The kumbabishekam is expected to bring to light the greatness of the temple extolled by Vaishnavite saint Nammazhwar in 11 hymns.

A.K. Perumal added that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the 15th-century saint, had visited Thiruvattaru where he could get a copy of Brahmasamhita without any distortions. “He had stayed for a month and wrote commentaries sitting in the mandapam in front of the sanctum sanctorum.”

In modern times, a short story, ‘Thirumugappil’, by Jayamohan, encapsulates the spiritual experience of devotees. He narrates it based on the visit of Alvin Isaac Kallicharran, the West Indies cricketing legend, to the temple.

“He stands there as if he is confused and lost. He is speechless. When the nambi (priest) comes out, he places a hundred rupee note, and starts walking without uttering a word,” writes Jayamohan, describing Kallicharran’s experience.


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Printable version | Aug 10, 2022 10:08:35 am | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/adikesava-perumal-temple-thiruvattaru-sports-a-new-look-after-400-years/article65586129.ece