Vennimala Sree Rama Lakshamana Perumal Temple
Vennimala Sree Rama Lakshamana Perumal Temple is one among the oldest Rama Temples in South India. Vennimala Sree Rama-Laksmana temple, situated in 4th ward of Puthupally, is 2 km south to Vellor in Kottayam district. Devotees can reach here through K.K.Road from Kottayam via Manarkad and turn right at the 8th mile. A board of Vennimala Temple shows the way. The place is about 15 km from Kottayam.
It is believed that Lord Rama and Lakshmana during their period of exile visited this hillside. At that time numerous sages meditated in the caves of Vennimala. Upon the request of the sages Lakshmana killed many demons who were a threat and nuisance to the sages. Thus the place came to be called ‘Vijayadri’ in Sanskrit. The name means ‘hill of victory’ as Lakshmana won the battle with demons. Vijayadri in Malayalam became Vennimala.
Cheraman Perumal Bhaskara Revivarma, the King of Kerala built the temple. The legend goes that Cheraman Perumal constructed this temple as per the direction of Kapila Maharshi. The place name was Iravipuram originally. The king who reached this place by canal route as per astronomical directions, was shown the idol in this hill by a hunter named Iravi. Cheraman Perumal was attracted by the beauty of this place and stayed here and built a palace. He earmarked the hill as a sacred and protected place.But the palace doesn’t remain today. Cheraman Perumal accepted Lord Rama as his King and he declared that Lord Rama of this temple will be called by the name “Vennimala Perumal”.
Later on, the temple came under the Thekkumkoor kings who ruled this region. Vennimala was once the Capital of Thekkumkoor Kingdom. Unnuneeli sandesam written in 14th century AD describes Vennimala in Thekkumkoor. In AD 1749 King Marthanda Varma of Venadu captured Thekkumkoor and there after it was portion of Thiruvuithamkoor.
The temple is more than thousand years old as judged from the mrgamala in the namaskara mantapa, even though the present structures may be of later period.
Even though the main idol is that of Lakshmana Perumal, Sri Rama is also present in the srikovil by conviction. Reinforcing this conviction, there are two bronze dhwajastambhas (flagmasts) in the front yard. Previously the temple was a Mahakshetra with five poojas and three sreebalis daily. Now, only three poojas are performed. Earlier there was a 28 day festival from Rohini in Makaram to Rohini in Kumbhom culminating in the Arattu. For the arattu, during the forward journey Lakshmana was in front followed by Sri Rama while for the return after the arattu Sri Rama used to come in front. All the 28 days were punctuated by Chakyar Koothu. The koothambalam is part of Valiambalam. Pothiyil Chakyars had the hereditory rights of performing Koothu in this temple. Only Ramayanam story used to be played here. Koothu for 16 days followed by Koodiyattom for 12 days was the routine. Vennimala Koothu has been an integral part of the cultural scene of Kerala for centuries. At present, the festival goes on for reduced duration of ten days.
The temple is facing West. The entrance to the temple is through a dwara gopura in Kerala style followed by an Anappandal. Then come the two dhwajastambhas followed by the Agra Mantapam or Balikkalpura. This is followed by the Valiambalam with an in-built koothambalam. The Nalambalm is of wood and tile and on the exterior there is a Vilakkumadom as well.
The valiambalam leads to the inner prasada (courtyard) containing the Srikovil and the namaskara mantapa. The namskara mantapa of medium size contains four pillars and has been reconstructed in teak quite recently with tiled roofing. On the south side of the namaskara mantapa, in between the two pillars is the ancient Kanikka Vanchi of Teak with brass locking system etc., a rare find.
Beyond the namaskara mantapa comes the unique srikovil only one of its kind in South India. It is the 'Ghata Prasada’ type with a pot shape, the Srikovil proper is in circular form with a neck shaped mukhamantapa in front. The srikovil has been constructed in stone and the mukhamantapa has ornamented wooden panels in between stone pillars. Both are roofed over by an integral copper roof supported by rafters. The exterior of the srikovil has beautiful daru silpas (wooden idols) at intervals along the periphery. Sopanam as well as pillars in the mantapa have been enclosed by brass membrane. Of the daru silpas special mention can be made of Siva, Venugopal, Ravana, Sri Rama and Mahalakshmi.
Among the subsidiary shrines, that of Sri Krishna is unique. Located in the North-West corner of the outer prakara, it is a small square srikovil abutted in front by a square mukhamantapa. The inside of the srikovil is hexagaonal shape. The srikovil and mukhamantapa are surrounded by pillars enclosing a small walk-way around and tile over. Ther is a namaskaramantapa and balikkal in front of the shrine. Other upadevatas are Ganapathy, Nagaraja and Yakshi.
The tantra rights of this temple are vested in the Thazhaman Matom. There are a number of small wells and ponds around the temple. The hill had more than sixty large and small ponds scattered throughout the forest. Even today about a dozen such ponds are remaining with sparkling fresh water even in hot summers. Balikarmas take place during Thulam and Karkidagam vavu days in the temple tank nearby with rocky outcrops. The temple pond is located about 100m from the temple and it is said that the sacred channel of the temple opens to this pond. There is a huge cave on one side of the hill located barely one kilometer from the temple. It is said that the cave runs up to the banyan tree in front of the temple, but it is closed today by big boulders fallen in place. The cave can accommodate nearly ten people at a time. The inside of the cave is cool and moist and the spot offers a fine view of the undulating rubber plantations below.
Vennimala temple is on a hill 1500 feet high from sea level. The temple comes under the administrative control of the Uranma Devaswom Board.
Outside the nalambalam are the flagmasts and the anapandal (the elephant portico) on the eastern side culminating in the dvara-sala. The Sastha shrine is located on the south-west side while Bhagavathi, Nagaraja and Yakshi are accommodated on the north-west side of the outer prakara.
The huge rock in Kattankunnu in Velloor is called "Pampurumpara" - the rock where snakes crawl. According to second school from this, the name Pampady was derived. Another view is that the name was derived from Payampady (area where water is available).
Famous sopana musician Shadkala Govinda Marar, contemporary of Swathi Thirunal was born near the temple in Pulikkal house. Iythihyamala written by Kottarathil Sankunni details the legend behind the Venniamala temple and historical importance of this place.
Visit Ola Multimedia's Pradakshina Gallery of Vennimala