Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Kaviyoor Kshetram

Childhood memories have a sneaky way of siding up to you. All it takes is familiar sights & smells, and your mind starts conjuring up experiences tucked away in some forgotten corner.

I had forgotten much about Kaviyoor temple. Only vague memories of clambering up stone steps and intricate wood carving remained and that too must have been remnants of what I had read while preparing the Thrikodithanam Temple website. But the moment we turned from the road to the gravel slope leading up the temple, I was flooded by memories of my last visit.

It was more than thirty years ago. My grandmother had taken me along on bus from Mukkattu Padikkal, Thrikodithanam. While walking up the steps, she had pointed to a little shrine housing an oversized shiva-lingam and said, “That was brought here by Hanuman. He had been send out to get an appropriate idol but by the time he got here another one had been consecrated. When the monkey-god tried to take it away, it wouldn’t budge. And when he yanked it harder with a coil of his tail, the entire temple compound rose to a height, and so steps had to be built leading up to the temple.”

Her words were the gospel truth then, but now I seemed to be looking at everything with a fresh pair of eyes. Was this not another geographical feature in the hilly landscape that had been used to build a raised temple? Is it possible that the big shiva-linga was kept outside the temple because it had been damaged in transit?

More questions came up as I walked into the temple – why is this place called “Kavioor Hanuman Temple” when the main sanctum houses Shiva in two forms (east & south)? If childless couples are trying to please Hanuman by offering tiny, wooded cradles, why are these being tied in front of Narasimha-moorthy??

If curiosity was the initial reaction, it was soon overwhelmed by a sense of absolute wonder. This was such a lovingly preserved temple! It had none of the new eyesores that irked me an hour earlier at the Thrikodithanam temple – no fancy elephant podiums, no garishly painted new shrines, and no obsession with covering exposed earth with interlocking tiles.

Kavioor temple is compact, yet neat, beautifully proportioned and spacious. The intricate carvings around the chuttambalam were so, so beautiful! It must’ve taken such a good deal of effort for the craftsmen to create the finely embellished gods, the warriors, frisky elephants and the women carrying jackfruits and pots to the market!

It’s a pity that camera’s are not allowed inside.
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