Tag Archives: Hinduism

Parassinikkadavu Temple… it’s something special

Kannur, in north Kerala, is a land of many unsung wonders… a district with its own share of assets amongst the numerous attractions in the god’s own country. One that stands out of many-a unique assets of Kannur is Parassinikkadavu Muthappan Temple – a temple of immense specialties!

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Situated on the serene banks of river Valapattanam, about 20 km far from Kannur town, the Muthappan temple at Parassinikkadavu is perhaps the only one of its kind in the country in terms of religious practices. In the Hindu temples that follow the ‘sattvic’ way of worship (a term attributed in respect to the high caste Brahmanic worship system) – which demands strict purity and vegetarianism – and the temple offerings are natural ones like flowers and fruits, can anyone imagine that here there is no idol to worship and offerings to offerings to the deity are meat & toddy! That’s the Temple at Parassinikkadavu.

Here, instead of the Hinduism’s customary idol worship, the deity ‘Muthappan’ is worshipped by means of the folk art ‘Theyyam’ (north Kerala’s indigenous dance form where the performer applies mask on his face and puts on brightly coloured costumes).

In fact Muthappan Temple is the only one where devotees witness the fascinating Theyyam dance daily; as it is regarded that god uses human as a medium to communicate to his devotees and put an end to their traumas. The Theyyam performed at this temple are two types: Vellattom and Thiruvappan, personification of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu respectively.

If one learns about the interesting legends of the god ‘Muthappan’, Parassinikkadavu Temple’s strange rituals can be given full justice. Muthappan, believed to be an incarnation of Lord Shiva, was found as an infant by a childless Brahmin couple. They raised him as their own son. But as he grew up, Muthappan picked up wayward habits, becoming a wandering hunter extremely fond of meat and toddy. One day Muthappan vanished all of a sudden, but not before revealing his divine self to the local folks. Later a temple was consecrated at Parassinikkadavu in his honour.

A deity known for his instant wish granting prowess much like Lord Shiva, Parassinikkadavu Muthappan is the most popular deity in northern region of Kerala. Everyday, lots of people come to this temple to witness the worship rituals, which are indeed a treat to watch.

The daily routine begins with the Theyyam artists, in their colourful attire, performs frenzied dancing rhythmically with the resonant beat of the percussion instrument ‘chenda’. Symbolically representing the ‘hunter god’, the Theyyam dances with swaying the sword. The movements, brisk and light randomly, are true eye feast and the whole atmosphere throbs with holistic air. As the performance reaches its peak, Theyyam – on behalf of the deity – answers to the devotees’ various woes.

The worship concludes with the distribution of the temple’s special ‘prasadam’, i.e. ritual offerings, ‘Payyankutti’ (A dish made with flattened rice, boiled groundnut with shredded coconuts, black pepper, pappad and dried fish; together with toddy) to everyone … but not before offering the same to Muthappan’s most trusted companion ‘the dog’ ! According to legends, the hunter god was always shadowed by dogs and it’s their privilege to be fed first-of-all with the temple ‘prasadam’ – An act symbolizing the oneness of the supreme soul irrespective of gender, caste or creed… which the enlightened ones stated that ultimately the soul only lasts, not the body.

In Kannur, people also conduct Theyyam, mainly ‘Vellattom’, at their homes as an offering to fulfill their wishes. After the proceedings are over, much same like that in the temple, the inmates keep the ‘thirumudi’ of Vellattom  (which represents the matted locks of Lord Shiva) on the house rooftop as it is believed that it will bring wellness & prosperity to the household throughout the year. Vellattom offering is held in high esteem by all locals alike.

Parassinikkadavu Temple is not limited to a particular religion; on the contrary it is open to all, with people from different faiths being the staunch devotees of Muthappan. A shrine that is a thriving testimony of secular harmony. The practices here seems to intensify the ever debatable fact that ” isn’t these caste & creed  are creations of one’s own mindset or ….? “

Largest ever Temple……?

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Around the world, various kinds of worship centers proudly stand as the hallmarks of great religions. Among those, the term ‘Temple’ is commonly referred in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism …. to name a few. In such a vast religious scenario, a search for the largest ever worship center will throw up many an answer(s). Even a simple search, confining to the biggest temples alone, often ends up with quite a few debatable answers.

Even as the answer to ‘the largest temple in the world’ continues to be debatable, let’s have a look at some of the grand temples in various regions.

Ranganathaswamy Temple, Tiruchirapalli, South India

Spread over an area of 156 acres, the Ranganathaswamy Temple easily makes way to the list of largest temples across the world. This massive temple complex houses 21 gopurams (towers), of which the most remarkable one is the 246 feet tall ‘Rajagopuram’ (Royal Tower) – tallest in Asia and one of the tallest of its kind anywhere else.

Dedicated to Lord Vishnu (Ranganathaswamy is a form of Lord Vishnu in reclining pose), this giant shrine is of high religious significance for Vaishnavites and, is perhaps second only to the Andra’s Tirupati Balaji Temple, in terms of the number of pilgrims received per year.

Considering the size and vastness, Ranganathaswamy Temple complex can rightly be considered as “the largest functioning Hindu temple complex in the world”.

Akshardham Temple, New Delhi, North India

The most modern temple of the lot, completed in the year 2005, the BAPS Akshardham Temple is the “world’s biggest Hindu temple” as per Guinness World Records.

Covering an area of around 13 hectares (32 acres), the entire temple is built with reputed Rajasthani sandstones and Italian marbles. Akshardham’s central monument is 141 feet high, 316 feet wide and 370 feet long… and is studded with beautiful sculptures of various deities, musicians, dancers, etc. The temple walls are elegantly carved – both inside and outside. Here one can relish the sights of stunningly elegant carvings (trademark of a fast diminishing an aged art form).

Though built in modern times, Akshardham strictly adheres to ancient temple standards – no usage of steel or any other metals and without support from concrete! Experts testify that this temple is constructed in such a way as to last for at least one thousand years.

Angkor Wat, Angkor, Cambodia

A magnificent testimony of the old Khmer Empire (9th to 13th century) in Cambodia, the entire area of the Angkor Wat temple complex is roughly five times more than the Akshardham Temple complex.

Originally built as a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, it later became a Buddhist temple after the decline of Khmer and rise of Buddhism in Far East Asia.

Eventhough some ruins have taken their toll, the entire structure of this overwhelmingly large temple is nothing short than extraordinary. Among this colossal build, particularly noteworthy is a group of three rectangular galleries that rise to a central tower. Each gallery is higher than the last – inner gallery measures 197 x 197 feet, the next one is 328 x 377 feet, and the outer gallery is 614 x 705 feet! The central tower, above all these, stands 213 feet high from the ground level.

For the title of “the largest non-functioning temple in the world”, there seems no better answer than Angkor Wat.

Karnak Temple complex, Luxor, Egypt

Karnak represents the legacy of ancient Egypt. Though it is difficult to estimate its actual size in the present depleted condition, earlier records state that Karnak was once a very large temple complex where many temples reflected the skills of generations of Egyptian builders.

The one who still stands majestically among the ruins of Karnak is the ‘Great Hypostyle Hall’ – a hall area of around fifty thousand square feet, where 134 gigantic columns set in 16 rows support a roof (which has now fallen in the test of time).

With few sites that match its ageless grander, Karnak temple complex is the Numero Uno “world’s largest ancient temple complex”.

To put it short, each one of these amazing temples tops in certain aspects…

Angkor Wat outscores other temples as the world’s largest non-functioning temple. Ranganathaswamy Temple complex gets to top as the largest fully-functioning Hindu temple complex in the world. Karnak deserves its due as the world’s largest ancient temple complex. Akshardham Temple is the world’s largest Hindu Temple in Guinness World Records, but this fact is highly disputed, and even some major temples in India (like, Madurai’s ‘Meenakshi Sundareswar Temple’, Thanjavur’s ‘Brihadeeswara Temple’ and Tiruvannamalai’s  ‘Arunachaleswarar Temple’) challenge this claim.

Interesting debates goes on & on …