Vaikom temple - the myth and the history

Vaikom temple – the myth and the history

The Mahadeva Temple at Vaikom is one of the oldest temples in God's Own Country. Held in reverence by both Shaivaites and the Vaishnavaites, the temple was also the central point around which the Vaikom Satyagraha took place. The presiding deity is Lord Shiva. And here is a look at the myths and stories about this old temple.


Vaikom temple – the myth and the history
A bird's eye view of Vaikom Temple. Photo: Onmanorama

Aeons ago, Khara, an asura did severe penance; Lord Siva, who was pleased gave him three idols. Khara carried the idols - one each in either hands and one by his neck. He got tired on his way back and put the idols down and rested a while. When he woke up, he realised that he could not pluck the idols out. These three idols, it is said, are the ones that are being worshiped at Vaikom, Kaduthuruthy and Ettumanoor in Kottayam district.

Khara, having attained moksha, entrusted saint Vyaghrapada with doing the pujas and rituals. The saint observed the rituals and did the pujas. Then, Parasurama arrived and he consecrated the idol at Vaikom making it popular among both Shaivaites and the Vaishnavaites.

Architecture and unique features

Vaikom temple – the myth and the history
Vaikom temple. Photo: Onmanorama

The east facing temple is situated in about eight acres of land and is protected by compound walls with four towers on all the four sides. Near the east tower is a protected platform known as the 'Vyaghrapada Sthana', which is the place where the God appeared before saint Vyaghrapada. There is a golden flag staff and once we enter the temple is the 'Stambha Ganesha' to the north east corner. There is a namaskara mandapa, with episodes from Ramayana sculpted in the inner roof. A huge Nandi (the bull, considered the vehicle of Siva) idol is placed just outside the main sanctum santoram. The temple is round in shape and there are beautiful paintings and sculptures all around.

There are six steps which take you inside the main shrine that houses the God. 'Manya Sthana' is where the saint Vilwamangalathu Swamiyar, who could see Gods spotted the Lord while having food. The main kitchen is towards the east of the 'Manya Sthana'.

The closed door

Vaikom temple – the myth and the history
The closed door at the temple. Photo: Onmanorama

There is a closed door to the west of the temple. The temple, in old times, belonged to 108 families. When a dispute erupted the families got divided into two camps, one division naturally aligned with the king. The other camp vowed to block the rituals in the temple. Their leader, Njallal Namboodiri, reached the temple, chewing betel leaves. He entered the temple through the west gate and went into the temple where the offerings were made. He spat on the offering, forcing the rituals to stop. On his way back, he was bitten by a snake at the west gate. The western door mysteriously closed and a voice was heard, commanding that the door be closed. And it remains shut, to this day.

And outside

Vaikom temple – the myth and the history
Lamps being lit at the temple. Photo: Onmanorama

The roads outside the temple have its own stories to tell. Long long ago, before India attained independence, untouchability and casteism was prevalent across all the princely states of Kerala. The 'avarnas' or the people belonging to the lower castes were not allowed to walk even on the roads around the temple. These people rose in revolt and and it was put down by the king. Later when the freedom movement gained momentum the youth were inspired by leaders like Sree Narayana Guru, Dr Palpu and Mannathu Padmanabhan. A planned agitation to garner support for doing away with untouchability gathered momentum. And the roads around Vaikom temple became the venue for the agitation known as the Vaikom Satyagraha. Many national leaders including Mahatma Gandhi talked to the kings of Travancore who later signed the Temple Entry Proclamation which is considered as a milestone in the history of the land. The roads around the temple and later the temple itself was open to all Hindus irrespective of castes. Vaikom temple was among the first to open its doors to all.


Vaikom temple – the myth and the history
From the Ashtami festival at Vaikom Temple. Photo: Onmanorama

The annual festival – the Ashtami – is a very elaborate affair.

It is believed that a visit to all these three temples – Vaikom Mahadeva Temple, Kaduthuruthy Siva Temple and Ettumanoor temple – before 'ucha puja', which signifies the puja before lunch, is very auspicious. It is said that Lord Shiva is worshiped as Dhakshinamoorthy in the morning, Kirathamoorthy at noon and Shaktipanchakshari in the evening.