Saturday, December 20, 2008

Trip Around North Kerala

One wonders how much Nature & Kerala are synonymous. Under the pretext of Advika's Annaprashan I got a chance to take a trip of North Kerala. For those who don't know Annaprashan, also known as annaprashan vidhi, annaprasan, or Anna-prasanam is a Hindu rite-of-passage ritual that marks an infant's first intake of Rice. Rice is the staple food for South Indians. The term annaprashan literally means "food feeding" or "eating of food". The ceremony is usually arranged in consultation with a priest, who arranges an auspicious date on which to conduct the ceremony.Commonly referred to in English as First Rice, the ceremony is usually carried out when the child is about 6 months of age.

Even before Advika's birth we had wished that the Annaprasan for our child happens in Guruvayoor. So did our parents. Having driven 400 odd kilometers at fairly high speed, I was assuming that a 200km odd journey will be piece of Cake. Soon I was proved wrong. Not only was the drive longer, but tiresome.

And so it was on Wednesday of Dec 08, we set forth on the journey to Guruvayoor. Guruvayoor is close to 200km from Kannur. We had booked four rooms in "Elite Hote" Kizhakke Nada (East Entrance), Guruvayoor. We started off at around 2pm and I was hoping to get there by 6pm and then probably have a calm darshan in the evening.

Our first physical stop was at Nandi Gate (Railway Gate), where we had to wait for 2 train to pass. All through the stretch between Kannur and Kozhikode, there are railway over bridges. Some of them are all ready commissioned, while some are yet to be completed. Nandi is one of them I remember seeing them from the past 8 years. There goes progress for you... I was told by someone that Jayalalitha had created 51 fly overs in her 5 year tenure in Chennai. Now I am not an Big Fan of Jayalalitha, but just showcases the fact that if there is conviction there is a way! Anyway so we were stuck at Nandi for quite some time and I took the chance to take a picture of the Fish Market.

Nandi Gate...

Fish Market at Nadi Bazar.

Now During this time of the season you will get a sea shell -mussel which is common in Malabar. Colloquial it is called "Kalluma Kayi", meaning Fruit or Eatable grown on Rocks. This is found along the shores of the Malabar. As you would be aware, the shore line is quite rough along the Malabar area and one of the reasons ships cannot come closer to the shore line.

One good thing along the way is that from Calicut town you can take a bye pass which will lead you to Ramanattukara. While you enter city, take left from West Hill Chungam. After 2 junctions, East Hill and Eranjipalam, you will get the next one that leads towards Collectorate. Take the road and if you proceed 2 km further you will get the Bye pass road on the right hand side. You will not miss the sign board. The toll is of 5km, But I bet you will feel it is worthy. Watch out though for the smaller roads that join. In any case I was not able to drive beyond 70km.

As I passed East hill there is a small house on the right hand side, and every time I pass by I think of the movie that is shot there. "Vellanakalude Nadu". One of the famous movies in Malayalam. I could find a few links in you tube from the movie. Mallus will never forget this movie! Anyway in the movie the house belonged to the heroine "Shobhana" and there is a sequence in which a Road Roller driven by Kuthiravatoom Papu (Comedian), rams into her house after loosing control.

Intersting thing to realize is that unlike the drive in the rest of the country, you will get a small town with a few shops every 1 km. So there is hardly a time when you take your feet off the break.

We took a short break of 10 minutes to feed advika just after Chelari to feed Advika. By night fall it was getting tough to drive.
a) Night Traffic within the cities
b) No Street lights
c) people travelling in High Beam
d) The Road from Edappal untill a few kilometers before Kundamkulam is bad. Now the question would be how bad is bad. Well reall bad. In some ares there are no Tar (Imagine this is a state High way). And in case you need to know, it is stopped due to payment terms and issues between the contractor and Kerala state. So much for Development. If you plan to travel, I would suggest you make it during day time and may be you hire a cab instead of driving. Barring this 10km stretch the roads were pretty fine except that I had to cope up with the City traffic every now and then. By the way the roads are narrow and suitable only for 1 late traffic, except in some places.

The Guruvayur Shri Krishna Temple is one of the most famous temples in India. It is located in the town of Guruvayur in Thrissur district of Kerala. The presiding deity is Shri Krishna, in the standing posture with four hands (Chaturbahu) that carry the Sankhu (conch), the Sudarshana chakram (a serrated disk), the lotus and the mace[1] . The Lord is worshipped in his many manifestations, the favorite with devotees being the 'Sankalpa' of the Lord as 'Unnikrishnan' (Infant Krishna). For devotees Guruvayur is "Bhooloka Vaikuntham" and Dakshina Dwaraka.

The idol of the deity is made of a rare stone known as Patala Anjanam. The hereditary Tantri (Head Priest) of the temple is from the Chennas Mana

Gurvayoor temple is also famous for Krishnanattam Kali, a noted classical performing art that was instrumental in the initial development of the world-famous dance-drama Kathakali. Also Narayaneeyam by Melpathoor Narayana Bhattathiri and Jnanappana by Poonthanam, both (late) authors being ardent devotees of Guruvayurappan. While Narayaneeyam is a brisk walk through of the Dasaavatharam (10 incarnations of Maha Vishnu) in Sanskrit, Jnanappana is in native Malayalam, observing the naked truths of life and preaching the do's and dont's.

Guruvayur is also a major venue for the south Indian classical Carnatic music, especially during its auspicious ekadasi day held in the memory of legendary vocalist Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar, another ardent devotee of Guruvayurappan. The temple also holds the annual festival (ulsavam) in the Malayalam month of Kumbham (February-March) during which it hosts classical arts like Kathakali, Koodiyattam, Panchavadyam, Thayambaka and Panchari Melam. The place has given birth many noted percussionists of ethnic instruments like chenda, maddalam, timila, ilathalam and idakka.

By 8pm we reached Guruvayoor, we dropped the plan to have darshan in the evening, though it was Kuchela Jayanthi. The next day morning we planned to Advika's Annaprashan around 5am. We had dinner and I took the time to relax. Rachana and the rest of the members took some time to do shopping. I was expecting Elite to be really good, but strangely I could locate a few Cockroaches in the room as well. The flooring and other facilities seemed to be all right.

We got up early next morning and completed the Annaprashan and darshan by 7am, including small shoppings :). The temple was extremely crowded. The reason being Shabarimala pilgrims. The que was even beyond Elite's entrance. By 8 we were done and we decided to proceed towards Thiruvilwamala. On the way I stopped to take the picture of Garuda at the entrance of Guruvayoor.

Our next destination was the Thiruvilwamala Temple about 70km from Guruvayoor via Thrissur.

Thiruvilwamala, also spelt Thiruvilluamala, is a hilly village in the northern terrain of Thrissur district of Kerala state in southern India.The village, which is more of a temple town, is located on the banks of the Bharathapuzha river, with nearest towns being Shoranur and Ottappalam. The place is famous for the Vilwadrinatha temple, which is among the rare Sri Rama temples in Kerala. Niramaala is one of the famous festive events here.Close to Thiruvilwamala many other temples of ancient years and have more than four Shiva temples. Ivor Madom, the Krishna temple, is famous for the ceremonies performed in order to ensure peace for the soul of the dead. Other temples and groves of thiruvilwamala are:-Parakkottu Kavu, Cheruthrikkovil, the temples of Mariyamma in Aakkaparambu, Eravathodi, Pattiparambu, Kuthampulli, Soudeshwari Amman temple (Kuthampulli) and Poothanakkara Shiva Temple.

There were a couple of short cuts available from Guruvayoor to Thiruvilwamala, but in the end we decided to take the main road. From Guruvayoor to Thrissur and from then on towards the Wadakkanchery and Shoranur. From Mullurkara we took a deviation from the main road. While I did that I saw a board pointing towards Kerala Kala Mandalam in the other direction. We reached Thiruvilwamala via Chelakkara. At some points, you might miss the sign boards towards Thirvuvilwamala. I would suggest you keep asking people on the way to confirm the route. The temple closes by 11 am and reopens in the evening around 5pm. We reached around 10 and had darshan.

One of our vehichles had a small problem and I took the opportunity take some snaps. I also saw a Bullock cart.

There is a Sai Baba asharam (shirdhi) in thruvilwamala. I was told that there was a devotee from Palghat who had donated this land. There is annadanam every thursday. We had lunch from there and we were on the way for the 2nd leg of the journey by 2pm.

While returning we decided to take the the route via Ottapalam and outskirts of Shoranur, Pattambi and then to Valanchery. The road till Pattambi is good. From then onwards there is a diversion for about 30 km to reach Valanchery. The roads are fairly small. From Valanchery onwards to Kozhikode it is NH 17. We took a diversion at Vettichira towards (right turn) the Kadampuzha temple. The Temple for Sreeparvathi at Kadampuzha, dedicated to Goddess Vana Durga, is one of the most prominent Devi temples in Kerala. The term 'puzha' which in Malayalam denotes river is a misnomer here since the otherwise sylvan surroundings and verdant greenery around the location has no river skirting it. The idol in the Sanctum Sanctorum is abstract in shape but it is 'Swayambhoo' or natural manifestation. The temple is very simple in architecture without any imposing edifices or a gold-plated flagmast. There are no festival processions or drum concerts. But the multitude of birds nestling on the verge of the green belt provide a natural ambience with their non-stop chirping and it is fully in tune with Kerala's temple culture; Kavu as it was known in ancient times, an epitome of preservation of ecological balance.

Legend about the origin of the temple is associated with the popular episode in the Mahabharatha where Arjuna does penance to appease Lord Siva to obtain the divine weapon Passupathastra. Lord Siva approaches Arjuna as a hunter (Kiratha) with His divine consort Sreeparvathi escorting Him as huntress (Kirathi). Arjuna is challenged by the Lord in disguise to test the skills of the boon-seeker.In the fierce battle between Lord Siva (Kiratha) and Arjuna, the arrows that Arjuna showered on Lord Siva miraculously turned into Thechi flowers. Arjuna then recognises the Lord and prostrates before Him. Having found Arjuna worthy of the deadly weapon, the Lord obliges His devotee very soon, and here He is goaded by Sreeparvathi who hastened the process. Hastening is twaritha in Malayalam and Goddess at Kadampuzha is worshipped as Twaritha or one who is quick in granting blessings and favours. The shower of arrows-turned into flowers is symbolised here by a unique offering to the Goddess, Poomoodal, the Swayambhoo Sthanam being covered completely by flowers. Petals of Thechi flowers are mandatory since they resemble arrowheads. The quantity required is 12 Kutanna, one Kutanna being the capacity when two cupped palms are held together. During the divine couple's wandering in this forest, Sreeparvathi once felt thirsty and the Lord brought forth holy water from river Ganga through a well directed arrow ino the earth. This event is immortalised as KaatanAmbu-eitha-ala where kaatan is hunter, ambu is arrow, eitha is shot and ala is hole. This became Katanambueithaala which was later colloquialised as Kadampuzha. Devotees thus worship the hole through which river Ganga sprouted and this is the idol sankalpa. Shankaracharya during once of his frequent pilgrimages while traversing this forest area was attracted by an all pervading 'aura' emanating from the dense undergrowth. Finding it difficult to approach the spot due to the heat generated by the radiation, he meditated uponLord Vishnu as Narasimha and the Lord appeared. With the help of Sudarshanachakra of Lord Vishnu the great saint moved closer only to fmd the radiance shrinking and fmally vanishing into a hole on the earth's surface. Through deep meditation using the 'Divyachakshussu', the Aacharya discerned the nature of the phenomenon nothing other than the divine presence of Seeparvathi in the forest. The place was consecrated as a temple and in commemoration of 'showers of flowers' , Poomoodal gained prominence due to the inherent quality and power of flower petals to contain heat. Lord Narasimha and Sudarshanachakra are honoured through depictions in front of the Sanctum Sanctum. There are enclosures for Sree Dharma Sastha and Nagakanyaka as upadevaas or subsidiary deities. Modalities of worship are as prescribed by Shankaracharya.
Goddess here is worshipped in three forms viz., Vidya Durga (Saraswathi), Vanadurga (Durga) and Aadi Durga (MooladurgaLakshmi). As Durga, She blesses the devotees with health, early marriage and domestic harmony. Saraswathi is invoked for education and career. Lakshmi of course Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Another unique offering here is Muttarukkal where coconuts brought by devotees are broken by the Poojari in front of Devi's idol in the presence of the devotees themselves and this is to ward off hostile influences plaguing them. One coconut for every obstacle is the system followed. The popularity of this ritual can be gauged from the figure of more than thirty lakhs of coconuts that are brought to the temple every year by the stream of devotees. The other important sevas are Katinapayasam, Rekthapushpanjali, Choroon (Anaprasam),Dehapushpanjali, Thrimadhuram, Thrikalapooja, Kettunira,Vilakkumala,Malapooja, Neyvilakku, Ganapathi Homam, Niramala etc.

From Kadampuzha to Kozhikode it is close to 60km. & This time as well we took the bye pass at Ramanattukara.

The journey was physically tiring, but rejuvenated at intervals with Temples and the pleasant site of nature.

Courtesy : Mapmyindia, youtube


sangami said...

hi dileesh
i'm going to guruvayur for my girls annaprashana this weeekend,i heard that it would be exremely crowded,and we are staying in west nada ,is it near temple and annaprasana que

snigdha G said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Laura Flegg said...


I am trying to find an Annaprashan ceremony to film for a BBC documentary.

Could you please email me on if you think you can help. Perhaps you could give me the name of the priest that helped with your ceremony?

Many thanks,