|Description This ancient
temple located in Kanyakumari district, on the railroad between Kanyakumari
and Tiruvanandapuram, has been glorified by a
decad of 11 verses composed by Nammalwar in the first millennium CE. . The architecture
here, as with several other temples in Kanyakumari district resembles that of the Temples
of Kerala. Worship protocols followed here are also the same as those of Kerala. This
temple is an important center of worship and is referred to as Aadi Anantam and Dakshina
Vaikuntham. Tiruvattar is referred to in the Sangam period tamil work Puranaanooru.
Aadi Kesava Perumal in a reclining posture faces west. As in Tiruvanandapuram, the deity
is viewed through three openings in the sanctum. The sanctum has been designed so that the
rays of the setting sun illuminate the face of the deity.
Legend has it that Vishnu vanquished the demons Kesa and Kesi ,(hence
the name Aadi Kesan) and took abode on the coils of Aadi Seshan here at Tiruvattaar. Kesi
took on the form of the Tamraparani river. Shiva is believed to have taken on 12 forms to
witness the battle between Vishnu and Kesi, and worship Vishnu. A pilgrimage to all of the
12 Shiva temples is considered complete after visiting this temple at Tiruvattaar.
The temple: The sanctum faces west, although the main entrance is on
the east. The temple stands at an elevation and is surrounded by fort like walls. A
majestic towered entrance is reached through a flight of steps. There are also shrines to
Adi Kesava, Venkatachalapati and Taayaar. The flag staff of copper was built by the
Travancore royal family.
The circumambulatory passage around the sanctum (Sri Balippuram) is lined with 224
granite pillars, each one of which carries sculptured images of Deepa Lakshmi.
Interestingly, no two of these images are alike. The balipeetha mandapam has life sized
images of Lakshmana, Indrajit, Nataraja, Vishnu and Bhrama, Rathi and Manmathan. The
sanctum has beautiful wooden carvings. There is also a shrine to Tiruvambadi Krishnan.
Inscriptions from the period of Rajendra Chola (early 11th century CE) are seen in this
In front of the sanctum is the Udaya Maartaanda mandapam with ornate woodwork. Mention
must be made of a carving of Ganesha, and that of Shiva engaged in tandavam.
The temple is constructed in such a manner that the sun's rays fall on the feet of the
deity's image from the third to the 8th day of the tamil month of Panguni and on the 3rd
and the 4th days of the tamil month of Purattaasi.
There is incredible similarity between this temple and the Anantapadmanabhaswamy temple
at Tiruvanantapuram. It is even said the Tiruvanantapuram temple was built after this
temple. As with the Padmanabha temple at Tiruvanantapuram, the deity is represented as an
imposing image of Vishnu in a reclining posture viewed through three doors. There are some
differences in iconography of this image between the two hoary shrines. For instance, the
Shivalingam (Kasi lingam) is seen near the head of Vishnu's image at Tiruvanantapuram
while it is seen near the feet here. Also, the presence of Bhrahma on Vishnu's navel is a
feature that is absent here unlike Tiruvanantapuram.
Representatives of the maharaja of Travancore accompany processions at Tiruvattar,
symbolizing the living link between the Travancore royalty and the Tiruvattar temple.
The image of Garuda in this temple is made of gold inlaid with precious stones and is
taken out in procession in the tamil months of vaikasi and aippasi.
Festivals: The Kerala tantram is the protocol of worship conducted
here, by Namboodris of Kerala. Four services are offered each day. There are two annual
festivals, the first one in the month of Aippasi, where the Teerthavari (Aarattu) is held
in the river Tamraparani near the Shiva Tali. The Golden Garuda Sevai is held during both
these festivals. Krishna Jayanthi, Vaikuntha Ekadasi, Aavani Tiruvonam, Kalabham in the
month of Thai, and the Perunthamritu poojai (Aadi and Thai) on the eve of the summer and
winter solstices are some of the festivals celebrated here. The utsava images are taken
out in procession every day.
Legend hs it that an army of invaders from North India, were miraculously turned away
by a swarm of wasps, in answer to prayers by the Maharaja of Kottayam (17th century).
Legend also has it that the festival image was stolen by the armies of the Nawab of Arcot
in the 18th century and that a mysterious ailment which gripped the Nawab's wife was
cured, only after he returned the image to the temple. A special service by name 'tiru
Alla Poojai' is offered suring the annual festivals here. It is also believed that the
festival image being returned by him, got stuck to the ground near the Shiva temple, and
that it came unstuck only after a decision was made to carry out the Aaraattu near the