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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Ambalapuzha (Kannan) Sri Parthasarathi Temple

Adhwaytham, a Malayalam movie  starring Mohanlal & Jayaram, directed by Priyadarshan was released in 1992.  Have you heard of ‘Ottamthullal’ and mizhavu ?

Krishna Avathar is unique in very many ways.  Lord Krishna was born in a prison, the same night was moved to another place as it was raining very heavily and flood waters were running.  He grew up as cowherd tendering cattle, in between thwarted attempts by various Asuras, saved people from the wrath of Indira by lifting the Govardhana giri – and this Bala Krishna has so many temples in Chera Nadu.

Lord Krishna was born in Mathura ~ the centre of what is fondly referred as Braj bhoomi.  Remember Lord was born in a prison cell at Mathura, the capital of Surasena kingdom ruled by Kamsa, the maternal uncle of the Lord.  This is a very old place dating back to Ramayana days.   At the place where Lord Krishna was born now exists a Temple popularly known as ‘Janmasthan temple’  -  Kesava Deo Temple considered most sacred for all Hindus.  There is a huge complex comprising of a small temple, the Janmasthan, gallery, a huge temple later built by Dalmiyas – the prison cell – the exact place where Lord Krishna was born is under a doom – all heavily fortified and guarded these days.  At the Janmasthan is the most beautiful  Kehsav Dev(Krishna), the worshipped  deity of this temple. According to traditions the original deity was installed by the  great-grandson of Krishna.

Lord Krishna was thus born with parents incarcerated and being moved under heavy showers crossing Yamuna river in spates, being protected by Adi Sesha – to grow up in Gokul with cowherds.  Those there had the fortune of watching Krishna grow up – every now and then revealing glimpses of His identity.  As can be understood from the words of  Periyalwar – ‘ the grand ladies of Gokulam, chased the child with Yasodha chiding Him for eating the earthen sand; when He opened the mouth, they realised and exclaimed with glee ‘ He is no ordinary cowherd child; but the blessed Lord Himself – fully imbued with all auspicious qualities”.

குன்றெடுத்து ஆநிரை காத்த பிரான் கோவல னாய்க்  குழலூதியூதி
கன்றுகள் மேய்த்துத்   தன்தோழரோடு கலந்துடன் வருவானைத் தெருவில் கண்டு

வடமதுரையில் ஆயர் குலத்தவனாய் வந்து தோன்றிய கண்ணபிரான், இந்திரன் கோபம் கொண்டு விடாது மழை பொழிந்தபோது,  கோவர்த்தனமலையை தூக்கி  தனது விரலினால் நிறுத்தி குடையாக பிடித்து,  ஆநிரைகளையும்,  அங்குள்ள மக்களையும் ரக்ஷித்தருளினவன்.  ஆனால் கண்ணன் தன பால்ய பருவத்திலே மிக சாதாரணனாய் குழல் ஊதிக்கொண்டு பசுக்கூட்டங்களை மேய்த்துக்கொண்டு, தன்னையொத்த சிறுவர்களோடு விளையாடி வந்தான்.   வட இந்தியாவில் பிறந்த கண்ணபிரானது  பிரபலமான திருக்கோவில்கள் கேரளா மாநிலத்தில்  அமைந்துள்ளன.  குருவாயூர் போன்று மற்றோரு அற்புத ஸ்தலம் அம்பலப்புழா.

Ambalappuzha is a small town in the Alappuzha district of Kerala.  Ambalapuzha is divided into the two panchayats of Ambalapuzha North and Ambalapuzha South.

Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple famous temple here.  The Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple is believed to have been built during 17th century AD by the local ruler Chembakasserry Pooradam Thirunal- Devanarayanan Thampuran.  The temple is a model of traditional Kerala architectural style. It has white-washed walls and a sloping copper-clad roof. The Sreekovil (Sanctum Sanctorum) has no windows and only the priests can enter. The Sreekovil is within the four walls of  the Nalambalam. The outer structure within the temple walls is known as Chuttuambalam. The priests use the well near the temple exclusively for pooja rituals.

The idol at Ambalapuzha is Sri Parthasarathi (the charioteer of Arjuna), holding a whip in his right hand and a conch in his left. During the raids of Tipu Sultan in 1789, the idol of Sri Krishna from the Guruvayoor Temple was brought to the Ambalappuzha Temple for safe keeping for 12 years. Payasam, a sweet pudding made of rice and milk is served in the temple and is believed that the Lord Guruvayoorappan visits the temple daily to accept the offering.

According to the legend, God Krishna once appeared in the form of a sage in the court of the king who ruled the region and challenged him for a game of chaturanga.  The king being a chess enthusiast himself gladly accepted the invitation. The prize had to be decided before the game and the king asked the sage to choose his prize in case he won. The sage told the king that he had a very modest claim and being a man of few material needs, all he wished was a few grains of rice. The amount of rice itself shall be determined using the chess-board in the following manner. One grain of rice shall be placed in the first square, two grains in the second square, four in the third square, eight in the fourth square, sixteen in 5th square and so on. Every square will have double of its predecessor.  The king lost the game and sage demanded the agreed-upon prize. As he started adding grains of rice to the chess board, the king soon realised the true nature of the sage's demands. The royal granary soon ran out of grains of rice. The king realised that he will never be able to fulfill the promised reward as the number of grains was increasing as a geometric progression and the total amount of rice required for a 64-squared chess board is 9,223,372,036,854,775,809 translating to trillions of tons of rice.

Upon seeing the dilemma, the sage appeared to the king in his true-form, that of Lord Krishna and told the king that he did not have to pay the debt immediately but could pay him over time. The king would serve paal-payasam (pudding made of rice) in the temple freely to the pilgrims every day until the debt was paid off.

The Amabalapuzha Temple Festival was established during the fifteenth century AD. At this time, a part of the Travancore was ruled by the Chembakassery Devanarayana Dynasty. The rulers of this dynasty were highly religious and decided that an idol of Lord Krishna was to be brought to the Amabalapuzha Sree Krishna Swamy Temple from the Karinkulam temple. The celebration in commemoration of the bringing of this idol of Lord Krishna is the origin of the Amabalapuzha Temple Festival, also referred to as the Chambakulam Moolam water festival. This festival is conducted every year on the Moolam day of the Mithunam month of the Malayalam era. The Aaraattu festival takes place on the Thiruvonam day in March–April.

Like Thrissur, Guruvayur, and many other temples, this temple too has a famous elephant.  Temple festivals in Kerala are perhaps incomplete without caparisoned elephants. The elephant Ambalapuzha Ramachandran was famous.  Inside the temple there is a mammoth life-size statue of this famous elephant.  The lively elephant that was in the temple complex at the time of my visit in 2013 was equally magnificent.

Ottan Thullal  is a dance and poetic performance form of Kerala, India. It was introduced in the eighteenth century by Kunchan Nambiar, one of the Prachina Kavithrayam (three famous Malayalam language poets). It is accompanied by a mridangam or an idakka (drum and cymbal).  The temple at Ambalapuzha  is associated with the birth of famous performing art form of Kerala – Ottamthullal. It is believed that legendary Malayalam poet Kalakkaththu Kunchan Nambiar gave birth to this unique art form in the Ambalappuzha Temple premises. The Mizhavu (a big copper drum used as a percussion instrument in performing arts) used by Kunjan Nambiar is still preserved in an enclosure in the temple.

Kalakkathu Kunchan Nambiar   was an early Malayalam poet, performer, satirist and the inventor of local art form of Ottamthullal. Along with Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan and Cherusseri Namboothiri, Nambiar completes the ancient triumvirate of Malayalam poetry. He is considered by many as the master of Malayalam satirist poetry.

Ambalapuzhe unnikannanodu nee
Enthu paribhavam melleyothi vannuvo
The song "Ambalappuzhe" reportedly composed at Woodlands Hotel in Chennai was a great hit.  The music was by MG Radhakrishnan and the lyrics were writtenby Kaithapram Damodaran Namboothiri.  It was from the 1992 movie directed by Priyadarsyhan ‘Adwaitham’ starring Mohanlal, Jayaram.  A couple of years back, there was wave in the internet with   MS Dhoni’s toddler daughter Ziva  rendering this song.  

Adiyen dhasan – S. Sampathkumar
Pics taken by me have watermark : © Kairavini Karaiyinile; couple of photos credit Mr Ashwin Sampathkumar and couple courtesy Temple FB page.

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