Mahadeva Kshetram, Airanikkulam.
There are two temples at Airanikkulam, the ancient Thekkupurathambalam and the later Vadakkupurathambalam situated side by side. The latter temple came into being because of the internecine feud between the Nambi families managing the temple.
The temple complex is located in Kakulassery village, Mukundapuram taluk of Thrissur district. The site is 15 km north-east of Aluva and 10 km south of Angamali. One has to reach the place from Aluva, Angamali or Chalakkudy in the NH 47 via Kuzhur. Bus services to Kuzhur are in plenty and from Kuzhur, a distance of 3 km to the temple proper can be accessed by auto rickshaw. From Kodungallur in NH 17, Airanikkulam can be approached via Mala - Valiaprambu - Kuzhur (about 20 km).
Structure and Architecture - Layout
Thekkedathambalam (the southern temple): The temple faces east. Passing by a Nandi and Valia Balikkal, one comes to the base of the erstwhile Vaathilmadom structure beyond which is the basement of the Naalambalam with yet another nandi facing Shiva. The valia balikkal is an imposing stone edifice on a wide adhishtana, 2 ft. tall, on top of which is the balikkal portion rising to a height of 7 ft in all. The adhishtana contains small bali peethas of ashta dik paalakas around its periphery.
In the south-east corner of the naalambalam enclosure comes the later addition of thidappalli. The naalambalam has only the basement, the roof being pulled down during army invasions in the mediaeval era. Similarly the namaskara mandapam basement alone has survived the army onslaught. The shrikovil is circular in shape. The tall basement is in granite but the superstructure is in laterite, plastered over. The vimana is two storeyed (dvi tala) both being tiled and mounted by a stupi. The joining of 64 common rafters in one ridge piece is a feat achieved by the legendary Perumthachan in this temple. The shrikovil is accessed through a flight of steps bordered by crafted hasti-hasta bannisters. There are no dvarapaalakas.
The pranala for the discharge of divine effluents is located in the northern side an is a very well crafted one, with fluted body and a simha-mukha (lion face). It rests on a dwarf squatting within an ornamental rectangular enclosure, all in granite. The pranala of thekkedathambalam scores over many other similar ones in it grandeur setting. Another worth noting feature in the granite basement of the shrikovil is the Mrgamala, a crowning band of makara simha motifs, about 500 odd in number, all intertwined and wrought along the top portion. The walls of the shrikovil are of plain plaster with strutted brackets supporting the wide eves. The only other subsidiary pratishta within the naalambalam is that of Ganapathy in the Kannimoola (south-west corner).
Vadakkedathambalam (the northern temple) : The northern temple is of subsequent origin and is comparatively well preserved. The bali peetha is comparatively smaller than that of the earlier temple. Entering through the naalambalam one comes to the small namaskara mandapa with only four wooden pillars and a pyramidal tiled roof, beyond which is the shrikovil. The shrikovil proper is square in shape with an attached mukhamandapa. The vimana is dvi tala with tiled roof. The shrikovil basement is of granite and is approached by a flight of granite steps bordered by hasti-hasta bannisters. The basement is about 4.5 ft tall. Above the rectangular and circular mouldings of Jagathy and Kumuda respectively comes the famous 'Mrgamala' running to a height of about one foot and made up of intertwining figures of vyalis, elephants and other mythological animal figurines. The 'Mrgamala' in the later Vadakkedathambalam is much more prominent and eye-catching than the one in the Thekkedathambalam.
The shrikovil has two granite figures of dvarapaalakas on either side at the entry. The pranala on the northern side is fluted as usual and resting on a dwarf but not so prominent as that of the Thekkedathambalam. The mukhamandapa has also a pranala. The pratishta consists of panchaloha vigrahas of Shiva, Parvathy and Subramonia all the three in the same peetha. In the north-east corner inside the naalambalam is the well. The thidappalli is on the south-east side. Outside the shrikovil, on the southern side is the pratishta of Yakshi.
This temple complex was earlier known as Airaneeswaram and is one of the 64 grama kshetras established by Parasurama.
Three poojas constitute the daily ritual. Shivarathri and eight day festival in Dhanu (december) with Aarat on Thiruvathira on asterism constitute the festival routine. Karthika deepam is celebrated in the temple on the 5th day of the festival which concludes with aarattu on the final day after Kotikkal Para.
Though vadakkedathambalam is unique because the triple pratishtas of Shiva, Parvathy and Subramonia in the same peetha, worship of Goddess is more popular.
Airanikkulam being quite close to the erstwhile Cera capital of Mahodayapuram (Kodungallur), has some very interesting historic connections.
Tolan who was a minister in the Cera court at Kodungallur belonged to Airanikkulam gramom. The canal running in between the western boundary of Airanikkulam and the eastern boundary of Mahodayapuram even now bears the name 'Tolan thodu'. Tolan's period can be identified from two inscriptions from Tenkarai in Madurai district. After the fall of Mahodayapuram in the early 12th century A.D at the hands of the Cholas, the then ruling King of Mahodayapuram adjourned to Quilon in 1102 A.D. and his minister Tolan must have retired to Tenkarai in the Pandya country. Two inscriptions, one in the early part of 12th century (ARE 130/1910) and another in A.D. 1177 (ARE 5/1894) speak of the lands gifted by Pandyan Kings to Cheraman (Cera noble) Tolar who was managing the affairs of the Moolastanesvara temple in Tenkarai on the banks of Vaigai river. The same Tolan rendered yeoman service to Cera monarch Rama Varman Kulasekhara in the compilation of the two Sanskrit dramas, Subhadra Dhananjayam and Tapatisamvaranam and in finalising the format of Koodiyattom by writing Vidooshaka shlokas in manipravaalam.
The damages to the Namaskara mandapa and naalambalam of the Thekkedathambalam must have occurred during the campaign of the Chola general Naralokavira since the temple was being patronised by the Cera minister Tolan and situated in close proximity to Mahodayapuram (Kodungallur). The fact that the later northern temple stands intact is clear proof that the onslaught on the southern temple has taken place in early 12th century and not in 18th century during the Tippu invasion as doubted by many. The period of the northern temple can in no way be advanced to late 18th century.
The Airanikkulam temple contains four inscriptions of the period of the Cera kingdom at Kodungallur, mostly of the 9th and 10th centuries of the Christian era. One inscription belongs to the period of Kota Ravi Vijayaraghavadeva (A.D. 883-915) who was the son-in-law of Cera Monarch Sthanu Ravi. The inscription speaks of gifts of land, 'Onam ghee' etc to the temple at Airaneeswaram by Iravi Neeli Pirattiyar, the wife of Vijayaraghavadeva. The inscription also refers to the conditions specified in the 'Moozhikkulam Kachcham' as applicable to the temple staff in the discharge of their duties. Other three inscriptions are severely damaged.
- Distant view
- Mid range view
- Nandi and Balikallu
- Shrikovil and basement of namaskara mandapa
- Saptamatrkkal and Ganesha
Last Revised (contents): 29 july, 2001
Last Revised (design) : 26 july, 2004