Lord Shiva in search of bull - Kanthalloor Mahadev temple

Shiva's bull, Bragadeshwar temple thanjavur. en.wikipedia.org
Above image: Decorated Nandhi at Thanjavur big temple, Tamil Nadu. It is the second largest bull in India made from  a single block of rock-- this one is believed to be granite and its related type, Monolithic. More tha 1000 year old. temple priests do puja on the Pradosha days and the Nandi is nicely decorated with flowers, etc. It is a regular ritual at all Shiva temple..................................
Vallasala Kanthalloor Sri Mahadevar Temple harekrsna.com
Above image: At the Valiyasala Shiva temple, the god's mount Nandi is missing. His place is vacant. It is a rare Shiva temple with no Nandi.............
Valiyasala Mahadeva temple in Valiyasala in Thiruvanthapuram district is a popular temple dedicated to Trinity Gods. The temple also goes by the name of  Kanthalloor Mahadevar Temple  which is  spread over four and a half acres of land set in a serene ambiance. The main deity Lord Shiva graces from the main Srikovil / garbagraha and the other major shrines are dedicated to Brahma (here he is Rudra Shiva) and  to Mahavishnu The temple complex, besides  three  large shrines. also has  eight  small shrines, dedicated to other deities. 

The temple's origin, it seems, has close connection with the fierce battle fought by Chera and Pandya rulers on one side and Chola ruler on the other side. In the wake of the war, all the three kings who tried to subdue the other got killed, leaving their wives in a state of despair and grief. Inconsolable as they were over the loss of their husbands, they plunged into the funeral pyre and committed SATI. It is believed, out of this funeral pyre emerged Shivalinga, jwala Mahadevar (Shiva, risen from flames) bright and resplendent with lot of heat. To contain the raging inferno and its effects, and to pacify lord Shiva, the idols of Brahma and Vishnu were installed in the vicinity. Thus this temple has the unique distinction of having all the trinity gods - Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma  - Trimurti in the same place. 

Mahabaleswar temple,MH,see the bull. Age Fotostock
Above image: Ancient temple made of black stones dedicated to lord Shiva with Nandi bull at entrance ; old Mahableshwar ; Maharashtra ; India. At all Shiva temples across India, normally Nandi (bull) is placed near the entrance of the temple, facing the main shrine of Shiva. ...........................

Just like other temple legends, this one has no historical records to support it. The 17th - century royal records  with respect to this temple refer to the temple as Jwala Mahadevar'. However,  historical and archaeological records point out this temple is far older than  this period. 

As to the date of construction of this temple, the general consensus has been that it dates back to the 7th century.  According to Mathilakam records (official records of the Padmanabhaswamy temple), Kanthalloor dates back to the 7th century AD. Chola inscriptions from the time of Rajaraja Chola (985 -1016 AD) also refer to Kanthalloor.  An inscription belonging to Rajendra Chola, discovered on the rear wall of the sanctum, puts the date of origin of this temple before 1045 AD. The earliest record being that of the Parthivapuram Pattayam (a historical record) of 866 A.D.

The three major shrines are in the inner courtyard. - all with the slopping conical roof with copper plate. The smallest one is that of Brahma at the center, flanked on either side by the shrines of Vishnu and Shiva. Vishnu's shrine  is a two-story structure. All have  the traditional `Mukhamandapa'or frontal pavilion.
The unusual feature of Shiva's shrine is the absence of Nandi - bull (in Sanskrit: Rishbham) in the front portion. Without nandi, the place looks strange  and a sense of emptiness comes over our mind. You seldom see a Shiva temple without his inseparable mount Bull / Rishabha vahanam mostly  sitting in a relaxing posture happily facing the lord of dance. Nandimantap along with nandi is an integral part of any Shiva temple. In some places, mantap may be missing, but positively not nandi. How come nandi is missing here? Where is he taking shelter? Surprisingly, nandi, which is supposed to be in front of Shiva's abode,  is in the pavilion facing the shrine of Brahma (in the form of a Shivalinga/ Rudra Shiva). Nandi in front of Brahma's shrine? Unlike Shiva and Vishnu, there are few temples in India dedicated to Brahma.The presence of Nandi  facing Brahma' raises our curiosity and compels us to get to  the bottom of this odd thong. The presence of nandi in the wrong place, in the past  put the temple rituals out of gear according to temple records. At Shiva's shrine, conducting Pradosham without Rishabam/ nandi became a controvercial issue. The recalcitrant nandi's pranks caused confusion and put the temple board in a tight situation. 

According to one version: Concerned about  his bull's adamant, but playful  attitude, which was quite unusual, Shiva sympathetically looking for him by visiting many places closer to the village of Thaliyal, on the banks of the river Karamana. In order to pacify the errant nandi, with a compromising gesture, Shiva, along with Parvati appeared before him and offered him food and asked him to take his permanent residence in his place. This great event is remembered every year and in memory of this incident, to this day, during the annual Kanthalloor festival, Shiva, accompanied by Vishnu and Brahma, stops by at the Thaliyal Shiva temple. This is done  to offer food to nandi and thereafter he proceeds for `aarattu' (the ceremonial bath) in the Thaliyal temple pond.
Thaliyil Mahadeva temple, Kerala Kerala Tourism
 Above image: Every year the procession carrying the idol of Shiva stops at this temple. Lord Shiva feeds the errant bull and asks him to come back his abode................ 

The other version is as follows:  The temple priests come up with their own story which is more or less interpretive and it does not show the bull in good light. As a school boy playing truant, the bull also played truant, frequently leaving the temple premises secretly in the dead of night, in search of greener pastures and be free from temple duty and returning to the temple before sunrise. This having become   habitual, his nocturnal roaming in the nearby fields went unnoticed. One day, things went berserk for him. Bull became confused over the sunrise and it was embarrassingly too late for him to return to  Kanthalloor. So what he did was he chose the available space in a hurry bury at the Thaliyal temple.

That he chose the spot right before shrine of Ganapathi, instead of Shiva at Thaliyal, confirms this convincing interpretation. Lord Shiva of Kanthalloor is still in perpetual pursuit of Nandi to get him to his place.


01. In those days women were forbidden to enter the temple and presently, such restrictions are not there. 

02. This temple was used as a place of gathering by Ettuveettil Pillimar to conspire against the Maharajah of Travancore Marthanda Varman.

03. In the enmity between Travancore ruler and Ettuveettil Pillimar  group, the temple became a center of conspiracy and one of the members put a spell on the ruler of Travancore.

04. In 1749 AD, Marthanda Varman renovated the temple to nullify the evil effects cast by the Ettuveettil Pillimar and his supporters. 

05. Ever since this controversy over this temple, the descendants  of Anizhom Thirunal Marthanda Varma  have never visited Valiyasala Temple for centuries.