|Sree Poornathrayesa Temple|
'Vrischikotsavam' which starts the festival season
|Proper name||Sree Poornathrayesa temple|
|Primary deity||Lord Vishnu in the form of "Santhana Gopala Moorthy"|
|History and governance|
|Date built||Unknown (Believed to exist since Dwapara Yuga)|
Sree Poornathrayesa temple (in Malayalam:ശ്രീ പൂര്ണ്ണത്രയീശ ക്ഷേത്രം) is situated in Tripunithura, Kochi, the capital of the former Kingdom of Cochin. The temple is considered among the greatest temples in Kerala and was first among 8 royal temples of erstwhile Kochi Kingdom. The deity was also considered as National deity of Cochin and protector guardian of the town of Tripunithura.
The temple is famous for its yearly Utsavams or festivals. The main one is the Vrishchikoltsawam, which is conducted every year in the month of Vrishchikam (November–December), kicking off the 'Ulsava' Season in Kerala. And this Vrishchikolsavam is the biggest temple festival of Ernakulam District and one of the biggest temple festivals of Kerala also.
The deity in this temple is Lord Vishnu who is in the form of Santhanagopala Murthy. It is well believed that childless couples will be blessed with children on praying Poornathrayesan.
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. Lord Ganesh was sent by Arjuna to search a holy place for the installation of Lord Vishnu. Earlier, the idol was kept in a palace which is situated at the west of the main temple and now it is known as Poonithura Kottaram.
Lord Ganesh, who was attracted by the holiness of the ancient Vedic Village, Poornavedapuram (now Tripunithura), tried to occupy the place for himself. However, Arjuna pushed him away to the southern side of the sanctum and installed his idol there. This is different from the usual custom, where Lord Ganesh has a separate shrine at the south-western side of the inner prakaram. As the place was bounded by mustard fields, Arjuna used some mustard seeds to get oil for lighting lamp. You can see a Valia Vilakku situated in front of the idol. Folks say that the burnt oil of this traditional lamp contains medicinal value.
Legends reveal that Sree Poornathrayeesa is the elder brother of the Goddesses of Chottanikkara and Pishari temples. It is also believed that the Lord was married to a Namboothiri girl, Nangema, from Vadakkedathu Mana. During the annual temple festival occasions, deities from Perumthrikovil (Lord Shiva) and Pishari kovil (Lakshmi) visit here for a combined procession. This is locally called as Sankara Narayana Vilakku (Shiva and Vishnu) and Laksmi Narayana Vilakku (Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu). The Aarattu (the holy bath of the deity) of Sree Poornathrayeesa takes place at the temple pond of Chakkamkulangara Shiva Temple, which is situated north-east of the Sree Poornathrayeesa Temple.
The temple is designed in accordance of Kerala temple architecture. A major fire occurred in 1920, which destroyed much of the original structure particularly the sanctum sanctorium which was built extensively in wood. This led to redesigning the temple with concrete structure, for the first time in Kerala. Designed by the illustrious architect Late Sri Eachara Warrier, the temple was redesigned with concrete structure, covered cleverly with copper plates, wooden panels and granite tiles to recreate the traditional structure feeling.
The side walls of sanctum sanctorim where heavily decorated with large brass sheets with statutes of gods and goddess, while the roof is covered with copper sheets, while the entrances of sanctum sanctorium were covered with gold sheets.
The first floor of the two-storied gopuram consists of a mandapam (Dias), and eight beautifully carved wooden pillars support the Mandapam.
This festival usually starts in the November–December time frame every year. The festival lasts for 8 days, with events running 24/7. Events feature traditional folk art forms such as Ottanthullal, Kathakali, Thayambaka, Chenda melam, Kacheri. Stalls are set up in front of and behind the temple selling food and various articles.
Detailed History of Poornathrayesa 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 Krsna. 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 Krsna 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 Krsna's residence and that Lord Krsna 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 Krsna 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 Krsna 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 Krsna, 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 Krsna, however, was very kind toward Arjuna because Arjuna happened to be the most intimate friend of the Lord. Lord Krsna persuaded Arjuna not to enter the fire in disgrace. Krsna 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 Krsna 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 Krsna called for His transcendental chariot. He mounted it along with Arjuna and began to proceed north. Lord Krsna, 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 Krsna, 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, Krsna 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, Krsna proved that there was no greater personality within the universe.
Seated on His chariot with Arjuna, Krsna 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.
Krsna 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 Krsna 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 Krsna because the horses of Krsna 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 Krsna 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 Krsna was playing the part of an ordinary human being, and His horses also, by the will of Krsna, played the parts of ordinary horses in hesitating to enter the darkness.
Krsna 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 Krsna 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 Krsna's, and the Sudarsana cakra is Krsna'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 Krsna's disc, Sudarsana, everything can be seen very nicely, and nothing can remain in darkness. Thus Lord Krsna 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 Krsna and Arjuna reached this region of the brahmajyoti, Arjuna could not tolerate the glaring effulgence, and he closed his eyes. Lord Krsna's and Arjuna's reaching the brahmajyoti region is described in Harivamsa. In that portion of the Vedic literature, Krsna 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 Krsna and His bodily rays, the brahmajyoti, cannot be separated. Thus Krsna claimed that the brahmajyoti is He Himself. This is clearly stated in the Harivamsa, when Krsna 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, Krsna further explains, "This brahmajyoti is an expansion of My spiritual energy."
Krsna told Arjuna, "The brahmajyoti is beyond the region of My external energy, known as maya-sakti." When one is situated within this material world, it is not possible for him to experience this Brahman effulgence. Therefore, in the material world this effulgence is not manifested, whereas in the spiritual world, it is manifested. That is the purport of the words vyakta-avyakta. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said avyakto vyaktat sanatanah: both these energies are eternally manifested.
After this, Lord Krsna and Arjuna entered a vast extensive spiritual water. This spiritual water is called the Karanarnava Ocean or Viraja which means that this ocean is the origin of the creation of the material world. In the Mrtyunjaya Tantra, a Vedic literature, there is a vivid description of this Karana Ocean, or Viraja. It is stated there that the highest planetary system within the material world is Satyaloka, or Brahmaloka. Beyond that there are Rudraloka and Maha-Visnuloka. Regarding this Maha-Visnuloka, it is stated in the Brahma-samhita, yah karanarnava-jale bhajati sma yoga: "Lord Maha-Visnu is lying in the Karana Ocean. When He exhales, innumerable universes come into existence, and when He inhales, innumerable universes enter within Him." In this way, the material creation is generated and again withdrawn. When Lord Krsna and Arjuna entered the water, it appeared that there was a strong hurricane of transcendental effulgence brewing, and the water of the Karana Ocean was greatly agitated. By the grace of Lord Krsna, Arjuna had the unique experience of being able to see the very beautiful Karana Ocean.
Accompanied by Krsna, Arjuna saw a large palace within the water. There were many thousands of pillars and columns made of valuable jewels, and the glaring effulgence of those columns was so beautiful that Arjuna became charmed by it. Within that palace, Arjuna and Krsna saw the gigantic form of Anantadeva, who is also known as Sesha. Lord Anantadeva or Sesa Naga was in the form of a great serpent with thousands of hoods, and each one of them was decorated with valuable, effulgent jewels, which were beautifully dazzling. Each of Anantadeva's hoods had two eyes which appeared very fearsome. His body was as white as the mountaintop of Kailasa, which is always covered by snow. His neck was bluish, as were His tongues. Thus Arjuna saw the Sesa Naga form, and he also saw that on the very soft, white body of Sesa Naga, Lord Maha-Visnu was lying very comfortably. He appeared to be all-pervading and very powerful, and Arjuna could understand that the Supreme Personality of Godhead in that form is known as Purusottama. He is known as Purusottama, the best, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead, because from this form emanates another form of Visnu, which is known as Garbhodakasayi Visnu within the material world. The Maha-Visnu form of the Lord, Purusottama, is beyond the material world. He is also known as Uttama.Tama means darkness, and ut means above, transcendental; therefore, Uttama means above the darkest region of the material world. Arjuna saw that the bodily color of Purusottama, Maha-Visnu, was as dark as a new cloud in the rainy season; He was dressed in very nice yellow clothing, His face was always beautifully smiling, and His eyes, which were like lotus petals, were very attractive. Lord Maha-Visnu's helmet was bedecked with valuable jewels, and His beautiful earrings enhanced the beauty of the curling hair on His head. Lord Maha-Visnu had eight arms, all very long, reaching to His knees. His neck was decorated with the Kaustubha jewel, and His chest was marked with the symbol of Srivatsa, which means the resting place of the goddess of fortune. The Lord wore a garland of lotus flowers down to His knees. This long garland is known as a Vaijayanti garland.
The Lord was surrounded by His personal associates Nanda and Sunanda, and the personified Sudarsana disc was also standing by Him. As is stated in the Vedas, the Lord has innumerable energies, and they were also standing there personified. The most important among them were as follows: Pusti, the energy for nourishment, Sri, the energy of beauty, Kirti, the energy of reputation, and Aja, the energy of material creation. All these energies are invested in the administrators of the material world, namely Lord Brahma, Lord Siva and Lord Maha-Vishnu, and in the kings of the heavenly planets, Indra, Chandra, Varuna and Surya,the sun-god. In other words, all these demigods, being empowered by the Lord with certain energies, engage in the transcendental loving service of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Maha-Visnu feature is an expansion of Krsna's body. It is also confirmed in the Brahma-samhita that Lord Maha-Vishnu is a portion of a plenary expansion of Krsna. All such expansions are nondifferent from the Personality of Godhead, but since Krsna appeared within this material world to manifest His pastimes as a human being, He and Arjuna immediately offered their respects to Lord Maha-Vishnu by bowing down before Him. It is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that Lord Krsna offered respect to Lord Maha-Vishnu; this means that He offered obeisances unto Him only because Lord Maha-Vishnu is nondifferent from He Himself. This offering of obeisances by Krsna to Maha-Visnu is not, however, the form of worship known as ahangraha-upasana, which is sometimes recommended for persons who are trying to elevate themselves to the spiritual world by performing the sacrifice of knowledge. This is also stated in the Bhagavad-gita: jnana-yajnena capy anye yajanto mam upasate.
Although there was no necessity for Krsna to offer obeisances, because He is the master teacher, He taught Arjuna just how respect should be offered to Lord Maha-Vishnu. Arjuna, however, became very much afraid upon seeing the gigantic form of everything, distinct from the material experience. Seeing Krsna offering obeisances to Lord Maha-Visnu, he immediately followed Him and stood before the Lord with folded hands. After this, the gigantic form of Maha-Visnu, greatly pleased, smiled pleasingly and spoke as follows.
"My dear Krsna and Arjuna, I was very anxious to see you both, and therefore I arranged to take away the babies of the brahmana and keep them here. I have been expecting to see you both at this palace. You have appeared in the material world as My incarnations in order to minimize the force of the demoniac persons who burden the world. Now after killing all these unwanted demons, you will please again come back to Me. Both of you are incarnations of the great sage Nara-Narayana. Although you are both complete in yourselves, to protect the devotees and to annihilate the demons and especially to establish religious principles in the world so that peace and tranquillity may continue, you are teaching the basic principles of factual religion so that the people of the world may follow you and thereby be peaceful and prosperous."
When Arjuna and Krishna returned from Vaikuntha after retrieving the sons of the brahmana, Lord Vishnu gave Arjuna an idol to worship. He was instructed to place it somewhere appropriate.
According to local folklore, it is said that Arjuna and Krishna requested Lord Ganesha to go ahead of them and select an appropriate place for the idol to be consecrated. Lord Ganesha travelled far and wide and finally reached a divine place which was the seat of the Vedas in its entirety known as 'Poorna Veda Puri' which later became Tripunithura. Lord Ganesha was so pleased with the place that He chose a holy spot and seated there Himself. When Arjuna reached Tripunithura, he saw that Lord Ganesha has seated himself down in the place where he was to keep Lord Vishnu's idol. He requested Lord Ganesha to kindly move from there so that he may install the idol there. Lord Ganesha said that He could not move from there. As he could not place the idol anywhere on the ground other than at the appointed spot, Arjuna had no other choice and it is said that he gave Lord Ganesha a kick which caused Lord Ganesha to turn southwards and placed the idol there. The Poornathrayesa Temple is the only temple where Lord Ganesha faces southwards. All other temples traditionally have the idols facing the east and/or the west. This temple grew into the beautiful and magnificent Sree Poornathrayesa Temple we see today.
- Vrishchikoltsawam photos, flickr.com
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