Ēttumānoorappan

 

 Salīlam-īśam salilārdra-kēśam

Natārti-nāśam naga-nandinīśam

Haram surēśam hariņālayēśam

Bhajāmahē kōţi-ravi-prakāśam

-Tulasīvanam

(I pray to Lord Śiva of Ēttumānoor, whose nature is lively and playful, whose dreadlocks are damp (because he bears the river Ganga on his head), who wipes out the sorrows of his devotees, who is the consort of the Mountain’s Daughter (Pārvati), who is (also known by the name) Hara, who is the God of all gods, whose effulgence is equal to that of ten million (kōţi) suns.)

            Our college takes its name from the legendary deity Lord Ēttumānoorappan, whose temple is located about 1.5 km away from our campus. (Ēttu: bearing, mān: deer, oor: place, appan: father/lord; Śiva, (who is) lord of the place where he carries a deer). The name Hariņālayēśa, in the prayer given above, is a Sanskrit translation of Ēttumānoorappan.  The name of the town, Ēttumānoor, shows the close association between the deity and the locality. This is arguably the most famous Śiva temple in the state of Kerala. (Some of the other prominent ones are the Vaţakkunnāthan temple in Thrissur, the Rājarājeshwara temple in Taliparamba, and the Vaikkatthappan temple in Vaikom.)

The Archaeology Department of Kerala estimates that there has been a temple here for at least 1,200 years. From an inscription at the foundation of the adytum, we learn that there was a major renovation of the temple during the period 1542 – 1545. The current structure of the temple, which follows the typical temple architecture traditions of Kerala, therefore dates to the middle of the 16th century.

            According to the myth relating the genesis of Ēttumānoor temple, Sage Kharaprakāśa originally consecrated the idol of the Lord. It is believed that the sage brought three idols from Chidambaram and installed them simultaneously at Ēttumānoor, Vaikom and Kaţutthurutthi. (This connection between the three Śiva temples might just be a fable, but it is part of living faith for most devotees. It is believed to be especially beneficial, and it indeed is a common practice, to pray at all three temples on the same day.) Legend also has it that the sage himself took on the form of the deer that is now borne by Ēttumānoorappan.

Some distinctive features of the Lord and the Temple

     It is believed that Ēttumānoorappan takes on three distinct identities during the course of a day. From dawn (the time of Nirmālyadarśanam) till noon time, He is Aghōramūrti (from Sanskrit: Ati Ghōra Mūrti, intense fierceness personified). From noon until evening prayer time, He is Śarabhadēva, a persona he originally assumed to calm Lord Narasimha (whose fury was unabated after slaughtering the demon Hiranyakaśipu). For the period following twilight prayers till early morning, He is Umāmaheśvara, the affectionate consort of Goddess Umā or Pārvati).

     Most of the major temples in Kerala have five pūja ceremonies during the day. However, there are six ceremonies at the Ēttumānoor temple, the extra ceremony being the Mādhavi-ppaļļi-pūja. The story behind the pūja is as follows:  one of the Sāmūtiri (Zamorin) rulers of Kozhikode had a niece. This young lady, named Mādhavi, contracted an excruciating headache that turned out to be both persistent and debilitating. When all conventional treatments failed, the Sāmūtiri invoked Lord Ēttumānoorappan and the maiden was completely cured. The grateful monarch instituted this special pūja, donating land as well as other items to the temple in order to ensure its continued performance.

     As you enter the temple edifice, you encounter the celebrated Valiyaviļakku (Great Lamp) of the Ēttumānoor temple. This is a keţāviļakku (lamp of everlasting flame, i.e., it is eternally ignited), and is believed to have been donated by a devotee in 1545. Offering oil to this lamp is believed to be especially gratifying to Lord Ēttumānoorappan.

 Ēttumānoor Temple and Ēttumānoorappan in Literature

            The Ēttumānoor temple and its presiding deity have long been favorite themes for poets and authors in Malayalam and Sanskrit. The 14th century poetic work Uņņunīli Sandēśam refers to the Lord of Ēttumānoor in its 134th stanza. The following well-known euphonic paean (in Maņipravāļam) to Lord Ēttumānoorappan, by an unknown author, is at least a few centuries old:

Jambhāri-hēma-makuţī-parichumbyamānam

Pon-pāda-padmam avalambanam-āy varēņam

Śambhō kŗpā-jala-nidhē tiru-vēttumānūr-

-ampunna pankaja-śarāntaka kumpiţunnēn.

(May your golden feet, which are kissed by Indra’s crown, always be of support (to me); O Śambhu, ocean of compassion, destroyer of the demon of carnal desire, who dwells in Ēttumānoor: I bow (to you).)

The eminent poet Irayimman Thampi (1782 – 1856) has written a devotional but humorous stanza praising Ēttumānoorappan, which is quite popular among devotees. More recently, many famous Malayalam lyricists – Vayalār Rāma Varma and P. Bhāskaran, most prominently – have penned songs featuring the Lord of the Ettumanoor temple.   The college prayer, written by our patron Śri Rāmachandran Nair (nom-de-plume: Tulasīvanam), is a Sanskrit poem praising the Lord:

Sarvaiśvarya-karam Manōbhava-haram

Mātanga-charma-ambaram

Bhaktō-tkarşa-param Haram Śaśidharam

Kalyāņa-vārākaram

Viśva-abhīşta-karam jaţā-dharam Umā-

prāņēśvaram Śankaram

Vandēham Dhŗta-kŗşņasāra-nagarā-

gāram Dayā-sāgaram

[(He) who bestows all prosperity; who destroys Eros; who wears elephant skin; who is keen on his devotees’ advancement; whose name is (also) Hara; who wears the (crescent) moon; who is (like) a vast sea of  benediction who bequeaths wishes to all the world; who sports dreadlocks; who is Uma’s beloved; who is called Śankara; I pray to that Ēttumānoorappan (Dhŗta-kŗşņasāra-nagarā-gāra), to that ocean of compassion.]

Visual Art in Ettumānoor Temple

The mural paintings on the temple walls are justly famous. Of the murals on the inside, the Anantaśayanam mural and the Aghōramūrti mural are quite beautiful and have received their share of praise from connoisseurs. However, it is the Pradoşanŗttam (or Tāņdavanŗttam) mural that is considered one of the most outstanding examples of Indian mural art. In this picture, the Lord, who is depicted as sixteen-armed, is dancing over the recumbent form of the demon Muyālaka. Ananda Coomaraswamy, the renowned metaphysician and philosopher of art, and Stella Kramrisch, the distinguished authority on Indian art, have both eulogised the exquisite design and execution of this painting. The murals on the outside, such as the Gōpikā-vastrākşēpam mural or the Vēņugōpālan mural, have also been admired by celebrated art critics.

The sanctum sanctorum, the maņdapam, and other parts of the temple display a wealth of wood carvings (dāruśilpa). Many of these depict scenes from the epics Rāmāyaņa and Mahābhārata. Daśāvatāra, Dakshayāga, and Gaņapatiprātal are some of the other episodes from the purāņas that are portrayed in these carvings.

The ‘Ēzharapponnāna’ (Seven-and-a-half Golden Elephants)

Ask any resident of Kerala what he or she knows of the Ēttumānoor temple, the response is likely to be “Ēzharapponnāna!”(Seven-and–a-half golden elephants). These are elephants carved in wood and covered by gold plate; the seven ‘full-sized’ ones are two feet high whereas the ‘half-sized’ one is one foot tall. The then monarch of Travancore state, Kārtika-tirunāl Rāma Varma (popularly known as Dharmarājā) donated these elephants to the temple in 1789. It is believed that he did this to express his gratitude to Ēttumānoorappan for saving his kingdom from Tipu Sultān’s attempted conquest. The elephant figures supposedly represent the legendary elephants of eight-directions (Aşţa-dig-gaja) mentioned in Hindu mythology, those that bear the globe on their heads. Vāmana, one of the eight, is thought to be a dwarf; hence the ‘half’ elephant!

Although these elephants are one of the main features that people in Kerala associate with the Ēttumānoor temple, they are not always available for public viewing. The ten-day festival of the temple is usually celebrated in February-March (the tenth day of the festival, Ārāţţu day, has to fall on the day of the star Ārdra (Tiruvātira), in the Malayalam month of Kumbham). For ten days an year, starting with the eighth day of the annual festival, devotees are given the opportunity to see the celebrated golden elephants. At midnight on the eighth day there is also the “Grand Offering” (Valiya Kāņikka) to the Lord; the temple is flooded by a sea of humanity on this occasion.

Dedication

            We, the Management and staff of Ēttumānoorappan College, consider it our good fortune that our institution takes its name from this ancient and revered deity. It is our constant endeavour to prove ourselves worthy of the Lord’s illustrious name. We pray that Lord Ēttumānoorappan bestows his choicest blessings on our institution, and on all of us who are associated with it.