Pandalam Valiyakoikkal Sastha temple from where ''Thiruvabharanam'' procession starts

Pandalam Valiyakoikkal Sastha temple

Pandalam  Valiyakoikkal Sastha  temple  that lies in between Thottakkonam and Mulampuzha villages of Pandalam is a small but an important temple that becomes active during the Mandala puja of Sri Ayyappa temple, Sabarimala. It is believed  Lord Ayyappa  protects the devotees from  evil spirits in  the forests. At Pandalam  special poojas are conducted and Ayyappan Vilakku  conducted on the first Saturday of Vrischikam attracts lots of devotees. The temple closes at night after the Athazhapooja.

Pandalam Valiyakoikkal Sastha temple

Situated on the banks of Achankovil river, Pandalam Valiyakoikkal Sastha temple was the family  temple of the Pandalam royal family. The shrine within the Padalam palace compound was built by  Rajasekhara Raja for nithya puja of God Ayyappan after his return from Ayyappa temple. This temple is being managed by the Pandalam palace.

Pandalam Valiyakoikkal Sastha temple

This small and simple  temple is  built in traditional old Kerala style of architecture. What is quite interesting is instead of an idol of god Shastha, a saligrama stone is installed in the sanctum.  The Saligrama stone is widely revered by the Vaishvanites as it contains chakra, geologically speaking these stones mostly found in Nepal in the foot hills of the Himalayas  are fossils of  Ammonites  that lived millions of years ago in the sea. The whorls appear as chakra, hence the stone is  believed to carry divinity. 

The Annual  holy Thiruvabharanam religious procession  to  Sabarimala carrying gold jewelry to be worn by the god  begins from this temple every year on 28th of dhanu  before the Makaravilakku festival hosted in the month of Makaram. The  holy jewels Thiruabrnams are safely kept in  Srambical palace. The procession  normally escorted by the armed police and Travancore Devaswom Board employees, will set off from Pandalam on January 12 afternoon so  that jewels will be made available for the madala puja of God Ayyappan.

 The ceremonial procession starts from Valiya Koyikkal Sastha Temple at Pandalam.   The Thiruvabharanam was an offering to the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple by the king of the erstwhile royal kingdom of Pandalam, who is also believed to be the foster father of Lord Ayyappa.  Raja Rajasekara Verma was the adopted father of Lord Ayyappa (beginning of Kollam era). 

During the annual festival time, people are allowed to worship the sacred gold ornaments and  the jewels  on display for  a week or so in the  Srambical palace  before  Thiruvabharanam  event, even four days prior to it, lots of people visit the place for prayer. The Palace strong room will be normally  opened  toward the end of December  afternoon for the devotees to worship the Thiruvabharanam either on their way to Sabarimala or on their way back from the holy hillock. The darshan time is from 5.30 am to 8 pm, according to palace sources.

Thiruvabharanam  procession  is a popular event in the state of Kerala and people in thousands worship the God's gold ornaments all along the way.  After the mandala puja, the jewels will be returned to the palace safely to be kept in the strong room under lock and key  to be taken out  for the next year's event. The annual pilgrimage to the Ayyappa Temple will come to a close after the Athazhapuja on January 19.  The temple will be closed immediately after the customary darshan by the royal representative on January 20 morning

Pandalam Valiyakoikkal Sastha temple plays a crucial role during the annual mandala puja festival.