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Serenity and devotion

Serenity and devotion
Highlights

The temples of India draw power from their location (sthanabala) and distinct style of architecture as also the legend and myth that surround them....

The temples of India draw power from their location (sthanabala) and distinct style of architecture as also the legend and myth that surround them. Through “Sthalapurana” or folklore that outlines the greatness of the location, we discover the power of the presiding deity and the effects or the “Phala” (result) that ensues from visiting each revered shrine.

Places of worship, large or small, unveil the soul of the region, providing social and cultural insights as well. While there are numerous temples for Shiva and Vishnu and those exclusively worshipping Devi, those pertaining to Brahma, Surya and Shani are rare. A visit to Thiruvallam Parasurama temple in Thiruvananthapuram better known for the riches and power of the famous deity Padmanabha provides the rarest of rare experiences in the form of a temple dedicated to the axe-wielding sage, Parasurama considered as the sixth avatar of Vishnu. I was curious to see this temple dedicated to the angry sage.

The Thiruvallam Parasurama Temple is situated 10km from Thiruvananthapuram en route to Kovalam on the banks of the Karamana river. A protected monument with the State Archaeology Department, it is said to have been constructed between the 12th and 13th centuries by the Pandyan Kings. Famous for “Balitharpanam” or offerings to ancestors, I found a long queue of pilgrims on the auspicious day of “Ekadasi’’ waiting to take a dip in the river as I reached the temple.

The narrow entrance led to the main shrine with the idol of Parasurama, while there are smaller shrines to various gods within the main complex. Oil lamps, banana leaves, flowers of different hues and the smell of camphor and incense marked the special day. I spotted a number of people to the right of the main shrine holding plates filled with the customary offerings for the special “Balitharapnam rites’’, while the priests chanted special prayers to propitiate ancestors.

There is a wide belief that the great monk, Adi Shankara made the “Bali” (sacrifice) for his mother at the place where the temple was constructed much later. This is one of the many legends that add to the allure as in the case of the story of Parasurama, whose destructive axe was thrown into the great Arabian Sea creating a new landmass.

The Parasurama avatar like other avatars appeared at a time when evil prevailed on earth. The son of sage Jamadagni and Renuka Devi, he sought to avenge the killing of his father by a Kshatriya King and his descendants. After enjoying the sage’s hospitality King Kartavirya Arjuna and his descendants stole the holy cow “Kamdhenu” and killed Jamadagni after stabbing him 21 times.

After he rid the earth of Kshatriyas, who shunned dharma 21 times, (settling the score) Parashurama donated the entire earth to Maharishi Kashyap, as penitence. He then threw his battle axe into the sea and reclaimed land submerged under the ocean from Varuna - the God of the ocean and Bhoodevi - the earth Goddess. The land between Gokaranam and Kanyakumari, where the axe fell became “Kerala”, which is also referred to as “Parusuramakshetram”.

Parasurama also known as Bharagava Rama and Veera Rama was not merely a symbol of intolerance towards “adharma” or improper conduct. He was also a dutiful son avenging his father’s brutal killing. This is probably why he is worshipped by offspring making offerings to ancestors.

Parasurama’s idol at the temple, I was surprised to find, does not reflect the extreme anger represented by the sage. It is smiling and peaceful amidst the prayers and offerings, nestling in his creation now famous as “God’s own country’’.

By: Aruna Ravikumar

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