Sree Vaikom Mahadeva temple, Kerala - popular ''Vaikkath Ashtami'' festival and its origin

Vaikom Mahadeva temple, Kerala.

Vaikom Vrichika Ashtami festival, Kerala.

Located in the center of the town -Vaikom of Kottayam district the Shiva temple dedicated to Mahadeva ( also fondly called Vaikkathappan) is a popular place of pilgrimage.  The town was in the forefront decades  during India's freedom struggle and  it was the center of Vaikom Satyagraham, a massive civil rights movement  to throw open the public roads  for  all sections of society to reach the  Vaikom Shiva Temple. To countless devotees of this region,  it is as holy as the Kasi Visvanath temple of Varanasi, UP -  Dakshinakasi of the south.

Vaikom town, kottayam dist. Kerala,

This temple where tantric rituals are conducted by two Nambudiri  families, the most popular festival being Vaikathashtami  on the day of Vrichika Ashtami (as per Malayalam calendar;  the eight day after full moon day.  The month Vrischikam corresponds  to the months of November / December.  Falling in the month of December annually, the entire town wears a festive look . It is a  twelve-day annual festival rich in traditional culture and ethos of Kerala and is clebrated with religious fervor and dedication.

Vaikom Vrichika Ashtami

Classical art forms such as Kathakali. Mohiniattam, Panchavadyam, classical  music concerts, other various naive dance recitals and  pageantry mark the festivities that will keep the entire town busy. The classical dance performances will be on the 8th or 9th day. The final day of the festival is an interesting one and it will include a religious procession. The caparisoned elephant will carry the symbolic replica of  God Shiva thidambu on its back  and is kept in the Anakottil  Deities from other temples in a procession will join the Anakottil. It is followed by a ceremony called Kannikiduka offering of present is performed.  The festival concludes with Arattu - holy bath or therthvari at udayanapuram, abode of God Karthikeya (subramanya).  

Thadambu-replica of deity, Kerala.

The origin of Vrichika Ashtami festival is an interesting one and the legend has it that once demon Khara on the advice of  Malayavan did  prolonged penance and meditation on God Shiva at Chidambaram to get liberation/ salvation.  At last, God Shiva granted him three lingas out of him and asked him to worship them for moksha. Upon his return from the Himalayas when he was passing thru the present site now part of Vaikom, he took a break from fatigue and rested for a while.  When resuming  his journey  demon Khara was unable to move the lingam and at the same time he heard divine  heavenly voice (asareeri). "I shall remain here giving Moksha (salvation) to whoever takes refuge in Me!"  Pleased as he was,  he handed over the lingams to sage Vyaghrapada who tailed him invisibly without his knowledge.   

The famous Vaikkathashtami festival on the day of Vrichika Ashtami  owes its origin on the day God Shiva and his consort Parvati appeared before  sage Vyaghrapada and said,   "This place shall be known as Vyaghrapadapurma" Years later  great Parasurama saw the lingams partly submerged in the waters and immediately  understood its divinity.  He made special efforts and consecrated the lingas  with relevant mantras. Subsequently, to continue the traditions and customs, he entrusted the temple to a devout  Brahmin family. Since then the puja rituals  at the vaikom temple have been going on as per norms  laid down by Parasurama.