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Vellamassery Garudan Kavu Tirur, Malappuram
The Garudan Kavu (Golden Eagle Temple) at Vellamassery is a unique temple not only for Kerala but for the country itself. This temple dedicated to Garuda (Golden Eagle), the vehicle of the Sri Maha Vishnu one of the Trimurty gods of Hindu Religion. It is believed that worshiping here will relieve the diseases and the effects of the Serpent poisons. Even before the temple entry for all Hindus came into effect in respect of other temples, Vellamassery Garudan Kavu had no restriction of entry for any one.
Unique temple of Garuda (Golden eagle)
This is the only known Garuda Temple existing in the entire country. The privilege of the existence of this temple goes to the village Vellamassery. Vellamassery is near to Tirur Town in Malappuram District, of Kerala State in India - a District predominantly of Muslim population. There is a temple of Koormavathara (incarnation of Koorma – turtle/tortoise), the 2nd incarnation of Mahavishnu near to the Garudan Temple. As an aside, the legend is that the gods and the Asuras decided to churn the milky ocean using the Mahameru Parvatha (mountain) as the kadakol (the device used for churning curd to extract butter - cream) and the Serpent king Vasuki as the rope for taking out the nectar. One end of the Vasuki was to be held by the Devas (Gods) and the other by the Asuras (demons). They encountered a problem that the mountain started sinking due to the weight and gravity. Both sides together prayed to the Lord Mahavishnu to help them out. He readily agreed and took the form of a turtle and the mountain was supported by him on his back while churning the milky ocean. This was the purpose for which the 2nd incarnation took place. It is said that this temple of Garuda is about 1800 years old. During the conquest trips of Tipu Sulthan, this temple was also not spared and this was razed to the ground. However, the local and far away devotees of this temple rebuilt the temple at the same spot. While there is no evidence of any other existing temple exclusively for the Garuda, this temple is the only one where the idol is in the flying form. There are other temples where Garuda is there as a sub deity or a vehicle to the god of the Vaishnava temples but not as the main deity and in the flying posture.
The legend about the Garudan Kavu
Hundreds of years back a sage wanted to find out a way to get rid of the pains and sins of the human soul. He immersed himself in deep penance and eventually he could visualize the form of Lord Vishnu. He requested the Lord about his desire about the way the soul could rid of the pain and sins. The lord started explaining the ways and means of redemptions at a location. In order to get the full advantage of his masters advises to the sage, Garuda sat on a place which is the bank of the now theertha pond (temple pond) of Garudan Kavu. The spot where Lord Vishnu gave darshan also became a holy place. Centuries later the Vettathunadu Raja constructed a temple in the divine spot. Later on one of the disciples of the Jagadguru Sri Sankaracharya, Sri Padapadachrya undertook penance in this temple which enhanced the spirituality of this temple.
Another legend about the Garuda Temple
There are several exploits of the Perum Thatchan the great Mason who is supposed to have been the architect of several temples in Kerala. He is also credited with the making of several idols of gods and goddesses and the same are installed in several temples in Kerala. The Garudan Kavu has also one such incident. The Perum Thatchan came to the Vettathunadu (erstwhile area around the present Malappuram District) to pay his homage to the Raja. He had a statue of Garuda with him. The statue was so perfect that it appeared to be throbbing with life and luster. The Raja expressed his admiration for the statue and informed of his wish that the statue had life of its own to the great Mason. The great shilpi (mason) replied that the statue will have life provided a pure (chaste) wife was to touch the idol. The Raja did not like Thatchan's comment. He said that if the Thatchan proved to be wrong in the test, he will award death sentence to Thatchan. The shilpi asked the king what he will do if the Thatchan's words proved to be correct. The Raja promised a temple for the idol if Thatchan was proved correct. Thereupon the Perum Thatchan brought his wife and made her to touch the idol. On her touch the Garuda idol immediately flew away. The Raja's men followed the Garudan. The Garudan came to a temple pond of a Vishnu temple belonging to the joint ownership of the Karuthedathu mana, Ampala Paveri mana and the Mullapalli mana and settled on a white turtle amongst the many white turtles in the pond. This pond is the present theertha pond of the Garuda temple. The turtle started to crawl to the Vishnu temple. The Raja invited the thantris of the Karuthedathu mana to take further actions. This incident culminated in the construction of the present Garudan Kavu. This temple is facing the west. This place is known as the Vellamassery, near to the Tirur in Malappuram District. Vellamassery means (Vella – white, Aama – tortoise; white tortoise) settlement place of white tortoise.
The temple complex grew later gradually with the additions of Shankara Narayana and the Shiva prathistas. These prathistas are facing the east. There is a place for Vetekkaran and Kartha Veerya Arjuna on the left of the Garuda. There are namaskara mandapams (places for prostrations) for the Vishnu and Sankara Narayana sanctums. For the Lord Vishnu there is a Balippura. There are shrines for the Sahstha, Bhagavathy, Ganapathy ad Bhadrakali at the west side. A deepasthambam and a Gopuram are built on the West side.
Festivals of the Garudan Temple
The temple has daily pooja schedules. But generally all Sundays are important days for worship in this temple. The Mandala period of 41 days from around 16th of November to 28th of December of every year is very important period for worship. The Sundays falling within the 41 days mandala period are still more important for worship. A worship of 3 Mandala Sundays are considered to be equal to that of poojas done for one full year. Worship here is done for the easy relief and recovery from diseases and serpent poisons. The festivals for this temple will have only vadyas (percussion instruments) like the Chenda and Panchavadyam etc. No elephants are engaged for the festival of Garuda. The poojas of the temple follow the Vaishnava styles. But this being a complex of several shrines, and Lord Vishnu being the important deity for Lord Vishnu's celebrations no restriction about elephants or vadyams are applied. It is presumed that Garuda get excited at his master's (lord Vishnu) pleasures.
Paradoxical System of Poojas
Generally to please a god we offer pooja to that god. In case of Garudan Kavu the poojas are offered to remove the effects of the poisons of snake and the curse of snake gods. Garuda is the arch enemy of snakes. But the devotees believe that the nagas come here every year during the Mandala Period to offer worship to Garudan for extension of their lives by one year. Hence devotees visiting the temple during this period get the benevolence of the snakes. The devotees feel that a blessing from the nagas from the temple of their enemy will be a powerful boon which will protect them. This is really strange. Some of the devotees feel that when Garuda is pleased with the devotees, the nagas will do no harm to them. According to them worship in this temple will do away the Naga Doshams.
The main difference of this temple from other temples is that the temple had no untouchability practice when all other temples were allowing only the so called 'savarnas'' till the temple entry was made for all Hindus. There was no such prohibition in this temple at any time. It is symbolic that since Garuda will always be in a higher place from there all humans are alike and hence there is no difference between human beings to him.
Special offerings are made here for Skin diseases (psoriasis), Diseases of the children, respiratory trouble like bronchitis, asthma etc, Lukoderma (pandu – vellapande), diseases or troubles from birds.
People affected by snake come to the temple with live snakes caught in earthen pots with the mouth of the pots covered with cotton cloths. During the time when the temple is open, the earthen pots are dropped from the Gopuram inside the temple. The snakes will raise themselves aggressively. The priest (poojari) of the temple will bring the Garuda Panchakshari Mantra theertha (holy water) and sprinkle it on the snake. The snake will then go over to the south direction. The snakes thus released are not seen anywhere around. The devotees believe that the snake/s has/have become the food for the Garuda. This practice is going on since a very longtime. In the normal circumstances the place should have been infested with the poisonous snakes. But there is no incident of any snake bite reported from this place for several years. This is something truly mystifying.
Offerings and prasadam of the temple
The main prasadam is a yellow payasam (sweet porridge - gruel) with the turmeric (manjal) as one of the ingredients. This type of offering or prasadam is not found in any other temple in Kerala. This offering and taking of the prasadam is done for the general well being and removal of any doshas of the family. According to the modern science turmeric is having some healing properties.
Another important prasadam is the oil known as the Garuda Panchakshari oil. This is applied to the skin. This will remove the skin problems. The oil is also consumed wherever there is internal poisoning. With the repetition for 12 days the internal poison is removed from the system. Since Garuda is from the birds' category, natural fruits are offered with tender coconut since fruits are the natural food of the birds. For getting children and to remove problems in reproductory organs, replicas of snakes and snake eggs made of gold or silver are offered. Baskets and cucumber (vellarikka) made of gold, silver, bronze, copper or wood are offered for relief from breathing and skin problems, according to the capacities of the devotees. Those who want to offer money can do so according to their financial condition by depositing the same in the Hundi (money collection box). By placing the yam tuber (chena) at the entrance of the sanctorum, devotees believe that skin discoloration like Lukoderma and eruptions will get some relief. To reduce the effect of the displeasure of snakes idols of snakes in wood, silver or gold as per ones financial status are given as offerings at the nada (entrance) of the sanctorum.
Another offering is of milk and calcium - Noorum palum (chuna – chunnambu) which is a universal practice to please the snake gods. Ghee and oils are offered after chanting (recital) the Garuda Panchakshari Mantra to devotees for internal consumption to rid of the effect of poisoning. Garuda Pushpanjali – archana (offerings of flowers) with chanting of mantras, Sarpa dosha parihara pooja are famous procedures here. There are certain curative procedures prescribed in Garuda Purana which are practiced in this Garudan Kavu.
The place can be approached from Thanur by bus or auto or taxi. Thanur is on Railway route.
Places of interests nearby
Keraladeeshapuram of Srikrishna, one of the oldest temples of Kerala, Trikkaikattu Temple and Math (founded by Sri Sankaracharya) situated at Pariyapuram, Vettakkorumakan Temple at Rayirimangalam, Shobha Parambu Devi temple is a very famous temple and the beautiful beach at Thanur.
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