Monday, February 23, 2015

Sree Vallabhaswamy Temple, Thiruvalla

Sree Vallabhaswamy Temple is situated in the heart of Thiruvalla Municipality, Pathanamthitta District on the banks of the river Manimala.This ancient majestic temple devoted to Lord Mahavishnu is one among the 108 abodes of Lord Vishnu.There are 106 abodes or 'Thirupathis' in the Indian sub Continent for Lord Vishnu known also as 'Divya Desams' and the  two others are celestial abodes 'Vaikundam' and 'Palazhy'.In Kerala there are 11 'Divya Desam' temples including 'Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple Thiruvananthapuram,Thirunavaya Mukunda Temple,Thrikkakara Temple and Pancha Pandava Temples.(Thrichittattu,Thrippuliyoor,Thiru Aranmula,Thiruvanvandoor, and Thrikkodithanam).
The place name Thirvalla derived from the temple deity 'Thiru Vallabhan' and the old name of the place was 'Thiru Vallabhapuram'. In  Tamil texts it is referred as 'Thiruvallavazh' and Mahavishnu is called as 'Sundaraya Perumal' and is supposed to reside with Lakshmi Devi who has the name here as 'Vathsalyavalli'.
  The colloquial derivation of the place name became  is 'Thiruvalla'.
This temple stands in a massive land of 8 acres and the temple is of  copper roof covering.There are 'Gopurams' on the four sides and 12 feet tall walls on four sides.The idol of this temple is six feet tall and believed to be sculpted by 'Viswakarma' at the behest of Lord Krishna.Years later it was kept in the River Netravathi by Garuda Bird and recovered in B.C.59 because of a dream to 'Queen Cherumthevi'(Wife of King Cheraman Perumal).She offered and erected a flag post carved out of granite as a single piece which is 54 feet tall. Later a structure known as 'Garuda Madam' was constructed around it to support it and a statue 3 feet tall of 'Garuda'  was installed on top of it by legendary sculptor 'Perumthachan'.Later in 1970 a separate golden flag mast was erected in this temple.

The deity of Sree Vallabha Swamy is facing east and in the same 'Sreekovil' 'Sudarshana Chakra'(Sudarshana Discus) is consecrated facing west and is known as 'Chakrathazhvar'.Sub deities in this temple includes 'Ganapathi,Garuda,Sastha,Dakshina Moorthy, Varaha Moorthy,Kurayappa Swamy' etc.
This temple is a 'Maha Kshetram' and pooja rituals include five main Poojas and three 'Sivelis' daily.The main Poojas are performed assuming the Lord in different forms or 'bhavas' and during 'Ucha Pooja' at noon he is considered in 'Grihastha Bhava' and so for 'Nivedyam' at that time Kerala style dishes like 'Parippu,Erisseri,Upperi,Uppumanga' etc are served as offering to him.It is believed that 'Ardhayama Pooja'  at midnight is performed daily here by Sage Durvasa.
There are some unique offerings done at this temple.'Pantheerayiram Vazhipadu' is one among them.On the first day of the annual festival, there will be a procession from 'Thukalasseri Mahadevar Temple' at 7.30 A.M. to Sree Vallabha Swamy Temple with bunches of plantain in hand and in baskets by devotees and offered to the deity as a prelude.A variety of banana known as 'Padattipazham' is offered and '12001' bunches are  offered to him.
Another unique offering here is 'Kathakali' dance which is played here on  almost all days of the year  as offering by devotees.Usually stories like 'Santhana Gopalam,Thukalasura Vadham' etc are performed.Kathakali became a main offering here because of a belief that 'Sree Vallabha Swamy' likes this dance form very much.When 'Vilwamangalam Swamiyar' once visited this temple the deity 'Sree Vallabhan' was enjoying  'Kathakali' by watching it  among others  is the legend behind this belief.

'Uthra Siveli' is an important festival celebrated in this temple.
Annual festival is for ten days (Feb-March).
There are beautiful carvings,Sculptures and Murals  in this temple.  

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Padmanabhapuram Palace

Padmanabhapuram was the capital of 'Travancore Kingdom'( which was earlier known as 'Venad Kingdom) and the capital was shifted to Thiruvananthapuram in 1795 A.D.
Padmanabhapuram Palace was built around AD 1602 during the reign of 'Iravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal' who ruled Venad State from 1592 to 1609 AD.At that time the palace was known as '.'Kalkulam Palace
During the reign of 'Veera Marthanda Varma' he extended the Kingdom and formed the Kingdom of Travancore.Marthanda Varma Maharajah  renovated the Palace and renamed it as Padmanabhapuram Palace in honor of the family deity 'Padmanabha Swamy' of "Sri Padmanabha Swami Temple, Thuruvananthapuram'.
Padmanabhapuram Palace is situated at Thackala near Nagercoil in Tamilnadu State and it is only 50 km from Thiruvananthapuram.Even though the palace is in Tamilnadu state at present, the Palace complex still belongs to Kerala Government.
The palace is a unique example of Kerala style architecture and it is the largest wooden Palace in Asia.The palace complex is situated in a large area of land which have massive walls on four sides.There are 14 buildings in the complex and served as the residence of Travancore Kings till the shifting of the Capital to Thiruvananthapuram.
Some of the main structures of the complex includes 'Thaikottaram,Uppirikka Malika,Mantrasala,Natakasala,Thekke Kottaram' etc.Thai Kottaram was Queen's Palace,Mantrasala was a meeting place,Nataka sala was performing hall for Music and Dance.
All the buildings have lavish and elaborated wooden carvings which are very fascinating and which reveals the excellent skills  of the craftsmen.
In the 'Thekke Kottaram' (Southern Palace) a heritage museum is functioning which displays several articles of that bygone era which attracts the visitors.Some articles presented to the King by Chinese traders are also on display.The flooring which was made by charcoal,burnt coconut shells,some kind of medicinal juices,lime,egg white etc looks marvelous still today.
A cot made out of  64 types of medicinal wood and herbs known as 'Marunnu Kattil' and a cot cut out from stone and polished can also be seen at the  Padmanabhapuram palace.
At the tower room of the Padmanabhapuram Palace  on the four sides of the  walls there are exquisite mural paintings which are very old and made as per strict traditional rules.This room was used for meditation purpose by the Royal family members  and the murals are sanctified and believes  that the presence of the respective deities are there on them.
On the eastern wall and western wall there are large depiction of Lord Vishnu in 'Anantha Sayanam' a reclining posture of the Lord  attended by his consort, other celestial beings, semi Gods etc.Krishna with Gopis,Lakshmi Narayana etc are also there.
Portrayals of 'Krishna Leela', Krishna with 'Yasoda' mother,Krishna eating lunch  at the jungle with friends,Kaliamardana,Little Krishna giving salvation to two 'Gandharvas' cursed to be trees are all seen here.
The incarnations of Lord Vishnu's  'Dasavathara' scenes, and  Sankara Narayana etc delights all.
 Shaiva themes like different forms of Lord 'Rudra' are also  there.Mahishasura Mardini(Durga) is depicted, and Lord Narasimha is also portrayed.The coronation scene of Lord Sri Rama is also very appealing


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mattancherry Palace

Mattancherry Palace which is also known as Dutch Palace is situated about 10 km from Ernakulam on the banks of the backwaters of Kochi.This magnificent Palace was built and gifted to the Ruler of Kochi by the Portuguese either as an atonement for the temple they had accidently damaged or for receiving  favours from the King  for their trade activities of spices.
Later the Dutch took over  the trade of spices and to please the King they renovated the Palace elaborately.After the extensive renovation works  the Palace came to be known as 'Dutch Palace'.
The Palace was originally built by the Portuguese during the reign of 'Veera Kerala Varma Thampuran(1537-1561) and the Palace had been the residence of the Cochin royal family for about two centuries.
The Portuguese constructed the palace in Kerala traditional 'Naalukettu' style with a European touch, and it has at its center courtyard the shrine of 'Pazhayannur Bhagavathy', the deity of the royal family.The Palace also has shrines of Lord Shiva and Lord Krishna.
The Palace is beautiful with exquisite wooden carvings and sculptures which attracts the visitors.The flooring which was  made out of materials like 'Charcoal,Lime,burnt coconut shell,plant juices, egg white , etc is still smooth and shines like black granite.
Mattancherry Palace has frescoes on its walls which fascinates the visitors.Murals from the themes of epics Ramayana and Mahabharatha adorns the walls which are of 16th and 17th centuries.
Ramayana murals comprises of about 48 paintings which describes the story of Rama in detail as told by 'Thunchath Ezhuthachan' in 'Adhyatma Ramayana'.Each painting is separated by decorative borders.
There are Paintings of Lord Krishna and depictions are there like Krishna Playing flute,Krishna in reclining posture with the Gopis etc.The painting Krishna in reclining posture shows him with six hands and two feet.
There are frescoes of Lord Shiva and Parvathi Devi and the inspiration was 'Kumara Sambhava' written by famous Sanskrit poet 'Kalidasa'.
Lord Vishnu's portrayal are also there including Vishnu seated on the coils of serpent Anantha and the serpent's five headed hood serve as a canopy over Lord's head.'Ananthasayanam' which is Vishnu's reclining posture over serpent Anantha is also depicted there.
Some of the murals at Mattancherry Palace belongs to 18th and 19th century.
The fine creations of rich colored traditionally drawn murals attracts all visitors.