Vaikom Mahadeva Temple – A pilgrimage centre for shaivites and vaishnavites


Vaikom Mahadeva Temple is located in the Kottayam district of Kerala. This is the only Siva temple where both Shaivites and Vaishnavites offer worship together in Kerala. It has a number of features of a typical South Indian temple such as lofty compound walls and four towers with gates. The important festival to get celebrated at the temple is Vaikathashtami.

Introduction


Vaikom Mahadeva Temple is one of the well known Shiva temples in Kerala. Situated in a place called Vaikom in Kottayam district of Kerala, this temple is held in high esteem by both Vaishnavites and Shaivites. Along with Ettumanoor Siva temple and Kaduthuruthy Thaliyil Siva temple, it is considered the powerful tri-some in the region. According to believers, a visit in all the three temples before noon ritual (pooja) frees them of all worldly afflictions and generates happiness in their minds. The Shiva lingam found in the Sanctum Sanctorum of the temple is from the 'Tretha Yuga', and hence the temple is considered to be one of the oldest Siva temples in Kerala where the pooja was never broken since its inception. The people of the region fondly call the presiding deity of the temple as Vaikathappan. The temple is known in Kerala for the famous festival Vaikathashtami, which is held either in the month of November or December.

History and Mythology


The origin of the Vaikom temple can be traced back to the time of writing of Sanskrit texts such as Bhargava Purana and Sanalkumara Samhita. In these books, the place was mentioned as Vyaghra Geham or Vaiyagra Puram. As per the popular legends heard in the region, the holy saint Vyaghrapada had the darshan of Lord Siva in this place on ashtami day of Malayalam month Vrishchikam. Hence, this place had got the name Vyaghrapadapuram. Later on, the name Vyaghra got reduced to the current name Vaikom as the influence of the Tamil language spread in this region.

The popular belief is that the Siva lingam found at the Sanctum Sanctorum was installed by Kharasura, who did the penance to please the Lord Siva. The belief further adds that the lingam worshipped in the temple premises was carried by the Asura in his right hand. The Asura was carrying the other two lingams also with him, one on his neck and the other in his left hand, while he was going back to home after successfully completing the penance. According to the same belief, the Asura had placed the lingam he was carrying in his left hand at Ettumanoor and placed the other one at Kaduthuruthy. This seems to be true when one compares the distance between Ettumanoor and Kadathuruthy temples with that between Kadathuruthy and Vaikom temples. Therefore, the worship of the deities in these three temples in one day is considered auspicious and noble action.

There is yet another legend that tries to explain the importance of the Vaikom temple amongst Shaivites and Vaishnavites. This legend says that the lingam found here was consecrated by Sage Parasurama. According to this legend, Parasurama was going past this place. While he was passing by, he saw a lingam at the centre of a pond emitting heavenly rays. Having understood the importance of the lingam and the history behind that, he consecrated the lingam on the banks of the pond by chanting the Siva mantras. After the ritual of consecration, the Lord Siva appeared before the Parasurama with his consort. This is why both Shaivites and Vaishnavites regard this place in high regard and reverence.

Temple Architecture


Being a big temple, it has a number of features of a typical South Indian temple. The temple complex has a total area of eight acres. The temple complex is protected by compound walls on all the four sides. One can enter the courtyard of the temple complex only through four gopuras or towers. The round-shaped and two-chambered main temple is roofed with copper plates. The first chamber is called Mukha Mandapam, and it is made of nicely shaped stone and single-piece wood. The other chamber is called Garbha Griha. This chamber is completely built in stone, and it has a square roof. The people can view the presiding deity only when they reach the main temple from either the tower or gate side by climbing six steps that lead to it. The six steps found at the main temple gate represent six feelings of life like kama, krodha, lobha, moha, madha, and mathsarya.

Temple Complex


The temple complex houses the temples of other Gods also. Towards the south of the courtyard, one can see the temples of Panachikkal Bhagavathy, Sthamba Vinayaka and Snake Gods. It is believed that Sthamba Vinayaka has been protecting the temple complex from all evil forces ever since Sage Parasurama left it. The abode of the Snake Gods is actually a Pipal tree with an elevated platform around it. As the years passed, both the tree and the platform got destroyed. In that place, a new tree was planted and a platform was built around it.

Temple Festivals


The most important festival celebrated at Vaikom Siva temple is Vaikathashtami. It is celebrated on the day of Krishnashtami. This day is celebrated to commemorate the success of penance of Sage Vyaghrapada. It is on this day the saint was able to get the darshan of Lord Siva and his spouse. The celebration of Vaikathashtami lasts for 12 days. During these days, special rituals are conducted at the main temple to appease the God. Other festivals such as 'Mandala Pooja', Navaratri, etc. are also observed in this temple with pomp and gaiety.

Conclusion


Vaikom Mahadeva Temple is one of the important Siva temples in Kerala. Both Shaivites and Vaishnavites regard this temple in high esteem and offer their prayers there. The most important festival of the temple is Vaikathashtami. On this day, the Sage Vyaghrapada is widely believed to have obtained the darshan of Lord Siva with his spouse. The temple also celebrates other Hindu festivals with equal vigor and reverence.


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