Sankaranarayana Temple, Navaikulam.


The Sankaranarayana temple at Navaikulam in Chirayinkil Taluk of Trivandrum district is located by the side of NH 47 from Trivandrum to Kollam, between Kallambalam and Paripalli (about 45 km north of Trivandrum). Set amidst a vast campus, the temple enshrines the syncretic image of Sankaranarayana, whose left half shows the attributes of Vishnu and the right half that of Siva. It is a temple complex, built of granite and has a number of granite sub-shrines.

Built on a circular plan, the temple, facing east is an example of eka-tala vimana, but it is approached through an impressive balikkal mandapa associated with sculptured columns, four in numbers with beautiful images of the late Vijayanagara or Nayak plastic tradition. Here there is a definite predominance in the use of granite, the nalambalam, namaskara mandapa and other subsidiary structures are all built of this variety of stone.

The temple was renovated undoubtedly in M.E. 614 (A.D. 1439) as can be gathered from the vatteluttu inscription (Travancore Archaeological Series I, pt. XVI, pp 421) engraved on the west base (kumuda of the adhishtana) of the central shrine. According to the text of the inscription the temple and the mandapa were built in stone and the central shrine having been covered with copper plates in that year itself. The Kumbhabhisheka was performed by the King Sri Vira Rama Marthandavarman Tiruvadi of Jayatunganadu and Kilpperur illam. It appears from the epigraph that the roof was covered with copper plates, but at present it carries a roof made of older small tiles which are not in vogue today. The other dated inscription, engraved on the balikkallu is very much damaged but the date, Kollam 782 (A. D. 1607) is discernible. Perhaps, the balikkal mandapa was added to it in this year by a private individual Kumaran Kandan of Era nadu. The sapta-matri-bali stone bears the donative record (Travancore Archaeological Series VI, pp 83) of another individual, Madhavan Sankaran.

The principal shrine is a sandhara vimana. The entire bahya-bhitti is in stone and has usual decorative elements, simple and subdued. It has two functional doors, one on the east and the other on the west. This wall is also relieved with kudya-stambhas associated with pushpa-potikas, ghana dvaras and false niches with sala-sikhara.

The circular shrine encloses a square garbha-grha (srikovil) made of granite. It has its own flight of steps and is encircled by a row of twelve columns along the inner ambulatory.

Other structures within the nalambalam include Ganapathi shrine facing west just south-east of the Srikovil, the covered Mathrusala containing the sapta-matri-bali stones on the south side of the srikovil, the well on the north-east corner and the thitappalli in the south-east corner.

As stated earlier, the srikovil is covered with small tiles, while the pyramidal roof of the namaskara mandapa is covered with Mangalore pattern tiles.

Both the valiambalam and nalambalam are of stone with tiled roof on woodwork. The valiambalam leads to the agramandapam which contains the large balikkallu framed by four ornamental granite pillars with carved sculptures. Particular mention has to be made of the large human size sculptures of Garuda and Hanuman. The rectangular agramandapam is enclosed by wooden slats for the major portion with two door openings on to the sides. There is a wooden sculpture of Ananathasayi Vishnu on the architrave above the main door leading to the valiambalam from the agramandapam. Beyond the nalambalam, on its outer periphery is the Vilakku madom structure circumambulating the nalambalam.

Outside the nalambalam are the Dhwajam (the flagmast) and the Anapandal (the elephant portico) on the eastern side culminating in the dvara-sala. The Sastha shrine is located on the south-west side while Bhagavathi, Nagaraja and Yakshi are accommodated on the north-west side of the outer prakara.


Daily rituals consist of five poojas, followed by Sribali. Annual festival of ten days' duration is in Medam starting from Uthrattathi asterism. Prior to the start of the Utsavam there is a tradition of Urul Varavu (Sayana Pradakshinam) by members of 8 to 12 karas in the vicinity of the temple. Also from 2nd to 9th day of the festival there is a Gaja pradakshinam inside the nalambalam with the thitampu of the Lord on the elephant. These two traditions are unique in the Navaikkulam temple.

The tantra of the temple rests with Kulakkada Nampi Madom.

The temple was once very prosperous and owned large properties and there was even 'pathayams' for grain storage in the temple. A copper plate in the Trivandrum Museum dt 1522 A. D. refers to the entrusting of the administration the temple to the Akavur Mana by the people. When Temple entry proclamation was made in erstwhile Travancore state in 1936 A. D., the temple authorities had evinced lot of opposition. A unique stone inscription of the proclamation was erected in the West nada entrance to the temple. Subsquently the temple administration was taken over by the Government culminating in the seizure of the copper plates covering the srikovil and many of its wealth. The temple is now managed by the Travancore Devaswom Board.


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Readers' Notes

On the topic of stone inscription erected to commemorate the temple entry proclamation, Mr. S K Suresh writes . . .

For a perspective on this, the structure was built and the expenses met by my late father Komalezhathu Karunakaran who was then, a Deputy Registrar posted at Navaikulam. He engaged local artisans who chiseled and hammered the structure into a piece of art. Many people have said that my father, like many others, may have felt the resonance of the Proclamation which heralded a new era. The inspiration to do what he did, came from the legacy of his uncle Shri. T K Madhavan (Vaikom Satyagraha), who was a source of influence during his formative years.

The stone monument was moved to its present location with the widening of the highway some years ago. A niche for lighting lamps was added later partially obfuscating the inscription bearing my father's name. Traces of the inscribed name could still be seen in the pictures.

Pictures contributed by S K Suresh

Last Revised (contents): 1 september, 2008
Last Revised (design) : 26
july, 2004

Last Revised
1 September 2008



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