Mind Speaks – Mahanavami Maholsavam at Urakam Ammathiruvadi Temple, Thrissur.
During my recent summer holidays in Kerala, I made it a point to visit my ancestral home and the devi temple located there.
It was a big change from the scorching sun and hot weather climate of UAE to be there in Kerala during the monsoon period. It was drizzling, or rather getting to rain heavily when I visited the temple. As I walked on the granite pathway the sight of the long compound wall, filled with green algaes due to the rain, and carrying reminiscence of a series of beautifully pasted earthen lamps in the formation “Mahanavami Maholsavam” instantaneously brought memories of my childhood days there during the navarathri festival.
In those days, the 9 days of navarathri festival was celebrated in an elaborate way. As preparation for the festival starts, both children and adults gather inside the temple compound and then bring clay from adjacent paddy fields and then mix it well and then make small earthen lamps which is then pasted beautiful on the long compound wall, creating a formation “Mahanavami Maholsavam” written in Malayalam. Then, we all sit together and then prepare threads for the lakhs of lamps neatly placed on the walls surrounding the sanctum sanctorum. Then, it is the turn to segregate the bunches of plantain offered by devotees. First they are segregated and separated according to size, type and then they are kept inside special cells made inside the eastern gopuram. Once it is sufficiently ripened, i.e by the Durga dashami day, they are taken out and neatly displayed at the western entrance of the temple. This arrangement along with thousands of lamps lighted using sesame oil, brings out a divine feelings and presence which devotees never get in any other temples.
Those days, children volunteered themselves without hesitation to bring the naivedyam materials from there home to offer to devi once they keep their books for pooja.
It was pooja holidays and our books have been kept for devi’s blessings, as children, we utilised every opportunity to play football, which were bought using the dakshinas we received from kumatti festivals conducted during onam. After an hour or two of hard fought match between teams formed within ourselves or guest teams from outside, it is time for us to go and take an elaborate bath at the mampilly pond, across the road. With full all the time, and cold as ever, a swim, and a bath follows and we are back to the temple once again. By then, it is time for lighting the lamps. Together, we all gather and take small torches made of clothes and then light one lamp and from it one by one the lakhs of lamps on the walls inside the temple. Along with it the neatly decorated earthen lamp formation “Mahanavami Maholsavam” will also glow. It is a beauty to watch these lamps shining in the midst of bunches of banans and floral and leafy decorations made neatly in between. The gentle evening wind that flows that time, will make the lamps move around to either sides as if they too are enjoying the divine scene and talking to us of their joy.
To extend our mischievous side of childhood and bring them to the festivities happening there, we used to take out one or two bananas from the neatly displayed bunches, carefully selecting the best ones, leaving the elders and caretakers in fury and letting them chase us down with the catch. They will never get us, and usually, all the anger and fury will all die down instantaneously once it’s time to watch the katcheri, or kathaprasangam or dance programmes happening at the festival panthal specially made for navarathri.
All these memories are from those joyous moments happened several years ago still remain within as bright and clear as ever, denotes the importance of this place, in particularly this devi temple. Why not then explore it further?
Urakam Ammathiruvadi Temple
Urakam, A small village on the way from Thrissur to Kodungallore via Irinjalakuda. It is a serene village, located approximately about 12 kms from Thrissur town and almost the same distance from Irinjalakuda town when one travel towards Thrissur.
The devi temple situated there, is one amongst the major 108 Durga temples, popularly called as“Ammathiruvadi Temple”.
Urakam Ammathiruvadi Temple is an architectural marvel with its majestic Rajagopuram (ornamental gateways), Mathilkettu (compound walls), ootupura (feeding hall), nalambalam (building immediately surrounding the sanctum sanctorum), the double storied Shrikovil (sanctum sanctorum) and the serene atmosphere maintained at the inner temple. The calmness and pious aura you get inside this temple could never be experienced in any other you may get to visit.
History of Urakam Ammathiruvadi Temple
According to the Kerala folklore, Poomulli Namboothiri (also sometimes referred to as Thiruvalayannur Bhattathiri) founded Ammathiruvadi temple about 700–1000 years ago. The temple site was once the location of the Namboothiri’s household. Ūrakam was then a part of the Peruvanam village (one of the 64 villages of ancient Kerala).
Legend has it that during then, due to the atrocities and calamities happening within the Desham, elders suggested three prominent members from the community, viz, Valaya Bhattathiri, Kadalayil namboothiri and then Komarathu Menon to travel to Kancheepuram and pray to goddess Kanchi Kamakshi and then please her and bring favourable solutions to ward off the evil effects happening that time.
They all went and pleased with their prayers, happy with the devotion, devi agreed to come with them to Urakam. Accordingly, Kanchi Kamakshi decided to come to Kerala on the palm leaf umbrella of Poomulli (Valayannur) namboothiri. He reached home and placed the umbrella on the floor of his house. After a short nap, he came back and found that he was unable to take back the umbrella from the place where he kept. It was heavily grounded to the floor. Later upon further investigation it was confirmed that Kanchi Kamakshi was residing on that umbrella. The goddess came in Namboothiri’s dreams that night and let him know that he was supposed to build a temple for the goddess, and leave Ūrakam towards Nouth. She also let him know that he was to find an idol in a well far away and reinstate the goddess from the umbrella onto that idol. Namboothiri did as the goddess wished. He built the temple, after a short period of administration of the temple matters by the Poomulli family, he left all that he owned to the temple, and gave the administration to the Maharaja of Cochin. From then on the goddess was known as the Ammathiruvadi.
Later on the temple administration was transferred to Cochin Devaswam Board, who takes care of it even now. Urakam Ammathiruvadi temple is an integral part of the 1400 year old Arattuppuzha pooram festival. Arrattuppuzha pooram is called as Deva Mela, where all the gods and godesses assemble together in the presence of Thriprayar Thevar (Sri Rama). According to the old customs continued by the family of Cochi Raja and then subsequently by the Kerala State, whenever, Ammathiruvadi travel outside the temple, i.e for pooram or other festivals, she is supposed to be greeted with official “Guard of Honour” by the police. All festivities of this temple are taken care of a local committee with the guidance of Cochin Devaswom board.
Stories passed on from elders tell also that in those days, the idol installed by Poomulli Namboothiri was originally the devi idol worshiped by Sri Rama before he went to war with Ravana. There are several historic connections one get to see in places nearer to Oorakam, supporting the claim that the village was part of ancient hindu history. Due to the same connectoins, this village and all the adjacent villages carry a divine and prosperous aura throughout. Agricultural and other activities always flourish here.
It is also said that one family close to the temple became so devoted to the devi that she was pleased with their bhakthi and from then on, the eldest member of this family – Vazhappilly – became the guard of Ammathiruvadi and wherever she goes, she will be accompanied by this member. This continues even now.
Since she came to Urakam on an umbrella made of palm leaf, whenever Ammathiruvadi’s idol is carried out, it will be accompanied by a person carrying an umbrella made of palm leaf.
Special days and major festivals of Ammathiruvadi Temple
The famous festivals of this temple are Mahanavmi, Thrikarthika, Rohini Villakku, Makayiram Purappadu, Peruvanam Pooram and Arattupuzha Pooram.
They are celebrated in the following months:
Navarathri (in September / October)
Thrikkaarthika (in November / December)
Pooram (in March / April)
Illam Nira (in August / September)
Vavaarattu ( In October / November)
As I wrote earlier, Urakam Ammathiruvadi is an integral part of Arattuppuzha and Peruvanam Pooram and other small poorams (festivals) associated. One special ceremony that happens along with these festivities at the end of it is the Upacharam ceremony between Ammathiruvadi and other deities who comes to attend them. It is a delight to watch the two elephants carrying the idol greeting each other three times standing face to face and then taking leave.
It symbolises the co-ordial relationship between the villages and gods these deities represent and also a silent acknowledgement to confirm that they will meet again next year same time. This special ritual is prevalent only in temples around these region.
Poojas conducted at Ammathiruvadi temple are according to the kerala temples rituals and procedures. Accordingly the temple will open every day at 3:00 am with palli unarthal and 5 major poojas and 3 shivelis are conducted during the day it closes at 08:00 pm. Apart from the major deity, i.e. Ammathiruvadi, prathishtas of Shastha (ayyappa), ganesha and presence of lakshmi, durga, saraswathi and maheswari are also believed to be seen here. A very important nagaraja prathishta is here. It is also said that a presence of Kodungallur Bhagavthi is seen at the eastern gopuram of Ammathiruvadi temple. Due to all these divine conclave, devotees on their way to Shabarimala and specially those who go to Kodungallur Bharani make it a point to visit Urakam temple on their way and see blessings from Ammathiruvadi before they travel further.
During the time the sanctum sanctorum is closed for main poojas, ashtapadi songs are sung praising devi. You may visit the link or see below to listen to Urakam Padinjaare Marath Krishnamaarar singing one of the songs praising devi in the video link below:
As Ammathiruvadi is also Kanchi Kaamakshi, many devotees from Kancheepuram in particular and Tamilnadu overall make it a point to visit Urakam Ammathiruvadi temple, whenever they visit temples in Kerala. In fact several astrologers based there often finds this link and connection and guide devotees to visit and offer pranams to Ammathiruvadi for blessings and prosperity of all kind.
Navarathri 2010 at Urakam Ammathiruvadi Temple
Navarathri, one of the major festivals of Urakam Ammathiruvadi temple is celebrated normally during September / October month ( i.e. in the malayalam month of Kanni). The celebrations starts from the pratham thidhi of Kanni month to the nine days reaching the navami day. Vijaya dashami day is celebrated in an elaborate manner with many children getting initiated to the world of knowledge on that particular day. From the first day, in particular from the Durgashtami day, the temple premises will be decorated richly with flowers, tender leaves from coconut trees and other light arrangements followed with it. In addition, on all these days, there will be extensive lighting of the lamps (deepalankaram / chuttuvilakku).
Exclusive to Urakam Ammathiruvadi is the special decoration of the temple premises within with bunches of banana. Devoteees from near and far, and in particular the families who live near to the temple will donate bunches of different varieties of banana 3 days before. These are then segregated by the temple committee according to size and type and then kept inside special cells within the eastern gopuram of the temple and uttuppura. On durgashtami day, it is taken out and then decorated neatly, starting from the western entrance (main entrance facing to which the deity faces) and then all throughout the temple. Approximately more than 1000 bunches of bananas of different varieties will get offered by devotees for this ritual.
Urakam and villages associated are rich and famous for agriculture of all types, in particularly banana plantations and it is believed that several years ago, there was a drought and calamities. Following it, harvest was not possible and the devotees prayed to Ammathiruvadi to rescue them from their difficult situation and promised to offer the best produce to devi, if everything turns alright. It happened that from then on, they never had problems with it, and they brought in abundance their produce and offered to devi as offering.
This decoration is very special for Urakam Ammathiruvadi temple. The huge wall adjacent to the Western side entrance of the temple, will be also decorated with earthen lamps a formation is created on the wall with writings “Mahanavami Maholsavam” written in malayalam.
The banana bunches with the stem are set and kept in an extremely beautiful way at this entrance and the yellow color of the ripened plantain along with the light emanating from the numerous lamps set in series along with it makes an extremely beautiful and exclusive site, which devotees could watch only here at Urakam Ammathiruvadi temple.
The elaborate lighting arrangement (chuttu vilakku or deepalankaram) on all the nine days are also very special to this temple.
The view towards the sanctum sanctorum from this entrance is very special. Children, on all the three days of the Mahanavami festival, will bring in special offerings for naivedyam to goddess Saraswathi, at whose lotus feet, they all had kept their books and tools for pooja.
Thousands of devotees from all over Kerala and nearby state will visit the temple during the final three days of Navarathri.
Tiny tots will be initiated into the world of letters at ‘Vidyarabham’ ceremonies to be held at different temples on the Vidhyarambham day. Thousands of devotees bring in their children to conduct the first orientation ritual on Vidhyarambham day.
Urakam Desham and life around
Any write up about Urakam will be incomplete if no mention is made about some of the equally beautiful and prestigious villages and the temples and festivities surrounding them. So, let us now travel a bit around and see the life and happenings there.
Urakam Desham, is a small village. Urakam and Oorakam are the two spellings used interchangeably for this place. Urakam is surrounded by several small villages. There are several devi temples in these small villages associated with. They all have historic significance.
The place is also surrounded by many natural pools and ponds which are full throughout the year. The nearest Parakkovil temple is situated 2 kms away from Oorakam and one can see ancient writings on rock, with foot prints set to be of Bhima.
Arattupuzha is one such village nearby to Oorakam and is very famous for the Arattupuzha Pooram, which is the one and only “Devamela” on the earth usually celebrated in March/April.
Arattuppuzha temple is about 3000 year old and this festival is the oldest and most extravagant of all the poorams celebrated in Kerala. The temple is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa called as Sasthavu. It is believed that on this day hundred and one gods and goddesses of the neighbouring villages visited lord Ayyappa, the deity of the Arattupuzha Temple.
On the fifth day of the festival, a procession is held in which drummers, and 108 caparisoned elephants accompany the beautiful elephant carrying idols (‘thidambu’) of 23 deities, including Thripayar Thevar, Oorakathamma Thiruvadi, Cherppil Bhagavathy, Chathakudam Sastha, Anthikad Bhagavathy, Thottipal Bhagavathy, Pisharikkal Bhagavathy, Edakkunni Bhagavathy, Ayyunnil Bhagavathy,Thaikkattussery Bhagavathy, Kaduppassery Bhagavathy, Choorakkottu Bhagavathy, Poonilarkkavil Bhagavathy, Kattupisharikkal Bhagavathy, Chakkamkulangara Sastha, Kodannur Sastha, Nankulam Sastha, Sreemattil Sastha, Nettissery Sastha, Kalloli Sastha, Chittichathakkudam Sastha and Medamkulam Sastha.
The gathering is lead by Thriprayar Thevar (Sri Rama) and all the other devas and devis are assembling there at Arattupuzha to offer pranams to him during the early morning hours of this festival day. It is a feast for eyes to watch the impressive line up of several gods at one place, accompanied by beautiful elephants and eminent melam artists and hug crowd in front on the ground set right after harvesting the paddy season just finished.
Between Arattupuzha and Kadalassery, another small village, is Neruvissery, which is yet another small village consisting of about 40 houses. There is a Krishna Temple, called “Nerukkavu Thevar” and “Nerukkavu Bhagavati”. Most of these temples are governed by Devaswam Board. There is another small temple of “Swamy Ayyappa” too in this village. There is an ancient Shiva Temple, the deity known as “Kandeswarath Appan” less than 1 km west.
Oorakam and nearby villages have had many famous people associated with the ancient history of Kerala. Vaidikan Kaplingadu is a famous brahmin priest, whose Illam (residence) is located in this Village. Similarly Late N.V. Krishna Warrier’s birth place and his variam called “Nerukkav Variyam” is also this village. It is believed that the Kaplingadu Mana (not existing now) was built on the order of Shakthan Thampuran. Music director Vidhyadharan Master, Director Priyanandanan, Artist Komu, are some amongst them. There are many silent and unsung heroes from Urakam and nearby villages who have marked their presence in the scientific and medical field.
Vallachira is another small village closer to Oorakam. Mahanavami festival of the Urakam Bhagavathi Temple, which is being celebrated in October every year; and the Bharani Festival of the Vallachira Bhagavathi Temple are the important festivals though there are other small festivals.
Most of the people of these villages were agriculturists and now a number of people are engaged in various jobs. Vallachira is famous for it’s craftsman who make gold jewelleries. A number of new generation are engaged in gold Jewellery making which changed the overall development of the people. The villages adjacent to each other also have several imitation gold jewellery units which is doing very well these days.
Cherpu is another village which is adjacent to Oorakam. Elephants made here on various types of wood are very famous world-wide. Furniture industry is also another source business interest to the locals.
The temple Thiruvullakkavu Sree Dharmasastha Kshethram is situated nearer to Oorakam and cherpu, is very famous for it’s Ezhuthinurthu festival during Mahanavami and Vidhyarambham days.
Oorakam, Cherpu and other adjacent villages are very famous from the olden days for the number of eminent percussionists, especially in the field of Chenda Melam. Peruvanam Kuttam, Peruvanam Satheeshan, Oorakam Appu, Kombathu Kuttan panicker, Kelath Aravindakshan, Pazhuvil Raghunath, Peruvanam Satheesan, Peruvanam Sivan and Peruvanam Prakasan are some among them.
The other major temples in the district that conducts elaborate ‘Vidyarambham’ rites is the Thiruvullakkavu Dharma Sastha temple at Cherpu. Members of the Thiruvullakkavu Warriam lead the ceremonies.
Approximately about 10000 children will be initiated into the world of letters at this temple on this auspicious day. The rituals will begin as early as 4:00 and will extend to the whole morning.
Hindu, Christian and Muslim family members live amicably with unity. The population of all these villages are heterogeneous and social solidarity and unity of the people is significant.
Special rituals and offerings for Mahanavami and Ammathiruvadi
This year Mahanavami is on 16th October and Vijaya Dashami on 17th October.
Devotees present Aval, kadhalipazham and jaggery mixed together are offered to lord saraswathi on Mahanavami days for Naivedyam. It is also very auspicious to offer Bhadradeepam for Devi during these days. In addition, performing Navagraha pooja will be auspicious for prosperity, overall well being of the family. Special poojas are performed for nagadevas on Navarathri days to bring progeny, prosperity and to ward off any evil effects in the horoscopes.
Urakam Ammathiruvadi temple is said to have a conclave presence of Lakshmi, Durga and Maheswari. Therefore it is very important for children and artists and educationists to come and worship Ammathiruvadi during Mahanavami.
Saraswatha pushpanjali performed here is very special for educational prospects of school going children.
It is extremely auspicious for children and artists to visit the temple during early morning hours and pray to her and then take the specially made thirumaduram (prasadam) from the chief priest.
Special neyppaayassam, vella nivedhyam are also important offerings. For the nagaraja deity present, devotees offer paalppayassam and turmeric powder. All these offerings brings in peace and prosperity to the devotees. Parents offer Thaali and Pattu along with Chandanam Chaarthu and Ayillya pooja to Ammathiruvadi in the names of their children who are in the marriageable age.
Ammathiruvadi temple is filled with the presence and blessings of goddess lakshmi. It is auspicious for devotees, in particular businesmen and industrialist to perform para (different types of para – including the one with coins) and conduct udayaasthamana pooja for prosperity in their respective business field.
It is also very auspicious for devotees to visit Ammathiruvadi and pray during their birth day and conduct poojas.
As the temple is filled with goddess Saraswathi’s presence in abundance, many famous artists and performers visit Urakam Ammathiruvadi temple during navarathri days and offer and perform their vidhya in front of the devi in the special panthal. It is an age old tradition and all the legends like Chembai Vaidyanatha bhagavathar.(Kacheri), Chithali Rama Marar (Thayambaka) etc have performed regularly here.
Urakam Ammathiruvadi Temple can be reached by bus from Thrissur Bus Station. All buses going towards Irinjalakuda will pass by Oorakam. Thrissur Railway Station is the nearest railhead. Cochin is the nearest Airport.
Let me conclude this write up by presenting the dhyana slokam of Ammathiruvadi.
This Navarathri season, especially on Mahanavami and Vijayadashami day, if possible, do make it a point to visit Urakam Amma Thiruvadi temple. Enjoy the beautiful and auspicious presence and vibrations of the temple and write to me your feelings with photos.