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Thuravoor Temple history
An ancient Devasthanam located by the side of NH-47, approximately 25 kms south of Kochi city, is the sacred abode of Lord Sree Narasimhamoorthy and Lord Sree Mahasudarsanamoorthy. The entire temple complex can be seen from the road.
Two separate temples in close proximity - within the same compound - reflect the synthesis of a unique and mysterious divine power. The idol of Sree Narasimhamoorthy is said to have originated in the holy city of Kashi (Varanasi). Swami Padmapadar (8th century AD), the principal disciple of Adi Sankaracharya, had worshipped the very same idol at Kashi.
Distinctive in its architectural and artistic grandeur, Thuravoor Mahakshethram is one of the most venerated places of worship in Kerala. Twin-Sreekovils in a single Nalambalam, two gold-plated flagmasts that tower into the skies, a majestically tall Anapandhal (elephant rostrum - the largest in Kerala), a strict regimen of observances of vrathas for the priests, days after days of rituals and festivals, chanting of Vedic hymns and presentation of learned discourses on Puranas throughout the year ... all these attract streams of devotees to the temple from within and outside the State.
Great seers and saints such as Jagadguru Sankaracharya of Sringeri - Sree Bharathi Theertha Swamigal, Jagadguru Sankaracharya of Kanchi - Sree Jayendra Saraswathy, Sankaracharya of Puri - Sree Adhokshajananda Swamigal, Uduppi Pejavar Math head - Sree Visweswara Theertha Swamigal and the Jiyar of Ahobilamath - Sree Sadagopa Narayana Yatheendra Swamigal - have all visited and experienced the spiritual and devotional grandeur of this fabled Devasthanam.
Of the two temples here, it is believed that the one dedicated to Sudarsanamoorthy was the first to come into existence. Though there is no record of its origin, the temple is estimated to be over 1300 years old. There are scholars who hold that the circular-shaped Sreekovil belongs to the Thretha Yuga; according to others, its origin dates back to the Dwapara Yuga. Some palmleaf texts on the temple do exist; but nobody has yet been able to understand or decipher them.
As for the Narasimhamoorthy temple, records do show that it came into being sometime in the 7th century AD, during the reign of a Chera king named Keralendran. His guru was the great Muringottu Adigal, a well-known Tulu Brahmin priest and scholar.
Geographically, the temple site belongs to the former Cochin state. However, it subsequently came under the purview of Travancore for certain political reasons. But this transition was subject to an important proviso: If a Travancore king were ever to set foot on the Mahakshethra soil, the temple would be immediately restored to Cochin. Therefore, for a long time, no Travancore king visited the temple. In 1951, on the merger of Travancore and Cochin and coronation of Sree Chithirathirunal, the Maharaja visited the temple - the first time for a Travancore king to do so. He walked to the temple over a carpet to avoid stepping directly on the ground.
Sub-shrines: Within the Nalambalam, on the southern side of the inner courtyard is the shrine of Ganapathy. Outside the two Sreekovils - but within the same temple premises - are the idols of Sastha on the south, with the serpent gods just behind it; Bhagavathy on the west and Brahmarakshassu on the north - housed in separate, smaller sub-shrines.
Inviolable discipline and austerity: The roles of the Melsanthi (chief priest) and Keezhsanthi (assistant priest) at this temple are reversed every year. So long as the Melsanthi continues in his position, he has to maintain absolute celibacy; he must not leave the temple compound during his tenure, and has to follow an austere lifestyle and a observe a stringent daily regimen.
Though the Narasimhamoorthy temple (on the northern side) is separted by a wall, the two temples are interconnected. The fairly large, square-shaped, copper-roofed Sreekovil is built of granite.The Namaskaramandapam is ornamented with sculptures of lotus blooms. The granite pillars on the Mandapam also feature highly imaginative carvings. One stone pillar carries the image of Deepalakshmi. The sculptures and murals on the outer walls of the Sreekovil are so beautiful, they will take your breath away. Kerala's age-old tradition in temple architecture is reflected here.
The walls of the Sreekovil are adorned with sculptures of elephant heads at regular intervals. Two of the elephants are with their trunks down, while the rest have their trunks raised. This may have been done to avoid monotony.
The compound wall of the Sreekovil are also adorned with enchanting murals. The painting of Mahavishnu reposing on Anantha deserves specific mention. Since the temple was formerly in the Cochin territory, the god depicted is likely to be Sree Poornathrayeesa, the family deity of the Cochin royalty. Nataraja, Indra with his thousand eyes in the presence of Ugranarasimha, Sreekrishna, and a damsel with her face turned away from a scene showing a love-lorn couple are some of the pictures that will linger in the mind of a visitor.
The Garbhagriha of the the Sreekovil has two ante-chambers. Here too, the idols of Dwarapalakas are installed in one of them. The Garbhagriha houses a beautiful, four-armed idol of Mahavishnu who is perceived as Ugranarasima. In the corridor on the southern side, there is an idol of Lord Siva. You can view and worship Him through the narrow window in the wall on the southern side.
Generally, Narasimha idols are seen in a sitting posture. But here, the idol is on its feet. One may assume that originally this idol in the standing position was originally that of Mahavishnu; and, as a result of poojas and other sacred rituals, it it is being perceived as Ugranarasimha.
Connoisseurs of art within and outside Kerala agree that the sculptures, relief works and carvings on the southern side of the Sreekovil are priceless works of art. Scholars from afar often visit the temple for an in-depth study of these masterly creations. You can see here nine different perceptions of Narasimha including Ugranarasimha, Lakshmi Narasimha and Yoga Narasimha. Khadgi straddling an elaborately decorated horse, Yakshi carrying a hand-mirror and eloquent scenes from Ramayana are worth a close observation.
The Narasimha temple has its own gold-plated Garudadwaja, oriented towards the east.On the extreme eastern side, in the direct line of vision of the Narasimamoorthy shrine, is a massive temple tank measuring 100 x 80 metres. It is believed that the cool, clean, serene waters of the tank provide a calming effect on the Lord’s fierce frame of mind.
The idol of Sudarsanamoorthy features four arms, each carrying a different object: a conch shell, a chakra (discus), a gadha (mace) and a lotus bloom.
The foreground of the temple is spacious and paved with rough-hewn granite slabs. The Namaskaramandapam is also fittingly large and impressive. On the ceiling of this Mandapam are exquisitely carved figures of Ashtadikpalakas (guardians of the eight directions) with Lord Brahma in the middle.
A characteristic feature of Kerala temple architecture is that many Sreekovils contain more than one chamber. The large, circular Sreekovil contains three enclosures. Two circumambulatory paths go around the Garbhagriha. On one of them are some tall, granite pillars. A casual observer may not see the Dwarapalas (entrace guards) at first. They are installed within the veranda adjoining the Sreekovil.
The outer walls of the Sreekovil are profusely adorned with intricately sculpted woodwork. One of the very interesting sculptures is that of Devi breastfeeding Ganapathy. Depictions of this nature are very rare. Sculptures of Devi astride the Nandi with a bell in her hand, Ganapathy depicted in different rows and a frozen dance-and-music extravaganza are some of the visual treats here. On either side of a narrow doorway (which looks like a window), one can see miniature figures of an entourage of servant-gods.
The gold-plated flagmast on the eastern side of the Sudarsanamoorthy temple is taller than its counterpart for the Narasima temple.
For the rituals and pooja offerings, the well and the kitchen in the Sudarsanamoorthy premises are shared by the two temples.
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