The Shiva temple Thiruvannur in Kozhikode, Kerala is an important site of pilgrimage for Shaiva devotees on the Malabar coast dating back to ancient times. It is said to have been constructed and consecrated by Lord Parashurama himself in the Treta Yuga.
When I was dropped at the entrance by the auto I looked twice at the small unassuming entrance door. Little realizing this was just the first door of the fortress-like place hidden inside its simple entrance. I guess built innocuous as a camouflage so as not to reveal the majestic interiors of the shrine. The fortress-like architecture seems to be typical of Malabar temples dating from antiquity.
The structure is almost like Talil Shiva temple I visited recently with huge high pillars, spacious outer courtyard, inner courtyard with raised platform verandas on either side of the entrance, within which is the inner sanctum enclosed in a rectangular courtyard housing large long verandhas flanking the inner courtyard.
I was very fortunate to meet and chat with the main Tantri who was kind enough to share many short bits of legends and sthal purana of the shrine.
The temple is very ancient, thus the unique apsoidal shape of garbha gruha or sanctum sanctorum. Square in front and U-shaped like the posterior of an elephant called gajaprashtam, the temple’s archetecture is unique in many ways. It is said Parashuram finished the consecration puja by dawn hence Usha Puja (morning puja) is very special and important here, legend also details how Parashuram went and consecrated two other Shiva Temples on the same day mannavur in Farook and the third a little away. Since this is a west facing shrine the position of teertha flowing out is on the left side thus cutting off the circumbulation as soon as we start it, taking a U-turn from there and making our way anticlockwise to the point of teerth from behind..(the shrines constructed in Kaliyug are square or rectangular in shape).
At one point Parashuram had taken a vow to kill all kshatriyas and had carried out terrible annihilations. The shrine was imbued with Parashurama’s energy due to which the Kshatriyas including the King found it difficult to enter the shrine hence a separate shrine was consecrated for Parashurama.
Another unique feature is the three pujas in the morning itself. Usha Puja is the most important conducted at 5.30am. The sanctum is raised very high almost to a height of 12 feet which houses a large Shiva Linga adorned with silver crescent shaped moons about 8 or 9 one on top of other in the centre of the Shiva Linga. The raised temple structure reminded me of Shringeri Mahadeva temple. One has to literally crane the neck up to look at the Shiva Linga adorned with flower garlands and soft lit oil lamps. The steps leading up to the shrine are plated with gold colored metal. However, the priest assured me three gopurams on top of the garbha griha are made of gold.
Legend says the Shiva Shakti Swarupa here is that of tribal chieftains a form which Shiva took to challenge Arjuna’s penance before the great Mahabharata war. Shiva in tribal hunter form challenged Arjuna and several kinds of duels followed including in the end hand to hand dwand yudh or wrestling combat. In the end happy with Arjuna’s valor, his proficiency in use of warfare, his duelling skills, and total commitment to the cause of justice Mahadeva and Devi had revealed their true form and granted the boon of the divine and all powerful personal weapon Pashupatastra belonging to Mahadeva and Goddess Kali.
The sanctum has two levels in the apsoidal shaped upper floors of sanctum. The first level on the outer side has large dhravya sculptures made of wood representing Arjuna, Shiva and Parvati and their legendary duel in the forests, the second level also has miniature figurines of Dashavtara of Mahavishnu.
It seems elephants are not part of the festivals here since the elephants when brought to the entrance would bend their knees and dig their tusks into the floor refusing to enter or circumbulate. It is thought that the power of Shiva in hunter swaroopa is so palpable that even elephants refuse to enter.
The feeling I got here was of peace, a very calming quietude with a soft breeze almost naughty blowing with enough gust to be felt and with enough power to provide a cool refreshing feeling despite the heat. The breeze and the feeling of peace was so all enveloping I gave me plans to visit another shrine that night and just stayed there soaking in the environ and letting the breeze play with me. Almost like a young child playing hide and seek it would meet me with a gusto at every turn as I circulated.
The shrine complex also houses a Shree Krishna kavu (holy grove) adjacent to it with Parashuram shrine outside in the grove. There are also inside the complex Dharmashasta and Vana Durga shrines.
I had planned two other temples but I was so taken in by the peace of the place with barely half-a-dozen devotees it was a complete detox trip and so I decided to stay till the night puja. And I was so attracted by the place I went again early in the morning though I was late for the Usha Puja conducted at 5.30am I was happy to watch other pujas especially to catch the bright molten gold of riding sun through the wood rafters built on the inner periphery wall that holds rows and rows of small oil lamps.
The Narayana namam chant conducted in a special way during morning puja at Sri Krishna shrine truly special, the timber, deep bass and tenor set high sung by a few men and women devotees while waiting for the garbha griha door to open set off vibrations all through the temple and in me.
The energy I was exposed to past few days were multi-dimensional. I neither have enough sadhna nor intellectual acumen to recognize and articulate all of my experiences and perceptions, except that these deities did want to meet me and permitted me to float into their environ for a short while. At some level, I hope my being was soaking in all the divine and higher vibrational energy present in these temples that I visited in last few days.