Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Seeveli - Elephant Procession At Vaikom Temple, Kerala

Seeveli at Vaikom Mahadeva temple! Click on the pictures to have a better view please.
A relative of mine is from Vaikom (Kottayam, Kerala) and she had been asking me to attend the famous Vaikkaththu Ashtami festival at the ancient Shiva temple there.  As you know by now, I am a fan of elephants and was happy I attended this festival, because the main attraction of this festival is Seeveli - the procession of the temple deity (Utsava murthy), on the temple elephant.  

The temple is quite huge and the details of the temple is here.
Vaikom Mahadeva Temple.
The temple is believed to be built in Treta yuga. The area of the temple is huge and very well maintained - mainly, it was very clean even during the 12 day festival with so much crowd attending it.  The main deity - Shiva linga is 6' high with ornaments for eyes, nose etc.  The details are in the above link. I went there in the middle of the 12 day festival in November last.  The whole town had a festive look with many pavement shops on the roads surrounding the temple.  The temple had a huge auditorium where dance and music programmes held from morning to night continuously.

Dance programme at the temple. I couldn't get a place even to stand and watch!

I was there for two days and went to the temple three to four times.  I saw the crowd like this, nearly all the times!  In this age of cinema and TV, I was surprised to see so much crowd coming to the temple and watching dance and music (classical music) programmes. My niece also gave a programme of classical music here, her first stage performance, alone (she had performed in her college earlier, though).

The round garbha gruha is covered by this mural paintings of stories from mythology. I took this picture...a better version is given below!

The very very old mural paintings were redone and the details are here.  I got the above picture from here

Vaikom Shiva temple is considered as one of the largest and the oldest of all Kerala temples.  Vaikom Mahadeva Shiva Temple, along with Eddumanoor Shiva Temple and Kaduthuruthy Mahadeva Temple, is considered a powerful trisome! We visited all the three temples before Uchchi Pooja (before noon pooja), which is very auspicious!

As in Vaikom temple, Eddumanoor temple also had round garbha gruha and beautiful mural painting on the wall!

I noticed one more custom here! Normally, we do pradakshina (walking around the temple) in a complete circle.  Here, we were asked not to cross the place where the water from the garbha gruha is let out.  We had to go back and complete the other half of the circle!

This is called 'poram vilakku' (outside lamp).  This is kept in the praahara of the temple.  If we pay certain amount of money, the temple authorities will light the diyas in our name! It is fully booked for the next two years, it seems! Looks beautiful!
The outside praahaara of the temple.  Many people were carrying their footwear in their hands!
All sides of the temple walls were lighted with diyaas like this in the evenings.  It was drizzling on the day of my visit - you can notice it!  So, less lamps were burning.  Simple architecture unlike Tamil nadu temples but clean.  No pesterings from the priests or other employees of the temple too! I was in a very happy mood here mainly because of this reason.

The elephants are waiting here to join the procession, until the main elephant gets ready!

The main elephant, which is the elephant of this temple with the uthsava murthy on it!  I noticed that the elephants were fed often during the waiting period!
Uthsava murthy means, a miniature of the main deity.  Most of the Kerala temples have got their own elephants.  During Vaikkaththu Ashtami festival, the elephants from the surrounding temples too join here. We see around 7 elephants in the picture.  12 elephant procession is conducted on the 12th day, I was told.

Ankush for controlling the elephant!
I noticed the ankush with every mahout but they were not raised/used, even once when I was watching.  I saw many policemen inside and outside the temple.  The policemen who were on duty inside the temple were wearing dhoti and angavastra with a neck band which had a 'Police' tag! They were very polite while asking the devotees to move on!

Most of the people of the town never cooked at home during the festival days, it seems.  The prominent people of the town fed people in different places every afternoon.  Typical temple festival! Once my relatives lost me in the crowd...I was going behind the elephants with the camera and they were worried worried for sometime! I must go back again and watch the 12th day festival of Vaikkaththu Ashtami next year!


KParthasarathi said...

On reading this I felt as If I had personally visited the temple.Very good narration of details.I agree with you that Kerala temples are distinguished by their cleanliness and absence of demands on the pilgrims.Everything is orderly and the ambience truly devotional.
Never had the pleasure of eating at temple even though had been to Guruvayur many times.But have seen large number of satisfied pilgrims coming out of dining hall.

Sandhya said...

K.PARTHASARATHY: Yes, I felt very happy inside the temple, a famous temple, which is very rare,, is crowd behaviour and the temple employees' behaviour.

We have our food at the temple mostly at Kolluru, Dharmastala, Sringeri etc. The cleanliness over there makes us feel comfortable. We had been to Guruvayoor twice but never had the opportunity to have food there.

Thank you, Partha Sir!

Bikram said...

wow .. what a way to spend time I would have loved to see it all ,ad n yes please do go next year on the 12th day and take tons of pictures :)

beautiful pictures


Indian Home Maker said...

Built in Treta Yuga!!!!

Beautiful pictures, gorgeous murals and great narration Sandhya
Not too surprised by the popularity of the cultural proggrammes... yes do back again and share more pictures!

Rahul Bhatia said...

Beautiful post with a nice write up and pictures! Thanks for sharing Sandhya!

ashok said...

very interesting!

Anonymous said...

Wow! That was such an interesting read! The temple festivals are supposed to be very interesting. Love the pictures! You have captured the place and the event so well! My dad's native village has an Uthasavam like this too. I had been there once when daughter was, I think. We had been there just for one night -but the whole atmosphere was charged up - and that was just a small one - nothing as elaborate as this one! I want to go too, hopefully will, one day!

Anu said...

Interesting details! And the temple being said to built in tretha yuga! I usually love those temple processions a lot. It's like a grand celebration and I can imagine how grandeur it will be. My husband's house is near to Parthasarathy temple in chennai, and it's like a "Thiruvizha" everyday!

Destination Infinity said...

The big lamp looks very nice! Its booked for the next two years? Why not just add more lamps like that :) I have always found the tryst with elephants (in Kerala) very interesting!

Destination Infinity

P.N. Subramanian said...

Very interesting account of the temple visit.The two brass lamps outside look great. At all Shiva temples, we are not supposed take a full round. As you said, we need to return after a half circle. The festivities there (Mahadev temple) reminds me of the Vrishchikotsavam at Thiruppunithura (Kochi).

Saritha said...

Wonderful post sandhya.

Best thing about temples in kerala is that there the priest never asks for money nor concentrates on this plate how much money we are keeping in the plate.

Hope to go to kerala to see temples.I have been to a temple here in hyd which is maintained by army and it is a known as guruvayur.

Ramakrishnan said...

Lovely post-nice pics & writeup.The Seeveli is a grand affair with decorated elephants. At Guruvayoor Seeveli takes place thrice a day all 365 days.
I have been to all the three temples before - on the same day.

Kavita Saharia said...

How lucky you are ! I am envious !But thanks to you as we are able to see such beautiful account of the temple.The round Garbha Grah looks gorgeous. And the half parikrama ritual is interesting.I wish all our temples have ambience like this one where visit becomes a pleasurable experience.Now a days greedy pandas and priests make it difficult for the visitors in most of our temples.The elephants pictures are gorgeous.
Happy Ganesh Caturthi to you amd your family Sandhya.I am glad that I read this post today:)

sharada.econtent said...

Hi mami, it was nice to read the post. Though I know this temple very well, nice to read other's view point. The puram vilakku, you yourself can go and light them, the temple authorities will light it for you only if you can't go on that day.But if I'm right it is booked for another few years!!!!i was really feeling very proud to read it [ our TEMPLE!!!] Thanks.

dsdsds said...

should have been refreshing being in god's own state.. the temples are not only neat but they maintain it very traditionally.. have you noticed they dont have much electrical lightings or air conditioners inside.. also the people dont litter everywhere which was quite surprising in temples like guruvayoor and chotanikarai bhagavathy (totally crowded)..

Sandhya said...

BIKRAM: Yes, this trip was very interesting, esp. thanks to the elephants!

INDIAN HOME MAKER: All the dance and music programmes were given by local people/children. No filmy touch! I have heard that most of the Keralites learn classical music.

RAHUL BHATIA: Thank you, Bhatiaji!

ASHOK: Thank you, Ashok!

WORDSNDREAMZ: Please take Poohi to these festivals. She will definitely enjoy! Even I enjoyed irrespective of the crowd, which normally, I don't like! Despite so much crowd, the whole town was clean! My children pulled the temple car too, in Udupi, during the festival in Udupi, when they were small! They still remember it!

VAISH: Your parents' house is near Parthasarathy temple? You are very lucky, Vaish!

DESTINATION INFINITY: I went there just for watching Seeveli! I had heard so much about it and I always love elephants! They are like babies!

Do read Sharu's comment. She has written about the lamp. Vaikom is her place!

PN SUBRAMANIAM: I had visited many Shiva temples through the years but only in Kerala, we did pradakshina in this manner! But it was interesting!

I love the Kerala chendai vaathyam! I videoed it, but it is not very clear. We have this type of chenadai at Udupi temple too, but slightly varies!

VARUNAVI: I agree with you, Saritha! No priest or temple people looked at the devotees to check who would give them more dakshina! And the cleanliness...unbeatable!

I have not heard about this temple in Hyderabad. Will try to visit when I come there, Saritha!

R.RAMAKRISHNAN: The visit was a unique experience for me, Ramakrishnan Sir! Will never forget it!

KAVITA: I have never seen this type of garbha gruha anywhere else and the murals were beautiful!

Recently went to Dharmastala! I was not very happy there! It was a very clean place, some 10 years back! Yes, crowd behaviour also counts in keeping the temple premises clean.

Thank you, Kavita!

SHARU: I was happy to come to your place to visit this temple! I will keep this sweet memory forever, Sharada! Thank you!

HEMA: Yes, the temples look ancient because the garbha gruha has got only oil lamps...some temples place an electric lamp outside to focus on the deity which makes the deity look modern!

I have noticed that Keralites maintain cleanliness everywhere, whether it is their temple or other place. It is their nature!

Deeps said...

What a beautiful post, sandhya. What an experience it must have been for you to visit the temple durings its festival. I absolutely love the gaiety-full and pious atmosphere of temple festivals, especially the temples in Kerala. And your wonderful account of the Vaikkom festival makes me want to visit Kerala even more :).

Congratulations to your niece on her first performance in the temple. God bless her!

R. Ramesh said...

attakasama irrukungo...ya ya Congratulations to your niece on her first performance in the temple.wishes always

Anonymous said...

interesting and beautifully captured photos


Sandhya said...

DEEPS: Yes, it was a good and happy experience, Deeps!

Thank you, she was so happy to do her first performance there! It was a very knowledgeable crowd!

RAMESH: Thank you, Ramesh!

KRISHNA: Thank you, Krishna!

radha said...

What I liked best was the comment about not being pestered by the priests and others. That has become the routine in most holy places and i find that so annoying. The sanctity of the place is not respected by the people who should in fact be ensuring it!

Sujatha Sathya said...

i thought i had commented long back but somehow it isn't visible! :((

well, loved this post - wonderful bag of memories for you to relive

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Unknown said...

Great Post on Kerala. Kerala is a very nice place to visit.
Kullu Manali

Himachal Tourism said...

Very informative post on kerala. I have learnt a new thing from this blog.
Himachal Tourism

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