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Thripuranthaka temples in Malabar Kerala State :A historical enquiry

Cover Photo: Vizhinjam cave temple of Ay Vel

Dr Suvarna Nalapat

The history of a people is also the history of their subaltern anthropological history. In ancient India , both in North and South, the practice of appointing a commander in chief (Senaapathi/Devasenapathi) was there.Usually this post goes to the yuvaraja, or the prince of the royal lineage.In Sangha Tamil this person is often reffered to as Irukkuvel (Velavan) who is the son of Siva, but the nephew of Mahavishnu .Thus the Yuvaraja (Ilam Ko) had an option to adopt either a Varma ( Kshathriya profession) or a Sharma ( Brahmana/sacrifice all for learning ) and thus become a Ilamko Atikal. There will be several contestants to the next post of King which is decided every 12 years (Maha makham festival) by the people and their great parliaments and advisors. Therefore, those who were posted as Irukkuvels in different Grama/Nagara had to prove their military prowess. For this they were allowed to make advances against nearby kings, but without disrupting the society life. During this army movements they were allowed to install a Thripuranthaka idol in the direction in which they move .Only an Irukkuvel was allowed to install Thripuranthaka.No other royal person had the right to do that. Because of this , the other relatives belonging to the Yadava,Mooshaka lineage do not install Thripuranthaka idols . This factor is important since there is a common saying that the Valluvanaat Valluvakkonathiri Vallabha Raja does not attack nearby kings. Since the Valluvakkonathiri is a position of the overlordship and not that of commander in chief , this saying is true. Pandya, western Gangeya,Nolambas,East Chalukyas of Venki,Yadava,Muttharaya (Amararya kula) , chera and early Chola ( till Paranthaka Chola) were one family belonging to same lineage and used to select their Emperor from among them and these people did not have the practice of installing Thripuranthaka. After Paranthaka Chola,Rashtrakuta kings started to install Thripuranthakas everywhere claiming that they alone deserve ovarlordship of the country.Cholas won the wars with help of their great commanders , (their uncles-mothers brother) who were the great and famous Irukkuvels who sacrificed their property,position and life for the sake of their sisters and the lineage of the sister. (Marumakkatthaayam).The famous leader among them was called Bhoothi Vikramakesari . (The Lion with prowess who worship the five elements or bhootha ).In Thirupparmbiyam war with his help Cholas destroyed the race of the Pandya. Chola and their uncle race the Chera became prominent . The Irukkuvels of Kotumbaloor had installed 4 Thripuranthaka . 1. Moovar Kovil complex (AD 880) In the southern shrine, on Greevakoshta facing East , on the right side, Thripuranthaka is seen fighting facing the south.Therefore in this idol , the fighting is for defence and not aggressive. If the movement is to the left , then only the intention is to attack another king. 2. Thirukkattalai southern Bhadram. Face south 3. 3 Kotumpaloor idol in Madras Museum. Bow and arrow are behind. Not in use. Right hand in Chinmudra show Dakshinamurthi character. Therefore Guru in advisory role only. 4. Chathurbahu idol of Kodumbaoor in Puthukkotta museum .Bow ,arrow ,sword and shield in hands.Two wheels on the Peetha of idol showing the vehicle is a chariot which can move in any direction. Thripuranthakamurthi is thus , either a Guru with advisory capacity , but not taking arms ; or a defending person who has no intention of killing ; and the last one with aggressive and destructive aims. When a Thripuranthaka idol is installed , it indicates that a major military movement had occurred to that particular region, in that particular direction, and thus the idol

is a symbol of a war/military defence.Historians point out that south of river Narmada, in South India and Deccaan the idol of Thripuranthaka is more. Among them , majority are south of Kaveri River. 98 Thripuranthaka idols in 43 temple complexes had been reported by Historians in these areas .According to the Mayamatha (A Book on Indian Iconography) Thripuranthaka is installed for Sathrusamhara (Killing enemies). Chalukya kings : In Vaathaapi Alampur SwargaBrahma temple on the North of the door , on the wall facing East a picture is drawn (This is a Chithraabhaasa according to Iconography .Not a Chithra , or full idol).The picture shows a warrior fighting in chariot moving to left , to the North. There is a inscription of Vinayadithya (AD 651-696`).His son Vijayadithya was Mandalaadhipa of entire Andhrapradesh, even before he was made Yuvaraja. He had taken part in battles against North Indian kings . In Pattaatakkal North Praasaada , East pillar the Thripuranthaka installed by Vijayadithya (AD 733) faces North East. 8th century Mahur cave ,Pattatakkal Mallikarjuna Temple, Virupaksha temple have one each installed by Vikramadithya 2 (733-745 AD). Rashtrakuta kings : Ellora Dasavathara cave No:15 (Danthidurga 733-756) with chariot having 2 wheels moving to south ,facing west and North, on the SE part of the Mandapa back wall. Southern Gujrat,Malawa,Vidarbha are on the NE and North parts showing the direction of his military movements.He had a war with Chalukya Keerthivarman on the south (AD 753) also . Krishna 1 had expanded empire in all directions. Ellora No:16 in Kailasa temple we see on the Gopura facing East on the wall. The horses and the three Pura are shown. On the southeast where his major expansions were made the battle scenes are shown. In Kailasa temple on west facing part is Thripuranthaka of Dhruva (AD 780-793) facing North. In Poona Pathaleswara cave also is the same type.In Samgameswara near Alampur the 5th Thripuranthaka of Rashtrakuta (Govinda 111 AD 793-814) is on south of Antharala moving East.This shows , before the Cholas of Imperial times the Irukkuvels of these parts were installing Thripuranthaka and questioning the suzerainty of Chola/Chera .The 5th Thripuranthaka of Rashtrakuta has a bow which is not in use. It is in Papanasam south Mandapa face pillar as a small bas relief (Temple 6 .9th to 10th century). On North in Mandal ghant Jaleswara temple, on wall facing North is the one installed by Malwa Mourya lineage.(AD 825-850).On the west facing Niche (Bhadra) above in North subshrine of Brajmath Gyaraspur ( 814-880),is seen. The successors of Amoghavarsha who fought with West Malwa Gurjara-Prathihara had installed these. The 3 Kalachuri temples in Nohtha,Paali and Dyorbeeja are from 10,12 and 13th centuries respectively. These sprang up after the marriage relations of Kalachuri Rashtrakuta. Just North of Narmada in a North town of Daboi on wall facing East, in inner wall Thripuranthaka fighting facing North is seen.This belongs to Chalukya Solanki Sidharaja Jayasimha (1093-1142) who fought against the Islamic aggrssions in Gujrat. Near Badami 9Vaathaapi) a rockcut Thripuranthaka on Araleekkatti rock and the one on Northern wall of Sringeri Vidyasankara temple (Of Vijayanagara kings) are worth mentioning.

Pallava kings : There are 9 Thripuranthakas installed by Pallavas. All belong to period 700-728.Pallava king at that period is contemporary of Vijayadithya Chalukya. 6 of the Thripuranthakas are in Kailasanath temple at Kancheepuram. 2 are in Mamallapuram. One at Kancheepuram Airavatheeswaram. On west facing wall of Kailasanath temple , on NW corner of Vimana in a chariot , with bow in right hand ( Only if it is left hand the Lord is fighting) ; The third subshrine from right , outside the Eastern door , on backwall facing west is a form carrying bow in left hand. On North wall of vimana , on west side also bow is on left. God is moving to left to the west . On south praakaara , in the three Thripuranthakas panels facing North the same pattern is repeated. This is the same as Kanchi Airavatheswar temple also. In two vimana of Mamallapuram on the North wall, central panel show Thripuranthaka. Moving west to left but not fighting, since bow is hung on right hand .There are five different Siva forms wearing bow in loose stone slabs at Mamallapuram.Historians conclude that Pallava Thripuranthaka is generally protective defensive and Rashtrakuta is aggressive destructive.The titles of chithrakaarmuka and Ekaveera of Rajasimha sometimes depict him as Thripuranthaka himself. He captured Vathapi,Aihole and Pattatakkal (Thripura) of Chalukya .After Rajasimha no Pallava king has installed Thripuranthaka. Chola: In sun temple of Nageswara temple complex at Kumbhakona which face west, on the backwall bas relief are 50 idols of Thripuranthaka by Paranthaka Chola (907-954).The Thripuranthaka style of fighting in a chariot seen in Rashtrakuta , is seen in Tamil Nad only in these bas reliefs of Chola. Just as in Vizhinjam, the next panel show Nataraja. The direction is NorthEast showing the main enemy of Chola as Rashtrakutas.In 949 near Kancheepuram Thakkolam Krishna 111 defeated Chola power. In 985 RajarajaChola 1 made installation of Thripuranthaka a major feature in Tamil Nad. During this period 40 % of stone idols in Tamil Nad are of this style. Among them the oldest is seen in the Keral border , in Thiruvaleeswaram temple of Pandya kingdom. In this temple on the west side Karnakoota the idol is seen.It is a symbol of defeating both Pandya and combined Chera power. In Thanjavur Rajarajeswara temple 37 Thripuranthakas are seen. In the second storey in 32 nitches 32 are seen full length and in all directions. The mural on Northwest wall of Pradakshina vazhi is made conspicuous by a small panjara on the outer North wall. In two bas reliefs Thripuranthaka story is told. One is on the east of the southern step and there two forms are depicted. The other is on southwest corner of inner Gopura.It is unfinished. All directions are shown but Northwest and southeast (Kalyani of Chalukya and Simhala) are prominently shown . In the second half of 12th century Rajaraja Chola 11 (1146-1172) made several Thripuranthaka installations. In Darasuram Chariot Mandapa the battles of the king to Simhala and Pandya are depicted. But, at that time Pandya power does not exist in Tamil country. Pandya power as Sarabhapureeya in Central India , and combined force of Chera,(Kerala,kannada ) and Simhala Vallabha (Sreevallabha vansi) are his enemies. In Chidambara , all the 4 gopura show Thripuranthaka. In 13th and 16th centuries Thiruvanaikka,East Gopura of Thiruvannamalai ,

Thribhuvana temple (1212) in the south facing second story of Vimana west karnakoota we find Thripuranthaka presence. Ay Vel: The Ay (Yadava) mooshaka lineage of Thiruvithamkod is called Ay Vel. In their Vizhinjam cave temple on East rock on right side of the doorway , a Thripuranthaka similar to Pallava is seen.(Cover picture) . But there is no Chariot.The left leg is in OOrdhwajanu , on the back of a Bhootha. The bhootha is human form (Vethala/Naravahana) .The model of this Naravahana Thripuranthaka is imitated by later Cholas, because of their ancestry by maternal descend. The face of Ay vel Thripuranthaka is smiling just as Samgameswara .On left is an incomplete Nataraja idol . According to Mayamatha , when Nataraja is installed near Thripuranthaka the intention is the immeadiate death of the enemy. The 8th century A Vels were in constant combat with Pandya on their East for supremacy .Pandyas being Upasakas of Sundareswara , do not install Thripuranthaka in their temples.

It is in the light of these informations I enquired about Thripuranthaka idols in Malabar. The list given below is from Census of Kerala Temples by the State Government.It is interesting to note that of the 11 Thripuranthaka Prathishta recorded in Census of Kerala Temples 5 are in Malappuram District,3 in Palghat District ,one each in Kozhikkod,Thrissur and Kannur District and None in Wynad and Kasarkod.

Malappuram District Kerala :


1 Thripuranthaka Temple Kunnummal Malappuram .Koottilangadippuzha (Kadalundi puzha) flows south of the temple. Thripuranthaka is Paradevatha of Kizhakke Vellaattu. It is included in ancient temple category by Census of kerala .The deity faces west and is a Kannaadi (Mirro ) prathishtha. 2.Paappanoor Moonniyur panchayath.NE of Thiroor via chemmaad pookkottupadi .Kadalundi puzha is 2 KM south of the temple.Included in Very ancient category by Census of kerala, and is a Parasuramaprathishta. 3.Erannoorran Thripuranthaka shrine in Siva temple complex ,on SE of main Siva deity.Faces west and has heitht of 30 cms 4.Aanakkayam panchayath Panthalloor Durga bahgavathi temple and Vishnu temple.On southwest of Vishnu temple there are shrines for Ayyappa and Erannooraan built after Samoothiri took over the temple.But here Erannooraan is Kirathamurthi sankalpa , not Thripuranthaka.There is no Idol for the Thripuranthaka here, only a Sankalpa .There are three balikkal (For Durga,Vishnu and Erannooraan).

5 Moothrukkunnath Durga at Mancheri is sister of Panthalloor Devi and the temple is on a small hillock.Mancheri kovilakam temple. On SW sasthaa and Thripuranthaka shrines exists. But no idol for Thripuranthaka, only a sankalpa. This was attacked in 18th century by by Tipu Sultan .There is also a story of beheading the poojari in 1848 and destroying the idol of Krishna of this temple.

Palakkaad District

1.Thiruvegappura Sankara Narayana Temple, and Mahavishnu temple (Garuda did prathishta).Very ancient category . Adisankara had renovated the temple. Old name was Asokaalaya. Behind flow the turbulent speedy Vegavahini,Thootha (Vella puzha) .This belonged to Azhvancheri Thamprakkal. Thripuranthaka in standing posture has 75 cm and is in a separate shrine .Direction not mentioned in the book. 2 Enaanimangalam Payyanetam kumaramputthoor is on banks of Kunthippuzha .200 meters up flow the river called Pathrakkadav where Kunthidevi used to clean her kitchen vessels. Main deity is Siva , a swayambhoo. In subshrine is BaalaThripuranthaka , without idol.Only a Peetha exists. 3.Thrippallaavoor Siva temple. Pallassana . Outside the pradakshinavazhi ,near Maryada is Thripuranthakasivan. This is on SE side and idol is a Linga with 15 cm height. This is considered to be associated with Pallava period in Kerala.

Kozhikkod District
1 Azhakoti bhagavathi temple. Thali temple of Calicut belonged to Porlathiri and the old Valluvakkonathiri lineage. In 1240 AD , zamorin said that the women of Porlathiri lineage had insulted the Zamorin women (who went to Thali temple) and for that he with Mangat Achans assistance took over Thali temple. For this the Naatuvazhi ( who were earlier on side of Valluvakkonathiri) had assisted Mangattachan and Zamorin (Kakkaat ,kaannoli,kaang,Munnoli,Marayakkaat).For capturing west Gopura of Thali, they stayed at Thiruthiyad and Thiruthiyad Desam was given to them.Azhakodi Devi , is their Kalari Paradevatha .Since Brahmahathya sin was there , when temple was attacked,Zamorin brought a beautiful Bhuvaneswari idol from Dwaraka and installed it. (Tipu took that and put it in a nearby well during his time).On the south of the temple is a subshrine for Unni Thripuranthaka and it faces west. The idol is a Churika only , the weapon of Thripuranthaka. There is a Dwaja in front of this subshrine indicating a Vijayasthambha in battle.

Thrissur District :
1.Peetikeswaram ,Pengaamukk,Kaattakaampaal.This is a very ancient temple.But the Thripuranthaka shrine here is not very old. In 1755 Cheralayam Raja and Vaakkaat Nambiti had gone for Maamaamnkam and on their way, stayed at Thriprangot and did Bhajana for Mruthyunjaya and a Mruthyunjaya was installed facing east . On the NE of this Mrithunjaya, facing west is Thripuranthaka installed by Cheralayam and Vaakkaat Nambidi for getting victory in Maamaanka. It is installed in Dhanu 25 of the said year.

Kannoor District
1 Thillankeri. NE of Kootthuparamb .Ancient category. Old name Thiruviilankeri (Thiru Vellankeri). This was facing East originally. Later , the idol was reinstalled facing west .( From Right to Left ) The ooraalars of this temple are surprisingly having the name Idavalatthillam ( Left and Right house). The idol is 45 cm height .

Wynad and Kaasargod districts have not a single Thripuranthaka prathishta.

TABLE 1 Malappuram 1Thripuranthaka Very ancient .(Before Christ) Only mirror image .Near Kadalundi river .Probably by Ramayana period Palakkad Thiruvegappura Ancient . Near Thootha river Kozhikkod Azhakodi After AD 1240 rise of Zamorins Thrissur Peetikeswara Pengamukk Kaattambala Ancient shrine Thripuranthaka installed by Cheralayam raja in 1755 Enanimangalam Kumarm puthoor Balathripuranthaka peeta only . Kunthidevi when she stayed with her Baala (children) here Kannur Thillamkeri ancient

2 Paappanur (Brahmin settlement) near Kadalundi river.Very ancient .installed by Parasurama Before his

Kshathriya Genocide. 3 Erannooraa Tripuranthaka time not known ancient.(BC 1st to AD 9 th ) 4 Panthalloor Durga temple Vishnu shrine After 1240 AD zamorins invasion And 5 Moothrukkunnam Durga , sister of Panthalloor Devi installed by Mancheri Kovilakam during wars with zamorins

installed .Near Pathrakkadav of Kunthippuzha Thrippallaavoor pallassana Pallava period in Kerala history from 1 century BC to 3-5 century AD

The pattern is interesting. The ancient shrines are installed during Parasurama conquest of the Kshathriya, and Kunthis vow to make her children kings ( forerunner of Mahabharatha war) etc. Except the one in Palghat at Thrippallaavoor (Pallava period) all other historical Thripuranthaka have been installed only after Zamorins period mainly by his chieftains and his relatives.The only one made by the opposition is very late in 1755 in Kaattakambal by Cheralayam Raja and Vaakkayil Kakkaat Nambidi (short form Vaakkaatt nampidi) who was saddened by the death of his Chaver warriors at Vaakayil perumthurai, Thirunava and that was more of a defensive and protective nature to protect his warriors from Mrityu , rather than aggressive. This pattern is significant in history of Kerala , since Zamorin was trying to be the imperial power like the imperial Cholas before him. The Vallabha Rajavansa already crushed by Cholas (as Manimangalam sasana of Cholas tell us) was trying to keep up their status and to defend the powers as well as to protect their valiant people as far as possible . But when we go deep into the History, it is not so simple . The first Chola Paranthaka and his son , nephew of a Vallabha king of Kerala (Vellan Kumaran Chathuraananapandithn of Thiruvottiyur inscription) had started the process of installing Thripuranthaka .He was uncle of Chola Rajaditya and was a native of Nandikkara near Thrissoor and a scholarly Vallabha king of Valluvanad. After 200 years we see his own lineage the Sreevallabha lineage destroyed entirely by the descendents of Rajadithya as the Manimangalam sasanam tells us. The large number of Thripuranthakas installed in Chola empire and their power mongering and war tactics have

stimulated zamorins to destroy Vallabha (remaining Valluvakkonaathiri) and this resulted in his installation of two Thripuranthakas . When the Valluvan found this aggressive policy unfair he too did an installation in his Paradevatha shrine at Panthalloor. And the attempt of Cheralayam Raja was a feeble attempt to preserve the heads and lives of his valiant warriors in Mamamkam. After 1755 Thripuranthaka in Kattamkambal Pengamukk by Cheralayam Raja, what happended ? In 1762 (just 7 years after)Zamorin attacked and captured Cochin upto Thrissoor and made Paathaayikkara namboothiri the Yogathirippaad of Thrissoor. 2 years later Cochin recaptured Thrissur and sent Paathaayikkara out of Thrissur and his native place in Thalappilli near Kunnamkulam. He was given place in Valluvanad by the then Valluvakkonaathiri. The story of Thripuranthaka thus shows that Thripuranthaka cannot kill your enemy . But one kills oneself and ones race by being foolish enough to quarrel over petty politics, when outsiders are ready to grab power and possessions . The story still continues. The enemy now is not kings or royal personages. But quarreling politicians, religious fanatics and other selfish people motivated by wealth, power ,fame. When will the entire Nation as a whole realize the lessons our ancestors had given us about unselfishness, Dharma and truth ? United we stand; Divided we fall.

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