In the heart of the verdant state of Kerala sprawls the city of Thrissur. It is known for its cultural and spiritual heritage, being home to India’s first church as well as the country’s first mosque. Aside from this, Thrissur city plays host to some important temples too, to be specific the Vadakkunnathan temple.This temple is one of the most important temples in Kerala and is believed to be the first temple dedicated to Lord Shiva and was built by Lord Parasurama (the sixth incarnation of Lord Vishnu). Interestingly, the city of Thrissur also gets its name from this temple – with Thrissur being the shortened form of ‘Thrissivaperur’, meaning ‘The town with the name of Lord Shiva’. The temple is also recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is built in the typical Kerala-style architecture. Vadakkunnathan temple nestles in a 9-acre plot of land and reigns from atop a hillock in the very center of Thrissur city. The entire temple compound is also surrounded by a large stone wall.
Standing tall with its four majestic Gopurams (gateways) facing in all the four cardinal directions, this temple doesn’t fail in attracting every passerby’s eyes. It is located within what is known today as the Swaraj Round. All important roads in the city eventually link up with the Swaraj Round, such is the importance given to this temple. This is also where the grand Thrissur Pooram, the festival of festivals is conducted in the vast temple grounds.
Aside from portraying rare murals of the Mahabharata, the temple also boasts of a museum where you can see magnificent ancient paintings, intricate wood carvings as well as other ancient artworks – a veritable feast for the historians!
The temple also has a Koothambalam, or temple theatre, where the set-up is embellished with artistic wooden carvings. It is used for staging ritualistic dance forms such as Koothu, Nangyar Koothu and Koodiyattam. Another interesting feature of the temple is the lingam itself. It’s completely covered with ghee poured on it over the centuries. Interestingly, this ghee never melts- not even during the scorching summers; it’s further believed that if the ghee melts, there would be an associated disaster!
Mahashivaratri is the main festival celebrated here where one lakh lamps are lit along with the performances of various cultural and musical programs. The Annayoottu or feeding of the elephants is the second largest festival celebrated here. And though the Thrissur Pooram also takes place in the temple grounds, the temple doesn’t participate in it.
Come, take part in this display of heritage!