Vaikom Shiva temple and God's three aspects, Kerala

Vaikom Shiva

Vaikum Shiva temple, Flag
Vaikom Shiva Temple of
Vaikom Shiva Temple of Kerala is a popular place of veneration and is an important  pilgrimage site. The temple, along with Ettumanoor Siva Temple, Kaduthuruthy Thaliyil Mahadeva Temple  is considered a powerful trisome.  Here the image of  Lord Shiva is  benign  and the devotees  come to this temple for his blessings both in the morning and in the evening. The  belief has been  that if a devotee worships at these three temples before 'Uchikala (noon) pooja', all the wishes are fulfilled. In this temple town he is  endearingly called Lord of Vaikom or Perumthri kovilappan or simply Vai-katnappan.  The life of people here is intimately  associated with the main deity because he is 'Annadana Prabhu.'
Vaikom Shiva Temple,
The temple covers an area of  nearly eight acres. The temple elliptical in shape,  is topped with a cone-shaped roof  covered with copper and crowned by a dazzling gold stupi.  The uttupura or the Annadhana hall  is on the northern side and beyond the temple-tank. Ther four gateways  are simple in appearance and are not massive. The 317-foot-high  Dwajastambha (Flag staff) is gold-covered and is facing the main  shrine as in other temples. The prakara or pathway round the shrine is well paved for the smoth progress of procession in which the God's idol (Utchavar) is taken out. Like many temples, this one has Anakottil where the elephants are kept  in line for the temple procession. There  is a raised platform in  front of the garbhagriha  or the mtikhamandapam, square in shape, where the stone image of Nandi (Bull) is placed. Beyond it are corridors or pillared halls all round the sanctum and the mukhamandapam. The whole edifice is rectangular in shape and on its exterior are columns of lamps vilakkumatam fixed firmly on  wooden framework covered with steel trellis works.

Legend has it according to The Vyaghrapuri Mahatmya of the Bhargava Purana about  the history and divinity of the deity of Vaikom. Demon Khara (asura), of the Ramayana, attained special  Yogic powers through years of severe penance(tapasya). On the advice of  `Malyavan` the preceptor of the asuras, he propitiated Nataraja at Chidambaram
for attainment of Moksha(heavenly abode). Lord Shiva was pleased by his devotion  and happily granted him several boons and also three Shiva-Lingas. 

Demon Khara by keeping the Lingas,  one in each hand and the third in his mouth,  journeyed through the sky southward. Midway,  because of fatigue, he descended on the earth for brief rest. He set the Linga in his right hand at a sacred spot, knee-deep in water. After rest, before resuming his onward journey he tried to remove the Linga but he could  not move it. Again he tried hard and it was of no avail. In the mean time saint Vyaghrapada went by that route and Kara requested him to take care of the Linga and proceeded to Ettumanur, 25 km away, where he installed the linga kept in his left hand. The one in the mouth was  placed at Kaduthuruthy, midway between the two places. So, in the process, the three lingas given by Lord Nataraja (Shiva) to demon Kara  were in the three different places namely Vaikom, Kaduthuruthy and Ettumanur. Hence they became  sanctified simultaneously. The belief has been that if you visit and pray to all three lingas at the three different places  on the same day  it is good for the welfare of the family.

Another legend has it that  Parasurama, an incarnation of Vishnu who, it is strongly believed, had consecrated several temples sacred to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu for the spiritual well-being of the people of Kerala. Prasurama is said to have consecrated the linga in knee-deep water. at Vaikom as per  Sankarshana rites.The five feet tall Linga is installed on 2 foot platform. According to legend after installation, Parasurama brought Brahmins to carry on the temple puja rituals as per various rites to enhance and preserve the sanctity and divinity of the idol. Devotees, who  offer Belva leaves or place a coin on the idol, will be free from the rigors of yet another cycle of birth  and death - perpetual salvation.

In the sanctum the linga image is decorated with flowers, including  rare jewels and Trinetras or Siva`s three eyes and crescents.

Unlike many Shiva temples,  the unique feature of Vaikom Shiva temple is the  Lord  brings out  three of his aspects during the day: 1. First in the morning till panthirati pooja he is Dakshinamoorti. He imparts  divine wisdom to all sages and saints. He is the embodiment of ultimate knowledge in human form jnana swaroopa. One obtains wisdom and intellect in the morning worship. 2. In the noon till ucchikala (noon) pooja, he is in the form of Kirata hunter fighting with his greatest warrior devotee Arjuna to test him if he deserves the weapon-the Pasupata astram. This is propitious for bathing the deity and those who want success in anything obtain it by worshiping him now. 3. In the evening the Lord is Satchidananda - the ultimate goal of every devotee - renunciation, be he an ascetic or a family man. The Lord is blissful,
in ecstasy,- ananda, in the embrace of his consort Parvati. He is  freely approachable  for his divine  blessings. 

Vaikkath Asthami is the main   known festival at this temple. Other temple festivals are also observed with devotion and dedication.