Popular Ernakulathappan (Shiva) temple, Kerala

Ernakulam Shiva Temple, KochiLet's See India

Ernakulam Shiva Temple, GoRoadTrip

The Ernakulam Shiva Temple, frequently referred to as Ernakulathappan (literally meaning lord of Ernakulam) Temple is  a popular one in the state of Kerala. Located in the prime area of the city -  within the Durbar Hall Ground  - it was built under the active participation  of  Diwan Sri Edakkunni Sankara Warrier in 1846. Built on a plot of about one acre of land, the temple later attained the status of the temple of the Cochin Royal  family. Here, the presiding deity is  Lord Shiva, who is believed to be the protector of the city and the people living there. It was one of the 7 royal temples patronized by the  Kochi Maharajahs  and  has been under the management of   the Cochin Devasom Board since 1949 when Cochin joined the Indian Union after independence. Among the major Shiva temples of Kerala, this one occupies an important place.  This temple is considered to have been founded by  Cheranalloor Kartha Family of South Chittoor.
Ernakulam, Kerala Maps of India

The temple legend has it that once Shiva accompanied by Parvathi was on his way to meet Arjuna, one of the Pandava brothers who had been meditating on the lord with intense devotion. Shiva took the guise of a tribal hunter named Kiratha to prove Arjuna' devotion to him. Before seeing Arjuna he saw a wild boar charging at Arjuna and the lord shot an arrow at the boar. At the same time, Arjuna, upon seeing the boar, shot an arrow at it. The boar, in reality, was a demon called
Mookasura who died instantly. Soon a battle was in the making between the hunter and Arjuna as to who was the real  killer of the animal and, at last, the hunter Kiratha became victorious after a long-drawn battle. Soon, grief-stricken Arjuna made a Shiva linga and showered flowers on it. To his utter astonishment, he saw the flowers falling on the tribal hunter. Arjuna realized that the tribal hunter was none other than Lord Shiva himself. In appreciation his devotion, Lord Shiva granted Pashupatha Arrow to Arjuna. After the departure of Arjuna from this area, this place became a dense wooded area and there was no human habitation and the Linga made by Arjuna also disappeared.

Centuries later, a boy named Devla with part of his  body resembling a snake accidentally saw the Shiva lingam and began to worship  it in the hope of getting cured from the curse cast on him by a sage. Despite interruptions by the people crossing the forest, he continued to pray to Shiva. The people called him Rishinagam and at last Shiva appeared before him and asked him to take a dip in the nearby pond. After the dip in the water the boy was relieved of the curse  and got back the original form.  A strange thing had happened, the mud lingam became an idol.  Based on this legend, the place got its new name, Rishnagakulam (The pond of Rishi Nagam) and the temple was constructed by the public.

As for its antiquity, Sangam literature made a mention of this temple. Chera rulers patronized this place and later when the Chera dynasty became powerless, the place came under the control of some Nair nobles who changed the name of this place to Ernakulam, (presumably derived from  Eere Naal Kulam meaning Pond with water always) implying the earlier existence of a holy pond 

Because of political compulsion, after siege of Fort Kochi by the Dutch forces in the 17th century, the rulers of Kochi shifted their capital to Eranakulam, built the palace near the temple. With the palace around, the temple under the patronage of the rulers grew in stature. The deity is considered as the Nagara Devata - the savior of the city.
The temple was in poor condition and needed  major repair works. In 1842 Diwan of Kochi, Sri Edakkunni Sankara Warrier  took the initiative and the restoration work started in 1843. The additions included two gopurams - towers on the model of  Sree Poornathrayesa Temple of Tripunithura which was the Chief Royal temple of Kochi Maharajas. The design was in typical Kerala syle. The new temple complex was opened to public in 1846.

Adorned in the Sri Kovil / Garbagaraha (sanctum sanctorum), is a Swayambhoo (self-manifested) form of Lord Shiva called  Gourisankara, facing west.  In the main  sanctum of  the small shrine  lies the original lingam once worshiped by Arjuna. Lots of People worship this original Shiva lingam  On the sides, three are shrines dedicated to Ganesha and  goddess Parvati and they can accessed through East gate called Devi Gate.  Shrines for Lord Ayyappa and Nagaraja are  an integral part of the temple located in the inner prakara. Like in many Kerala temple, the temple puja protocols start in the early morning around 4 AM and the last puja time is 8 PM

The circular sanctum has fine sculpted walls and copper tiled roof. The temple is accessed through two gates. The western Gopuram is a two-tiered  structure with gabled roofs and slanting windows  typical of Kerala style of temple design. The eastern  entrance gopuram is  very much close to the western one  in appearance. The recent additions included a  Kalayana mantap - new marriage hall and Oottupura (dining hall) for the convenience of the worshipers.

Here, the temple festivals are celebrated with great fanfare and devotion. The festivals held in November- December attract thousands of people. 

 The other popular Shiva temples in Kerala are the Ettumanoor Mahadevar Temple, Kaduthruthy Mahadeva Temple, Vaikom Temple, Chengannur Mahadeva Temple and Vadakkunathan temple 

As for the Shiva temple in Ernakulam, it is worth mentioning the valuable services rendered by the  Ernakulam Kshethra Kshema Samith. They bought the adjacent properties and were instrumental in making  the temple  a popular one in Kerala.