Revival of Dharma and Restoration of Temple in Keezhperoor
By Praveen Shanker Pillai
Thirupalkadal (Thiruparkadal) SreeKrishnaswamy Temple is an ancient Hindu temple dedicated to Bhagavaan Mahavishnu. This Temple is located in the Keezhperoor village, Chirayinkeezhu Taluk, Thiruvananthapuram District, Kerala. This Temple is located in a peaceful and serene rustic countryside, and “far from the maddening crowd”.
The legends of this temple are closely intertwined with that of the empires and kingdoms that ruled Tamizhagam; the Chera Chola and Pandya Empires and the Kingdoms of Venad and Travancore. Mala-naadu, which comprised of the areas constituting the present state of Kerala and the district of Kanyakumari, was an integral part of Tamizhagam.
The deity is MahaVishnu in Chathurbhuja form, carrying the conch Panchajanya, the discus Sudarshana Chakra, the mace Kaumodaki and a lotus with a thulsi garland around HIS neck, though the people call the HIM, Thirupalkadal SreeKrishna. This East facing deity is about 5 feet tall. The roof of the Temple is a conical pyramid and is covered in copper plates. The sub deities were Sastav and Ganapathy. This Temple has two Tantries. They are from the famous Thazhamon and Memana Namboothiri families.
Thirupalkadal Sreekrishnaswamy temple is known as Aadi-kula-kovil of The Keezhperoor Ay kingdom. The Ay Yadavas ruled over various parts of southern-most parts of Tamizhagam and became feudatories of the Chera Empires. The Ay royal family later on merged with Later Chera dynasty and became the Venad Kingdom. The family deity of Ay Royal Family, who ruled over the place during the Sangam period, was SreeKrishna (Thirupalkadal Bhattaarakar).
Advent of Agastya Mahamuni
After the fall of Dwaraka, Agastya Mahamuni, one of the Saptarishi, took with him many leaderless, defenceless Yadava families and travelled to Agastyakoodam in Tamizhagam. Legends, which have been handed down the generations, state that the divine Agastya stopped at Keezhperoor village and sat in meditation under an elanji tree (L. Mimusops Elengi) There is an elanji tree in this temple premises to this day.
During the 2005 Sabarimala pilgrimage season under the elangi tree in temple premises, a bright luminous form of SreeKrishna was seen for a while. Long after the bright light vanished, a dark hue resembling SreeKrishna was seen on the elangi tree for a long time.
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The famous Kerala historian Elamkulam Kunjan Pillai in his seminal work "Some Kerala Historical Issues" has mentioned this legend of Agastya Muni. The acolytes of Agastya Muni built this temple dedicated to Maha Vishnu. The Yadava community considered SreeKrishna, an avataar of MahaVishnu as having the full powers of MahaVishnu HIMSELF. Even in the famous Guruvayor Temple, the moorthy is that of MahaVishnu but people consider the deity as SreeKrishna.
According to Dr. M.G Sasibhooshan, a famous historian, the temple was constructed about 2000 years ago with a square shaped Sreekovil by Ay Dynasty's Keezhperoor Swaroopam. The temple was renovated in 9th century AD by Kulashekhara Azhwar ,the only one of the 12 Vaishnava Azhwars to be born in Mala-naadu.
It is believed that the Kollam Era used in Malayalam calendar commemorates the renovation of this ancient and once famous temple by the saint Kulashekhara Azhwar. This year 2018 in Julian calendar corresponds to 1193 in Kollam Era.
Kulasekhara Azhwar’s songs on Thirupalkadal Ksheerabdhinaathan are included in ‘Divya Prabandham’ as verses numbering 2256, 2618, 2661, 2835, 2844, 2963, 3454, 3465 and 3470.
The 107th Vaishnava Divya Desam
According to ‘Thiruppathi Andadi’ written by Pillaiperumal Iyengar , there are 13 Divya Desam in Malai-Naadu (Kerala State and Kanyakumari District), 82 in Tamil Nadu, 11 in Andhra, one each in Uttarakhand, Gujarat and Nepal and the last two in the heavenly realm are Thirupal kadal and Parama Padam. It is the belief of the temple trustees and of the people of Keezhperoor that the 107th Divya Desam, namely, Thirupalkadal, which Kulasekhara Azhwar consecrated, refers to the Thirupalkadal (Thiruparkadal) SreeKrishnaswamy Temple in Keezhperoor that this extraordinary saint had also renovated.
The ‘KIlimanur Record of Kollam 343 M.E. (1168 A.D.) is contained in a set of six cadjan leaves, written in Tamil. These cadjan leaves were discovered “in the Vernacular Records Office within the Fort of Trivandrum and from the remarks made at the end of the 4th and the beginning of the next leaf, it is understood that the whole is a ‘true copy’ of a record engraved on a set of copper plates whose whereabouts are, not, however, now tracable.”1 (1. Travancore Archaeological Series – Volume – V. Page – 63). The text in Tamil is found on page 78. It is given in transliteration below:
1. Aamaandu Makarathil Viyaazham Ninra Metanjaayaru Panthirantu Chenra Viyaazhamaant Uthiravum Pakkam Thiryothachiyum Innaalaal Venaattu Ilankooru Vaazhuntharuliya”
2.”Sree Veeratheva Maarthandavarmma Thiruvati Keezh Mechilavinu. Thittam Pannicheruliya ‘Thiruppalkatal Bhattarakarkku Amachilavum NIchchanavikkum”The second cadjan leaf definitely gives the name of the temple as ‘Thiruppalakatal”.
“One has to assume that, because Keezhperoor was lost in oblivion for some time in history, its famous Temple also was lost to the outside world, at a time, when more than 85 percent of Kerala was covered with jungles and dense forests, human population very sparse, and communications very far and occasional, with the result, the geographical location of the Temple was also lost.”
“Pillaiperumal Iyengar compiled the list of the 108 Vishnava Divyadesam in Tamil language in the 12th century and not in Malayalam language, which had become prevalent in Kerala by then. The result was a dilution in remembering the Vishnu Temples as ‘Vaishnava Divayadesam” by the common people and even the term became unknown to the common populace in Kerala.”
“The Tamil Vaishnavites had the name of the Thiruppalkatal Temple in their list of 108 Divya Desams. Because they could not locate its geographical presence, they had attributed the location of the Temple as one in Swarga Loka. While one respects the Vaishnava Bakthas of Tamil Nadu and other regions, unless there was a Temple on the Earth with the name ‘Thiruppalkatal’, the possibility of such a name finding its place in the list of Divya Desams is very remote indeed.”
“Angkor Wat is the famous Temple city in Cambodia, spread over 500 acres. It was lost to the external world for centuries till it was discovered by the French Naturalist, Henry Mouhat in 1860. It is estimated that the temple was built during the period 1110 to 1150 A.D.”
“Even very famous Temples in the march of history slides into an eclipse and remains unknown to the external world, for varied periods of time. It is certain that such an event had occurred in the case of ‘Thiruppalkatal’ Temple at Keezhperur, near Kilimanur in Travancore area of Kerala, also. Its geographical existence was lost to the world, though, its name continued in the records and narrations of Vaishnavites of Tamil Nadu.” - Dr R Pratapsimha Raja, senior member, Travancore Royal Family.
Change of Venad capital
During classical Tamil period the temple were administered by the Ay royal family of Keezhperoor illam. Rama Varma Kulasekhara abdicated the throne in favour of his son Kotha Varma (1102–1125) and retired from public life. Maharaja Kotha Varma Kulasekhara later conquered Kottar and portions of Nanjanad from Pandyas.
Starting with the reign of Veera Udaya Martanda Varma, keezhperoor (1173–1192) up to the reign of Veera Ravi Kerala Varma Tiruvadi, Keezhperoor (1214–1240), the rulers of Venad, were intermittently vassals of the Pandyan rulers of Madurai. They fought against the Pandyas for the supremacy over the fertile plains of Kottar and Nanjanatu. They also entered into several matrimonial alliances with the Pandyas rulers, and maintained blow-hot blow-cold relations with them.
The Pandyas probably led a successful military expedition to Venad and captured the strategic port city of Quilon between 1250 and 1300 CE. The records of Jatavarman Sundara Pandya and Maravarman Kulasekhara Pandya testify to the establishment of Pandya suzerainty over Venad. The Venad ruling family shifted its capital from Keezhperoor to Attingal after 1250 CE.
A number of inscriptions from AD 10TH to the 15th centuries belonging to the Venad rulers show that they had appended Keezhperoor (Kilapperur) to their personal names to honour the land which hosted their very own Thirupalkadal SreeKrishnaswamy Temple.
There was a brief period of rapid expansion under Jayasimha Deva (1266–1267) and Ravi Varman Kulasekhara Perumal (1266/7 – 1316/7). (See Annexures) This was followed by a long period of decline.
In fifteenth century CE, Venad royal family became again issueless and it had to adopt two princesses from Kolatthunadu royal family. The adoption ceremony was conducted at the mandapam of Thirupalkadal SreeKrishnaswamy Temple. It is the local belief that the royal adoptees from Kola Swaroopam (Chirakkal), escorted by the mighty prince Sarvanganaatha Aditya Varma under his equally mighty uncle Maharaja Sangramadheera Ravi Varma Kulasekhara halted at Keezhperur until Attingal with its famous Temple of Shree Bhadra, palaces and forts got readyAs the princesses grew up, differences cropped up between them and Venad kingdom became partitioned with two capitals, one at Attingal and the other at Kilimanoor. Administration of Thirupalkadal SreeKrishnaswamy Temple was entrusted to koyimar and ooralar. The Temple treasures were transported to Anantha Padmanabhaswamy Temple in a large caravan of bullock carts.
With the shift in royalty from Keezhperur to Attingal and the fading away of direct royal supervision of temple administration, which came to pass around 14th century CE, winds of adversity began to blow hard. The Uralar Sabha started to encroach on Temple lands even though they still gave enough funds to maintain the Temple rituals and festivals.
Venad Kingdom abandoned Kollam port and retreated south, probably due to attacks by Pandyan Kingdom. Veera Goda Sri Aditya Varma (1468–1484) shifted Venad capital to Kallidaikurichi, in the present Ambasamudram Taluk of Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu. His successor Veera Ravi Ravi Varma (1484–1503); again moved the Venad capital to Padmanabhapuram now in Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu.
After defeating a union of feudal lords and establishing internal peace, Maharaja Marthanda Varma (1729-1758) expanded the kingdom of Venad through a series of military campaigns from Kanyakumari to the borders of Kochi. He moved the capital of Venad / Travancore to Thiruvananthapuram where it remained until the Kingdom of Travancore was extinguished in 1949.
Thirupalkadal SreeKrishnaswamy Temple slowly faded away from public consciousness and it found scant mention when the history of modern Travancore kingdom was written. So it is no surprise that Vaishnava acharyas in Tamil Nadu have not heard of this Temple.
Temple Rituals and Festivals The Temple had followed a Five-time pooja system of rituals to the accompaniment of panchavaadyam. The Temple celebrated an eight-day festival in the Malayalam month of Medom (Tamil: Chittirai). This was among the rare temples with two Thantries – Thazhamon Thanthri and Memana Thanthri. They would conduct the Utsavam on alternate years. The original copper flag mast had two hooks on it, one for each thanthri to hoist the flag. The festival would be conducted on an elaborate scale. A grand elephant procession was a part of the annual Utsavam festivities. The special days of Utsavam saw daily Kalasha pooja with one hundred and one pots. Koothu, Ottam Thullal and Kathakali and other popular art forms of Malayaala Naadu used to take stage then.
The much subdued present is in sharp contrast to the golden days of a time long past. Due to the tireless efforts of young energetic neighbourhood Hindus, with some elders of standing guiding them, a truncated one-day festival is conducted in the month of Medom. The day-to-day expenses as also the finances to meet the special days like Ashtami Rohini, Thiru Onam in Chingam (August/September) and the forty one day mandalam in Vrischigam and Dhanu (November/December) are met from contributions made by local devotees.
Festivals currently being conducted at Thirupalkadal SreeKrishnaswamy Temple are Vishu - 1st day of Malayalam month Medam (Mesha) Janmashtami - Chinga Malayalam month, ashtami tithi, rohini nakshatram Thiruparkkadal Ekadashi - Vrischika month shukla paksha ekadasi Ramayana Aacharanam - Vrischika month
There is a belief that those pilgrims who come to Thirupalkadal SreeKrishnaswamy Temple with firm faith and deep devotion will have one sin, either committed in this birth or any previous birth, removed from their list held by Chitragupta in Yamaloka.
Post-Colonial period When the Land Reforms Act came into effect the condition of this temple was deplorable. The leasing-subtenants became owners of lands in their possession and this adversely affected the temple revenues. Financial disaster struck the fortune of this temple and the unpaid priests also stopped worship of the deity. The mighty doors of the once famous Keezhperoor Thirupalkadal Bhattarakar’s Temple grated to a close indefinitely. This was a traumatic end of a mighty era. The stately flag mast crashed to the ground and had to be ritually consigned to flames in the presence of the Temple Thanthries. Quite a number of coins were found in the base of the flag mast. They belonged to the time of Aiyilyam Thirunaal Rama Varma’s period and were in circulation in the eighteen sixties. The building complex around the sanctum sanctorum too had fallen down. A few months after the shocking closure, the precious panchaloha Sheevaeli vigraham of the Lord was found to be stolen. The socio-economic conditions of the local people retreated to a gloomy despair.
Revival of Dharma
in the hearts and lives of people of Keezhperoor and its surroundings NSS Karayogam takes over Temple Administration
In 1980's No.3200 Ambikavilasam NSS Karayogam approached the Amunthirathi Madom and Edayavanathu Madom with a request to transfer the ownership rights to this Karayogam. While the Edayavanathu Madom was agreeable to the transfer of administrative privileges to the Karayogam, the Amunthirathi Madom did not find it acceptable. This led to yet another legal dispute. The tribunal’s verdict was in favour of the Karayogam with an important qualification. It allowed the right of administration without ownership. In 2012, His Highness Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma visited the temple and re-established the relationship of Travancore Royal family with Thirupalkadal Sreekrishnaswamy Temple. Following this event an Ashtamangala Devaprasnam and Murajapam were conducted at the temple. In 2015 temple committee organised a 12-day pooja as specified in the Deva-prasna-vidhi in presence of Thantri Thekkedath Kuzhikkattillathu Vasudevan Bhattathirippadu. During the pooja Mooppil Swamiyar of Thrissur Thekke Madom (Vasudevananda Brahmananda Bhoothi) visited temple and performed Pushpanjali. The Temple, the surrounding villages and the people dwelling there in have witnessed a resurgence of prosperity after the Temple started functioning, even if not in a grand manner as before.
Thirupalkadal SreeKrishnaswamy Temple is a living and thriving testament to an eternal Hindu faith and ancient Hindu culture. This must be protected and preserved for posterity. The Karayogam, with great confidence and inspiration bestowed by the Almighty, has just started the onerous task of renovation. It would require generous financial commitment from the devout public to restore the historic Thirupalkadal SreeKrishnaswamy Temple to the glory that is rightfully deserves
Proposed Renovation of the Temple
A plot of land measuring 20 cents has been purchased adjacent to the Temple grounds. In this plot of land it is proposed to construct amenities for pilgrims arriving from far off places.
The Temple Samithy is in a quandary considering the enormous amounts required for the renovation of this historic Temple. Hence this Temple Samithy seeks funds and materials from devout public for carrying forward this massive Temple renovation activity.
Temple website: http://www.thirupalkadalsreekrishnatemple.org/
REFERENCES: - Travancore Archaeological Series Volumes, which contains many of the original sources like the Kilimanoor Record, Mampalli Copper Plates, Kolloormatam Plates, etc.,. - “A Study of Thiruppalkkadal Temple in Historical Perspective” by Shri Ajay Kumar S - A Survey of Kerala History (1967). By Menon, Sreedhara A. - Contribution of Kerala to Sanskrit Literature; by K. Kunjunni Raja; University of Madras 1980 - Excerpts from essays written by Dr R Pratapsimha Raja, historian and senior member of Travancore Royal Family. - ‘Rudrakshamala’ by Aswathi Thirunal Gouri Lakshmi Bayi of Kavadiar Palace - Temples of Krsna in South India: History, Art and Traditions in Tamil Nadu by T. Padmaja. Abhinav Publications 2002 - P. Shungoonny Menon. History of Travancore from the Earliest Times: From the Earliest Times. Higginbotham & Co, Madras, 1878 - information gathered from Shri P Rajagopalan Nair, a prominent activist in Keezhperoor - Pandian Chronicles, legal rulings of modern times, - historical works on Venad Kingdom and the Thiruppappur Keezhperoor Dynasty. - perumal-thirumozhi.blogspot.com - aravamudham.blogspot.com/2012/06/thiruvanjikkalam-avathara-sthalam-of.html - ramanuja.org/sv/bhakti/archives/may96/0048.html - divyadesam.com/alwars/kulasekara-alwar.shtml - indiancontents.com/2017/07/kulasekhara-alwar-founder-of.html -https://srivedanthasabhausa.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/kulasekhara_azhwar.jpg?w=863 - http://anudinam.org/2014/03/27/sri-kulasekara-azhwar-thirunakshatra-utsavam-at-pomona-sri-ranganatha-perumal-temple/
1. Temple Administration
The history of the last 1000 years has come to light to the fortuitous discovery of the Kilimanoor Copper Plates. Veera Udaya Marttanda Varman Tiruvadi, Yuvaraja of Venad fixed the scale of expenditure for routine rituals as well as for special events, utsava.
The younger royals supervised the temple functionaries. (Travancore Archaeological Series TAS Volume V.) During the 12th century CE this temple was riding the crest of its glory. It had an executive committee consist of six Brahmin scholars and four Nair Madambi (feudal lords) to conduct the administration of this temple. They hailed from very famous families which existed in different parts of Kerala. Each member of the family of the committee, including male and female, had given nearly ten acres of dry and wet lands. In spite of this, there were temple owned properties at Chirayinkeezh, Nedumangadu and Kottarakkara Taluks. The Maharaja’s officers would collect rent at appropriate periods and generate revenue for the Temple’s upkeep.
Before tracing further history of the temple, a quick look at the epigraphical records dealing with it appears inevitable. One of the earliest records is the Kilimanoor Record of ME 343 / CE 1168 (TAS Volume V.). The Temple staff structure is painstakingly listed detailing the designation and number of functionaries. The village of Kilimanoor with the forests, arable lands and compound sites included in it was granted by the Maharaja for the expenses connected with feeding of Brahmans and conducting local temple festivals. 3 para of paddy required for the daily expenses of the temple. 31 nazhi rice was given to temple servants as salary. The temple had 1 melsanthi, 2 kizhsanthis, and 12 servants including flower supplier, watchman, woman servant, and drummers. Total amount of 5 Achchu was collected from Melsanthi, Kizhsanthi, Vaariyan, Pallittayam as entrance fees and this amount was to be utilised for the purchase of or repairs to the temple utensils and other wastages without allowing koyimars and ooralars who superintended the temple affairs to utilise any portion of it for their own use. This expenditure had to be looked after by batches of two persons for each year. If the above expenses were not properly administered, the incumbents of the year will have to vacate their posts in the Urazhma and that they should also settle any slight disputes or entanglements that they may occur with reference to the temple holdings or to the temple itself.
The fading away of direct royal supervision of temple administration, which came to pass around 14th century CE, winds of adversity began to blow hard. The Ooralar Sabha started to encroach on Temple lands even though they still gave enough funds to maintain the Temple rituals and festivals.
The temple flourished till mid of 20th Century with its tremendous impact on the socio-cultural fields. Till 26/12/1965, Managing Trustee of the Thirupalkadal Devaswom was Brahmasree Narayanaru Narayanaru of Amunthuruthimadom (keezhcheri) one of the prominent Malayala Namboothiri illom situated at Attingal, near Manampoor Alamcode Chirayinkeezh Taluk, Thiruvananthapuram District, Kerala. (they are also the Managing Trustee Thirumanampoor Subramanya Temple) belonging to Chenganoor Malayala Namboothiri Brahmana Illom they are also the representative of His Highness Maharaja of erstwhile Travancore in Thiruvattar Adikesava Perumal Temple.
The three Nampoothiri families belonging to the Uralar Sabha viz., Amunthirathi Madom, Edayavanathu Madom (both Thiruvananthapuram based) and Oomanpalli Madom (Thrissur based) had taken control of the Temple and its properties. In due course, the position of the third family had become nominal. Even though the situation had become desperate with Temple finances hitting rock bottom, the Nampoothiri families’ pre-eminent position in the Temple affairs continued, despite their contribution being negligible.
2. An unusual rite
An unusual rite used to be conducted here in this Temple. Situated one Kilometre to the east of Keezhperur is the Sree Sashtha Temple of Minchiyoor, having long standing connections to Thirupalkadal SreeKrishnaswamy Temple. It belonged to the Nampoothiris of Kallikkattu Mana. At a certain point of time the Sree Sashtha Temple was donated to this Temple along with the properties of Kallikkattu Mana, as the Nampoothiri family was facing extinction. The Nampoothiri accepted Thirupalkadal SreeKrishnaswamy as his son and legal heir. After the old Nampoothiri’s demise, Thirupalkadal SreeKrishnaswamy Temple used to conduct annual Bali karma for the departed soul as enjoined by pitru dharma. A Temple poojari would carry the Sheevaeli vigraham out of the Sreekovil and would perform the annual Bali karma on behalf of the LORD. By 1951, sadly, this ritual came to an end. Temples conducting such rites are rare, indeed. Another such famous temple is the SreeKrishna Temple of Thiruwarppu on the banks of Meenachil River in Kottayam District, where annual Bali karma known as Pullattu pooja continue to take place to this day. Incidentally, SreeKrishna Temple of Thiruwarppu is the first temple which opens in India. It opens at 2AM.
The Azhwars were Tamil poet-saints who espoused bhakti to Maha Vishnu or his avatar SriKrishna in their songs of longing, ecstasy and loving service. They are venerated in Sri Vaishnavism, which regards Maha Vishnu or SriKrishna as the Supreme Being. The devotional outpourings of Azhwars, composed during the early medieval period of Tamil history, helped revive the bhakti movement, through their hymns of worship to Vishnu and his avatars. They praised the Divya Desams, 108 "abodes" of these Vaishnava deities. The poetry of the Azhwars echoes Vishnu bhakti through love, and in the ecstasy of such devotions they sang hundreds of songs which embodied both depth of feeling and felicity of expression. The collection of their hymns is known as ‘Divya Prabandham’.
The TWELVE Azhwars are considered to be different aspects of Maha Vishnu
4. KULASEKHARA AZHWAR (CE 767- CE 830)
Thiru Kulasekhara Azhwar/Kolli Kavalan/Koodal Nayakan was born during 8th century A.D to King Dhidavratha and his pious wife Nadhanayaki in the year Pramadhi, in the Malayalam Kumbha maasam (Tamil month Masi) with the birth star Punarvasu (Malayalam: Punardham, Tamil: Punarpoosam) in Thiruvanjikulam, near Kodungallur in Thrissur district, Kerala. Ancient lore, which has come down the generations state that Kulasekhara Azhwar’s mother was an Ay princess from Keezhperoor royal family.
The entire Chera Kingdom rejoiced over the birth of this divine child, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu’s Kausthubam, the precious gem adorned on the chest of Lord Vishnu. Young Kulashekara was introduced to Astra, Sastra and sacred scriptures at early years of childhood. In a short span of time, young prince Kulashekara mastered all the subjects and acquired profound knowledge in war tactics, archery, horse & elephant riding and the science of armaments, transforming into a brave and mighty warrior in due course. When the time came, his father offered the throne of Chera Kingdom to Kulasekhara Varman and took to vaanaprastham. Maharaja Kulashekhara is described by some sources to have ruled Koli (modern-day Uraiyur), Kudal (modern day Madurai) and Kongu Natu. He bore titles such as Kolli-Kavalan(guardian of Kolli Hills), Kudal-Nayagan(the Hero of Madurai) and Koli-Kon(the king of Cholas)
Unlike many other saint-kings, Kulasekhara Varman was powerful ruler. In fact, he was the founder of the Later Chera Dynasty. Maharaja Kulasekhara Varman was a wise and unparalleled ruler, conquered all the neighbouring cities including the Kingdoms of Pandya and Chozha. His administration was flawless, people were very happy and lived peaceful life and justice prevailed in his kingdom. His kingdom included lands of Kolli (modern day Uraiyur), Koodal (modern day Madurai) and Kongu.
Indubitably, his coming to power in the name of Later Cheras was a turning point in the history of Kerala as it marked the revival of the Vaishnava bhakti tradition and the beginning of the struggle with the support of political power to oust Buddhism from Kerala.
A Malayalee linguistic identity, distinct from Tamil emerged during the rule of Maharaja Kulasekhara Varman. An acharya galaxy consisting of Nathamuni, Yamunacharya, Ramanujacharya, Embar, Kuraesa, Paraasara Bhattar, Nanjiyar, Nampillai, Pillai Lokacharya, Vedanta Desika, Manavaala Mahamuni and a host or other illustrious preceptors carried on the Bhagavata tradition and expounded its tenets through their voluminous commentaries (vyakhyana) and discourses in temples and seminaries. Some of their works were written in Sanskrit, some in Tamil and some in the Manipravaala style, a free mix of Sanskrit and Tamil.
Later, King Kulazhekara was married to the princess of Pandya Kingdom. This royal couple had a son and a daughter.
Ilai (ഇളൈ)/Chera Kula Valli Nachiyar, daughter of King Kulazhekara was a staunch devotee of Lord Ranganatha. On the auspicious day of Sri Rama Navami, Chera Kula Valli Nachiyar married to Lord Ranganatha and devoted her life as a dutiful wife to Lord Rangatha at Srirangam and immersed herself in the service of the Lord.
The sErthi sEvai (Tamil: சேர்த்தி சேவை; Malayalam: സെർത്തി സേവൈ) of this Thaayaar with SreeRanganathar is celebrated once an year, on Rama Navami day. In Tamil, SErthi means alongside/together and SEvai connotes Darshan. Unlike many temples, Srirangam does not have a Thirukkalyana uthsavam, the Marriage Festival, between SreeRanganathar and Thaayaar for they are regarded as Divyadhampathigal (divine couple), existing beyond mortal limitations and perceptions.
Maharaja Kulazhekara Varman was a staunch devotee of the Bhagawaan Maha Vishnu and in particular, HIS avatar, Bhagawaan SreeRama. He used to spend long hours in the company of Vishnu Bhakta learning the stories from the grand epic Ramayanam.
The Vishnu Bhakta had free access to the Maharaja. The royal ministers were concerned that the Maharaja Kulasekhara Varman was spending excessive time on devotion and inadequate time on administration of the kingdom. Determined to change this sorry state of affairs they literally took matters into their own hands and plotted the downfall of the Vaishnava devotees. On a Ramanavami day the deities were arranged for the special rituals, King Kulazhekara noticed that precious jewel ornament was missing from the idol, ordered his men to locate the same. The ministers suspected the Vaishnava scholars and saints who used to conduct lectures and prayers. There was a custom prevailed in those days that in case of any dispute the innocent should prove blamelessness by putting hands into a pot full of venomous snakes. King Kulazhekara was absolutely certain that no Vaishnava saint or scholar could commit such a sacrilege and slipped his hand inside the pot, shortly removed his hand from the pot unharmed. Putting his own life at risk, the noble King Kulasekhara proved the innocence and staunch devotion of the Vaishnava saints and scholars assembled. Later, the royal ministers’ elaborate conspiracy against the Vaishnava came to light. The royal ministers became ashamed of their despicable conspiracy against the Vishnu bhakta and they sought pardon from Maharaja Kulasekara Varman for what their evil deed. But, the noble Kulasekara informed them that he is not the right person to pardon them, they should instead seek the forgiveness of the victimized Vishnu Bhaktas. This incident only strengthened Maharaja’s devotion towards the LORD. Maharaja Kulazhekara having lost interest in the material world, discarded all the royal wealth, pomp and gory and crowned his son as the King of Chera Kingdom.
Maharaja Kulazhekara Varman, now, Kulasekhara Azhwar, lived a life of a wandering ascetic. Kulashekhara Azhwar renovated Thirupalkadal SreeKrishnaswamy Temple. He composed enthralling verses like ‘Mukundamala’ in Sanskrit and ‘Perumal Thirumozhi’ (105) in Tamil, praising the glories of the Lord. His poems are devotional in nature, being dedicated to the most prominent avatara of Vishnu - Rama and Krishna. A devotee of Rama, he considered the painful experiences of Rama to be his own. He is therefore also known as 'PERUMAL', meaning 'The Great' – an epithet for god Rama. His devotion was so intense that he worshiped the devotees as forms of Vishnu. ‘Perumal Tirumozhi’, which is compiled as a part of ‘Nalayira Divya Prabandham’, is called so, since these verses are considered divinely inspired, so much so that they are called ‘words of Perumal’ HIMSELF. Kulasekhara Azhwar is also considered to be the author of the Sanskrit works such as ‘Tapatisamvaranam’, ‘Subhadradhananjaya’ and ‘Vichchinnabhiseka’.
A question arises as to why this Azhwar came to Keezhperoor and renovated the Thirupalkadal Tempe? Why did he not renovate Anantha Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Kasaragod, which was at the northern end of his kingdom? Again, after the collapse of the Later Chera Empire following the defeat in a war with Raja Raja Chola, Kulasekhara Azhwar’s descendant Maharaja Rama Varma Kulasekhara did not move north to Kozhikode where he could have been relatively safer from invasion by the Imperial Cholas. Instead, Maharaja Rama Varma moved his forces south to Keezhperoor, Kollam. It could be due to the Azhwar’s familial linkages to Keezhperoor.
At the age of 67 years during Swathi nakshatram, the saintly Kulazhekara Azhwar attained salvation at the lotus feet of Sreeman Narayana.
Kulashekhara Azhwar is thought to have attained salvation at Mannarkovil, a village in Ambasamudram Taluk, Tirunelveli district, TN, where there is a temple called Sri Rajagopalaswamy Kulasekara Azhwar Koyil, the only historical Perumal koil to be directly named as an Azhvaar Perumal koyil. One also finds the Kulasekara Azhvaar Sannidhi with the Holy Flag Post (Kodi Maram) dedicated to him, a distinction (for Azhvaars) not seen in any other Perumal koyil.
Kulashekhara Azhwar composed a poem of 105 verses called "Perumal Tirumozhi"- a classic example of the yearning of a Bhakta to serve the Lord. Every single verse of the 105 verses of this work is so filled with touching emotion and packed with palpable sentiments. Distributed in 10 decads, each one vividly portrays a different facet of the Azhwar's experience of the Lord, with palpable sentiments. In one of the hymns (Pasuram), Kulasekhara Azhwar desires to be born as the doorstep in Lord Venkateswara’s temple. Even today, the innermost step in front of The Lord Venkatesha of Tirupathi-Tirumalai Temple at the sanctum sanctorum is honoured as KULASHEKHARA PADI.
taniyankaL (தனியன்கள்) (stand-alone stanzas) A fulsome praise by Sri Ramanujacharya, the supreme spiritual head of the SriVaishnava denomination, to the revered Kulasekhara Azhwar:
innamudam oottuhaen ingae vaa paingiliyae tennarangam paada valla Seer perumaal | ponnanSilai Saer nutaliyar vel saeralar kone engal kulasekaran enrae kooru || ~Sri Raamaanujaachaaryar 1017–1137 CE
Come here, Oh! My pet parrot! Hear these words, nectarean. The Chera King, our very own Kulasekhara Aazhwaar was a great Raama Bhakta. He taught His parrot to chant Raama naamam. Likewise, let me teach you names of Azhwaars. Chant you them always. – inside the premises of Thillai Nataraja Temple.
DIVYA DESAMS CONSECRATED BY KULASEKARA AZHWAR
1.Tiruvarangam, near Thirukoilur, Villupuram District, TN 2.Tiruk Kanna Puram, near Nannilam, Nagapattinam District 3.Tiru Chitra Koodam or Govindaraja Perumal Temple, inside the premises of Thillai Nataraja Temple, Chidambaram. (Listening to Kulasekara Azhvaar’s praise of the Chitrakoodam Lord is equivalent to listening to the entire Ramayana.) 4.Tiru Vittuvak Kodu, (Thirumittakode Anchumoorthi temple) near Pattambi, Palakkad district, Kerala. Mukthisthalam of Raja Ambhareesha. 5.Tiru Venkadam, Ariyakudi, Sivagangai District, TN 6.Tiru Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. 7.Tirup Paar Kadal, (Thirupalkadal SreeKrishna Swamy Temple, Keezhperoor, Kerala.
5a. The Early Chera period
The Cheras were the ruling dynasty of the present-day state of Kerala and to a lesser extent, parts of Tamil Nadu in South India. Along with the Ay kingdom in the south and the Ezhimala kingdom in the north, they formed the ruling kingdoms of Kerala in the early years of the Common Era (CE or AD). Together with the Cholas and the Pandyas, they were also known as one of the three major kingdoms of Tamilakam. Uthiyan Cheralathan, Nedum Cheralathan and Senguttuvan are some of the rulers referred to in the Sangam poems. Senguttuvan, the most celebrated of the Chera kings, is famous for the legends surrounding Kannagi, the heroine of the epic ‘Silapathikaram’. Very little is known about the capital of the Early Cheras. The Cheras also seem to have fought battles with other neighbouring dynasties such as the Pallavas, the Rashtrakutas, the Kadambas and even with the Yavanas (the Greeks) on the South Indian coast. After the end of the Sangam era, around the 5th century CE, there seems to be a period where the Cheras' power declined and is, in many ways, a dark period in Chera history. Though there is no authentic information about them, some Buddhist records mention that the Kalabhra ruler Achuta Vikkanta managed to extend his influence over a large part of Southern India. Tradition tells that he kept the Chera, Chola and Pandya rulers in his confinement. The Kalabhras were defeated around the 6th century by the rise of the Chalukyas, Pallavas and Pandyas.
Pathitrupathu (Tamil: பதிற்றுப் பத்து;Pathitṟu patthu) is a classical Tamil poetic work. The name Pathitṟu patthu means 'ten tens' or 'Ten Decads' or 'Tenfold Ten', referring to the ten sets of ten poems the book contains. The poems extol the richness of the Chera dynasty, the historic kings of Kerala. The first and the last ten poems have been lost beyond recovery. This work speaks about ten kings of the Ceral dynasty. According to T. P. Meenakshisundaram (1949), it is the 'only available book of ancient Chera history. Among all the Sangam works this is unique in being a collection of the poems on Cherals.'
The main sources of knowledge of the period are through the inscriptions of other South Indian kingdoms such as the Chalukyas, Pallavas, Pandyas and the Rashtrakutas. They all claim to have overrun Kerala or at least parts of it. An inscription of Pulakeshin I claims that he conquered the Chera ruler. A number of other inscriptions mentions their victories over the kings of Chera kingdom and Ezhil Malai rulers. Pulakeshin II (610–642) is also said to have conquered Chera, Pandya and Chola kingdoms. Around the same period, the Pallavas also claim conquest over the Chera kingdoms. The Rashtrakutas also claimed control over Cheras. Dantidurga (752–756) and Govinda III (792–814) are said to have had victories over the Kerala kings. In this manner, the post-Sangam era was in many ways a 'dark period' in Kerala history where it was invaded by outside powers in rapid succession.
5.b The Later Chera Period
After a period of relative obscurity between the 6th to 8th centuries CE, Chera power was revived under Kulasekhara Varman who ruled from 800 to 820 CE. The illustrious line of kings who followed him were called the Kulasekharas and are also known as the Second Cheras. They ruled large parts of Kerala between 800 and 1102 CE. They ruled from their capital Mahodayapuram (also called Makotai or Mahodayapattanam), near the present day Kodungalloor, Kerala. The Kulasekhara kings were also known as Perumals (Kulasekhara Perumals or Cheraman Perumals). Kulashekhara Azhwar renovated Thirupalkadal SreeKrishnaSwamy Temple in 9th century AD.
The early period of the Kulasekharas i.e. the period of the 9th and 10th centuries constitutes a "golden era" in the history of Kerala. There was great patronage of the arts, literature and science and several important contributions in these fields were made during this period. At its height, the Kulasekhara Empire comprised almost all of modern-day Kerala, some parts of the Nilgiri hills and parts of the Salem-Coimbatore regions. Political administration was distributed federally and the various areas were divided into various administrative provinces called naadu. The southern-most region was the Venad, comprising regions of modern-day Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam, while the northern-most was called the Kolathunadu and comprised areas of Kannur and Kasaragod. The administration of these nadu was carried out by feudatory local chieftains also known as naduvazhis. These chieftains were overseen by royal representatives named koyiladhikarikal who were usually selected from the blood relations of the Kulasekhara's family. Each of these nadus or provinces was sub-divided into smaller Desam. These desam were governed by desavazhi who were usually selected by the local representative bodies named kuttam.
The Kulasekhara period is characterised by a great flowering of the arts and literature. Several notable works in Sanskrit and Tamil were written during this period under the patronage of the Kulasekharas who themselves indulged in authoring several works. Malayalam emerged with its own distinct script around this period, around the Kollam era (early 9th century). Hinduism revived around this period accompanied by a corresponding decline in Buddhism and Jainism. There was an increase in the number of Vedic schools called salais and an increase in their prestige with the widespread prominence of the Advaita philosopher, Shankara Acharya, who was born at Kaladi on the banks of the river Periyar.
The Thrikkakkara temple has about 18 important stone inscriptions dating back to 10-13 A.D. The inscriptions which were published in the Travancore Archeological Series in 1916 by Mr. T.A. Gopinatha Rao (1916) and Mr. K.V. Subramania Iyer (1923) are in Vattezhuthu, the prototype of Malayalam. From the Thrikkakkara edicts emerges a picture of the Kulasekhara empire which existed till about 1102 A.D., as well as the socio-political and religious milieu of the times. It is believed that Kalakarainadu constituted the present Thrikkakkara, Edappally and surrounding areas. The names of a few chieftains appointed as naduvazhis of Kalkarainadu by the Kulasekhara kings who ruled from their capital Mahodayapuram are mentioned in the inscriptions most of which were written during the reign of the Kulasekhara kings Indukothai Varma (944 - 962) and Bhaskara Ravi Varman I (963 - 1019). One record also mentions the existence of Arunoottuvar or the 'Group of 600' who helped and controlled the naduvazhis
During the reign of Kulasekharas who were great patrons (and followers) of Vaishnavism, Hindu temples flourished in Kerala and Thrikkakkara was a major beneficiary of this royal patronage as can be seen from the inscriptions which mention generous to the temple.( http://www.vaikhari.org/thrikkakara.html)
The Yadava Ay kingdom became the feudatories of the later Chera Empire ruling from Mahodayapuram near Kodungalloor, in Thrissur District, Kerala. The kingdom and the family later came to be known as Venad Keezhperoor Swaroopam and later on as 'Thiruvadi' and 'Thiruvithamkur' which was finally corrupted into Travancore.
5.c Chera-Chola Conflicts and Aftermath
The second part of the Kulasekhara empire in the 10th and 11th centuries was characterised by a series of great conflicts with the Cholas in what became known as the "Hundred Years War". It is believed that Raja Raja Chola (985–1016 CE) wanted to recapture some territory which had asserted independence with the rest of Tamizhakam. He he mounted a probing attack which reached Kandalur Salai before returning. In CE 999, he was able to inflict a major defeat on the Cheras, defeating Chera strongholds in Kandalur and Vizhinjam. By the end of his reign, much of South Chera Empire came under Chola control. The wars continued into the reign of Rajendra Chola (1012–1044 CE) who also won battles at Kandalur and Vizhinjam in 1019 which had been taken back by the Cheras in the interim.
The capital of the Kulasekharas, Mahodayapuram was sacked in a decisive battle when the Chola armies attacked the Chera Empire via the Palakkad gap and this battle led to the deaths of several important Chera chieftains and generals. With the prolonged series of wars with the Chola Empire, the Later Chera Empire came to an end and Venad (Kingdom of Kollam) attained status of an independent kingdom. Some of the local chieftains or naduvazhis assert their independence. Northern tributary kingdoms such as Polanad (Kozhikode area), Kolathunad (North Malabar region) formed independent kingdoms from their existing royal houses. Kochi, comprising the area of the old Chera capital of Mahodayapuram, formed its own Swaroopam (kingdom), the Perumpadappu Swaroopam later in the 14th century CE.
Rama Varma Kulasekhara (reign 1090–1102 AD; 1089–1122 AD as per MGS; full name Raja Sri Rama Varma, Kulasekhara Perumal, alternatively Ramar Tiruvati or Kulasekhara Koyiladhikarikal) was the last ruler of the Later Chera dynasty (Kulasekharas of Mahodayapuram).
After the sack of Mahodayapuram and Kollam, the defeated Chera Emperor Rama Varma Kulasekhara moved the remnants of the Chera forces further south to Kollam in order to ensure the continued protection of the vital and strategic port city of Kollam, the Venad Ay royal family and their kulakoil, the Thirupalkadal SreeKrishnaSwamy Temple at Keezhperoor. Ancient lore, which has come down the generations state that Kulasekhara Azhwar’s mother was an Ay princess from Keezhperoor royal family.
The Cheras under Rama Varma Kulasekhara merged with the existing Yadava Ay house of Venad. Rama Varma Kulasekhara, the last Chera King of Mahodayapuram became the first ruler of the Chera-Ay Dynasty and was called Ramar Thiruvadi. The subsequent kings of Venad assumed the title of "Kulasekhara" or "Kulasekhara Perumal" that used to be assumed by the Chera kings of Mahodayapuram.
The Venad-Cheras regrouped their military forces and by 1070 CE, the southern parts of Chera territories brought under their control. Kulottunga Chola I (1070–1122) CE had to fight once again to gain Kandalur and Vizhinjam and is known to have proceeded further north and destroyed Kollam in 1096 CE. This defeat led to a major reorganisation and mobilisation of the Venad forces under Maharaja Rama Varma Kulasekhara who rallied them under his banner with the primary objective of throwing out the Chola imperialists.
5.d Death defying Chaavaer warriors
After the fall of the capital, Rama Varma, without even a palace of his own, stayed at alternative frugal accommodations such as Kodungallur and Kollam. In order to the stem the Cholas from the south, Rama Varma moved his base of operations to Quilon. Sometime before 1100 AD, after saving Kollam from the Cholas, he marched against the Cholas ahead of a large army. A large body of fierce fighters called the Chaavaers was raised who were styled as suicide squads. The newly formed chaaver aakramanam suicide attack forces springing up at unexpected places and times inflicted heavy losses to the Chola army. The ferocious and indomitable Chaavaer warriors played a decisive part in the defeat of Kulottunga Chola I, inflicting heavy casualties on the Cholas and forcing them to retreat in despair to Kottar. This was the first fatal blow to Chola imperialism in the region and ended the century long Chola domination in the erstwhile Chera Empire. The Cholas were never able to conquer the Chera regions again and withdrew, once and for all, from the region.
The Cholas never tried to regain their influence beyond Nanjanad after this defeat. Rama Varma continued to stay at Kollam even after the war and managed the affairs of the kingdom for some time more.
6. Jayasimha Deva, keezhperoor (1266–1267); Maharaja Jayasimha Deva succeeded in bringing the whole of present-day Kerala under his control. He established his seat at Kollam, the surrounding areas becoming known as Jayasimhanad (Desinganad). His wife Rani Umma Devi was probably a joint ruler with her husband. He died leaving several sons who quarrelled with his nephews over the succession, causing a long and disruptive civil war.
7. Emperor Ravi Varma Kulasekhara Ravi Varman Kulasekhara Perumal (c. 1266/7 – 1316/7) son of Jayasimhadeva and son-in-law of the Pandya ruler of Maravarman Kulasekhara became the ruler of Venad. He raided large parts of southern India in a short period by skilfully taking advantage of the weakening of the Pandya kingdom and the confusion prevailed after the Khalji raids (1311). The chaotic succession battles in the Pandya kingdom helped his conquests. The Venadu ruler invaded the Pandya kingdom and defeated the forces of Jatavarman Vira Pandya. After annexing the entire Pandya state, he was crowned in 1312 at Madurai.
The garrisons established in the Tamil country by the Muslim invader, Malik Kafur, were expelled by him. He then defeated the Cholas and was crowned as Chakravathi on the banks of the Vegavati River, at Kanchipuram, 1314. He established his rule over most of the southern countries between Kanyakumari and Madras, and as far north as Nellore. He raised Venad Kingdom to the position of a powerful military state for a short time. During his reign, Quilon rose to great prominence as a centre of trade and international commerce.
Coins issued by Ravivarman with Tamil legend "Kulasekhara" were discovered by archaeologists. Probably to commemorate his conquest of the Pandya realm, he issued the coin with his crest elephant (the Chera symbol) on the obverse and the name Kulasekhara over the Pandya crest (the two fishes) on the reverse. In a Telugu record (1317 AD) of the Kakatiya ruler Prataparudra II, he is called "Malayala Tiruvadi Kulasekhara".
A scholar and musician himself, he patronised intellectuals and poets during his tenure. The Sanskrit drama "Pradyumnabhyudayam" is credited to him. The success of Ravi Varma was short lived and soon after his death the region became a conglomeration of warring states. Venad itself transformed into one these successor states and went into a decline.8. Songs by Kulasekhara Azhwar on Thirupalkadal
2256 பெருகு மதவேழம் மாப்பிடிக்கு முன்னின்று இருக ணிளமூங்கில் வாங்கி, - அருகிருந்த தேன்கலந்து நீட்டும் திருவேங் கடம்கண்டீர் வான்கலந்த வண்ணன் வரை
2618 பாலாழி நீகிடக்கும் பண்பையாம் கேட்டேயும் காலாழும் நெஞ்சழியும் கண்ணச்சுழலும்,நீலாழிச் சோதியாய்!ஆதியாய் !தொல்வினையெம் பால்கடியும் நீதியாய் !நிற்சார்ந்து நின்று
2661 உரைக்கிலோர் சுற்றத்தார் உற்றாரென் றாரே, இரைக்குங் கடற்கிடந்த எந்தாய் ,:உரைப்பெல்லாம் நின்னன்றி முற்றிலேன் கண்டாய் ,எனதுயிர்க்கோர் சொல்நன்றி யாகும் துணை .
2835 பாம்பணைமேல் பாற்கடலுள் பள்ளி யமர்ந்தததுவும் காம்பணைத்தோள் பின்னைக்கா ஏறுடனேழ் செற்றதுவும் , தேம்பணைய சோலை மராமரமேழ் எய்ததூவும், பூம்பிணைய தண்டுழாய்ப் பொன்முடியம் போரேறே .
2844 உய்ந்து போந்தென் உலப்பிலாத வெந்தீவினைகளை நாசஞ் செய்து ,உன தந்தமில் அடிமை அடைந்தேன் விடுவேனோ, ஐந்து பைந்தலை யாடர வணைமேவிப் பாற்கடல் யோக நித்திரை , சிந்தை செய்த எந்தாய் ! உன்னைச் சிந்தை செய்து செய்தே .
2963 பயிலும் சுடரொளி மூர்த்தியைப் பங்கயக் கண்ணனை பயில இனியநம் பாற்கடல் சேர்ந்த பரமனை , பயிலும் திருவுடை யார்யவ ரேலும் அவர்கண்டீர், பயிலும் பிறப்பிடை தோறெம்மை யாளும் பரமரே.
3454 மணந்தபே ராயா! மாயத்தால் முழுதும் வல்வினை யேனையீர் கின்ற , குணங்களை யுடையாய்! அசுரர்வன் கையர் கூற்றமே! கொடியபுள் ளுயர்த்தாய், பணங்களா யிரமும் உடையபைந் நாகப், பள்ளியாய்! பாற்கடல் சேர்ப்பா, வணங்குமா றறியேன் மனமும்வா சகமும் செய்கையும் யானும் நீ தானே .
3465 இடையில் லையான் வளர்த்த கிளிகள்! பூவை காள்! குயில் காள்! மயில் காள், உடைய நம் மாமையும் சங்கும் நெஞ்சும், ஒன்றும் ஒழிய வொட்டாது கொண்டான், அடையும் வைகுந்தம் மும்பாற் கடலும் அஞ்சன வெற்பும் அவை நணிய, கடையறப் பாசங்கள் விட்ட பின்னை அன்றி யவனவை காண்கொடானே.
3470 சரணமாகிய நான் மறை நூல்களும் சாராதே மரணம் தோற்றம் வான்பிணி முப்பென் றிவை மாய்த்தோம், கரணப் பல்படை பற்றற வோடும் கனலாழி , அரண்த் திண்படை யேந்திய ஈசற் காளாயேAccording to the index provided in ‘Divya Prabandham’ the 2256, 2618, 2661, 2835, 2844, 2963, 3454, 3465 and 3470 refer to ‘Thirupalkadal’
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