A SHORT REVIEW OF THE RENOWNED SREE VALLABHA MAHA TEMPLE
Great poets Nammalvar and Mankai Alwar who lived in the 6th and 9th A.D. respectively had vividly described the greatness and importance of Sree Vallabha Temple, the abode of the great Almighty the Lord Maha Vishnu.
This famous Temple is situated at Thiruvalla Sub district. The exact location of this temple is 1/2km south of Ramapuram vegetable market on the Thiruvalla - Kayamkulam Main Road.
The present Thiruvalla was known as Sree Vallabhapuram in the past and was an important place of Pilgrimage in South India.
Sree Vallabha Temple is one of the 108 famous Vaishnava Temples in India. The grandeur, beauty and serenity of this temple are manifested in the famous poem "Unnuneeli Sandeesam". Because of its serenity and grandeur people from far and wide used to visit this temple and offered their prayers. As has been explained, Thiruvalla Sreevallabha Temple a unique one situated on the Bank of Manimala River is one worth seeing. It is a great loss for those who have not seen this temple so far.
It is believed that this temple was built about 4000 years ago. The very architecture is unique and portray the antiquity so vividly that it is capable of arresting the attention of everybody. Those who see this temple once can never forget the absorbing beauty and sanctity of this temple.
The area of land (8 acres and 30 cents) in which the temple remains is enclosed on all four sides with walls whose height is 12 feet and its length in each side is 566 feet on the east and west exactly in the middle of the wall the gate towers (Gopuram) of equal dimensions can be seen on the other hand in the north and south gate towers (Gopuram) of different dimensions can be seen. The North gate Tower (Gopuram) is kept closed and is opened only in "Uthra Sree bali" a unique festival which is celebrated once in every year. This unique festival is a speciality which is celebrated only in this temple of Lord Vishnu. In no other Vishnu temple such a festival is celebrated.
In front of the eastern gate tower (Gopuram) there is a big pandal for which is widely used for enacting "Kathakali" and also for performing marriage ceremony. As far as the area of the temple premises is concerned this temple ranks first among all the temples of the erst while Travancore State.
As soon as we enter the eastern gate tower (Gopuram), we reach another Pandal in which we see the beautiful carving of the great Lord Mahavishnu in a single piece of wood in lying posteure (Anantha sayanam). Similar pandals are there in all the other three sides. Just behind this pandal there remains the unique ensign which is not seen anywhere in the world. This tall ensign (garudamadathara) in cylindrical shape, on the top of which one could see the bird vehicle of Lord Vishnu (garudavahana) with folded hands worshipping Lord Mahavishnu.
From 'garudamadathara' if one turns round to the south he could see a big pandal with 16 pillars in which during festivals 'Nagaswara seva", a kind of musical pipe is being played. The big Dining hall is seen on the southern side of this pandal. Generally Dining hall is being seen on the northern side of the temple everywhere but here it is in the southern side. One could also see the temple of Ganapathy and Dharma Sastha on the south west in the same premises. In between the Dining Hall and Ganapathy temple remains the Administrative office. On the west a well protected Pepal and Mango trees could be seen. It is also believed that the renowned Maharshi 'Durvasavu' used to meditate the great Lord Mahavishnu by sitting under these trees.
If one turns round to the north one could see a small temple without roof in which the idol of Lord 'Kurayappa Swamy' is placed. The peculiarity of this temple is that there is no 'pooja' but ablution is being done everyday by someone either from Punnassery illom or from Kaduvalli illom. Those who are suffering from cough and various skin diseases used to worship this God and many have got great relief. Therefore people from far and near used to come and worship Lord Kurayappa for the permanent cure of skin diseases and cough.
Very near to the Kurayappa Swamy temple there remains the "Jalavanthy Theertham" a pond automatically formed, is well preserved. On the bank of this pond a beautiful three storied building is built in which the poojaris used to take rest. This pond is earmarked for the Brahmin Poojaris alone for taking bath. None other than the Brahmin poojaris are allowed to go to the pond.
In front of the temple one could see the tall ensign built in pure gold which is a delight to the eyes. In front of this beautiful ensign, there remains the big sacrifical stone or alter on which one could see the beautiful carving of three lions on each side of the alter.
In front of the alter a very big wooden Coridoor which is fully covered with copper plates could be seen. This coridoor and the carvings are so beautiful that, they as to arrest the attention of everybody. Its architectural excellance here is capable of demonstrating the architectural skill of our forefathers who built this most beautiful temple. Under the roof of this beautiful corridoor one could see rare and delightful carvings of many things that are found in the universe.
As soon as one crosses the corridor they will come to the prostration building which is in between the corridor and the altar. This prostration building is 24 feet rectangle with roof erected in four stone pillars and 12 woodden pillars. Beautiful carvings made in the wooden beam could be seen in the roof. The roof is made of copper plates with top dome. The whole structure is worth seeing. Brahmins alone were permitted to occupy this place for the purpose of meditation and chanting prayers.
The buildings surounding the sanctum sanctorium have very wide enclosed varandah. The southern varandah had the temple kitchen and the navakappura. This building has granite roof. The varandah has 54 pillars in which the carving of beautiful ladies with lamps could be seen. On the western side of 'Navakappura' there is a number of underground cellars.
The cellars are still a mystery. No body knows why such underground cellars were built. Where these cellars lead to and what was the purpose for which these cellars were built. Many people want to go into the cellar but nobody is brave enough to do so as they believe that these cellars are being guarded by venamous snakes and ghosts. After these cellars in the western side, there remains the temple wherein the idol of Vadakkumdevar, the idol on which Sankaramangalathamma had been worshipping. On the north east there remains another temple in which the idol of Lord Vishwasena could be seen. The food offered to this deity is the remanants of the food offered to the great Lord Sreevallabha. In front of Lord Vishwasena temple there is a well having pure water which is used for all purposes in the temple.
The main temple (sreekovil) is conical in shape and has a perimeter of about 160 feet. It is built in pure granite stone. Beautiful Mural Paintings were made on the wall. These Mural Paintings included the pictures of Malsyam (fish), 'Kaliyamardanam', Kurmam, Dakshinamurthy, Varaham, Venugopalan, Mahaganapathy, Narasimham, Vamana, Sudarshana Murthy, Parasuraman, Sree Raman, Purushasuktham, Balaraman, Sree Krishna, Lekshmi, Kalki and Garuda. The conical roof is covered with copper plates. On the top of the roof there remains a dome made of pure gold. The inner chamber of the sanctum sanctorium where the idol of Lord Mahavishnu is erected facing the east side. Facing westward Sudarsanamurthy's idol is erected. The devotees of Sudarsanamurthy are always been protected from enemies, diseases and fear. The remanats of the offering to diety is ashes of dried cowdung (bhasma )which should only be used by the devotees outside the temple premises. No devotee is permitted to enter the temple with ashes of dried cowdung in the forhead or any part of the body. Even the priests are not allowed to have ashes on their body when they are inside the temple. If they put ashes in their body they deemed to have lost their purity and are prevented from offering puja or offering to Lord Mahavishnu. This custom is peculiar and is observed only in Sreevallabha Temple and is not seen in any of the temples in India. Another notable peculiarity is that both Mahavishnu and Sudarsanamoorthy are erected in the inner chamber of the sanctum sanctorium under the same roof, Mahavishnu facing east and Sudarshanamurthy facing west respectively. Such a thing is not seen anywhere else in India. Upto 1968 women were not allowed to enter the main temple except on the day of "thiruvathira" in the malayalam month of Dhanu and on the day of "Vishu" in Medam. However since 1968 women have been permitted to enter the main temple.
Thiruvalla Sreevallabha Temple was for a long time the greatest centre of learning in South India. Thousands of students from far and near were learning the Vedas, Astronomy, Astrology, Poems, Philosophy etc. The art of warfare (Kalaripayattu) was also taught.