Sree Poornathreyeesa Temple
(Cochin Dewaswom Board)
Sree Poornathrayeesa (The Lord is the family deity of the erstwhile Kochi dynasty ) Temple is one of the eminent temples in Kerala, situated in Tripunithura, at a distance of around 10 km to the southeast of Ernakulam, Kerala. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, worshipped in the form of Santhanagopala Murthy. Here, Santhanagopalamoorthy means "savior of Infants" is an incarnation of Lord Mahavishnu. Lord Vishnu is seen here in a sitting posture under the shade of five hoods of Ananthan. This is a unique pose unlike the other Vishnu temples where the Lord is usually found in a reclining posture on the divine serpent, Anantha The folded body of the serpent itself serves as the seat for the God. The two upper hands of Lord Vishnu hold Sanku (conch) and Sudarshana Chakram (holy wheel) and the lower right hand holds the Padmam (Lotus flower).
The name Poornathrayeesa defined as follows , “thra" means three; 'poorna' means complete and 'isa' means Iswara which means the Lord of Knowledge, or the Lord of the Three Vedas – Rik, Yajus and Sama. It also means the Lord who manifests himself as the essence of the Vedas, who can be attained through inner saadhana. Traditions say that Lord Vishnu offered the idol of Sree Poornathrayeesa to Arjuna (the third of the five Pandava brothers), when he sought the help of the Lord to give rebirth to the ten children of a Brahmin. The ten children and the sacred idol were taken by Arjuna in his chariot and he handed over the children to the Brahmin. In memory of this event, a temple was built with a sanctum-sanctorum in the form of a chariot.Devotees can also have a look at the idol of Lord Ganapathi on the extreme south side of the sanctum-sanctorum. It must be noted that, besides the idol of Lord Ganesha, no other Upadevatas are worshipped at Sree Poornathrayeesa Temple.
Once upon a time, in Dwapara Yuga, a brahmana's wife gave birth to a child. Unfortunately, however, just after being born and touching the ground, the child immediately died. The brahmana father took the dead child and went directly to Dwaraka to the palace of the King. The brahmana was very upset because of the untimely death of the child in the presence of his young father and mother. Thus his mind became very disturbed. Formerly, when there were responsible kings, up to the time of Dwapara-yuga, when Lord Krishna was present, the king was liable to be blamed for the untimely death of a child in the presence of his parents. Similarly, such responsibility was there during the time of Lord Ramachandra.
The king was so responsible for the comforts of the citizens that he was to see that there was not even excessive heat or cold. Although there was no fault on the part of the King, the brahmana whose child had died immediately went to the palace door and began to accuse the King as follows.
"The present King, Ugrasena, is envious of the brahmanas!" The exact word used in this connection is brahma-dvisah. One who is envious of the Vedas or one who is envious of a qualified brahmana or the brahmana caste is called brahma-dvit. So the King was accused of being brahma-dvit. He was also accused of being satha-dhi, falsely intelligent. The executive head of a state must be very intelligent to see to the comforts of the citizens, but, according to the brahmana the King was not at all intelligent, although he was occupying the royal throne. Therefore, he also called him lubdha, which means greedy. In other words, a king or an executive head of state should not occupy the exalted post of presidency or kingship if he is greedy and self-interested. But it is natural that an executive head becomes self-interested when he is attached to material enjoyment. Therefore, another word used here is visayatmanah.
The brahmana also accused the King of being kshatra-bandhu, which refers to a person born in the family of kshatriyas or the royal order who is without the qualifications of a royal personality. A king should protect brahminical culture and should be very alert to the welfare of his citizens; he should not be greedy due to attachment to material enjoyment. If a person with no qualifications represents himself as a kshatriya of the royal order, he is not called a kshatriya, but a ksatra-bandhu. Similarly, if a person is born of a brahmana father but has no brahminical qualification, he is called brahma-bandhu or [dvija-bandhu]. This means that a brahmana or a kshatriya is not accepted simply by birth. One has to qualify himself for the particular position; only then is he accepted as a brahmana or a kshatriya.
Thus the brahmana accused the King that his newly born baby was dead due to the disqualifications of the King. The brahmana took it most unnaturally, and therefore he held the King to be responsible.
The brahmana therefore said, "No one should offer respects or worship to a king whose only business is envy. Such a king spends his time either hunting and killing animals in the forest or killing citizens for criminal acts. He has no self-control and possesses bad character. If such a king is worshiped or honored by the citizens, the citizens will never be happy. They will always remain poor, full of anxieties and aggrievement, and always unhappy." Although in modern politics the post of monarch is abolished, the president is not held responsible for the comforts of the citizens. In this age of Kali, the executive head of a state somehow or other gets votes and is elected to an exalted post, but the condition of the citizens continues to be full of anxiety, distress, unhappiness, and dissatisfaction.
The brahmana's second child was also born dead, and the third also. He had nine children, and each of them was born dead, and each time he came to the gate of the palace to accuse the King. When the brahmana came to accuse the King of Dvaraka for the ninth time, Arjuna happened to be present with Krishna. On hearing that a brahmana was accusing the King of not properly protecting him, Arjuna became inquisitive and approached the brahmana. He said, "My dear brahmana, why do you say that there are no proper kshatriyas to protect the citizens of your country? Is there not even someone who can pretend to be a kshatriya, who can carry a bow and arrow at least to make a show of protection? Do you think that all the royal personalities in this country simply engage in performing sacrifices with the brahmanaskshatriyas should not sit back comfortably and engage only in performing Vedic rituals. Rather, they must be very chivalrous in protecting the citizens. Brahmanas, being engaged in spiritual activities, are not expected to do anything which requires physical endeavor. Therefore, they need to be protected by the kshatriyas so that they will not be disturbed in the execution of their higher occupational duties. but have no chivalrous power?" Thus Arjuna indicated that "If the brahmanas feel unwanted separation from their wives and children," Arjuna continued, "and the kshatriya kings do not take care of them, then such kshatriyas are to be considered no more than stage players. In dramatic performances in the theater, an actor may play the part of a king, but no one expects any benefits from such a make-believe king. Similarly, if the king or the executive head of a state cannot give protection to the head of the social structure, he is considered merely a bluffer. Such executive heads simply live for their own livelihood while occupying exalted posts as chiefs of state. My lord, I promise that I shall give protection to your children, and if I am unable to do so, then I shall enter into blazing fire so that the sinful contamination which has infected me will be counteracted."
Upon hearing Arjuna speak in this way, the brahmana replied, "My dear Arjuna, Lord Balarama is present, but He could not give protection to my children. Lord Krishna is also present, but He also could not give them protection. There are also many other heroes, such as Pradyumna and Aniruddha, carrying bows and arrows, but they could not protect my children." The brahmana directly hinted that Arjuna could not do that which was impossible for the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He felt that Arjuna was promising something beyond his power. The brahmana said, "I consider your promise to be like that of an inexperienced child. I cannot put my faith in your promise." The brahmana's wife delivered a male child, and as usual the child began to cry. But suddenly, within a few minutes, both the child and Arjuna's arrows disappeared in the sky. It appeared that the brahmana's house was near Krishna's residence and that Lord Krishna was enjoying everything that was taking place apparently in defiance of His authority. It was He who played the trick of taking away the brahmana's baby as well as the arrows, including the one given by Lord Siva, of which Arjuna was so proud. Tad bhavaty alpa-medhasam: less intelligent men take shelter of the demigods due to bewilderment and are satisfied with the benefits they award.
In the presence of Lord Krishna and others, the brahmana began to accuse Arjuna: "Everyone see my foolishness! I put my faith in the words of Arjuna, who is impotent and who is expert only in false promises. How foolish I was to believe Arjuna. He promised to protect my child when even Pradyumna, Aniruddha, Lord Balarama and Lord Krishna failed. If such great personalities could not protect my child, then who can do so? I therefore condemn Arjuna for his false promise, and I also condemn his celebrated bow Gandiva and his impudency in declaring himself greater than Lord Balarama, Lord Krishna, Pradyumna and Aniruddha. No one can save my child, for he has already been transferred to another planet. Due to sheer foolishness only, Arjuna thought that he could bring back my child from another planet."
Thus condemned by the brahmana, Arjuna empowered himself with a mystic yoga perfection so that he could travel to any planet to find the brahmana's baby. It seems that Arjuna had mastered the mystic yogic power by which yogis can travel to any planet they desire. He first of all went to the planet known as Yamaloka, where the superintendent of death, Yamaraja, lives. There he searched for the brahmana's baby. By the grace of Lord Krishna, Arjuna had that power, and he went above the heavenly planets to Brahmaloka. When he was unable to find the baby even after searching all possible planets, he then attempted to throw himself into a fire, as he had promised the brahmana if unable to bring back his baby. Lord Krishna, however, was very kind toward Arjuna because Arjuna happened to be the most intimate friend of the Lord. Lord Krishna persuaded Arjuna not to enter the fire in disgrace. Krishna indicated that since Arjuna was His friend, if he were to enter the fire in hopelessness, indirectly it would be a blemish on Him. Lord Krishna therefore checked Arjuna, assuring him that He would find the baby. He told Arjuna, "Do not foolishly commit suicide." He then immediately went to the planet where the King of heaven, Indra, lives. When he was unable to find the baby there, he went to the planets of the fire demigods, Nairrti, and then to the moon planet. Then he went to Vayu and to Varunaloka. When he was unable to find the baby in those planets, he went down to the Rasatala planet, the lowest of the planetary systems. After traveling to all these different planets, he finally went to Brahmaloka, where even the mystic After addressing Arjuna in this way, Lord Krishna called for His transcendental chariot. He mounted it along with Arjuna and began to proceed north. Lord Krishna, the all-powerful Personality of Godhead, could have brought the child back without effort, but we should always remember that He was playing the part of a human being. As a human being has to endeavor to achieve certain results, so Lord Krishna, like an ordinary human being, or like His friend Arjuna, left Dvaraka to bring back the brahmana's baby. By appearing in human society and exhibiting His pastimes as a human being, Krishna definitely showed that there was not a single personality greater than He. "God is great." That is the definition of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. So at least within this material world, while He was present, Krishna proved that there was no greater personality within the universe.
Seated on His chariot with Arjuna, Krishna began to proceed north, crossing over many planetary systems. These are described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam as sapta-dvipa. Dvipa means island. All these planets, are sometimes described in the Vedic literature as dvipas. The planet on which we are living is called Jambudvipa. Outer space is taken as a great ocean of air, and within that great ocean of air there are many islands, which are the different planets. In each and every planet there are oceans also. In some of the planets, the oceans are of salt water, and in some of them there are oceans of milk. In others there are oceans of liquor, and in others there are oceans of ghee or oil. There are different kinds of mountains also. Each and every planet has a different type of atmosphere.
Krishna passed over all these planets and reached the covering of the universe. This covering is described in the Srimad-Bhagavatam as great darkness. This material world as a whole is described as dark. In the open space there is sunlight, and therefore it is illuminated, but in the covering, because of the absence of sunlight, it is naturally dark. When Krishna approached the covering layer of this universe, the four horses which were drawing His chariot—Saibya, Sugriva, Meghapuspa and Balahaka—all appeared to hesitate to enter the darkness. This hesitation is also a part of the pastimes of Lord Krishna because the horses of Krishna are not ordinary. It is not possible for ordinary horses to go all over the universe and then enter into its outer covering layers. As Krishna is transcendental, similarly His chariot and His horses and everything about Him are also transcendental, beyond the qualities of this material world. We should always remember that Krishna was playing the part of an ordinary human being, and His horses also, by the will of Krishna, played the parts of ordinary horses in hesitating to enter the darkness. Krishna is known as Yogesvara, as is stated in the last portion of Bhagavad-gita. Yogesvaro harih: all mystic powers are under His control. In our experience, we can see many human beings who have yogic mystic power. Sometimes they perform very wonderful acts, but Krishna is understood to be the master of all mystic power. Therefore, when He saw that His horses were hesitant to proceed into the darkness, He immediately released His disc, known as the Sudarsana cakra, which illuminated the sky a thousand times brighter than sunlight. The darkness of the covering of the universe is also a creation of Krishna's, and the Sudarsana cakra is Krishna's constant companion. Thus the darkness was penetrated by His keeping the Sudarsana cakra in front. The Srimad-Bhagavatam states that the Sudarsana cakraSu means very nice, and darsana means observation; by the grace of Lord Krishna's disc, Sudarsana, everything can be seen very nicely, and nothing can remain in darkness. Thus Lord Krishna and Arjuna crossed over the great region of darkness covering the material universes. penetrated the darkness just as an arrow released from the Sarnga bow of Lord Ramachandra penetrated the army of Ravana. Arjuna then saw the effulgence of light known as the brahmajyoti. The brahmajyoti is situated outside the covering of the material universes, and because it cannot be seen with our present eyes, this brahmajyoti is sometimes called avyakta. This spiritual effulgence is the ultimate destination of the impersonalists known as Vedantists. The brahmajyoti is also described as anantaparam, unlimited and unfathomed. When Lord Krishna and Arjuna reached this region of the brahmajyoti, Arjuna could not tolerate the glaring effulgence, and he closed his eyes. Lord Krishna's and Arjuna's reaching the brahmajyoti region is described in Harivamsa. In that portion of the Vedic literature, Krishna informed Arjuna, "My dear Arjuna, the glaring effulgence, the transcendental light which you are seeing, is My bodily rays. O chief of the descendants of Bharata, this brahmajyoti is Myself." As the sun disc and the sunshine cannot be separated, similarly Krishna and His bodily rays, the brahmajyoti, cannot be separated. Thus Krishna claimed that the brahmajyoti is He Himself. This is clearly stated in the Harivamsa, when Krishna says, "aham sah." The brahmajyoti is a combination of the minute particles known as spiritual sparks, or the living entities known as chitkana. The Vedic word so'ham, or "I am the brahmajyoti," can also be applied to the living entities, who can also claim to belong to the brahmajyoti. In the Harivamsa, Krishna further explains, "This brahmajyoti is an expansion of My spiritual energy."
Different types of festivals are celebrated every year in Tripunithura temple. Festivals have a great importance in this temple. Lord Subramanya killed Tharakasura and gave back Devalokam to Devas. Devas worshipped Subramanya and celebrated a festival to mark his victory. But Subramania said that the war was won by the combined effort of Devas and not by him. He ordered festivals for all Devas and fixed pattern for main Devas. It is believed that festivals are conducted on the basis of this order and finally they took the present form.
The festival is for the prosperity of the whole village and all should participate in it. Festival brings the blessings of God and growth in all fields. Festivals are of three types. They are Anguradi, Dhwajadi, and Padahadi and they are ranked as the best, Medium and lowest in the same order. Anguradi begins with “Mulayidal”. Dhwajadi begins by hoisting the flag on post. Padahadi begins with the sound of drums. Sometimes flag is also hoisted in Padahadi.
It is conducted in memory of the fire incident in the temple on 9/3/1096 (Malayalam). There are no important rituals for this festival. Camphor and lights are lighted throughout the temple memory of fire. In Tripunithura temple Vrichikam festival is Anguradi. Chingam festival is Dhwajadi and Para festival is Padahadi.
It is an important festival of the temple conducted in the Malayalam month Vrichikam (November – December). It begins on the star Swathy and ends with the star Thiruvonam. The festival is conducted jointly by Devaswom and Poornathrayeesa Seva Samgam. It is celebrated on a large scale along with proper Thanthric rituals. This is a national festival not restricted to the level of a temple festival. It is celebrated by one and all irrespective of caste, creed or religion. People from all walks of life co-operate and receive the blessings of Poornathrayeesa. Fifteen decorated elephants are used in the morning and evening functions. Panchari Melam produced by the most popular artists is a sumptuous feast for all lovers of art. Panchari Melam of Tripunithura is famous throughout the country just like “Pandi Melam” of Thrissur Pooram. The music from the wind instrument “Kurumkuzhal” on the day of star “Thrikketta” is highly appreciated by all. The temple atmosphere is always filled with music concerts, Kathakali, Ottamthullal, and different forms of dance including folk dances and other types of competitive activities. Fireworks are not important for the festival because it is believed that loud noise is not liked by the Lord. Elephants and their procession are most liked by the Lord and the expense is shared by many as an offering to Poornathrayeesa. This is a special offering for the long life, prosperity and education of children. The fruits offered during “Para” festival is given to elephants as a mark of attachment to elephants. Both people and elephants enjoy taking sweet food. This happiness will please the Lord. The important days of the festival start on the day of star “Thrikketta”. Vilwamangalam who reached the temple on that day found that God was not present in Sreekovil. When the Swamiyar came out, procession of elephants had already started. He saw children playing on the elephant and the Lord was deeply involved in this play. The Lord sitting on the elephant blessed Swamiyar. The children playing on the elephant may be the children of Santhana Gopala Brahmin or the Gopala of Vilwamangalam, God only knows. Remembering these holy instance devotees worshipped the Lord on the elephant and returned after getting his blessing. It is believed that worshipping the Lord on this auspicious day is equivalent to worshipping him for the whole year. This belief increased the number of devotees visiting the temple on this day and the festival became more popular and attractive. Devotees worshipped the Lord encircled by the dazzling brilliance of gold and diamonds seated on the elephant. They drop money and other items into the gold vessel as offerings and return with increased devotion and happiness. Most of the oil lamps of the temple are lighted during festival days Sreekovil and other important holy spots are decorated with flowers. Light from the huge bronze lamp post on the eastern side fills the hearts of all devotees with happiness. The illumination of the whole temple is a sight which will stick to the mind. Lighting the temple lamps is considered to be a sacred ritual.
Moosari festival is also called Chingam festival. It starts from the star Swathy and ends with Thiruvonam in the Malayalam month Chingam (August – September). Even though there is flag hosting, rituals are minimum for this festival. This festival is only of recent origin. There is a story related to this festival. Some people believe that the idol was thrown into pond and the temple damaged partially during the attack of enemies. This idol was later taken out and installed in the temple. Another version is that the rulers of the temple decided to make a new idol when the old one was damaged either by the attack of enemies or in the course of time. A silpi from Mulamthuruthy was entrusted with the work of casting the idol. Metals like gold, silver, copper, tin and iron in proper proportions were handed over to the silpi for making the idol in Panchaloha. Unfortunately the silpi failed in the casting job repeatedly. People began to scold him and he was very sad. He did not know the reason for his failure. Finally after pouring the molten metal in the mould, he embraced it requesting Lord’s blessing for the successful completion of his duty. The silpi being a pious soul joined the Lord during his sacrifice of embracing white hot metal. Nobody has seen the silpi afterwards. Rulers started this festival in memory of the liberation of the soul of silpi. We have already noted in the section “order of worship” that the silpi is remembered and is given a place in the temple.
This is also called the “Para” festival celebrated in the Malayalam month Kumbam (February – March). There is also a colourful story related to this festival, narrated by Kottarathil Sankunny of Udayamperoor. “Nanga” was the daughter of a Namboodiri. She was beautiful and intelligent. The family members of this girl were devotees of Poornathrayeesa. She was the pet child of the family. Along with her mother she worshipped Poornathrayeesa daily without any break.
Her marriage was fixed at the age of 12. The bride-groom was a handsome educated and well behaved youth who resided at a faraway place from the temple. All were happy about the marriage proposal and they made arrangements for the marriage. But the girl was not happy because it is not possible to worship Poornathrayeesa daily by coming from the husband’s house. She was highly worried and always thought of the Lord to get a solution for her problem. She visited the temple daily and prayed to the Lord. Parents did not know the reason for her sorrow. She always wept in front of the Lord. The tears filling the eyes of this innocent girl were noticed by the Lord. She came to the temple on the previous day of her marriage and could not control herself because it was the last day of her visit to the temple. She wept and said “I want to come to the temple daily. If I am given in marriage I cannot live without this light, if this daily visit is not possible I will end my life. Show mercy and please save me. In the next moment a holy brilliance fell on the girl. She felt that the Lord was calling her. She ran into the Sreekovil and was embraced by the Lord. She was immersed in eternal bliss and joined the Lord. Nobody saw the girl afterwards. The festival in the month of Kumbam (February – March) was started in memory of this incident. Even today the Lord visits the house of this girl once during this festival. New dress is offered to the family members of the girl after the pooja and feast. This function is similar to the case of a bridegroom visiting the bride’s house.
Historians treat this in a different way. They consider this incident as a story to combat the development of Budhism and Jainism. The Brahmin girl and silpi of lower caste are equal to God and they became one with God. A devotee irrespective of cast or religion can have eternal bliss and oneness with the Lord if he surrenders with full faith. According to historians this may be a story to attract people towards Hinduism. Anyhow we do not want to go deep into this conclusion which is against the belief of sincere devotees.
This festival (Para festival) extends from Swathy to Thiruvonam of the month Kumbam. There are lands belonging to Tripunithura Devaswom in different parts of the country. These are lands offered by devotees to the Lord at different times. A portion of the agricultural products obtained from these lands are given to the temple. This increased the prosperity of the temple. This was the beginning of giving lands on lease. There is no Raja bhogam (tax) for the land owned by temples.
Devi of Pisharikovil in Eroor visits the Poornathrayeesa temple on the day of star “Uthram” in Kumbam (February – March). Poornathrayeesan welcomes the Devi. Pooja and other rituals are performed for the Lord and Devi together. Worship of both the idols (Lakshmi & Narayana) on that day is good for the strong relationship of couples.
Lord Siva of Perumthrikovu temple visits Poornathrayeesan on “Thiruvathira” in Dhanu (December – January). Siva is the guest of Narayana on that day. This shows that Sankara and Narayana are one and the same and we have the concept of “Sankara Narayana”.
It is on the 4th of Edavam (May). This shows that Ananthan is equally important as Vishnu.
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