The Temple of Swamythope
“Pon menikootai pothinthu mani kovil vaithu Then meni chantor thirunal nadathi vanthar”- Akilathirattu
This temple is unique because, unlike other temples in India, there is no idol, ddpa arathi, priest to perform pujas and above all no hundi in the temple. The offering made to the deity is distributed to the devotees present in the temple. The devotees offer prayer to the deity with their towels tied around their head unlike the traditional Hindu practice of tying the towel around the waist.
The presiding deity of the temple is Ayya Narayanar. The trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva united in one being is believed to have come to earth to save mankind at eh end of Kaliyukam. Though there are no priests in the temple in the traditional sense, there is one guru in this temple. The hymns sung by him are repeated by the devotees in chorus.
The presiding deity is a spear, holding a cloth folded in the shape of namam and with a large mirror behind it in the sanctum sanctorum. The mirror is supposed to tell the devotee “First see yourself and you can visualize God within you”. In the moring the worship stats with the chanting of a newly coined mantra ayya siva siva arakara arakara and the main workship is done five times a day.
One who comes to worship the deity should make five pradakshanams and prostrate before the deity. The idea behind it is that one has to control all his five senses before surrendering to the Almighty. The traditional Hindu practice of lighting camphor and incense is prohibited in this temple. Betal leaves, betal nuts, lemon, flowers and coconut are given as offerings. After the worship is over the guru applies the sacred mud on the devotees forhead in the form of namam. A specially made gruel is given and prasadam to the devotees.
This temple has three specialities required of a holy place. I.e., moorthy, thalam and theertham. When we think of the moorthy, Lord Vaikuntar’s human body is the moola moorthy of this temple. This temple has been established over this moorthy. When we think of thalam, Akilathirattu, the holy book describes this holy land’s Arjuna made penance to get pasupathasthiram, from Lord Shiva. This place was the birth place of Veda Vyasa who worte Mahabharatha. Muthirikinaru is the holy theertham of this temple. Muthirikinaru is located at the north west of this village. People first go this well and take bath before entering the temple.
When we enter this holy place, we come across prople in wet clothes with turbans, coming towards the temple from muthirikinaru. Devotees enter the temple through vadakkuvasa. Vadakuvasal is the place where Lord Vaikuntar was in penance for six years. People walk around this place chanting ayya siva siva arakara arakara. Here, a couple of kuthuvilakku is lighted and the prasada is the holy sand of vadakuvasal. It is believed that giving dharma at vadakkuvasal in the name of Vaikuntar would absolve one of all his sins. A bell tower is seen over the vadakkuvasal. People made five pradakshanms around the temple. People then go to the kizakku nadai, that is the main entrance of the temple.
When we enter the temple, we can see the flagmast, fifty five feet tall. The holy Samatharamakodi is hoisted thrice a year during the festivals. People go round the inner prakara and the flagmast five times. There is a sannathi for Podukutti, the first guru of the Gurukulam and the only son of Muthukutty, on the southern side of the inner prakara.
There is a small sannathi for Thirmal Ammai, the wife of Muthukutty and the mother of Podukutty in the northern side of the inner prakara. Here also we come across the unpanpurai. This is Malayalam work meaning madaipalli. Here, they cook the food and distribute it to the devotees.
Later, we enter the main hall of the temple. Here, people congregate and chant ‘ugapadippu’ daily. The ‘Karuda medai’ is in the southern side. It was here that all the deities surrendered their powers to Lord Vaikuntar. Here also, we see some age-old weapons and a kuthuvilakku.
The munimar medai is in the southern side near the entrance of the palliarai prakara. A kuthuvilakku is seen here. Akilathirattu, the holy book, gives us information about these saints sent by Lord Vishnu to be with Vaikuntar in his life in the world. The Gurus are seen in the northern side of the main hall. Here the sacred mud namam is applied to the devotee’s forehead by the gurus. The also give santhanam and muthiripatham. People enter through the small entrance to palliarai prakara and go round the sanctum sanctorum five times, chanting ayya siva siva arakara arakara. The sanctum sanctorum contains only a mirror and a saffron coloured cloth kept in a triangular mode.
People give their offerings in kind. Some give cash to the gurus. This is called as vilakku ennai kasu meaning cash for the purchase of oil for the kuthuvilakku. This temple is tile-roofed except for the palliarai prakara and sanctum sanctorum. The temple looks different from the other temples of South India.
Another important thing about this temple is that this is a peoples’ temple. This temple was constructed by the poor people and not by any ruler. In fact, the then rulers of Travancore were very much against the construction of this temple. There is a plan to construct a Rajagopuram in a different style and also a big mandapam around the temple.