|Description: This is an ancient temple of Kerala - considered equivalent to Banares,
located on the Bharatapuzhaa river. Across the river are temples to Shiva and
Bhrama. Tirunavaya is located on the Malabar railroad from Palakkad to Mangalore. The
railhead Tirunavaya is about a mile away from the temple.
The presiding diety here is Navamukundan. There are subshrines to Ganapati on the south
west corner and Bhagavati on the north east corner.
The base of the temple is built of stone, while the
superstructure above is of laterite, stucco and timberwork. The temple is considered to be
demonstrative of the evolved Kerala type of architecture, dating back to the 13th -14th
centuries although in a comparatively poor state of existence today. There is a separate
shrine for Malarmangai Naachiyaar unlike the other Divya Desam temples in Kerala.
Legends: The name Tirunaavaai is said to
have stemmed from the legend that nine yogis offered worship here. Legend has it that
Lakshmi and Gajendran the king of elephants worshipped Vishnu here with lotus flowers from
a lake;with two devotees using flowers from the same source, supply dwindled, and
Gajendran appealed to Vishnu, who took Lakshmi by his side on the same throne and accepted
worship offered by Gajendran. The name of the theertham Senkamala saras arises from the
legend of the lotus filled lake.
The image of Navamukundan is portrayed only from above the knee,
the rest of the image being concealed within the ground. There are interesting legends
associated with this state of the image. There is believed to be a bottomless unexplored
pit behind the image in the sanctum.
Another legend has it that a group of nine yogis or siddhas offered worship to Vishnu
at this shrine and attained moksham or salvation; hence the name Nava Narayanan.
The Bharatapuzha river, the presence of temples to Bhrahma, Vishnu and Shiva on its
banks, accords this temple town a stature equivalent to Benares. As in Benares, cremation
of the dead is carried out in ghats along the river.
Legend also has it that Markandeya, fleeing the clutches of Yama appealed to Vishnu for
help at this shrine and upon his direction crossed the river Bharatapuzha to worship
Shiva, while Vishnu blocked the rear entrance to the temple, to prevent Yama from
Festivals: The Maasi makam festival used to be celebrated at
this temple in great splendour on the Bharatapuzha river bank for a 30 day period
commencing with Thaippoosam, once in 12 years (corresponding to the Maha makam festival at
Kumbhakonam). This celebration stopped after control of the region passed on to
Hyder Ali in the 18th century.
The Alwars: Two of the Tamil Alwars have sung of this temple (in the
8th-9th centuries - Nammalwar and Tirumangaialwar) in a total of 13 verses in Tamil