Divyadesam Shrines (dedicated to Sri Vishnu) in the state of Kerala - 01

A  Divya Desam or Vaishnava Divya Desam is one of the 108 Vishnu temples that are mentioned in the works of the Azhwars (saints). ”Divya” means “divine” and “Desam” suggests  “place of abode” (temple). Among them 11 are in Kerala.  Of the 13 Malai Nadu Divya Desam  shrines, two are in the distinct of Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu: 01. Thirupatisaram Kuralappa Perumal Temple,. 02. Thiruvattar Sree Adikesava Perumal Temple, and the  rest are in Kerala state:

Kerla: Pancha Pandava temples (dedicated to Sri Vishnu),atmanirvana.com

01. Thiruvananthapuram Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple
02. Thiruvalla Sree Vallabha Temple
03. Thiruchitat Maha Vishnu Temple
04. Thiruppuliyoor Maha Vishnu Temple
05. Thiruvaranmula Sree Parthasaradhi Temple
06. Thiruvanvandoor Maha Vishnu Temple
07. Thrikkodithanam Maha Vishnu Temple
08. Thrikkakara Vamana Moorthy Temple
09. Thirumoozhikkalam Lakshmana Perumal Temple
10. Thirumittakkod Anchumoorthy Mangalam Temple
11. Thirunavaya Nava Mukunda Temple

The12 Azhwars   who  lived during the 5th-8th centuries AD,  glorified 108 Vishnu shrines  called Divya desam shrines and their devotional hymns on God Vishnu in chaste  Tamil are compiled as a collective religious work called  Nalayira Divya Prabandham containing 4000 verses extolling the virtues of God Vishnu and 108 shrines are revered in their work. The striking aspect is that they hail from different castes. Thondaradi Azhwar, Mathurakavi Azhwar, Peria azhwar and his daughter Andal were from Brahmin community and the rest were  from other communities. Divyadesam is often referred to as Tamil Vada. In all Vaishnavite temples, the priests following Thenkalai or Vadakalai sects Smprathayam)   chant the Divyadesam songs  regularly as part of Puja protocol and during  temple festivals.  

Of the 108 temples, 105 are in India, one is in Nepal, and the last two are believed to be outside the Earthly realms. They are spread across India  covering many states like  Tamil Nadu (85), Kerala (11), Andhra Pradesh (2), Gujarat (1), Uttar Pradesh (4), Uttarakhand (3). The only Divaya Desam shrine in Nepal is Muktinath- Saligramam. The foremost Divyadesam   shrine is Sri Ranganathar  temple at Srirangam near Tiruchi and it is the largest functional temple in the world. The temple covers an area of 155 acres (63 ha) with 81 shrines, 21 towers, 39 pavilions and several water tanks. The earliest structure dated back to 817 CE. This post covers four  Vishnu shrines. 

01. Thirunavaya Navamukunda Temple, Kerala :

Thirunavaya Navamukunda Temple, Kerala, Justdial.com 

Thirunavaya Navamukunda Temple en.wikipedia.org

This temple  at  Tirunavaya, Mallapuram dist is on the banks of the Bharatappuzha (River Ponnani), and th main deity is  Navamukundan (Narayana-Vishnu). For daily puj and festivals the water is drawn from the near-by river as this shrine has neither pond or water well for temple needs. The three temples dedicated to Brahma - Siva temples (Cherutirunavaya)  across the river Ponnani  is often referred to as  Trimurthi Sangama. It is popular place for offering tharpanam (thithi) for the ''pithrus'' - forefathers.

Here, the temple has a separate grabagriha (srikovil/sanctum) and differs from other temples where the god's consort  Goddess lakshmi gives dhashan together with the lord. Yet another interesting fact is here Mahamaham is celebrated every 12 years and the tradition has been around since the 8th century. In Tamil Nadu the temple town of Kumbakonam (thanjavur dist.) is the venue of Mahamaham every 12 years. 

It is quite unfortunate the temple faced the fury of Tipu Sultan of Mysore and his army during his raid in Kerala  in  the later part of the 18th century and later in 1921   during the Mappila Rebellion by the Muslims. The present temple built in Kerala style is being managed by Samutiri of Kozhikode (Zamorin of Calicut) as the managing trustee  under the govt. controlled  Malabar Devaswom Board,
02. Thrikkakara Vamanamoorthy Kshethram:

Thrikkakara Vamanamoorthy temple, Kerala. findmessages.com

Thrikkakara Vamanamoorthy Kshethram en.wikipedia.org

Thrikkakara Vamanamoorthy Temple  close to Ernakulam is dedicated to Lord Vamana/Vishnu. an avatar of Sri Vishnu. Being the origin of the most famous  10-day long Onam festival (month of August and September) of Kerala, this temple is the venue of the grand Onam feast in which people surpassing religion and casts participate in it with great interest.  Further, Thrikkakara is believed  to have been the abode of the King Mahabali. It is a colorful festival and during festivities the performing arts of Kerala such as Kathakili  are showcased  by live performances. when this place came under the control of the English company nd Marthanda Varma  from the Kochi kingdom, the onam festival continued without a break under the leadership of the Maharaja of Travancore by the local rulers (naduvazhis). It continued till India became free from the British rule. Since 861 common Era, this festival has been around according to temple records. 

Believed to have been established by God Parasurama, in this temple set in a picturesque  place the deity is dedicated to God Vamana, an incarnation of Vishnu. There is a main  deity of Sri Vishnu in the temple. The idol of Vamana ( a Brahmin dwarf) is depicted as preparing to place  his right  foot on the head of Mahabali.  On the walls of the inner temple complex walls  there is a series of thousands of lamps called Chuttuvilakku ('surrounding lamps)'. On estival dys these oil lamps are light. There are two temple ponds;  one is  the Kapilatheertham close to the temple and only temple priests can use them. The other being on the North  side outside the temple walls. It is for the Aaraattu temple ritual - ceremonial bath of the idol during Onam festival and, etc. There are three large mantaps/halls  for performing dances, weddings and holding Onam feast. During the 10 long Onam festival,  each day, the idol is colorfully decorated in the form of one of the ''Ten Avatars of Vishnu'',

The other major festivals celebrated here are Vishnu, Makara Sankranti, Navarathri and Saraswati Puja.
03. Thirumoozhikulam Sree Lakshmana Perumal temple, Kerala: 

Thirumoozhikulam Sree Lakshmana Perumal temple ,Kerala,en.wikipedia.org

Lakshmana Swamy temple,Thiru Moozhi Kkulam,Kerala, wikipedia

Thirumoozhikulam Sree Lakshmanaperumal temple in Thirumoozhikalam (Moozhikkulam) of Ernakulam district  is unique shrine where the main deity is  Sri Lakshmana, the second brother of God Rama (Vishnu incarnate) ShriVaishnava Azhwars especially  Nammalvar and Thirumangai Azhwar glorified this temple  in their devotional Tamil hymns (holy Nalareera Prabhdamam). Built in a serne picturesque place with  greenery in the Srikovil the main deity is Sri Lakshmana Perumal.holds the main sanctum dedicated to Lakshmana Perumal. Managed by  the Travancore Devaswom Board, the main10- day annual  festival falls in the Malayalam month of Medam (April/May).

One of the 13 Malai Naatu (Kerala/Chera) Divya Desams the temple is associated with the epic Ramayana. The  legend. has it when  Sri Rama and Lakshmana were in exile as ordered by their father king Dasaratha,  their brother Bharata, quite upset over his unexpected succession to the throne of Ayodhya, came to the forest to see his brothers. Upon seeing Bharata in their place, Lakshmana thought Bharata  would create mischief and decided to attack him. Later realizing his mistake and Bharat'a  abundant respect for Sri Rama Lakshmana felt ashamed. Both  Bhahata and Lakshmana together worshipped at  Tirumoozhikkalam. The name Tirumoozhikalam has its origin in this incident-  "tiru-mozhi-kalam" meaning ''place  where sweet words were uttered''.

Another legend has it that  during the great deluge (Pralayam) - at the end of the Dvapara Yuga, town Dvaraka was covered by the sea and the four idols of Sree Rarma, Bharatha, Lakshmana and Shathrughna which Lord Sree Krishna worshipped, were also  submerged in the sea. Centurie late the idols were washed ashore  near  Thriprayar.  The local fishermen found the idols and handed over them to the ruler Vakkay Kaimal Naduvazhi.The ruler also had  a strange dream that night about the idols on near the  beach..   Vakkay Kaimal, The ruler had the idols installed reverentially in  four temples as directed in the dream; Rama at Thriprayar, Bharata at Irinjalakuda, Lakshmana at Moozhikkulam and Shathrughna at Payammal. 

In this part of Kerala  the belief  has been that if a devotee  undertakes the pilgrimage and visits all the four shrines on the same day itself in the Malayalam  month of Karkidakam (15 July to 15 August) - the Ramayana Masam,  he will attain salvation and be free from sins committed so far. Devotees in  thousands  undertake this holy  pilgrimage, with religious fervor.and it  is popularly known as "Nalambalam Yatra" -  a holy trip  to four temples (Nalambalam).. Further in this place at the request of sage  Harita God  Vishnu to establish in the Kali Yuga (in whic people would commit all kinds of sins) Varnashrama Dharma,  uttered the sacred words,; hence this place came to be known as  as Thirumoozhikalam.

04. Sreevallabha Temple, Thirunalla, Kerala:

  Sreevallabha Temple , Thiruvalla, Kerala, rgyan.com

Sreevallabha Temple, located close to Ramapuram and just 2.5 km from  Thiruvalla railway (Pathanmthitta district)  station and roughly 2 km from KSRTC bus stand, is one of the oldest  Hindu  temples in India.  Dedicated to Sri Vishnu who is known as Sreevallabhan, this Divayadesam shrine is steeped  in history. The Vaishnavite Azhwars (saints)  Nammalvar of the 5th century AD and Thirumangai Azhwar  of the 9th century AD  had glorified this temple in their works in the Tamil Canon  Nalaayera Thivyaprabhandam. The 10 the century AD devotional work of Sreevallabha Ksethra Mahathmyam glorified this temple. A unique distinction of this  temple is that  Kathakali dance is performed daily as a ritualistic offering to the almighty. Kathakali Puja is  at  10 pm to 1 am at night. It is the only Hindu temple in India where the largest number of Kathakali performances are staged every year. Lots of devotees come to this temple to get blessed by the deity. This temple at Thiruvalla  known for its orthodoxy and strict adherence to temple temple  Sastras, creates distinctive ambiance,  enhancing the divinity and sanctity  of the place of worship.. 

This Vallabha shetram is mentioned in Garuda  and Matsya Puranas. Inscriptions in the temple suggest that the temple for Sudarshana Chakra, an important part of Sri Vishnu temples was installed way back in  2998 BCE. Historians point out that   Sreedevi Antherjanam of Sankramangalathu Illam (a Namboodri family) built the  temple for Sudarshana Chakra  and in 59 BCE Queen Cherumthevi  (wife of King Cheraman Perumal) renovated and expanded the temple for the benefits of local people. In no other temples  one can worship both  lord Vishnu and lord Sudarsana  together under the same roof.

This place of worship  by AD 1100  was once an important center for education and spiritual knowledge.  Sri Vallabhan temple maintained a Vedic school with more than 1200 students (Vidhyarthis) and as many as 150 teachers (Adyabika). Courses in Vedanta, Ayurveda, Jyotisha, Kalaripayattu etc., were offered to the students. The temple also  managed an Ayurvedic hospital to treat 100 patients at a time. Obviously this ancient center of education played no less role in the growth and development of education and culture native to Kerala.  Here, Sri Vishnu incarnated as Brahmachari Vallabhan  at the request of sage Durvasa  and   Khandakarnan.to eliminate demon  Thokalaasuran. who terrorized the people and the saintly.  In this temple that follows altogether different puja protocol, etc., for a pretty long period. it is said, the deity in the Srikovil was once worshipped by Goddess Lakshmi and Sri Krishna. in 59 BCE.  When the temple was managed by  Pathillathil Pottimar  (Brahmins of ten families), between 1752-1753, the ruler of Travancore Marthanda Varma assisted by his dewan  Ramayyan Dalawa  not only took over the control of the temple from the Pottimar  but also thousands of acres of land owned by the temple, It is said, dewan  Ramayyan Dalawa, who was close to the ruler, looted the whole temple assets and transferred them  to Thiruvananthapuram.. Since 1968  women  and also elephants have been allowed to enter the temple.  However, women   were allowed only during Thiruvathira of Dhanu month and Vishnu of Medam till then.  Apparently, from the present generation point of view, it was a male bastion .50 years ago.