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Iranikulam Mahadeva Temple – Thiruvairanikulam Temple History – Facts

Iranikulam Temple is located in Thrissur District, Kerala. The temple is dedicated Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Here is look at the history and important facts of Thiruvairanikulam Temple.

There are two temples inside the Iranikulam Mahadeva temple compound. Both are dedicated to Shiva and they are known as Vadakedathappan and Thekedathappan.

Shiva, Parvati and Subrahmanya are found in the same peedam in the Vadakedathappan temple.

It is believed by some devotees that during ancient times the temple had murtis of Indra, Indrani and their son Jayantan. The place Iranikulam is named after Indrani.

Thekedathappan temple has a Shivling made out of sand. Abhishekam is not performed on this Shivling. Thekedathappan has more importance in the temple. All pujas are first offered here.

It is believed that the Thekedathappan temple initially belonged to the 41 Illams in the region. But infighting and problems resulted in the construction of Vadakedathappan.

Both the deities face east.

Thekedathappan has two storied round sreekovil. There are carvings for more than 500 animals around the sreekovil.

The sreekovil of Vadakedathappan is square in shape.

The main festivals in the temple are observed on Thiruvathira nakshatra in Dhanu month and Shivaratri. An 8-day festival ending on Thiruvathira nakshatra in Kumbha month is also observed in the temple.

In ancient times, 28-day festival was observed in the Vrischikam month.

The main festival in the temple now which attracts thousands of devotees is the opening of the shrine of Goddess Parvati. The doors of Goddess Parvati are only opened for 12 days in a year starting from the Thiruvathira Nakshatra in Dhanu month. This is now famous as Thiruvairanikulam temple opening.

The Upa Devatas in the temple are Sastha, Mahavishnu and Bhagavathy.

The main offerings or Vazhipadukal  in the temple are Brahmani Pattu, Pattu Nadaykkuvakkal and Manjalpodi Adal.

The temple was destroyed in 1789 and it was later restored by not in its entirety.

Some ancient murtis and vigrahas were found in a well in the temple and this is now kept in Thrissur Pooram.

Some scriptures and inscriptions found in the temple indicate that the temple was built during the 9th century AD.

The shrine is one among the 108 Siva temples built by Parasurama. Centuries-old inscriptions are found in the temple.

The temple is popular for its architectural perfection and sculpture. The Vatta Sreekovil, towers and huge Balikalu are important structures in the temple.

Iranikulam Mahadeva Temple History

In ancient times, the Chalakudy River was flowing by the side of this temple and that Bhagwan Parshuram meditated here and propitiated Mahadeva Shiva who appeared before Him and gave Him darshan. At the request of Bhagavan Parasurama, Shiva manifested as a swayambhu murti. Bhagwan Parshuram did initial consecration rites.

The murti was neglected for centuries and got buried in the ground. Once when some children were playing here they saw an murti and they tried to carry it by dragging. The children saw blood oozing out of it and immediately the matter was reported to their elders.

Brahmins rushed to the spot and found a beautiful Shivling made of mud. They built a temple and consecration of the mud-murti was done. Initially women were not allowed to enter the temple and worship the deity. To facilitate worship of Shiva another temple was built at the north of the swayambhoo shrine. After the installation of this, the southern shrine is known as Thekkedath Kshetram and northern one Vadakkedath Kshetram.

During the Kulashekara period, there were four Advisors (known as Thaliyathiris) for Perumals and one of them was from Iranikulam. There are four inscriptions in the temple, all relating to the punishments imposed on some persons for participating in activities which were against the interests of the temple. These inscriptions indicate clearly that the temple was quite renowned in the ninth century.

In 1789, the temple was ransacked. The dwarapalakas, made of panchaloha, which were found missing after the attack were later obtained from the well of the temple. Now these figurines are kept at the Thrissur Museum.

The temple is famous for some special rituals. It is one of the temples in Kerala where Brahmani-paattu is sung. The privilege for performing it rests with Vadakke-Pushpakath family. Since the family came from north and settled here it took the name Vadakke Pushpakam. Two families, Thekkedath and Vadakkedath Pushpakam families, attend to the duties of kazhakam of the temple.

It is interesting to note that from early period building padippura for houses in the gramam was not in practice. The legend is that during the period of Thripputh of Sree Parvathi, She goes out of the temple and stays at any house of Her choice in the gramam. As the time and place of visit were purely of Her choice, the local residents never used to build padippura for their houses, for facilitating the Goddess to have easy access to any house in the locality. During thripputh the murti used to be kept at the Thantazhithara in the custody of antarjanams of Mekkad mana and Brahmani Amma of Vadakke-Pushpakam. Earlier when pallineerattu (royal bath) of the Goddess was held at the tank there used to be the appearance of a box containing the ornaments to be used by the Goddess. The legend says that once a lady stole the box containing the ornaments so appeared above the waters of the tank. Thereafter the box also has stopped appearing. When the murti of Sree Parvathi was stolen these rituals ceased to exist.

About some centuries back there were some internal rivalries in Iranikulam gramam, which affected the peace prevailed in the area. At that time the local chieftain invoked the powers of the Shiva and the Goddess and took them to Vellarappilly) (near Chowara in Aluva taluk) and Pallippuram (in Cherthala taluk). Both these temples are now known as Thiru Airanikkulam temples. The temple at Vellarappilly is unique and now famous as its shrine for the Goddess is opened only for 12 days connection with Thiruvathira in Dhanu month.

The temple was taken over by the Cochin kingdom during the reign of Sakthan Thampuran. When the Cochin Devaswom Board was formed in 1950, it was transferred to the board.

Making Of Panchaloha Murtis At Vadakkedath Kshetram

Vadakkedath Kshetram earlier had panchaloha murtis of Shiva in sitting pose and Subramanya in standing pose. The murti of Goddess Parvati which existed was stolen and for decades there was no murti for Her but only a nala. All these three murtis are in one peetham. Some miscreants damaged the Subramanya and Shiva murtis also.

A deva-prashnam was then held and it was decided to replace these murtis with new pancha-loha ones. Accordingly at a cost of Rs.15 lakhs, three panchaloha murtis were cast on a single pancha-loha peetham.

The castings were done by the renowned shilpi Brahmasree Brahmamangalam Subramanian. The total weight of these murtis in the single peetham is 1.4 metric ton. 

The casting of these murtis was a herculean task. The sketches of these murtis were first prepared keeping up the principles laid down for the casting of vigraha. The figures modelled in wax were given a coating of fine paste of burnt clay and were allowed to dry in a shade. The coating was done at least three times till the required firmness for the moulds was achieved. They were dried in the Sun. 

The wax inside each murti was then removed by heating. When the mould was ready for casting, panchaloha metal was melted in 100 crucibles on coke furnaces. For casting the idol of Shiva alone more than 100 crucibles were used at a time and without any break. The temperature within the shed where crucibles were heated was very high. To avoid any risk of the shed catching fire, cold water was pumped on the shed till the final casting was over. The risk in making the murti was very great considering the size of the murti. The time taken for melting the panchaloha and heating the mould was about eight hours. When the molten liquid was completely cooled down by the usual process, outer covering was carefully broken. The vigraha was then subjected to polishing process. 

The vigraha was taken from Brahmamangalam (Shilpi’s place) to Iranikulam in procession after visiting all major temples en-route. The most difficult task was to take these murtis to the garbha-gruham. More than 300 persons, all observing vrutha as per rituals, worked strenuously for three consecutive days to take these idols with the help of planks and poles of Kanjira (Nux Vomica) tree, crane, chains and ropes. 

The huge granite peetham consists of two parts and even taking them inside the Sreekovil was difficult. After observing all the purificatory rites Brahmasree Vezhaparambu Parameswaran Namboothiripad assisted by Thamarassheri Mekkad Damodaran Namboothiripad (Thantri), installed these murtis on 1 Mithunam 1172 (corresponding to 15 June 1997). Subsequently miscreants entered the temple and attempted to steal these murtis. They could take away only the murti of Subramanya but later it was recovered with one arm mutilated. The Shilpi repaired this murti into its original form. Re-consecration rites were then done to this murtis. In the history of iconography in Kerala the making and installation of these murtis may be considered unique and will be remembered in the days to come.