The Rajarajeswara temple is a Shiva temple located at Taliparamba in the Kannur district of Kerala, South India. The temple is regarded as one of the existing 108 ancient Shiva Temples of Kerala. It also has a prominent place amongst the numerous Shiva temples in South India. It had the tallest shikhara amongst the temples of its time. The Rajarajeshwara temple has a top of about 90 tonnes. If any problem is encountered in the other temples of South India, devotees seek a solution in this temple through a prasna, a traditional method of astrological decision making. The prasna is conducted on a peedha (a raised platform) outside the temple.
This temple was built in the early eleventh century. It was supposedly renovated by Sage Parashurama long before the Kali Yuga commenced. Several centuries ago it was renovated by the Mushika (Kolathiri) dynasty kings. The quadrangular sanctum has a two-tiered pyramidal roof; in front of the sanctum is the namaskara mandapam, but the temple has no kodi maram (flagstaff), unlike others in Kerala. Non-Hindus are not permitted to enter.
The temple had an ancient and large seven-storey Gopuram that was destroyed by Tipu Sultan in the late eighteenth century. The relics of this Gopuram are seen today lying all around the Eastern entrance in debris. It is believed that a snake bit the commander of the army who was about to destroy the temple and, following this, the temple was spared from destruction. However, several Nambudiri families left Taliparamba and settled in Travancore.
Legends And History:
The temple at Taliparamba is among the 108 ancient Kerala temples dedicated to Shiva. It is as famous as the Shiva temples at Vaikom, Ettumanur and Vadakkunnathan Temple at Trichur. Taliparamba is regarded as one of the ancientShakti Peethams. Legend has it that the head of Sati (Goddess/wife of shiva) fell here after Shiva's tandavam following Sati's self-immolation.Sati was the daughter of Daksh, a respected Hindu king who had a disregard for Shiva. The Shiva Linga here is believed to be several thousands of years old. Legend has it that Shiva gave three sacred Shiva Lingas to Parvati/Sati for worship. One sage, Maandhata propitiated Lord Shiva with intense prayers.
Shiva was so pleased that he presented one of the Shiva Lingas to him with the injunction that it should be installed only at a place where there was no cremation ground. The sage, after searching all over, found Taliparamba the most sacred spot where he installed the Shiva Linga. After his death the Linga disappeared into the earth. Then his son Muchukunda offered similar prayers to Shiva and got a second Shiva Linga, which too disappeared in course of time. Centuries passed. The third Shiva Linga was handed down to Satasoman, a king of Mushaka, Kolathunad dynasty who then ruled the region. He was an ardent devotee of Shiva. On the advice of sage Agastya he prayed to Lord Siva who granted him the Shiva Linga. The king installed it in the present temple built by him.
It is believed that Sri Rama during his victorious return from Lanka stopped here to offer worship to Lord Shiva. In honor of His presence, devotees are not allowed into the namaskara mandapam even today. Lord Shiva worshiped in this sacred temple is known as Sree Rajarajeswara, which means the Emperor of Emperors - the Lord Supreme. The name signifies the supreme transcendental power in the background of mysterious drama of the boundless universe. That power is invoked here as Lord Rajarajeshwara. Devotees address the lord with such royal appellations as Perumthrikovilappan, Perum-chelloorappan and Thampuraan Perumthrikkovilappan.
Traditional Way Of Visiting:
According to the traditional system of visiting this temple, the devotee first worships Lord Krishna at the shrine of Vasudevapuram on the southern bank of the vast temple tank known as Aashraamath-chira, where there is a beautiful idol of Krishna playing the flute. The sweet melody from Krishna's flute symbolizes the supreme spiritual harmony that prevails in the background of the universe of diversities, which one can experience by spiritually elevating oneself. Worship of Krishna before entering the great temple of Shiva symbolizes the essential unity of lords Vishnu and Shiva as two aspects of the supreme reality. There are other special features in this temple that highlight this unity.
It is believed that there was an ashram of sage Agasthya on the bank of this temple tank. The tank was reconstructed in the present stage. It is said about 460 years ago by a devotee, Chittoor Namboodiripad. Then, proceeding towards Sree Rajarajeswara temple one worships at the shrine of Sree Bhoothanatha (Kumbhodhara), who is the chief lieutenant of lord Shiva. Kumbhodhara is also known as Aravathappan. Sri Krishna and Sri Bhoothanatha are considered the accompanying deities of lord Rajarajeswara.
Entering The Shrine:
On entering the eastern gate the devotee circumambulates the whole central shrine before stepping inside. Towards the northern side there is a small shrine of a guardian deity called Yakshi. Usually a Yakshi is considered to be a female spirit with malevolent propensities, but the Yakshi installed here represents a prosperity-giving and benevolent spiritual power. The figure is a life-size wooden sculpture of unique charm. The Yakshi is represented as looking intently into a mirror. After worshiping this guardian deity, the devotee proceeds towards the front of the central shrine and worships the Rishabha, the bull outside the central shrine facing the lord. Near Rishabha is the Balikkallu of huge proportions, made of granite with many figurines and intricate carvings. Because of its great antiquity it calls for replacing it with a new one, maintaining its exact proportions and carving.
Inside The Naalambalam:
The sanctum sanctorum with its majestic proportions is a fine example of Kerala temple architectural style. The two-tiered sanctum sanctorum is rectangular with copper sheets on the roof. The roof tapers to culminate in a beautiful gold Kalasham. The sanctum sanctorum has four doors, one on each side. The doors on the east and south only are opened. The eastern doors opens to the presence of lord Rajarajeshwara, represented by the majestic Jyothirlingam. An array of ghee lamps dangle on both sides of the Jyothirlingam. The Bhadradeepam, a ghee lamp lighted by sage Agasthya, the most auspicious lamp with a conspicuous flame is seen on the left side of the Jyothirlingam. On the floor there are rows of silver nilavilakku the ghee lamps, on both sides of the Jyothirlingam.
According to Hindu philosophy, Lord Vishnu symbolizes the aspect of maintenance of the universe and lord Shiva its dissolution. Both these aspects are represented in the Jyothirlingam in this shrine and therefore the lord is called Rajarajeshwara, the lord supreme. Because of the combination of these aspects there are deviations in the mode of worship of lord Shiva here. Here the lord is worshiped in the most transcendental aspect of Shiva known as Sadaashiva. Unlike in other Shiva temple where the Bilwa leaf is an important item for worship, it is not used here for the poojas, instead the Tulsi leaf is used.
The Rudrabhishekam, which is common in most of the Shiva temples is not performed here. Instead of Monday, Wednesday is the important day of worship here. Unlike in other Shiva temples pradosham is not observed with special significance here. There is no dhaara, the constant pouring of holy water, for the lingam here in other Shiva temple. Some of the other distinctive features of this shrine are there is no Dwajasthambha here and there is no annual festival or ritualistic annual bath. The deity is never taken outside of the precincts of the temple.
Religious Customs And Rites:
The place is considered as most sacred for performing Koodiyattam and Chakyar Koothu. Whenever a new Koodiyattam is being directed, it is first performed at this temple. Only the "Mani (Māni)" family of Chakyars solely possess the right of performing Koodiyattam here. Legendary Koodiyattam & Chakyar koothu maestro, Nātyāchārya Vidūshakaratnam Padma Shri Māni Mādhava Chākyār had performed here for many decades. The title "Vidūshakaratnam" was awarded to him from this temple.
One of the greatest appreciation or award that an artist/scholar can get is the "Veerashringhala" (Vīrasringhala or Golden Bracelet), from the temple, given by the unanimous approval of the scholar body of the temple. Guru Mani Madhava Chakyar is the youngest and last person to get the Vīrasringhala from here. Ghee in small pots are offered to the presiding deity Shiva and are placed on steps leading to the sanctum. These are called Neyyamrithu in Malayalam language. Men are allowed to enter the shrine at any time, but woman are allowed only after 8 PM.