The miracle of Thirukachamkurissi

THIRUKACHAMKURISSI, an ancient place of worship, is located at the foot of the Anamalai range of the Western Ghats, at Payyalur, on the fringe of Kollengode, in Kerala. Located mid way between Palakkad (Kerala) and Pollachi (Tamil Nadu), life in this area typifies that of a frontier town, a mixture of two cultures.

The legends of the temple speak of the peace and tranquillity that led Sage Kashyapa to meditate in its hilly surroundings. It is believed that as a result of Kashyapa's penance, Mahavishnu appeared before him. Kashyapa's desire was that the Lord should remain with him always, in that calm and idyllic atmosphere. Sriman Narayana consented to his wish, and it is believed that the sage installed and consecrated the idol of Mahavishnu in the form that he himself had perceived him — Chaturbahu Mahavishnu, seated on the coils of Adishesha.

Thus, the little hillock on which the temple is located came to be known as `Kachamkurissi' (as derived from `Kashyapan-Kurissi,' or `the Hill of Kashyapa').

The name `Kachamkurissi' can also be linked to that time in ancient history when, culturally, Kerala was a part of `Tamizhagam'. The famed Sangam literature during the period of the Cheras (upto the 3rd Century A.D.), speak of the `Tinais' or `eco-zones' — `kurinji' (kurichi) or hilly tracts being one of them. The place name is thus indicative of the early origins of this temple.

It was to this shrine that Dharma Varman, a prince, from what is now central Kerala, came, in search of a cure for a debilitating ailment. It is said that the dying Dharma Varman bathed in the healing spring waters that then existed in the forests around the temple, and after undergoing many days of ritual penance at this temple, at the feet of Perumal, returned to his kingdom, completely cured. This then, is the true miracle of Thirukachamkurissi — a regenerative power, which those who come in faith profess to feel, on submitting to this all-forgiving deity the turbulence of their minds. More often than not, they have returned, renewed and revived, their burning sorrows inexplicably assuaged by some strange balm, cool and comforting as a moonbeam.

Dharma Varman's grandson, Vira Ravi, became the first `utaiyvar' of this region, and it is a popular thought that he named his miniature principality, `Venkatanad' (later `Vengunad') in honour of Mahavishnu Perumal of Thirukachamkurissi. Devotees often approach the Lord of this temple as `Venkatesha'.

The miracle of Thirukachamkurissi

Vira Ravi was awarded the sole right to permit the commencement of the ancient ritual, Somayagams. This he did, symbolically, by granting `somalata' (the moon-plant) and `karinjali' (black wood), ingredients essential for the yagam, at the temple of Thirukachamkurissi. Despite the break up of the feudal order, this ritual tradition of granting `somalata' and `karinjali' to signify the start of the yagam, has continued right through the centuries.It was enacted once again, prior to the most recent Somayagam conducted at Thrissur in March this year, giving Thirukachamkurissi temple pan-Kerala prominence, and spiritual significance.

Historically, for many centuries, this temple was under the custodianship of the Vengunad Rajas of Kollengode, along with the orthodox Nambudiri families of Cherampotta Mana and Cherukunnam Mana of Thrissur. During the `golden era' of the temple, its `Utsavams' and `Seevelis' were bright, joyous, and full of pageantry.

The deity of Mahavishnu was taken in procession on some of the most famous elephants of Kerala. But the socio-economic reforms of the 20th Century altered the situation drastically. As a result, this temple, which once overflowed with the bounties of the land, had to depend on adhoc gifts of paddy from occasional devotees, for the daily `naivedhyam'. Its `chuttambalam' decayed and collapsed.

As a result of Ashtamangalya Prashnams conducted by eminent astrologers in 2000, a Jeernodharana Committee, consisting of individuals from the surrounding areas was convened and constituted by the HR & CE Board, under whose administration the temple is now managed.

The restoration and renovation activity has been a slow and difficult process since the collection of funds has been an uphill task. Thirukachamkurissi is a large temple, and the roof of the decayed `Chuttambalam' had to be repaired, using traditional methods. Many parts of the flooring were in a state of complete damage. Room had to be made for a sub-shrine for Siva in the Chuttambalam. The preservation of architectural purity proved to be an expensive process.

The shrine has all the features of the traditional Kerala temple — Dwajastambam, Mukhamandapam, Namaskaramandapam, Sreekovil and Chuttambalam.

There is also a `kokarni,' the well for sacred water, and a temple tank. The exquisite frescoes on the ceiling of the Mukhamandapam will be restored by the Government of Kerala's Department of Culture and Tourism, as also the beautiful vegetable-dyed woodcarvings of the Namaskara Mandapam, and the decaying Ramayana murals around the Sreekovil.

It is expected that the work will be executed by, The Mural Painting Research and Training Institute, Thrissur, as a joint project with the Art Conservation wing of INTACH, and the Department of Archaeology, Kerala.

However, the temple is badly in need of funds for the Kumbhabhisekham that will commence on May 25 culminating on June 4 this year, under the direction of Andaladi Mana Sri Narayanan Nambudiripad and Kariyanur Mana Sri Divakaran Nambudiripad. It is also in need of funds for the continuation of its daily pujas.

Those who wish to contribute towards the Kumbhabhishekham and Annadaanams may send in their donations by M.O., cheque or DD to Dr. P. S. Viswanathan, Treasurer, Thirukachamkurissi Jeernodharana Committee, Payyalur, Kollengode - 678 506, Palakkad Dt., Kerala. Enquiries may also be directed to M. Swaminathan, president, Kollengode Social and Cultural Association, Chennai, at 2475 2900.

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