The Vaikom Mahadevar temple is one of
the most celebrated Shiva temples in South India. Vaikom is located at a
distance of 33km south of Ernakulam and 40 km north of Kottayam
on the railroad between Ernakulam and Tiruvanandapuram.
Offering of prathal,
or food is a form of worship here. In ancient times, feasts used to be cooked and offered
to all devotees; Vaikom Mahadever is also referred to as Annadaana Prabhu.
The Deity: Shiva -
Vaikom Mahadevar manifests himself as Dakshinamurthy in the panthirathi
pooja in the morning. He is worshipped as Kiraata Murthy during the
Uchcha pooja at noon and as Satchitananda in the evening.
Legend has it that
Khara (of the Khara Dhooshana demon duo) of Ramayana worshipped Shiva at Chidambaram and
obtained from him three Shivalingams and journeyed holding one shivalingam on each hand
and one in his mouth. He sojourned at Vaikom, and set the shivalingam on the ground and to
his dismay realized that it had gotten rooted to the ground. Kharan therefore
installed the other two shivalingams at Ettumanur and Kaduthuruthy. He entrusted the
shivalingam at Vaikom to the care of Vyagrapadar. Vaikom therefore acquired the name
Vyagrapuri which ultimately became Vaikom for short.
north of here (near Thrissur), Rama is held in worship as the slayer of the demon Khara.
Legend has it that
Shiva appeared in front of Vyagrapadar under a peepul tree, south of the eastern gateway
on the morning of Ashtami in the dark fortnight in the month of Scorpio. This incident is
commemorated in the annual Vaikattu Ashtami festival.
Legend also has it
that Parasurama, the incarnation of Vishnu built this temple and set up the worship
It is believed that the
Tiruvilaiyaadal associated with the tamil saint poet Manikkavaacakar, where jackals were
miraculously transformed into horses - occurred here.
The temple: The
elliptical sanctum here is covered with a copper plated roof crowned with a golden
kalasam. The height of the wall of the sanctum is just about a third of that of the roof.
The building dates back to the 11th century, and the wooden panels and the murals date
back to the 15th and 18th centuries respectively. The mukhamandapam in front of the
sanctum houses the nandi. The wall of the inner prakaram is lined with columns of lamps
(vilakkumaatam) on a wooden framework. The flagstaff rises to a height of 317 feet. The
Uttuppura or the dining hall is on the northern side of the sanctum. There is a shrine to
Pananchikkal Bhagawati in the outer prakaram.
mentioned before, the annual festival is celebrated in the month of scorpio, and the
twelfth day of the festival is Vaikkattu Ashtami. Each day witnesses special
rituals, elephant processions, music and dance performances etc. The Ashtami festival
involves a special darshan in the wee hours of the morning under the peepul tree, a feast
at noon and a procession at night from the nearby Udayanapuram Subramanya temple. This
procession involves the meeting of Shiva and Subramanya in celebration of Subramanya's
victory over the demons. Deities from nearby temples also converge at this procession
amidst elephants, lighted torches and musicians. The two kilometer long procession takes
about 3 hours to complete and it reaches the northern gate of the Vaikom temple at about
130 AM. Subramanya and Vaikom Mahadevar then circumambulate the temple and then a touching
farewell is enacted as Subramanya returns to Udayanapuram.
The aaraattu festival
on the 13th day takes place at a tank, near the temple, and the deity from Udayanapuram
participates in it too.
No poojas are carried out on the Ashtami
festival inside the temple as it is believed that Mahadeva fasts, feeds guests and prays
for his son's victory in the battle against demons.