- Religion and Philosophy
History of Kachamkurissi Temple - Part II
A Prayer to Lord Venketesa
Ohm Namo Bhagavathe Vasudevaya
Shreemath kashyapa taapase namahataha
Kshetre hasyapa samjite vijayate
Yah sreenivaso vyayaha
Bhakthaa namaghilaartha kalpkatarum
Kaarunya pattho nidhim
Bhoomee bharaharaavthara managham
Shree kasyavesham bhaje
Thiru Kachamkurissi Temple
Thiru Kachamkurissi Temple is located at the foot of the Anamalai range of the Western Ghats, at Payyalore of Kollengode in Palakkad district of Kerala. Located midway between Palakkad (Kerala) and Pollachi (Tamil Nadu), life in this area exemplifies that of a frontier town, a mixture of two cultures.
The legends of the temple speaks of the peace and tranquil place that led sage Kashyapa to meditate in its hilly surroundings. Also known as ‘Tenkasi’, Mahavishnu sits on the Ananda accompanied by Bhoomidevi and Lakshmidevi in this temple. It is believed that the construction of this temple dates back even before Guruvayoor Temple.
Stalapuranam (History of the place)
In the year 1905, while searching the old collection of thali ola (palm leaves inscribed with stories using iron pencils), the then Raja of Vengunat Desam found the details about Kashyapa Temple written in “Nagakshara”. He then rearranged and edited the scriptures. The collection consisted of 29 parts. The Raja got the whole scripture printed.
The details given in the writings very clearly establish the greatness of the idols, the ancient origin of the temple, the names of the idols worshipped, the administrators of the temple and a short history of ‘Vengunat Palace’. The details of other temples situated in the locality of Kashyapa temple, the names of villages and rivers were also found mentioned. The festival conducted in the month of ‘Vaishakha’ (April – May) also was described elaborately. Description of a major event called “Ariyittu Vaycha” on which day the crowning of Vengunat Raja takes place inside the temple was also mentioned in the writings.
The crowning ceremony was very elaborate and colourful. Festivities were arranged as part of the ceremony. Priests chanted vedic mantras invoking ‘Indra’ to get his blessings upon the Raja. It was believed that after getting the “power” of Indra, the King had to lead a different lifestyle. These rituals were followed till a few years back.
For the holy sacrifice (yagna) conducted by the priests across Kerala, the herbal oblations like Soma (Somalatha), Karingaali, Krishna mriga charmam (skin of deer) were provided solely by the Raja of Vengunat. It was his right to supply these materials for the yagna. It is believed that these rights were conferred to the Raja of Vengunat by Parashurama (a saint) himself. The incidents that show the connection between Parashurama and the Raja of Vengunat is also found described in ‘Skanda Purana’. This shows the deeprooted cultural and spiritual heritage of Vengunat Raja and Kashyapa Temple.
Based on our Hindu culture and tradition, and as envisaged by our ancient saints, devotees should adhere to the path of certain code of conduct. Poojas and yagas are also conducted likewise. According to our venerable saints, there are two types of worshipping – sagunaaradhanna and nirgunaaradhana. ‘Saguna’ means worshipping God after attributing the divinity on idols. ‘Nirguna’ means experiencing God with only ‘Brahma’ as the medium. In the present Kaliyuga, sagunaaradhanna has attained more importance because it involves temples, festivals, idols of different gods, chanting of mantras and strotras; the methods of which is easy to follow by devotees. Chanting of mantras, japaas, if practiced regularly, a sense of satisfaction of realization of god is easily felt.
It is worth mentioning that the trustees of the temple are strictly following all methods of poojas and other rituals depicted by holy saints of ancient times without making any changes.
Kerala is known as the land of Temples. A detailed description of the temples of Kerala is seen in ‘Skandapurana’. Kashyapa temple is also known as the ‘Southern Kasi’. Two very noble namboothiri families - cherukunnam mana and cherambatta mana were originally given the trusteeship of the temple under the patronage of the Raja of Kollengode. This system was introduced years back and is still being followed. Vengunat became Kollengode. Thiru Kacham kurissi Perumal is also worshipped as ‘Venkitesan’. All these historical facts could be seen in the copper sheet covering the flag mast of the temple. Even the cruel warrior Tipu Sultan was said to be astounded on seeing and knowing the details of the history of the temple. The divine brightness emanating from the temple subdued Tipu and he had changed his mind from a destroyer to a well wisher of the temple. He had gifted a very big area of fertile land to the temple and even now the land is exempted from land tax by the concerned authorities.
The shrine has all the features of the traditional kerala temple - dwajastambam, mukhamandapam, namaskaramandapam, sreekovil, and chuttambalam. There is also a kokarni, the well and a temple tank.
1) Dawn (Usha) pooja :- Malar, Thrimadhuram, and Ghee Payasam are used.
2) Morning Pooja: - White Nivedhyam is offered and Sheeveli is done.
3) Pandeeradi Pooja: - White Nivedhyam.
4) Noon (Uchcha) Pooja:- White Nivedhyam and Palpayasam
5) Evening (Deeparadhana) Pooja: - Idol can be clearly seen by the devotees when arati is done with 3/5/7 bright lamps joined together.
6) Athazha (Dinner) Pooja:- White Nivedhyam
After the “sheeveli”, the sanctum sanctorum is closed for the day.
Festivals performed in different months and properties used:-
(1) Karkidagam - Nira and Ganapathy Pooja.
(2) Chingam – Puthari
(3) Kanni – Navarathri poojas
(4) Thulam – Reciting of Ramayanam, Bhagavatham, etc. ‘Karuthavavu’( New Moon Day) of Thukam is celebrated with special poojas.The agricultural commodities cultivated in the vicinity of the temple are offered to Perumal by the devotees during the month.
(5) Vrischikam – Manadala Vaarams are celebrated for 44 days along with chanting of veda mantras.
(6) Dhanu – Usha pooja with ‘cherupayar payasam’.
Apart from this, ‘Thiruvona vaaram’ is observed every month.
Festival lasts for 10 days. It starts on ‘attam’ day in the month of Vaisakham (April – May) and goes on till the ‘thiruvonam’ day. Flag hoisting takes place on attam day. Sree bootabali lasts for three days with white nivedhyam. Next three days is niramala and kazhcha sheeveli. Elephant procession is the main attraction of sheeveli. Ninth day is ‘pallivetta’. On that day evening, the decorated idol of Perumal is taken out for procession till Kollengode Ayyapa temple. After the poojas at the Ayyapa temple, the procession proceeds back. On the way back, the idol was given a grand reception at the Vengunat palace. The devotees from all the houses on the way pay their tributes to Perumal with ‘Bhadra deepam’, ‘Nira Para’ and ‘Vilakku’ lit in front of their houses. Perumal is supposed to go to bed (Palli urakkam) after the ‘palli veta’.
The next morning, the deity wakes up early morning hearing the cry of a calf. Arattu festivities begin with this ritual. The idol of Perumal is bathed with milk (palabhishekam). Manjalneerattu and the morning arattu is conducted inside the temple; thereafter, the regular poojas starts. Melam, panchavaadhyam, sheeveli, prasada uuttu, arattu ezhunallathu (procession) follows. After the ‘arattu kuli’(deity’s bathing), deity returns to the temple accompanied by paandimelam. The same day, i.e. the tenth day evening, the flag is lowered and the ceremonial bathing of the idol takes place, signifying the end of festivities and is called ‘araatu’. Vedikettu is followed by the ‘kodiyirakkam’.
During the festival, devotional songs are accompanied by percussion instruments like veena, thampuru, mridangam, violin, etc. Nagaswaram accompanied by Thakil played by vidvans from Tamil desam. Traditional art forms like tayambaka, chakyarkoothu, padakam, ottamthullal and kathakali are undertaken by prominent artists. Feast is served everyday during the festival.
- History of Thiru Kachamkurissi Temple
Kerala is known as the land of Temples. Kashyapa temple is also known as the ‘Southern Kasi’. Thiru Kacham kurissi Perumal is worshipped as ‘Venkitesan’.
As you all know the great saint, Shukan was the son of Vyasa maharishi, who had saved the King Parikshit by giving him moksha (spiritual liberation). Shukan overheard the holy discussions between Shukan and Raja Parikshit, went to nymishisharanyam and narrated the whole story of devotion to Shounakas of the aranyam. During his narration, he explained about Kashyapa temple. A detailed version of the greatness of the temple situated in Kollengode desam was given by Shukan. A mention of Mahabharatha is also found in this description. While narrating the story of Pandavas, they met Garga muni during their exile and he also talked about this temple to the Pandavas. As per this story, the ancient name of Palakkad (Palghat) was “Vidara Bhoomy”. Garga muni told about Vengunat which was surrounded by Sahya mountain, Malaya mountain, Vilva mountain and Aana mala (Elephant Hills). All other details which were given in this book were actually from the conversation between Garga muni and Yuddhishtra.
Kashyapa temple was situated between the rivers - Ikshumathy and Gayathri. This temple also is known as Venkitesh temple and shares the same greatness as that of the Sree Ranga temple. It is believed that Lord Shiva once praised Lord Venkitesh of Kashyapa temple saying that those devotees after taking bath in the holy pond behind the temple and pray Lord Venkitesh would certainly attain self realization, provided their devotion is pure and wholehearted. They will also get the required status to reach Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva.
It is said that even prominent devas like Indra go to the temple of Venkitesh during the dead hours of the night. They play instruments while chanting mantras. Hearing all these stories, Yudhishtra asked Garaga muni as to why Kashyapa had founded such a temple in a remote place on top of Govinda Hills. Garga replied that Kashyapa, the grandson of Brahma, was a staunch devotee of Vishnu. He had married two noble ladies – Dithi and Adithi, from the southern part of Bharatha desam. Once Kashyapa and his wives were wandering through the forests of the south, they visited Govinda hills. The serene atmosphere had attracted them. Kashyapa started severe tapas after selecting a suitable place on top of Govinda hills. The sage realized that at last, he had found a suitable place to perform penance uninterrupted. He made an ashram (spiritual hermitage) and stayed there along with his wives. During his tapas, he was kept chanting ‘Om Namo Narayana’ for a very long time. At last, pleased with his ardent devotion, Vishnu appeared before him and as a boon; he was given an opportunity to be born as Brahma in his next birth. Once the whole earth was drowned in water. Then Vishnu appeared and saved the earth. During that time, Kashyapa was born as Brahma, holding the ‘veda rasi’ from the navel of Vishnu.
Legend has it that during the creation, the demons Madhu-Kaitabha stole the Vedas from Brahma and disappeared under the deep sea. Vishnu then took the Hayagreeva (a horse-headed avatar of the god Vishnu) form to recover them. The two bodies of Madhu and Kaitabha disintegrated into twelve pieces (two heads, two torsos, four arms and four legs). These are considered to represent the twelve seismic plates of the Earth. It was after this incident, Vishnu became known as ‘Venkitesh’.
Again another divine command was heard by Kashyapa asking him to chant the mantra – Om Namo Narayana. Kashyapa implicitly obeyed the command. Later Vishnu appeared in the form Venkitesh; and as desired by Kashyapa, remained in Govinda Hills.
Earlier, Vishnu’s idol was made of Salagrama or Shaligrama (Ammonite fossils with special markings which resemble Vishnu's paraphernalia) stone installed on the banks of river Ikshumathy. Kashyapa requested Vishwakarma to make idols of Ganesha and Sastha and build a temple, housing all the three deities. As requested by Yudhishtra, Garga told about the origin and holiness of the river Ikshumathy. The river was born to Kashyapa during his stay in Govinda hills with his wives. She grew up into a beautiful young lady. Once she went to Dharmatheertha (a pond near Govinda hills) to collect lotus flowers. Vishnu saw the girl and got attracted by her beauty. With the girl’s consent, Vishnu married her. Ikshumati’s friends who accompanied her to the holy pond got angry with both Vishnu and Ikshumati, since they did not take the consent of Kashyapa. But Vishnu pacified the girls by giving them some attractive boons. Later when Kashyapa came to know about his daughter’s marriage, he was very happy for her. He blessed his daughter to re- born as a holy river from which the devotees of Vishnu would get their sickness cured by taking bath in it.
Garga also explained the story of river Gayathri to Pandavas. The great saint Markandeya used to take bath every day while chanting Gayathri mantra in a river. A brahmin named Shankhanan, lived in the region. Hew was immortal and treated his wife badly. Inspite of being a sinner, he used to chant Gayathri mantra three times a day. He also took bath in river Gayathri. He used to wash his dirty clothes in the river. Seeing this, sage Markandeya asked Gayathri devi as to why she was allowing such a bad person to use the river. Gayathri devi replied that she was allowing the brahmin to wash off all his sins. Later the brahmin became a holy person. Markandeya blessed Gayathri river to spread her divinity wherever she flowed.
Garga thereafter told Yudhistra about the story of Dharmy temple situated very near to Kasyapa temple. Connected to this temple, is the story of a Brahmin couple. After leading a life full of sins, they became very old. His name was Shivadasa. He grew very old; he saw servants of Yama around him, coming to tie him and drag him to hell. His wife, even though was equally bad, always chanted Shiva mantra and worshipped Shiva. Suddenly the Yama dhootas saw a divine light in their hut. They got frightened and went back to Yama and told him about what happened. Yama was furious at the dhootas and ultimately he himself came down to the hut of the Brahmin couple to take the life of the Brahmin. He destroyed the utensils and other things used by the lady to worship Shiva. The couple was scared to see the wrath of Yama. They started crying loudly. The Bhoota ganas of Shiva heard their cry, came down to the hut. They fought with Yama nad his dhootas and defeated them. They took the atma (soul) of Shivadasa to Kailasa. Later, Shiva allowed the brahmin and his wife to spend the rest of their lives by worshipping Shiva. Agasthya maharishi appeared on the scene and advised Yama to install an idol of Shiva at ‘Dharmi’. He also constructed a lotus pond at Dharmi. This was how Dharmi Temple came into existence. The lotus pond had also become famous for its curing powers.
Further, Yudhistra asked Garga muni to tell him about the holy pond situated near Kashyapa temple. Garga muni replied that once Kashyapa had decided to conduct an yagya (yaaga).He prayed to Lord Venkitesa to show him a person to make the main Guru for the yagya. As advised by Lord Vishnu, Athri maharishi was assigned the task of becoming the ‘Yaga Guru’. During the yagya, ashwamedha yagya was also conducted by him along with Agasthya, Markhandeya and other rishis. A pond is present in that place where the yagya was conducted. This pond thus got the name ‘Yagyga teertham’. It is believed that by taking a dip in this holy pond, one can get rid of all their sins. On the north side of this pond, there is another pond called ‘Kuthira kulam’ (Horse pond), the place where the ashwa or the horse meant for the yayga was tied. The place where the cows (paikal) were tied for the yagya requirements, came to be known as Payyalur or Pailur.
Later, Kerala was created by Parashurama. He frequented this temple. Gradually Kerala was handed over to the Brahmins and during that time, the responsibility of this temple was handed over to the Cherukunnam and Cherambatta namboothiris and the Raja of Vengunat. Even today, the presence of a descendant from these families is required for conducting certain poojas and festivals.
As described in the Standa purana, there was a ruler named Hemangan. As per the instruction of Parashurama, he remained unmarried till he attained the Lord’s feet. After the death of Hemangan, people feared that the desom would go Araajakam (without a ruler), village chieftain from the 64 villages of the Vengunat desom gave consent to Parshurama to appoint Dronavati, Hemangan’s sister as the Queen of the desom. One day the queen was going to bathe in the yagya - theertha pond before visiting Lord Venkitesa, and Sun God (Ravi) saw her and immediately fell in love with her. He approached her to marry him, but the queen asked him to talk to her guardian Parashurama. Sun God, disguised as a Brahmin, met Parashurama and told his intention of marrying Dronavati. Parashurama happily accepted his wish and got them married. Later this queen had a son and soon after Sun God left that place. This boy had the strength and radiance of Sun (Ravi) and hence was named Veeraravi. His descendants always carried a ‘Ravi’ with their names. His genealogy (vamsham) became famous as the Veera ravi vamsham.
Once Kerala Brahmins were preparing to conduct somayagam in the shreemoolasthana mandapam (main assembly hall). Parashurama was not present for this yagam. The offerings were given to all devas, except vishwa – devas. Vishwadevas approached Indra with the complaint. Indra got angry and came to the yagashala (a temporary construction built for the purpose of somayagam) in disguise, took the oblations like somalatha, deer skin, etc and returned to his kingdom. On the way, he stopped at Kashyapa temple. King Veera ravi was also present in the temple to offer his worship. King was very happy to see Indra there and chanted many strotas that pleased Indra. Indra knew that Veera ravi was a very good and just ruler and has ‘God in part’ by birth. Indra handed over the yaga oblations to Veera ravi and told him that he give these yaga oblations (offerings) to the Brahmins who wish to do yagas (yagyas), as long as the Sun and the Moon exist in the universe. From that day onwards, the king and his follower will be considered equivalent to Indra himself. Thus invested the right to provide these offerings for yagas in the Kashyapa temple sannidhi (the space in front of the presiding deity). Indra also blessed the king by telling that one sixth of the proceedings or results of the yagam will come to the King and the position given to Indra while conducting a yagam will henceforth be given to the King. Indra also told the king that since he is given the rights of God himself, neither he nor his successor should pay their namaskaram (a respectful form of greeting) only to the devas and brahmins. Therefore, they are not supposed to keep their bare feet on earth. Since the agni beejakshara is present on their feet, if their feet touches the ground, the place will get burnt. Hence they should always walk with their padukams (wooden shoes) on. A successor starts wearing this padukam from the time of ariyittu vazcha (coronation ceremony) done by brahmins in the sanctum sanctorum of Kachamkurissi. Hence the coronation ceremony of a Vengunat King was done only in the temple sanctorum.
In the meanwhile, the Brahmins were saddened without knowing where has the yaga things gone. They prayed to Gods. Parashurama appeared the spot and explained them what had happened. They went and collected the things from king Veera ravi and conducted the yagam.
From that day onwards, Vengunat King gives the yaga things to the Brahmins incharge of any yagyas at the Kachamkurissi temple and after that only the yaga is conducted anywhere. Even today, the Raja of Kollengode wears a wooden sandal even while entering temples.
There is yet another story behind this temple.
It is believed that as a result of Kashyapa's penance, Mahavishnu appeared before him and agreed to stay with him always. The sage installed and consecrated the idol of Lord Vishnu in the form that he himself had perceived him - Chaturbahu Mahavishnu, seated on the coils of Adishesha. Devotees can only see the Lord and the anantha. The goddesses are believed to be praying from both sides of the deity and are not visible.
Thus the little hillock on which the temple is located came to be known as Kachamkurissi (as derived from 'kashyapan kurissi' or 'the hill of kashyapa'). The name kachamkurissi can also be linked to that time in ancient history whe, culturally, kerala was a part of tamizhagam. The famed Sangam literature during the period of the Cheras (up to the 3rd century), speaks of the 'tinais' or 'eco zones' - kurinji (kurichi) or hilly tracts being one of them. The place name is thus indicative of the early origins of this temple.
Dharma Varman, a prince from what is now central Kerala, came in search of a cure for a debilitating ailment. It is said that the dying Dharma Varman bathed in the healing spring waters that then existed in the forests around the temple, and after undergoing many days of ritual penance at this temple, at the feet of Perumal, returned to his kingdom, completely cured. This miracle shows the regenerative powers of the temple, which those who come in faith profess to feel, on submitting to this all forgiving deity. Believers have returned with their burning sorrows and returned by some strange balm and comforting minds.
Dharmavarman's grandson, Veera ravi, became the first 'utaiyvar' of this region, and is a popular thought that he named his miniature principality, 'Venkatanad' (later Vengunad) in honour of Mahavishnu Perumal of Thirukachamkurissi. Devotees often address the lord of this temple as 'Venkatesha'.
Vira ravi was awarded the sole right to permit the commencement of the ancient ritual, somayagams and athirathrams. This he did symbolically, by granting ‘somalatha’, a herbal plant (Sarcostemma acidum) believed to be the nectar of life and 'karinjali' (black wood), ingredients essential for the yagam, at the temple of thirukachamkurissi. Despite the break up of the feudal order, this ritual of granting somalatha and karinjali to signify the start of the yagams or yagyas or athirathrams continues even today.
Aadhye vidyotamaana prakadana guru bhiveda sam
Ghaira gamyam,yogeendrai sidha sanghairanu
Dinamamaraidhyeya paadaravindham vishwaakaa –
Ramanandamaksharamajjam vishwaati shayi prabham,
Vandhai vedakade shayandama malam yogeendra hrid kajaigam,
Venkatesam maha bhaagam, bhakthaa –
Naama bhayamkaram sarvaabheeshtapradam devam prana-
Maami punaha, punaha.
- Shubham -