Few temples may be less ancient in age – but the impact which they give is beyond description. One such temple, which made a remarkable effect in my life is
Over 300 years ago a handful of enterprising men, started from a village called Kallidaikurichi,(Tirunelveli district). Their aim was to establish some business and improve their material prospects.
The Karandhaiyar palayam Samooham (of Kallidaikurichi) situated on the banks of river Thamirabarani, was the origin of a concept called Sastha Preethi. Consisting of 18 Agraharams, Kallidaikurichi was in the western ghat region, it was the border of Chera and
in yester years. Pandya Kingdoms
Sastha was the beloved deity on both sides of hills. Kallidakuruchi had a temple for Sastha.
Lord ‘Manikandan’ (during his human incarnation) had come to this village and had called at the house of an old couple for some food. The Lord felt very happy with them and became "Kambankudi Daasan". People started celebrating the Lord and thus began the glorious Sastha Preethi through the Kambankudi family who hailed from Kallidakuruchi.
When the people of Karanthaiyar palaya samooham, moved out from Kallidaikurichi towards Kerala in search of a new life, Lord Sastha promised that He would accompany them.
Passing through hills and forests they underwent many hardships, but could overcome everything by the grace of Lord Dharma Sastha. They understood that the divine blessing of Lord Hariharaputra was following them. First they settled in a place between the present Mavelikkara and Kayamkulam. But they were not happy and were suffering with a sense of insecurity there… When the Raja of Cochin who visited Kayamkulam, found a community of businessmen there, he invited them to settle down in Mattancherry to carry on their trade.
Those days the geographical setup and main transport was water way. When the first Brahmin settlement went to
, Vanchi Pattu (the boatmans song) was developed on the rivers and backwaters, sung by boatman on voyages to keep up their spirit. Kochi
As promised, Lord Sastha accompanied the Brahmin Community and thus they came over to
. Soon was born the Cochin Karanthayar Palayam Mahasamooham. Cochin
Soon the Raja of Cochin understood the divine will and the importance of the place and he allotted the piece of land to the Samooham to construct a temple.
The premises – though seem to look like a brahmin settlement - is a wonderful kshetram of the Lord and a witness to His endless leelas.
The Thekkemadam is located in Mattancherry, inside the
. The main part of the shrine consists of the `Thekkethalam' and the sanctum housing the idol of Kurathooril Ayyan Lord Dharmasastha. Cochin Island
According to the temple history, during the time of the settlement, the people were very much troubled by the Yakshi who lived there. She was troubling the people of Thekkethalam too. Lord Sastha took joy in teasing and tantalizing the Yakshi with His spiritual pranks. The ever merciful Lord assumed the form of a small boy and moved about in the midst of men as a member of the `samooham'. Though everyone warned the boy about the turbulences caused by Yakshi, he was least bothered. He went inside a place lit a lamp and sat there for a while. Everybody left the place out of fear. Soon He arrested her movements and averted a great havoc. He controlled the yakshi and made her reside inside the yakshi kavu.
After completing his mission – the Lord sat at Thekkethalam permanently. The cup with the vibudhi inside it which He used and an “anaiya vilakku” - lamp lit by Him has been kept lighted permanently at the holy spot. Thekkethalam is now a part of the temple premises.
This temple has borne witness to the growth of the settlement here.
Soon after this, the samooham flourished and the celebration of Sastha Preethi along with the members of the Kambankudi family started here - as it was done at Kallidaikurichi. The festival, is to thank the lord for all the good he has done to us and praying for a better future too.
The actual temple is a real surprise for all those who look at the temple from outside. The temple premises is a beautiful place with serene atmosphere. The main part of the shrine consists of the `Thekkethalam' and the sanctum housing Kulathoor Ayyan which is fronted by a large hall. A beautiful water pond is adjacent to the temple.
There is a strange scene here. Generally we will see Sastha facing east sitting alone or with his consorts inside the Sanctum. But here the Lord is facing North, present along with Ganapati, Yakshi, Boothanatha and Shivalingam on his side. The Lord is called Kochi Thekke Thala Karthan – the master of the Thekke thalam.
We reach the sannidhanam where Lord Sastha reigns supreme in all His radiance, exuding all grace and charm! The idol made of granite is about three feet in height, with the right hand holding a flower bunch, the left hand placed on his folded knee. The image bears a close resemblance to the deity at Aryankavu.
The beauty of the deity defies all description and is more a thing to be experienced than expressed!
I can say even tens of thousands of Suryas cannot match Lord Sastha of Kochi Thekkethalam in His magnificence!
Sree Manidasar has glorified this temple in his Panchakams and many other Viruthams and songs. Generally, the Sastha preethi performed at all other areas are symbolic and brief; but at Thekke Madam it is an opportunity to take part in the elaborate and traditional form of the sacred ritual and earn the blessings of Hariharaputra.
The Lord is in all splendour and bestows grace to the devotees. The grace, majesty, benovelence, divinty everything put together is Kochi Thekkethala Karthan. We can see Him facing us asking “What do you wish?” and whatever we ask, he will give.