Thiruvalla Temple

Sri Vallabha temple, is thiruvalla, is 15km to the northwest of Chengannur, two km from Thiruvalla main bus stand.Thiruvalla gets its name from Sri Vallabha temple here, perhaps, the only place in Kerala where Kathakali is performed as a ritual offering to the presiding deity.  This is yet another temple, in Kerala, which is among the 108 Deivyadesams.

According to the sthala purana, there lived in Sankaramangalam, nearby, an old woman, a great devotee of Lord Vishnu, known as Sankaramangalathamma.   One Dwadasi day, when she was hard put to find a single learned man to partake of her food, Vishnu Himself appeared before her as a Brahmachari (a young, unmarried man), and requested her to serve Him food.  Sankaramangalathamma told him to have a wash in the nearby well before partaking meals. "Is there no river nearby?" queried the Lord.  "There is, but it is guarded by an asura, Tholagasura, who does not allow anybody to bathe there," replied the old woman.  Lord Vishnu then went to the river, killed the demon whith His chakra and then washed it of the bloodstains.  The place where he washed the chakra is no known as Chakrasala ghat.  When the Lord returned, Sankaramangalathamma guessed intuitively that it was the Lord in the form of a Brahmachari.  She asked Him to remove the cloth covering the upper portion of His body.  When He did so, she found Lakshmi on His chest (Thiru Maarbhu).  Since then, Vishnu came to be called here as Thiruvaazh Maarbhan, and , in course of time, as Sri Vallabhan.  The old woman then served Him food in an areca nut (pala) sheath.  The Lord, till date is served neivedhyam in an areca nut sheath. This ritual is known as Paala Bhojanam.

Sri Vallabha faces east, and is in the sanding pose.  It is said the idol was made for Sri Krishna by the celestial craftsman, Viswakarma.  As the time of His withdrawal from the earth neared, Sri Krishna handed over the idol to His cousin, Satyaki, for consecration at a proper place Satyaki, in turn, entrusted the task to Garuda.  As Garuda was carrying the idol, it slipped from his talons and fell into a river. Much later, when Cheraman Perumal was ruling over the region, Vishnu appeared inhis dream and told him of the exact location of the fallen idol.  The king found the image, and installed it is this temple, which was actually being readied to receive a different idol.  A stone inscription states that the temple was built in 59CE.  The new idol was consecrated in a place called Malayin Keezh, The deity there is worshipped as Thiruvalla Appan.

Sage Durvasa, who visited the Thiruvallla shrine, is said to have offered Padathi Pazham, a kind of banana, to the Lord, a practice which continues to date.  In fact, the Sage Durvasa link is so strong here that pooja articles are left inside the sanctum sanctorum before the doors are closed for the night. The belief is that the sage comes at night to do pooja to the Lord.

Sri Vallabha is in different attires during the course of a day.  He is worshipped during early morning pooja as a Brahmachari, forenoon, as a sannyasi(recluse), at noon, dressed royally, as Vasudeva, in the afternoon as Narayana, and, finally, in the evening, worshipped as Sri Lakshmi Narayana.  The Divine consort is Sri Selva Thirukkozhudhu Naachiyaar, also known as Sri Vaathsalya Devi.  There are sub-shrines for Ganapati, Varaha, Sastha, etc.

Kathakali is performed here as a form f worship.  It is said that Vilwamangalam Swamiyar, during a visit to the temple, had a vision of the Lord being seated among the spectators, enjoying the performance.  Since then, during Kathakali performances, a place is allotted for the Lord o sit, covered in silk, with a  lighted lamp nearby.  The 15-metre (50 feet) long, granite flag pole, encased in gold plating, has a Garuda at the top.  It is said that when Perumathachan, the celebrated craftsman, installed the Garuda, it attempted to fly away. The Garuda was then chained to the post.  The unique thing about this flag post is that what is visible is only a small portion of the pole.  The Vibhudhi (sacred ash) is given here as prasadam, not chandanam (sandalpaste), the norm in Vaishnava shrines.  The story goes that Kanada Karan, a staunch Shiva bhakta, became a devotee of Vishnu, after he was advised by Lord Shiva to give up human slaughter, and instead worship the Perumal here. Two Vaishnava acharyas, Thirumangai Alwar and Nammalwar, have sung about this temple.

How to get there:

Thiruvalla is 12km from Chengannur, on the Thiruvananthapuram-Kottayam route.  Sri Vallabha temple is 3km fromThiruvalla railway station, which is o the Thiruvaanthapuram-Kollam-Ernakulam section.

Accommodation

Choultries are available near the temple, but more luxurious accommodation can be had in the town.

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