Where Heritage, Faith, and Tradition Converge

Ernakulam Shiv Mandir

Also known as Ernakulathappan Mandir, stands as a prominent center of devotion

Abstract :

Ernakulam Shiva Temple, also known as Ernakulathappan Temple, stands as a prominent center of devotion in the heart of Kochi, Kerala. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple holds a unique position as the protector of the city according to local beliefs. With deep-rooted historical significance, intricate architecture, and grand festivals, this temple is a testament to the spiritual heritage of Kerala. This research article delves into the temple’s historical narratives, architectural magnificence, and the splendor of its annual Uthsavom festival.

Introduction :

Ernakulam Shiva Temple, a place of spiritual solace and cultural richness, is nestled in the bustling city of Ernakulam, Kerala. As a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, it holds the unique distinction of being the city’s guardian deity, as per the deeply-rooted Hindu faith and traditions. With a history entwined with the city’s own, this temple showcases the grandeur of Kerala’s heritage. In this research article, we explore the temple’s historical narratives, architectural marvels, and the magnificence of the Uthsavom festival.

Historical Narratives :

The temple’s history is deeply entwined with the Hindu epic Mahabharata. Arjuna, the valiant third Pandava, embarked on a severe penance to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva. Pleased with Arjuna’s unwavering devotion, Lord Shiva, accompanied by his divine consort Sri Parvathi, journeyed from their abode at Mount Kailash to meet Arjuna.

Lord Shiva, in his desire to demonstrate Arjuna’s devotion to Parvathi, took on the guise of “Kiratha,” a tribal hunter. As Shiva appeared before Arjuna, a wild boar charged towards them. Both Arjuna and Shiva, disguised as Kiratha, aimed their arrows at the boar. After a fierce battle, the demon Mookasura, who had taken the form of a boar, was defeated, revealing its true form. However, a dispute arose between Arjuna and Kiratha, each claiming to be the actual slayer of the demon. A prolonged battle ensued, ultimately leading to Kiratha’s victory over Arjuna.

A defeated Arjuna, unable to stand, created a Shiva Lingam out of mud and offered flowers in devotion. To his astonishment, the flowers he offered to the Shiva Lingam fell upon the head of Kiratha. Arjuna realized that Kiratha was, in fact, Lord Shiva. Impressed by Arjuna’s sincerity, Lord Shiva granted him the divine Pashupatha Arrow. Arjuna left the place, and soon, the area was consumed by dense forests, lying uninhabited for centuries. The memory of the Shiva Lingam created by Arjuna faded into obscurity.

Centuries later, a young boy named Devala, cursed by a sage to have the body of a snake, ventured into the forest and discovered the Shiva Lingam buried in the mud. In the hopes of breaking the curse, he worshiped the Lingam as part of his profound penance. The sight of the snake-bodied Devala frightened people, and some even attempted to drive him away with sticks. Unperturbed by their actions, Devala continued his intense penance. Eventually, Lord Shiva and Parvathi appeared in their divine forms and instructed the sage to immerse himself in a nearby pond. Upon doing so, Devala was freed from the curse. A new idol, alongside the original Lingam, manifested. From this legend, the place acquired the name “Rishnagakulam,” meaning “The pond of Rishi Nagam,” and the temple was constructed by the public.

History :

The temple’s existence finds mention in Sangam Literature as one of the significant temples during the Chera Dynasty, with the Cheras being devoted followers of Lord Shiva. After the fall of the Chera Dynasty, the area was under the control of a few Nair nobles who renamed it Ernakulam (a variation of the original term “Eere Naal Kulam,” meaning “Pond with water always”). This renaming was in honor of the temple’s famous sacred pond. Ernakulam then came under the rule of the Kochi Kingdom, and the temple gained prominence due to royal patronage. The temple deity was declared as the protector of Ernakulam city (Nagara Devata).

The second phase of the temple’s history began in 1842 when Diwan Sri Edakkunni Sankara Warrier, recognizing the dilapidated condition of the temple, initiated a renovation project in 1843. Two new Gopura Mandapams (Entrance Towers), reflecting the architectural style of Sree Poornathrayesa Temple in Tripunithura, were built. The renovated temple complex was opened to the public in 1846, elevating the temple to the status of a royal temple under the Kochi Kingdom. When Kochi merged with the Indian Union in 1949, the temple administration came under the control of the government, where it remains today.

As part of enhancing local participation in temple management, the Ernakulam Kshetra Kshema Samithi, comprising leading Hindu members of Ernakulam city, actively participated in fundraising and purchased the adjacent land. This land, which had been in the possession of the Corporation of Kochi, was acquired for the temple’s benefit. The activities of the Ernakulam Kshethra Kshema Samithy contributed significantly to the overall development of the temple.

Deities :

The presiding deity of the temple is Lord Shiva in the Gourisankara form, located in the main sanctum sanctorum, facing west towards the Arabian Sea. The Lingam in the main sanctum sanctorum is believed to be Swayambhu, divinely derived. To the northern side of the main sanctum, a small shrine for Kirthamoorthy, believed to be the original Lingam worshiped by Arjuna, can be found. To the southern side, a small shrine is dedicated to Lord Ganesha, the son of Lord Shiva. Behind the main sanctum sanctorum, there is a space considered as the shrine of Shiva’s consort Parvati, and the east gate is named the Devi Gate. Outside the inner temple circle, Ayyappa and Nagaraja have their own shrines, creating a harmonious religious ambiance.

Structure :

The temple’s architectural design represents the traditional style of Kerala temple architecture. The circular sanctum complex features intricately sculpted walls and a copper-tiled roof. The temple has two gates; the western Gopuram is a two-story structure in typical Kerala architectural style with gabled roofs and slanting windows. The eastern Gopuram has been recently renovated to mirror the western side. The Devaswom office is situated near the western Gopuram. In recent times, a new marriage hall and Oottupura (dining hall) were constructed on the northern side.

Festivals :

The Uthsavom, or temple festival, held during the Makaram month, is one of the grandest festivals in Kochi. The festivities commence with the Kodiyettam, the hoisting of the temple flag, on the first evening. On the seventh day, there is Pakalpooram, a grand procession featuring caparisoned elephants, Panchavadyam, and culminating at the Durbar Hall Ground after the renowned Pandimelam and vibrant fireworks. On the final day, during the evening, a flag-lowering ceremony precedes the Arattu, a holy bath of the deity in the nearby temple tank. This is followed by the iconic Arattu procession, accompanied by Panchavadyam. The procession concludes at the Durbar Hall Ground, where an impressive fireworks display marks the grand finale of this week-long festival.

During the festival, Sheeveli, a temple ritual, is held inside the temple, and renowned Chendamelam artists are invited to perform. The festival also showcases various cultural programs, focusing on promoting temple arts such as Ottamthullal, Paatakam, Thayambaka, Kathakali, classical dances, classical music concerts, Bhajans, and more. Annadanam, the practice of providing free meals, is also organized. Thousands of people flock to the temple to witness these vibrant and culturally rich events. The Pakalpooram and Arattu processions are unforgettable experiences for all who attend. The nearby Durbar Hall ground becomes a bustling hub of activities during the Uthsavom.

In addition to the grand Uthsavom, the temple celebrates Maha Shivratri in the month of Kumbham, Thiruvathira in the month of Dhanu, Pradosham, Mondays, and other festivals in a grand manner, all steeped in tradition.

The Temple Complex :

The Ernakulam Temple Complex includes two additional temples within its premises. To the northern side, you will find a Murugan Kovil constructed in a Tamil style by the Tamil residents of Kochi during the administration of Diwan Venkataswamy, a Tamil Brahmin. The Muruga Kovil is managed by the Tamil Brahmin Association of Ernakulam, and all rituals are performed in accordance with Tamil customs. The presiding deity is Lord Muruga, accompanied by his consorts Valli and Devanyani. The temple also features shrines for Navagrahas and Ganesha, alongside regular Vishnu, Dakshinamoorthy, and Durga Devi poojas.

To the eastern side of the temple, you’ll find a Hanuman temple constructed in the Kannadiga Udupi style. This temple was built in 1850 by Diwan Venkat Rao, a Tulu Brahmin, as part of his vision to create a temple in the traditional Udupi Madhwa Sampradaya style. It is one of the rare temples in the Madhwa Sampradaya not dedicated to Lord Krishna. The presiding deity is Lord Hanuman, facing towards the Shiva temple on the western side. In the main sanctum sanctorum, there is also a small idol of Lord Rama. Shrines for Lord Nagaraja and Raghavendra Swami are also part of this temple.

The present Ernakulathappan Temple complex consists of these three temples, coexisting with their unique customs and traditions. This configuration mirrors a miniature representation of the diversity and coexistence of cultures in South India.

In addition to the temples, the renowned Ernakulam Temple pond is located to the east, facing away from the Murugan temple. The complex also houses the offices of the Ernakulam Brahmin Association, a marriage hall, and the offices of the Temple Advisory Committee. An ancient banyan tree, over 200 years old, stands near the Hanuman temple.

Conclusion :

Ernakulam Shiva Temple, with its profound historical narratives, architectural elegance, and grand Uthsavom festival, serves as a testament to Kerala’s rich spiritual and cultural heritage. More than just a place of worship, this temple embodies the living tradition, art, and devotion of the region, attracting devotees and visitors from around the world. As the guardian deity of Ernakulam, it continues to inspire generations with its spiritual essence and grandeur.

Editor – Kaalchakra Team

[ Note – Before Concluding anything as a Finale, Please Go through Original Scriptures of Vaidik Literature Written in Sanskrit and Also with Meaning of That time of Language. Because English is a Limited language to Explaining the Deeper Knowledge of Vaidik Kaal. ]