Sree Vallabha Temple




Sreevallabha Temple, a highly orthodox Hindu Temple dedicated to Purusha as Lord Sreevallabhan, is one among the oldest and biggest Temples of Kerala and a major destination for devotees all over India for centuries. Located in Thiruvalla city, this ocean of orthodoxy is well known for its architectural grandeur and unique customs that can be found in no other temples. The stone-wooden carvings and fine mural paintings inside the temple are worth seeing. Being one among 108 Divya Desams, Sreevallabha temple has been glorified by Alvars and many other ancient works. It is considered to be the vallabha kshethram mentioned in Garuda Purana and Matsya Purana. Kathakali is played daily in the temple as an offering, pushing it to the top in India in terms of places where Kathakali is staged in largest number of days per year. Lord Vishnu appeared here as Sreevallabhan for sage Durvasa and Khandakarnan. Pleased by prayers of an old Brahmin lady Sreevallabhan incarnated as a brahmachari and killed the demon Thokalaasuran. Later the diety of Sreevallabhan worshipped by Lakshmi and Krishna has been installed in the temple in 59 BC. From then till date, the temple follows its own worship protocol that is known to be followed nowhere else yet. Sage Durvasa and Saptarishi are said to reach the temple every midnight for worshipping the Lord. The temple had governed one of the biggest educational institutions in ancient time and heavily contributed to the cultural and educational developments of Kerala.
Present Thiruvalla was once a village among 64 Namboothiri villages in Kerala and is one among the oldest human settlements in India. Since this place is situated at the mouth (vai) of Manimala River (valla river) it had been known as ‘vallavai’ and later transforned into ‘thiruvalla’. Historical evidences point out the place had been inhabited by humans before 3000 BC. The Thiruvalla inscriptions say the temple for Sudarshana Chakra was built in 2998 BC . Another opinion is that the place was named after sreevallabha temple as sreevallabhapuram and Thiruvalla in colloquial Malayalam. The temple for Sudarshana Chakra was built by Sreedevi Antherjanam of Sankramangalathu Illam and it was elaborately rebuilt by Queen Cherumthevi in 59 BC. Sreevallabha temple flourished to a major spiritual and educational centre by AD 1100. The temple had governed a Vedic school (thiruvalla sala) with around 1500 students and 150 teachers. Veda, Vedanta, Tarka, Mimamsa, Jyotisha, Ayurveda, Kalaripayattu etc. were taught here. The temple also owned an ayurvedic hospital with facilities to admit and treat 100 patients at a time. Addressing lord Sreevallabhan by names Kolapiran, Thiruvazhmarvan and Sundarayan, the Tamil vaishnavite saints Nammalvar of the 5th century AD (2612-2622 in Divya Prabhandham) and Thirumangai Alvar of the 9th century AD (paasurams 1806-1817 in Divya prabhandham) had praised glory of the temple. Famous Sanskrit poet Daṇḍin (7th century AD) of Kanchi mentioned the temple in his works. The first ever prose work in Malayalam is the Thiruvalla inscriptions dated first half of the 12th century AD, which was obtained from the temple during 1915. The famous Unnuneeli Sandesam of the 13th century AD highlighted the grandeur, beauty, serenity, fame and status of the temple during its time. Other works that glorified the temple are Sreevallabha Ksethra Mahathmyam of the 10th century AD, Sreevallabha Charitham kavyam, Thukalasura Vadham Kathakali, Sreevallabha Charitham Kathakali, Sreevallabha Vijayam Kathakali, Sreevallabha Suprabhatham, Sreevallabha Karnamritha Sthothram, Yajanavali Sangrham etc.

From the date built, the temple was under control of thiruvalla pattillathil pottimar (Brahmins of ten families) till 1752-1753. Sreevallabha Temple emerged out as a major spiritual destination for devotees all over India centuries before. It had 15 major priests (melsanthi) and 180 sub-ordinate priests (keezhsanthi) all the time and another 108 for only daily noon pooja. Temple provided staying and food facilities for all visitors, students, teachers etc. and also used to conduct annadanam (serving food to the poor) daily. Naivedyam of Lord Sreevallabhan for a single time used to be made from 45 para (one para can feed appx 100 persons) rice. In all these years, temple acquired enormous amount of wealth that it even used to serve food in golden banana leaves and throw them considering as the leavings. It also had thousands of acres of land too which are lost now. During 1752-1753 Marthanda Varma of Travancore captured the temple from Pathillathil Pottimar and it is believed that Ramayyan Dalawa looted whole temple assets to Thiruvananthapuram. Up to 1968, ladies and elephants were not allowed in the temple. The temple used to be opened for ladies only during Thiruvathira of dhanu month and Vishu of medam till then. Anyhow now this custom is not in practise. These facts clearly say that how popular and wealthy the temple was in those days.

Festivals :

There are two main festivals- thiru uthsavam and Uthra Sreebali. In Sreevallabha Temple Uthsavam is conducted giving importance to aaraattu(holy bath)and is for ten days ending with Pushya nakshatra of kumbham (February-march) of Malayalam calendar. Its customs and procedures are much complicated and start with kodiyett or raising the festival flag on the flagstaff. Two days before kodiyett, temple sanctifying procedures are performed. Then on the kodiyettu day, the holy flag is raised. Special poojas are done every day along with sreebhoothabali (sacrificing food to all crew of the deity) in the noon. On the seventh day night, pallivetta(custom done on the belief that the Lord hunts away all evil spirits) and tenth day the holy bath or aarattu. It is done at the river near Thukalassery and the deities of Sreevallabhan and Sudarshana moorthy are taken back to the temple after deepa aaradhana at Thukalassery Mahadeva Temple, accompanied by large and colourful procession and the temple is closed. Uthra Sreebali, the biggest festival of the temple, is conducted in the Malayalam month of Meenam(March–April). This is the festival of three Goddesses who had been asked by Sreevallabhan to protect Thiruvalla and it is conducted when they come to the Sreevallabha Temple to meet both the Lords. These goddesses are from the temples Aalumthuruthy, Padappattu and Karunaattu kaavu where temple festival starts on the same day in the month of Meenam. Before their holy bath on the eighth day the three Goddesses proceed to Sreevallabha Temple where its northern gate is opened only at that time for them. The Goddesses enter the temple through the northern gate and are welcomed by playing 18 groups of instruments and are directed towards the balikkalpura where the two Lords will be waiting to receive them. Then Ashtapadi is played and sreebali is done. This is followed by jeevatha dancing of the Goddesses in the middle of many lamps. Then the Goddesses proceed for their holy bath and the Goddess of Aalumthuruthy temple returns Sreevallabha Temple by next day noon Sreebali when lord Sreevallabhan gives her vishu kaineettam. As the sreebali ends, the programme gets over and the deities are taken back to respective temples. Taking part in the whole Uthra Sreebali is said to wash away sins of all births as all vedic and puranic deities are taking part in it. Other major fastivals as per Malayalam Calendar are on Thiruvonam of Chingam month, Thirunaal (chitra nakshatra) in Thulam month, Thirunaal chirappu (chitra nakshatra) in Vrischika month, Ardra of Dhanu month, Srebali during Makara Sankrama, Vishu in the month of Medam and Nira Puthari during Karkidakam.

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