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Vennimala Temple – Vennimala Sree Rama Lakshmana Perumal Temple Festival

Vennimala Sree Rama Lakshmana Perumal temple is located around 2 km south to Vellor in Kottayam district, Kerala. The main murti worshipped in the temple is Lakshmana but equal importance is given to Sri Rama. The area and the shrine are located atop a hill.

The darshanam of Vennimala temple is towards west. The sreekovil of the temple is unique. It is the Ghata Prasad’ type with a pot shape, the Sreekovil proper is in circular form with a neck shaped mukha mantapa in front.

The Upa Devatas worshipped in the temple are Ganapathy, Sri Krishna, Shiva, Saraswati, Bhagavati, Nagaraja, Yakshi and Ayyappa.

The temple has two flag posts (kodimaram) and two bali kallukal.

The 10-day annual festival ends with arattu on Rohini nakshatra day in Kumbham month (February – March). The arattu procession while going is headed by Lakshmana and while returning it is headed by Sri Rama.

Vennimala Temple Story

During their exile period in the Ramayana, Sri Rama and Lakshmana, who were searching for Mata Sita, passed through the area. Sages used to reside in the caves on the hill and its surroundings. But they were constantly tormented by demons. The sages requested Lakshmana to help them. With the blessing of Sri Rama, Lakshmana annihilated all the demons and freed the area. The place thus came to be known as Vijayadri – hill of victory. Vijayadri later became Vennimala.

As per local belief, the shrine was constructed by King Cheraman Perumal Bhaskara Ravi Varma with the blessing of Kapila Maharshi. The place was then known as Iravipura as the murti of Lakshmana and Sri Rama was shown to the king by a hunter named Iravi. The king found the hill to be sacred and is believed to have built a palace here.

As per history, Vennimala was the capital of Thekkumkoor kings and the temple was the main center of worship (asthana kshetram).

Previously the temple was a Mahakshetra with five poojas and three sreebalis daily. Now, only three poojas are performed. 

Earlier there was a 28 day festival from Rohini nakshatra in Makaram month to Rohini in Kumbham culminating in the Arattu. For the arattu, during the forward journey Lakshmana was in front followed by Sri Rama while for the return after the arattu Sri Rama used to come in front. 

All the 28 days were punctuated by Chakyar Koothu. The koothambalam is part of Valiya Ambalam. Pothiyil Chakyars had the hereditary rights of performing Koothu in this temple. Only Ramayanam story used to be performed here. Koothu for 16 days followed by Koodiyattam for 12 days was the routine. 

Vennimala Koothu has been an integral part of the cultural scene of Kerala for centuries.

Vennimala Temple Architecture

The entrance to the temple is through a dwara gopura in Kerala style followed by an Anappandal. Then comes the two dhwaja stambha followed by the Agra Mandapam or Balikkalpura. This is followed by the Valiambalam with an in-built koothambalam. The Nalambalam is of wood and tile and on the exterior there is a Vilakkumadom as well.

The valiambalam leads to the inner prasada (courtyard) containing the Sreekovil and the namaskara mantapa. The namaskara mantapa of medium size contains four pillars and has been reconstructed in teak quite recently with tiled roofing. On the south side of the namaskara mantapa, in between the two pillars is the ancient Kanikka Vanchi of Teak with brass locking system etc., a rare find.

Beyond the namaskara mantapa comes the unique sreekovil only one of its kind in South India. It is the 'Ghata Prasada’ type with a pot shape, the Sreekovil proper is in circular form with a neck shaped mukha mantapa in front. 

The sreekovil has been constructed in stone and the mukha mandapa has ornamented wooden panels in between stone pillars. Both are roofed over by an integral copper roof supported by rafters. The exterior of the srikovil has beautiful daru silpas (wooden idols) at intervals along the periphery. Sopanam as well as pillars in the mantapa have been enclosed by brass membrane. Of the daru silpas special mention can be made of Siva, Venugopal, Ravana, Sri Rama and Mahalakshmi.