The silence of the surroundings and the loneliness of the scene create a mystique feeling. The road is accompanied on either side by vast green paddy fields. Slightly further, you pass a playground in the middle of the field and for a moment the vibes of the joy of the children playing, resonates with the frequency of the nostalgia that has entwined you. The sounds of their carefree laughter and the splashing of mud under their feet are slightly muffled by the howling winds that are announcing the arrival of a nice downpour. The sky is transforming into a dim grey, patch by patch over the spotlessly green fields. The children are now excited, anticipating the rain.
You are on the road that cuts off from the Payyoli-Perambra road and it will lead you to the ever majestic Kizhur Sree Maha Kshetram, the abode of the Lord of the land, the savior of humankind, the mighty, all-knowing Kizhur Vaathilkappavar. Essentially Lord Siva in one of his rarest moods, Vaathilkappavar is deeply rooted in the history, geography, philosophy and in the daily life of Kizhur. Love and reverence for the Lord is instilled in the hearts of every single person and He rules over them, powerfully attracting them to Himself. The joy and sorrow of the people are all associated with Him.
Oldest references to the temple dates back to the 18th century Logan’s Malabar manual. The documents describe the temple to be legendary and thus the origin of the temple can be safely dated to a much earlier time. The story of the temple goes thus. In Kizhur, lived a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva of the Muchukunnu temple. Out of love for the Lord, he used to walk over ten kilometers everyday from Kizhur to Muchukunnu and used to have his breakfast only after his visit to the temple. The routine continued for as long as the devotee grew so old that he couldn’t make it to the temple. Also the flooded river on the way made his journey impossible. He cried out to the Lord from his home. And such was the effect of his devotion that a fire appeared on the wooden pillar in the central room of his house.
A coconut climber noticed the fire. Astrologers concluded that the fire was none other than The Great Lord Shiva, and that He had come at the call this devotee who revered Him with such will and piety. In course of time, a temple was built on the same spot, and the joint structure of the sanctum sanctoram and Namaskaramandapa, which is a speciality, stands for the belief that a dwelling place was converted into a place of worship. The idol of the temple is phenomenal in many ways. It is the fire on the pillar that represents the Lord and we worship the wooden pillar called Manithoonu. Later this was replaced by a wooden idol called Daruprathishta. This sets the temple apart. Idols of wood are a rarity, and at the same time are exceptionally powerful. Thus a direct view of the idol is disallowed. On entering within the Naalambala from the west of the temple, we are allowed a darshan only through a corner on the northern side. There are several Upadevathas, Ganapathi, Ayyappa, Devi, Adithyan and Vettakkorumakan.
The temple stands magnificently on about two acres of land. The archway called the Kavaadam has an extremely handsome Lord Shiva meditating in a perfect Padmasana. On entering, one finds two stately Mandapas that proudly accompany the main temple. These are called the Padippura and Pattupura and are used for their own purposes. Then, there is a long hall called the agrasala, which is built in the traditional Keralite style, and act as the office, meeting place and the kitchen. The temple has a huge pond, beautiful, that is a deep green. The Poovedithara is also a part of the temple, and is situated in Kizhur town, like a proud welcome to the land of the Vaathilkappavar.
The annual festival, Utsavam is celebrated with religious as well as social fervor. All sections of the society join hands. The Utsava is declared on the 25th date of the Thulam month of the Malayalam year (which falls in November). It begins with the Nellalavu from the Padippura and Vettilakettuveppu from the Kovilakam, where the permission to conduct the Utsavam is sought with due respect. Then there is the Ilaneerkodukkal, or offering of tender coconut water to those devotees who are taking strict religious fasting for the Utsavam. The Kodiyettam or flag hoisting for the festival takes place exactly after a month, on the 25th of Vrishchika month (December). All rights to the temple rituals traditionally lies with the Tharananellur family.The festival is six days long, and is marked by special Pujas and staging of traditional Keralite dance and music forms in the Padippura of the temple. There is also an exclusive ritual called Thengerum-Pattum, where twelve thousand coconuts are offered to the Lord, shattering them with traditional folk songs in the background.
On the sixth night, the Lord comes out to the town to meet His people. He comes to the Poovedithara, riding on an elaborately ornamented elephant, amidst the exultations and admirations of the devotees. Poovedithara is an elegant square pyramidal structure. On reaching, Lord dismounts the elephant and sits on top of the Poovedithara to watch the special fireworks that will begin as soon as He has arrived. He is pleased with the celebrations and returns to take a bath at the nearby Kannankulam. After the bath, He returns to the temple, and the Kodiyirangal or unflagging is done. This announces the ending of the Utsava. It is an extremely refreshing experience, to be part of the Utsavam. The colours, sounds and smells of celebration blend with those of devotion and the presence of the All powerful can be strongly felt.
The entire land waits until next year, looking forward with hope for the next Utsavam. Kizhur temple is one of the legendary landmarks of Northern Malabar. Apart from the historic and social significance, the staggering beauty of the landscape and above everything, the charisma and power of the Lord pulls anyone towards Kizhur.
Anjana is a Physics student at Calicut and is deeply interested in writing.