Rajarajeshwara Temple, Kannur, Kerala
|Date built:||Modern temple 1010 A.D.|
|Architectural style:||Blend of Ancient Chola and Traditional Kerala style|
|Address:||Taliparamba, Kerala 670141|
The Rajarajeswara temple is a Shiva temple located at Taliparamba in the Kannur district of Kerala, South India. The temple is regarded as one of the existing 108 ancient Shiva Temples of ancient Kerala. It also has a prominent place amongst the numerous Shiva temples in South India. It had the tallest shikhara amongst the temples of its time. The Rajarajeshwara temple has a top of about 90 tonnes. If any problem is encountered in the other temples of South India, devotees seek a solution in this temple through a prasna, a traditional method of astrological decision making.The prasna is conducted on a peedha (a raised platform) outside the temple.
Legendarily, it was supposedly renovated by Sage Parashurama, long before the Kali Yuga commenced. Several centuries ago it was renovated by the Mushika (Kolathiri) dynasty kings. This temple was rebuilt into its present form in the early eleventh century. The quadrangular sanctum has a two-tiered pyramidal roof; in front of the sanctum is the namaskara mandapam, but the temple has no kodi maram (flagstaff), unlike others in Kerala. Non-Hindus are not permitted to enter
The quadrangular sanctum has a two tiered pyramidal roof. In front of the sanctum is the namaskara mandapam. The temple has no kodi maram (flagstaff) as opposed to other temples in Kerala. The balikkal has no roof but is embellished by a mysterious figure with a peculiar face. In front of the balikkal is a small rectangular building with a pyramidal roof, which is not usually found anywhere else. An inscription on the structure of the temple tank (which is a little away from the temple on the north side) indicates that the temple and the tank were renovated in 1524 A.D.
Glory of Namaskaramandapa
The Namaskara Mandapa (mukha mandapa) infront of the Sreekovil(sanctum sanctorum) is the place where Lord Sree Rama (on his way back to Ayodhya from Lanka after defeating Ravana) prostrated before Raja Rajeswara. As a respect to Sree Rama no one is allowed into this namaskara mandapa and offer prayers, which is permitted in other temples for Brahmins.
Rulers and Rajarajeswara
In the past, Kerala was divided into many small kingdoms and there were many kings/rulers. They all considered Lord Rajarajeswara as their Chakaravarthy (Rajarajeswara or King of Kings). The Taliparamba region was ruled by Zamorins(Samoothiri) of Kozhikkod(Calicut) and they were devotees of Lord Rajarajeswara. One of the Zamorins was an ardent devotee of the Lord of Taliparamba. After years of intense worship he is said to have entered the sanctum sanctorum and merged with the Lord. Even today, when the elder Zamorin dies, the information should be given to the temple authorities and the Lord is supposed to observe mourning. Even the distant Travancore kings paid obeisance to the deity by offering an elephant whenever a ruler is crowned or visited the temple.
The Taliparamba temple also was subject to attack by Tipu Sultan. One finds relics of the old gigantic gopuram at the entrance, which was demolished by Tipu’s army. The story goes that when the temple was under siege, the head priest was inside the sanctum sanctorum and prayed ceaselessly day and night. it is further said that a black snake bit the commander of the army and a hooded serpent appeared before every soldier thus immobilizing the army and saving the temple from total destruction.
J.Jayalalitha, the former Chief Minister of Tamilnadu visited Sri Rajarajeshwara Temple at Taliparamba in 2001. Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa offered worship at Rajarajeswara Temple many times and in November 2008, he had offered an elephant. He worshipped Lord Rajarajeswara amid the political crisis faced by his government following the decision by 19 MLAs to withdraw support to the BJP government and he survived from the crisis. But even today none of the ministers of Kerala have the courage to enter the temple of Lord Rajarajeswara.
The place is considered as most sacred for performing Koodiyattam and Chakyar Koothu. Whenever a new Koodiyattam is being directed, first it is usually performed at this temple. However only the ‘Maani’ family of Chakyars solely posses the right of performing Koodiyattam here. Legendary Koodiyattam and Chakyar koothu maestro, Natyaachaarya Vidushakaratnam Padma Shri Maani Madhava Chakyaar had performed here for many decades. The title ‘Vidushakaratnam’ was awarded to him from this temple. One of the greatest appreciation or award that an artist/scholar can get, is the ‘Veerashringhala’- Golden Bracelet, from the temple, given by the unanimous approval of the scholar body of the temple. Guru Mani Madhava Chakyaar is the youngest and last person to get the Veerashringhala from here.
Legend / Local stories
The temple at Taliparamba is among the 108 ancient Kerala temples dedicated to Shiva. It is as famous as the Shiva temples in Vaikom, Ettumanur and Trichur.
Taliparamba is regarded as one of the ancient Shakti Peethams. Legend has it that the head of Sati (Goddess/ wife of Shiva) fell here after Shiva’s tandavam following Sati’s self-immolation. Sati was the daughter of Daksh, a respected Hindu king who had a disregard for Shiva.
The Shiva Linga here is believed to be several thousands of years old. Legend has it that Shiva gave three sacred Shiva Lingas to Parvati/Sati for worship.One sage, Maandhata, propitiated Lord Shiva with intense prayers. Shiva was so pleased that he presented one of the Shiva Lingas to him with the injunction that it should be installed only at a place where there was no cremation ground. The sage, after searching all over, found Taliparamba the most sacred spot where he installed the Shiva Linga.
After his death the Linga disappeared into the earth. Then his son Muchukunda offered similar prayers to Shiva and got a second Shiva Linga, which too disappeared in course of time. Centuries passed. The third Shiva Linga was handed down to Satasoman, a king of Mushaka/Kolathiri/Chirakkal Royal Family, who then ruled the region. He was an ardent devotee of Shiva. On the advice of sage Agastya, he prayed to Lord Siva, who granted him the Shiva Linga. The king installed it in the present temple built by him. However, many legends associated with the Temple, claim Agastya Himself as installing the Shiva Linga (which is believed as per those legends to be a ‘Jyothirlingam’).
It is believed that Sri Rama during his victorious return from Lanka stopped here to offer worship to Lord Shiva. In honor of His presence, devotees are not allowed into the namaskara mandapam even today.
Lord Shiva, as worshiped in this sacred temple, is known as Sree Rajarajeswara, which means the Emperor of Emperors — the Lord Supreme. The name signifies the supreme transcendental power in the background of mysterious drama of the boundless universe. That power is invoked here as Lord Rajarajeshwara. Devotees address the lord with such royal appellations as Perumthrikovilappan, Perum-chelloorappan and Thampuraan Perumthrikkovilappan.
The Jyothirlingam in the shrine in vibrant with spiritual power that exerts an enriching influence both on the material and spiritual levels of the earnest devotees. The celebrated ancient sage Agasthya Maharishi is associated with the installation of the Jyothirlingam in the shrine.
The legends of temples are usually symbolic in character and are intended to convey deep messages to the spiritual inquirer and instill faith in the common man. The legends of Sri Rajarajeshwara Temple reveal the antiquity and the special significance of the Spiritual Presence.
A major legend about this temple, begins with the visit of the Puranic sage Parashurama, one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Seeing there, an ancient shrine of vibrant spiritual power in a dilapidated condition, the sage was grief-stricken and wanted to know its history. Thereupon, sage Narada appeared there and related to him the story of the temple. According to it, sage Sanaka and others, the sons of the creator Lord Brahma, churned the disk of the Sun to lessen its fierce heat. They mixed the dust, which was formed while churning, with the divine nectar of immortality, Amrita, and out of it gave shape to three spiritually to Lord Brahma presented them to Goddess Parvathi, the consort of Lord Shiva. Goddess Parvathi presented these Shivalingams to three kings who were doing intense austerities to invoke the Goddess, one in the Thretha Yugam and the other two Dwapara Yugam. Maandhatha was the king to whom the Goddess presented the Shivalingam in the Thretha Yugam, and Muchukundam and Shathasoman were the devotees who received the other two lingams in Dwapara Yugam. Goddess Parvathi advised each of them to install the idols in such a place where no death of any creature had taken place or any dead body had fallen. After a long search for such a place, which was very difficult to locate, Maandhatha, the first one to receive the lingam, found out a small place of that description, only that much land which could accommodate a small plate. Thalika in Malayalam means a plate. It is said that the region came to be known as Taliparamba, which means the place large enough to accommodate a Thalika after this legend. Maandhatha installed his Shivalingam at this place.
Eventually this Jyothirlingam disappeared in the earth rendering the place spiritually vibrant for ever. Thretha Yugam was over. Then, in Dwapara Yugam, King Muchukundan, after receiving the second Jyothirlingam from Goddess Parvathi as instructed, was also in search for a spot where no death had taken place naturally he also came to the same spot where Maandhatha had installed the first Shivalingam. He installed his Shivalingam at the same spot. This Shivalingam was also eventually dissolved into the earth again reinforcing the spot spiritually. Then came king Shathasoman, the one who received the third Shivalingam. He was also naturally attracted to the same spot and installed his Shivalingam there. While installing, this Lingam also began sinking into the earth. King Shathasoman thereupon prayed for Sage Agasthya’s help. The sage appeared and after lighting a ghee lamp prostrated before the Shivalingam twelve times; when he began the thirteenth prostration, the Lingam got firmly fixed on the earth — therefore the number of prostrations the Sage Agasthya performed for his purpose came to be known as twelve and a half. Thus with the installation of the third Shivalingam the sacred spot became spiritually vibrant threefold.
Hearing this story from sage Narada, devotion welled up in the heart of sage Parashurama, and he decided to renovate the temple for the welfare of mankind. As desired by the sage, the celestial architect Ari Vishwakarma performed the renovation work. During the final stage of the renovation, sage Agasthya appeared on the scene and, after making abhishekam (ablution) on the idol, lighted a ghee lamp. This lamp has shone continuously ever since, with a regular supply of ghee. Offering of ghee in gold, silver and copper pitchers with intense devotion, is an important offering for the lord.
Temple legends are highly symbolic representations of the subtle spiritual principles and highlight the nature and intensity of the spiritual presence at a particular place. They instill devotion and convey their deeper message to the spiritual seeker. The above-mentioned legend highlights the fact that at this unique centre of spiritual power discovered and maintained by the great sages of yore, one can receive profound Divine grace for material progress and spiritual un-foldment.
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