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The Architecture of Kerala Temples and a comparison with Yagasala


A diagram of a Kerala Temple


A diagram of the Yagasala

The temple also resembles the human body.(in the vertical plane) The human body contains invisible parts comprising energy centres called Chakras and a Kundalini which is supposed to have the shape of a snake.Shadadhara prathishta which resembles the shape of these Chakras is done in Kerala.


1.Adharasila (Muladharam)

2.Nidhikumbham (Swadhishtanam)

3. Padmam (Manipurakam)

4. Kurmam (Anahatham)

5. Yoganalam (Vishudhi)

6. Napumsakasila (Aajna)

All the above representing these chakras are below the Deity and cannot be seen after the deity is installed.. In the horizontal plane it is like the body prostrating with feet at Gopura and head touching the Deity.. In Kerala while doing Pradakshina we do not cross the liquid outlet( outlet for the liquids to come out after abhisheka) of Siva.This system is not practiced any where else outside Kerala, except at the Somanath temple in Gujarath

Note:- Top is the sketch of a temple and next below is the outline of a Yagasala.Below is given comparison of the parts of both.




Flag mast




Valia Balikal





Pragwamsa sala

Sree koil(Sanctum sanctorum)





Other resemblances

1. One who does Yaga is called Yajamana and one who builds temple is also called Yajamana.

2. The helpers in Yaga are called Ritwiks.The parikarmis in temples are also called Ritwiks.

3. The three kriyas in Yagasala are called Prathasavanam, Madhyahnikam,and Thrithiyasavanam. The same names are given for poojas in temples.

A sketch of temples outside



The customs of temples in Kerala are different in many respects from temples in other south Indian states.

To the layman, it may seem that the poojaris are silent during the pooja. The Deity is kept out of sight from the devotees by closing the sanctum sanctorum during a part of the pooja.The poojari’s hand symbols during the pooja have definite meanings.He recites manthras silently. All devotees are supposed to keep silence during the pooja and still better if they fold their hands in devotion. After the Prasanna pooja, the door of the sanctum sanctorum opens and normally the poojari will be doing arathy at that time. Then the crowded devotees get a glimpse of the decorated deity with all the traditional lights lit. This particular occasion gives great thrill to the devotees and many of them shout the name of the God with great devotion spontaneously.

At temples where the rush is not much, the poojari gives Thirtham, chandanam and prasadam, containing the chaithanya of the Almighty. (water with tulasi, sandal paste and flowers all used during the pooja and into which the poojari has transferred part of the Kundalini Sakthi). Good devotees do not spill them inside the temple and spoil the cleanliness of the temple.

The Kerala temple resembles a Yagasala. The shadadhara Prathishta in the temple represents the Sukshma Sareera and the entire temple represents physical body prostrating with feet at Gopuram and head at sanctum sanctorum.The Balikals inside the Nalambalam represents the attributes of god ( Ganapathy-knowledge Indra-rain etc etc ) and the ones outside nalambalam represents Bhootha Pretha Pishach.

A book published by RK Mission,Chennai gives a number of suggestions to improve temples and the community. Some of these are given below.

1. The poojaris have to maintain the spiritual atmosphere of the temple They should observe all rules regarding personal and ceremonial purity (unlike Pandas at Kashi Gaya etc). They should have genuine concern for the devotees.

2. Devotees should observe rules regarding personal, environmental and ceremonial cleanness.They should not engage in non-religious activities in the presence of the Deity (bargaining cost of rituals etc). They should not observe caste restrictions etc. In front of the deity. He has to concentrate his mind on God. After the visit to the temple he should sit in a corner of the temple and meditate.

3. The greatest malady of our society is that we are the most disorganised society of the world. It is high time we have a central authority.When we accept all religions as equal, why not all sections in our society? It is high time there is an all India temple trust to which all devotees and rich temples contribute.The trust should be autonomous and can release funds to temples requiring funds.

4. Every temple should have an association of young devotees who should take turns to clean the temple and suburbs, and can also educate the devotees regarding the rituals. The members of the association can take short term training and can be an asset during festivals.They can regulate queues, help the aged and infirm, supply drinking water, emergency medical aid etc.

5. Temples can also "Hinduise" Hindus by production of religious literature,organising religious discourses, Bhajans, Harikathas,and staging dramas.

6. A temple cannot be considered a good temple unless it provides adequate facilities for pilgrims and devotees, pays the staff reasonable wages, and beautifies the surroundings with plants and trees. Acquiring too many ornaments for the Deity, making the entire temple golden etc with a large number of beggars in the neighbourhood may not be to God's liking.

This site is a modest attempt to show what is special about Kerala temples and is borrowed from books written by late P. Madhava Menon, a Karma yogi of Kshethra Samrakshana Samithi, K.P.C. Anujan Bhattathiripad, a devoted Thanthri, a third book written by a devotee of Ramakrishna Mission and the rest from other sources.

Proposed Routine For Office Goers

An ideal routine in the morning before going to work :-

As soon as we get up in the morning, we should see our opened out palms . Imagine in our palm Laxmi (goddess of wealth), Saraswathi (goddess of learning), and Gouri (goddess of power). Then we touch the ground and ask for pardon from Goddess Earth for stepping on her. Touching the ground removes the static electricity collected by our body during the night. After morning ablutions we take a bath. We put on Bhasma (sacred ashes) on the forehead to remove moisture from that area and sandal paste to keep the lower part of forehead cool.

We take Thulasi thirtha (basil water which has medicinal value) at home or at the temple. Doing Namaskara in the early morning is a good practice. At temple we do pradakshina in the early morning.The temple compound will have plenty of vegetation and Banyan trees (Banyan trees emit a lot of ozone) so that we walk in an oxygen-rich atmosphere.

Just imagine taking seven pradakshinas at Vadakkunnathan at Thrissivaperur, enjoying the morning breeze. There are plenty of Banyan trees inside the temple and the temple itself is surrounded by teak trees (although a major part of the teak forest has been cut down). For people leaving at Trissur it will be very healthy to visit Vadakkunnathan before going to office. Thirumandhamkunnu at Angadipuram also had a good surrounding of vegetation , but it is slowly becoming a concrete jungle due to human ignorance.

Valluvanad, ruled by Valluvakonathiri had a large number of Namboodri illams, mainly due to the fact that the king wanted peace in his territory and perhaps due to the fact that there was always some fighting going on in the neighbouring states. Almost all the Namboodris of Valluvanad were authorised to learn Vedas (Oath) and recite them. ( Rig, Yajur, Sama and rarely Atharva Vedas).

There was a residential school at Thirunavaya where Namboodri children used to reside and learn the Vedas till recently. Thanthra was also taught there. All these Namboodris, since they underwent the training, were capable of doing poojas at the temple. Many of them did poojas in the temples at their illams (houses) or near their illams. Since the number of illams in Valluvanad were many, there were no shortages of Poojaris at temples. Temples where poojas were conducted by Tulu Brahmins (Embranthiri) were very rare.

Peculiar type of worship at Chennamangalam

Before giving details of some of the temples of Valluvanad, let us see a peculiar way of worship at a Chennamangalam Temple (near Kochi).

Long ago some children found a peculiar stone structure in their huge tarwad (family) compound. In their playfulness, they called the Stone Devi and started singing bhajans clapping their hands in rhythm and going round the stone.

After each round they laughed aloud and continued the Bhajan clapping their hands going round the stone. This continued for a long time. People thought of lifting the stone and thus stopping the fun-cum-worship. They found that the stone was so heavy that they could not lift it. Then they realised that the stone had become a swayambhoo Deity ( attained Chaithanya without the usual rituals.) The family then built a temple around it.

The main offering (daily) at the temple is kottumchiri (clapping and laughing) in which the family members take part even now. They go round the deity singing bhajans, clapping their hands and after each Pradakshina laugh loudly. They now have faith and they say they are successful in their enterprises if they offer “kottumchiri”at this temple.

To increase chaitanya of Temple

The Panchamahayajnams (rituals) are called a) Brahma yajnam b) Deva yajnam c) Bhootha yajnam d) Pithruyajnam e) Manushya yajnam

Brahmayajnam means Vedapadham. In all big temples a person/persons used to be employed to recite Vedas in the very early morning. In Yajnasala veda recital is at Sadass. In temple it is at Mandapam.

Devayajnam is the pooja inside the Sanctum Sanctorum. The recitals resemble that of Yajna.(See item 8)

Pitruyajnam is the kriya done inside Thidappilly during Thuval.(Thidappally is the place where cooking is done for Nivedyam, to be offered to God)

Thuval is Bhoothayajnam.(worship of all the upadevas located around the sanctum sanctorum)

Ootu or feeding is Manushya yajnam.(feeding the poor and pilgrims)

Five important items which increase the Chaitanya (spiritual power) of a temple ;-

1. The “ thapa sakti of Thanthris and poojaris” – The celibate and pure life of these people are of utmost importance for the temple. Recently some of them have become so egoistic, that they try to even go against age-old practices, misinterpreting the tantric laws. At Angadipuram temple one Thanthri forgot that he was a Brahmin and in order to spite the Trustee of the temple, snatched away the bow and arrow from the Trustee’s nephew and shot the Jackfruit (representing the wild boar) during the Arat during the Pooram.

2. Murajapam: There should be at least one Brahmin appointed to recite Vedas daily in the early mornings at the temples. He has to sit in the early morning before sunrise on the Mandapam and recite the Vedas. All the three vedas are to be completed at least once in the month.. A few temples like Guruvayur continue this practice even now. Most of the Devaswam board temples do not have this arrangement.

3. Daily poojas and other rituals.(as given above under panchamahayajnam)

4. Utsavam: Utsavas are of three types. The most elaborate is Ankurathi. There is Prasasada sudhi in an evening, Bimbasudhi next morning, then Ankuraropanam (sowing the seed) before the actual utsava starts. Sowing is done after the seeds are soaked in milk and kept in earthen pots and watered daily after mixing the water with haldi powder. There should be a room at the northeastern corner of the temple called sprout room. Its door should face the west. .Poojas are to be performed before the seeds are kept for sprouting. ( Recent experiments have proved that sprouting is faster if soaked in milk ,and haldi powder is an insecticide.)

5. Annadanam: (Feeding the poor devotees, and the pilgrims who come to pray at the temple) This is to be done daily for all poor people around, and pilgrims who visit the temple. Nobody can concentrate on God with an empty stomach except great saints.Feeding the poor pleases god.

The temples were the centre of all activities in Bharat including the Government.(One reason why the invaders wanted to destroy the temples first). The Rituals in the temple were for the health of the mind and body. Bharathiya sanskruti did not permit us to have an organised (political) religion and we never tried to expand within or beyond our borders. Later when we came under attack from foreign organised religions, many of our brothers lost the freedom to preserve our mental and physical health, Freedom to think what is right and what is wrong and also to carry out healthy rituals. This has resulted in new organisations springing up throughout India to protect the freedom of thinking in Bharat.

The name Hindu is given to us by foreigners . The name Bharat means Agni or fire. We did worship Agni (Agnijwala ) because we knew that it reflects the power of the “Sun”, the giver of all energy.

Kalasam:- This is carried out whenever renovation is to be done to the pedestal of the Bimbam (Deity) or any part of the sanctum sanctorum at the temple.The chaitanya of the Deity is tranferred to earthenware vessels by elaborate rituals and only then are repairs etc done to the Deity (Bimbam) and the sanctum sanctorum. Afterwards the Chaitanya is again retransferred to the deity before regular poojas are conducted.

The Puja

Qualifications of a Pujari

1. He must have studied Thanthra under a qualified Acharya

2. He must have experienced vibrations (spandana) of Kundalini

3. He must have received mulamanthram (incantation for that particular deity) from the Thanthri (puja supervisor) of the temple.

His seat

1. A wooden board in the shape of a Tortoise (Avana palaka)

2. The board should be large enough so that the poojari can sit over it without any part of his body touching the ground.

3. Poojari has to sit cross legged or in Padmasana.

The rituals

1. Vandanam (prayer) of guru and ganesa. The first manthra is based on poojari's particular Veda to which he belongs. Then he has to salute his Guru adding his name to it. He has to imagine his Guru on the left and Ganesa on the right. Prayer to guru will be through idanadi and Ganesa through pingala Nadi. (Idanadi and pingala nadi are considered to run parallel to the spinal cord, or sushumna nadi)

2. Cleaning of hand: The asthamanthra (special incantation) of the Deva is to be used for cleaning the hands and massaging those parts of the hands. (Elbow to Wrist) to make them devathamayam (full of godliness).

3. Thala thrayam (Clap three times) : With Asthamanthra and by clapping the hands three times Agnighandam (fire), Somakhandam (moon’s rays), and Sourakhandam (ether) are to be joined, as described in the Gayatri Mantra.

4. Dik Bandhanam (close the sides): Using Asthamanthram all 10 sides around the Poojari are to be closed (eight around him, North, North-east, East,… etc, one above him and one below). Now the Poojari gets complete isolation.

5. Pranayamam (Control of breath): [Using Pranavam (Om) and Mulamanthram (special prayer of that particular deity)]. The Kriyas (actions) of pranayamam are Poorakam (to fill), Kumbhakam (to sustain) and Rechakam (to let out). Ida, Sushumna and Pingala nadis are affected by this. These nadis are to be given Manthra Vibrations. When the controlled Mind and Prana interact with Muladhara (the lowermost chakra) the Kundalini sakthi awakens.(This process requires plenty of training under a great teacher).

6. Deha Sudhi. (Purification of the body. This is not done for a small pooja)

a. Kundalini shakthi has to reach Sahsraram (Topmost point of head)

b. All the five elements (Water, earth, air, ether and fire), ego and mind are to be merged into the almighty (Paramathma).

c. The physical body (Karmasareeram) is to be reduced in size by using air (Vayu); and fire (Agni) is used to burn off (Bhasmikaranam) and using water purify (Amruthaplavanam) and recreate the body. Then the Kundalini Shakti is again brought down to Mooladharam. The above is a fine imagination of Punarjanma (re-birth).

7. Nyasam:- (bringing divinity to)

a. Lipinyasam (The alphabet)

b. Shadanga nyasam (The six parts of Manthra chaithanya)

c. Rushi


e. Nyasa (establishment) of Devathas on head, lips and heart.

8. To concentrate on the shape of Manthra Devatha (Dhyana swaroopam) in the mind.

9. Manasapooja (worship without an idol): Recite Mulamanthram several times in the mind till the Poojari's body attains Manthra Chaithanya.

10. Shankha (conch) Pooranam (To purify the puja instruments and puja material).

a. Two Kindis (vessels shaped like kamandalus, with outlet pipes upwords). The left one is to have pure water. The right to contain thirtha (sanctified water) kept over an imaginary Pidham (seat), ie a circle over a square.

b. Shankhu (conch). Thirtha is to be made inside the conch. The Pidha (seat) below this is shaped like a triangle. Now Pidha puja is to be done. Imagine God inside the Shankhu and do Panchopachara pooja to it (water, aroma, flower, incense, and lamp) representing (water, earth, air, ether and fire).

c.After this pooja hold the shankhu in the hand and recite Moolamanthra.

d. Using the water from the conch sprinkle it on the Puja materials and puja instruments. The remaining water is to be poured into the Kindi on the right side. This converts the water in it to Pure Thirtha.and as and when required water from this can be used as thirtha to purify any material.

11. Athmaradhana (worship the god within oneself): The pujari puts sandal paste and flowers on his body and with hand gestures does pooja on himself. At this time the Sankhu is to be directed towards him. (The pujari becomes equal to God).

12. Pidha pooja: This is to make God's seat pure. Six pidhas one over the other are to be worshipped separately using Panchopachara manthras. Then imagine God installed on the Pidha and worship Him using flowers (Moorthi Kalpana).

13. Avahanam: (Bringing Godliness into the puja materials)

a. Bring up Kundalini to Sahasrara Padmam (the top chakra)

b. Imagine the Deity at Sahasrara Padmam and pray

c. Then bring down the Kundalini to Muladhara, shift it slightly to the right and bring it up through the Pingala nadi up to the right nostril. The air in the nostril is passed on into the Jala (water), Gandha Pushpa (aromatic flowers), Akshatha (other puja materials) held in the hand of the Pujari. ie the divinity gets into these puja materials.

d. These materials are used to worship the Deity and then the pujari has to do the Avahanadi Mudras and do Nyasas to the Deity.

14. Shodasopacharangal [16 Upacharas (obeisances) as given in Sankaracharya’s Prapancha Sarathanthram]: In the beginning give Shankha jalam to Padhya (feet), Arghya (head) and Achamaneeya (obeisance to the spirit within). Then give Upachararpanam to the Deity by giving Padyam at the feet, Arghyam at the head and Achamaneeyam (Madhuparkam) at the Sukshma Deha (the spirit within).

The Upacharam with the Madhuparkam (a mix of honey, milk and curd) is similar to welcoming a guest. Here it is like offering Soma, Surya, Agni portions to God. While offering these the Panchopachara manthras (Jala, Gandha, Pushpa, Deepa, Dhupa Nivedya) are to be recited which is like merging all these with God. It is said that the Pujari gets Amrutha Varshana (Bliss) at the end of Shodasopachara Kriya (16 actions). Then the Pujari takes a bath. At the time of the bath (Snana) he has to recite three Riks (mantras) and sprinkle water on his head.

15. Vasthralamkaram or Murthi puja (adorning the deity): Normally God is invisible. Only when God puts on clothes and ornaments the ordinary person is able to see Him. After this the pujari imagines different parts of God including the ornaments and dresses and does puja to each.

According to Kerala custom, after this, the Pujari stops the main pooja and using different Manthras does the following pujas:

· Panchopachara puja to Pranavam (water, aroma, flower, incense, and lamp) representing (water, earth, air, ether and fire).

· Shakthi upacharamanthram invoking the strength of God

· Mulamanthram (special prayer of that particular deity)

· Mulaksharangal, (the vowels in the alphabet)

· Angam, (parts of the body)

· Ayudham, (weapons)

· Bhushanangal, (ornaments)

· Parivarangal (relatives), and their instruments, and

· Nirmalyadhari. (the minor deity who receives the uchchishtam, or the remainder after the main deity partakes of the offerings)

The manthra simply states Sarvangebhyo nama etc but the Panchopachara puja is to be given to each of these separately. Dhupa (incense) is to be waved at Nabhisthal (in front of the deity) and Deepa (lamps) are to be waved at eye-level. While doing this, manthras are to be recited and the hand bell is to be continuously rung.

16. Nivedyam: Food offered at the temple is purified by Bhootha Sudhi (ceremony to prevent the touch of evil and unclean spirits. Then ghee is poured into it, while reciting Gayathri manthra. The moolamantra is chanted, and the various items are touched in turn. The food is considered to merge with the Deity. Then the Naivedya is covered by Manthras. The Devatha for the remainder (uchishtam) is Nirmalyadhari. For Vishnu the Nirmalyadhari is Vishwaksenan and for Siva it is Chandeswaran. Then the door of the sanctum sanctorum is closed and the Naivedya is offered to Nirmalyadhari with a puja called Pancha pranahuthi. The devotees receive the remaining naivedyam from the Nirmalyadhari. Along with this, a little naivedyam is also offered to the deities of the Balikal (minor deities around the sanctum sanctorium). After this, the Pujari has to climb the Mandapa and recite Mulamanthra. Then he does sashtanga pranam (prostration) there. Then he has to wash his feet and enter the sanctum sanctorum. .Then he does the pranahuthi puja to the Nirmalyadhari. In big temples during nivedya devotees are not allowed inside.

17. Prasanna pooja: This is like a Durbar of a king. In the olden days the deity was probably considered the king of the village. This pooja is done with Nritha (dance), Vadya (instruments) and Sangeetha (music). For this pooja, only flowers are offered with Sahasranama to the deity as well as Pidhadevathas (minor deities).

18. Pooja samarpanam: Here the Pujari offers apologies for any errors committed in the rituals and showers the remaining flowers on the deity, a process called Poorna Pushpanjali. Then he gives away all the Punyas (good karma) acquired by him to the deity. Then the performs the puja that converts the water offered to the deity to thirtha (sanctified water). Then he takes the purified water in the conch and keeps it near the feet of God. Then he prays in his mind to his Guru and showers the offered flowers on all (imagined) Devas and Asuras. Then he showers them on the devotees standing in front of the sanctum sanctorum.

Then he gives Arghya (offering at the feet) to God and again does Thala thraya (three claps) and Dik bandhanam (closing the sides). Then he does Pranam at God's feet and takes one flower from there, which brings Chaithanyam (sanctification) to the flower. He receives only 1/16 part of the Chaithanyam. The balance is left to accumulate there. This increases the Chaithanya of the temple.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The temple will be constructed according to traditional Kerala Temple Architecture style complete with a Sree Kovil (Sanctum Sanctorum), Dwajastambham, and a Koothambalam eventually. The Pratishta Murti is to be made out of Anjana Shila by the famous Kannipayyur family in Chengannur, Kerala. The idol will be four armed with Shankh (Conch), Chakra (Discuss), Gadha (mace) and Lotus