Today is a Saturday in the Tamil month of Purattaashi. A day sacred to Lord Narayana…
Let us then visit a Vishnu temple, shall we?
It was last Sunday, 21st Sep, when this blogger was in Kochi. His place of stay, a service apartment, was in a suburb of Kochi, in a place called Kakkanad. He had returned from a trip to munaar, and was set to return to Chennai that evening. There was a gap of a couple of hours after lunch when he could make time to get a feel of Kakkanad…. And as luck would have it, two old friends, Joseph and Unni , natives of Kochi, gave him a taste of Kerala by taking him on a visit to a temple.
Have you come across a temple of Lord Vamana? Vamana avatara was when Vishnu came as a dwarf Brahmana, to ask for three steps of real estate from King Mahabali. And on being granted his wish, he assumed cosmic form and measured the earth and sky with two steps, and the third he placed on the King’s head on his request. The King was consigned to Patala, and the Lord in turn, in gratitude, agreed to stand as his door guard forever. The King in turn requested that he be allowed to return to earth once a year. And it is this occasion that is celebrated as Onam, when all of Kerala welcomes King Mahabali on his annual visit.
And here we are, at the temple of Vamana, at Thirukkakara, in Kochi-Ernakulam…
Thirukkakkara is derived from Thiru-kal-karai, meaning – where the Holy foot of the Lord was placed. It is this place where Mahabali offered his head to Lord Vamana for putting his third step. Thus it is that Lord Vamana is known in Kerala as Thirukkakkara appan. Indeed, when Onam is celebrated, an idol of Lord Vamana is installed at home, and this Lord is referred to as Thirukkakkara appan….
So here I am, at Kakkanad – the country of the Holy foot – setting off to visit the temple of Kakkara appan.
We went there sometime around 2 pm… And the temple sanctums was closed. But the temple gate was open…
The whole atmosphere was serene, like a sleepy afternoon scene from RK Narayan’s Malgudi… Stepping inside, we were greeted by the darshan of the temple flagstaff in front of the main temple…
On the top of the temple outer wall, there one could see the representation of Vamana avatara.
Here is a close up.
At the temple front, there was a shining peetham ..
And a beautiful hanging lamp…
The temple has main shrines for Vishnu as well as Siva. The Siva shrine houses a Siva Linga which is said to have been worshipped by Mahabali himself. And as such, all devotees visit bot the main shrines. Needless to say, there are several other shrines as well. For Bhagavati, Mahalkakshmi, Ganapathi, Subrahmanya etc,
The main temple being closed, we decided to offer pradaskhina – walk around the main temple.
It was hot…. We were barefoot… Walking around the temple, one noticed the thousands of oil lamps all along the walls… On a festival day evening or night, when all these lamps would be lit, it would be a sight for the Gods. Kerala – God’s own country all right…
On the west of the main temple (assuming temple is North), there was the temple shthala vriksha – the temple tree – a peepal.
Walking further, we came across a shrine for Naga-s – Serpent deities. Under a tree.
And it looked as if worship had been offered recently. “Ayilyam” said Unni – indicating the star of the previous day, which is sacred to Naga devata.
Walking around, on the North-east end, we saw the temple tank… Known as Kapila teertha. One of the legends associated with the temple is that Kapila maharshi performed penance here…
On the South east side, one noticed a shrine dedicated to Brahma-Rakshasa. This is for a Brahmana who became a ghost. On enquiry, a story emerged. Apparently, once upon a time, a yogi was in this temple was suspected of stealing some golden bananas that were meant for the Lord. The matter was reported to the King. The Yogi, unable to bear the accusation, gave up his life and issued a curse that the Kingdom would come to ruin, which apparently it did. The Yogi became a Brahma Rakshasa. To appease him, a shrine was built specially for him, and all offerings to the main temple are also offered to the idol here.
The temple of Vamana is ancient. There are stone inscriptions here, which date from 10th century AD.
It is one of the 108 Divya Deshams – sacred temples of Mahavishnu.
And the Lord here has been praised in song by the first of Azhwars – Nammalwar.
Shall we enjoy one of these verses? ‘
வாரிக்கொண் டுன்னை விழுங்குவன் காணில்’என்று
ஆர்வுற்ற என்னை யழியவென னில்முன்னம்
பாரித்து, தானென்னை முற்றப் பருகினான்,
காரொக்கும் காட்கரை யப்பன் கடியனே.
vArik koNDu unnai vizhu’nguvan kANil enRu
ArvuRRa ennai ozhiya ennil munnam
pArittu, tAn ennai muRRap paruginAn
kAr okkum kATkarai appan kaDiyanE. (tiruvAi. 9.7.9)
The sage sings:
Eager as I was, to gather you completely in my arms
And eat you up, no sooner I set my eyes on you!
But you, O Lord, were quicker.
Spotting me even before I could spot him,
In one gulp, he swallowed me complete –
He, the kAtkarai Lord of the hue of dark clouds,
the deft one who leaves no task unfinished.
What a beautiful verse!
The very same sentiment is expressed by Ramana Maharshi in one of the verses of Aksharamanamalai…
சாப்பா டுன்னைச் சார்ந்துண வாயான்
சாந்தமாய்ப் போவ னருணாசலா!
I came to have you for food, but you ate me up for good,
Now I have attained peace, Arunachala!
Indeed the verse represents the highest teaching of Vedanta.
As Sri Ramana Maharshi says in uLLatu nARpatu
காணலெவ னூணாதல் காண் ( kANalevan UNAthal kAN )
Which means :
How is one to see (God, the Supreme Reality)?
Becoming food (unto the Lord), See!
But are we fit for becoming the Lord’s food? No…. And so, in his infinite compassion, He feeds us. Yes, one of the highlights of Thirukkakara temple Onam festival, is the Onasadya, where thousands of devotees enjoy a delicious feast, as Lord Vamana’s prasadam…
Om Trivikramaya Vamanaya namah…
All Glory to Thiru Kakkara Appan!