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The Tantric Practice of Ernakulathappan Temple: An Inevitable Part of Kerala Tantra


The term ‘Tantrism’ is coined by Western philosophers, which generally refers to a distinct tradition either parallel or entirely different from that of orthodox Vedic tradition, as several scholars have observed it. However, studies suggest that tantrism cannot be considered edited at its core, and tantric rituals are very much similar to Vedic rituals in their structure. The evolution of Kerala tantra’s ritualistic tradition must be within Kerala’s orthodox Vedic ceremonial tradition. The evidence suggests that the priests who hailed from the family of Vedic priests conducted the temple’s chief rituals in early times. The most crucial point to remember is that Vedic beliefs and practices dominate the ritualistic tradition of Kerala tantra.

The Ernakulam Shiva temple, dedicated to the presiding deity of Ernakulam, was one of the temples of the Maharajas of Kochi. It is also known as the ‘Ernakulathappan’ temple, or the temple of the Lord Ernakulam. It is one of the significant Shiva temples in South India. It was built in the style of Kerala architecture. The temple is under the administration of the Cochin Devaswom Board. The name of the city ‘Ernakulam’ is a corruption of the original name of the sacred temple pond ‘Rishinagakulam’ or ‘the pond of the Rishi in Naga form’ and ‘Eera Naal Kulam’ meaning ‘Pond with Perennial water’.

The temple’s presiding deity is Lord Shiva, incarnated as Gaurisankara. The god faces west towards the Arabian Sea. It is a speciality of the Ernakulam Shiva temple. In the Kerala tantra system, very rarely does the deity facing towards the sea. On the northern side of the main sanctum is the shrine to Kirathamurthi, while on the southern side is the shrine to Lord Ganesha. There is also a conceptualised Parvati Devi. The eastern side of the sanctum sanctorum is conceptualised as housing the presence of Parvati Devi. On the outer perimeter of the main temple are shrines dedicated to Lord Ayyappa and Nagaraja. The temple pond is located on the northeastern side of the temple.

(Figure 1: Credit: Wikipedia – The Murugan temple is built in Tamil style)

On the vast temple grounds, to the northern side of the main temple, is the Murugan temple, built in the style of Tamil architecture. The temple has the presiding deity Lord Subramaniya, with his wives, Valli and Devayani. The temple also has shrines for the Navagrahas and Lord Ganesha. To the eastern side of the Ernakulathappan temple is the temple to Lord Hanuman, built in Udupi architectural style. Lord Rama is also worshipped in the main sanctum sanctorum. Additionally, there are shrines to Nagaraja and Raghavendra swami.

Geographers and geologists assert that the sea receding and land reclamation from the sea formed Kerala. It is indisputable that the land between Kodungalloor and Quilon was once inexistent. When the ocean recedes, there appear Chullikkaadu (shrubbery), Kandalkkaadu (mangroves), and Velladu (canals). Further on, we see coconut trees and human habitation. To the southeast of Ernakulam, there are still fishermen residing. The Thoosath Kaimals, who found living less comfortable in Ernakulam, went to Madapadu Paramanamkulangara and then moved to Cheranelloor for the same reason. It is rumoured that there were many manas in Ernakulam- Keezhmana, Melmana, and Perumana. At the Ernakulam Thirumala Devasom temple, we see the word ‘Panjabjapuram’ on the main lamp and the temple vessels. Even today, this prayer is offered to the Thirumala Kshetra deva.

The provenance of early tantric texts is not established beyond doubt because Kerala was a part of greater Tamizakam during the early ages. Though there are traces of temple worship even before the establishment of Brahmin settlements across Kerala, there are no demonstrable bodies of evidence yet to prove it. Historians maintain that Brahmin settlement is not a phenomenon that occurred all of a sudden but was a gradual process which might have started in the fourth century A D and reached its zenith by the 12th century A D. The multiplication of temples has to be seen as a result of this historical process. There are no tantric texts so far known to have been composed before the 11th century AD in Kerala apart from the passing references to early ritual practices in the early texts and inscriptions.

In Kerala, the tantra system generally follows Saparivaram and Tantrasamuccaya. Some philosophers coined Tantrasamuccaya as the manifesto of the Kerala tantra system, but it is based on tantra studies. Traditionally, it is held that the efficacy of a ritual lies in the conceptual transformation of the worshipper into the deity of the worship. This transformation is effected by ‘bhutasuddhi’ or ‘dehasuddhi’ in a ritual. In Ernakulathappan temple, the prominent priest can enter the sanctorum only after ‘dehasuddhi’. He must do ‘dehasuddhi’ on the temple premises. The lines that recur in texts with several variations is that “शिवो भूत्वा शिवं यजेत्” one should worship shiva after becoming shiva himself.

The ritual performed in temples and outside the temple premises can be broadly categorised into three – लघुपूज, सपरिवारपूज, षडाध्वान्यासपूज is the categorization. The ritual practices in the temple follow a logical pattern. The order of ritual constituents is ‘dehasuddhi’ (cleaning the body and subtle bodily members), ‘sankupurana’ (preparing the conch for ritual), ‘atmaradhana’ (worshipping oneself after becoming the deity of worship himself), ‘pithapuja’ (worship of throne), ‘avahana’ (invocation), ‘murti puja’ (worship of God along with retinues), ‘prasannapuja’ (propitiating the deity by chanting stotras and mantra) and finally ‘udvasana’ (taking back the Creator to the source where they are invoked from). The first three are preparatory, by which the worshipper and the utensils are made eligible for worship.

References in the 15th-century Manipravalam work, `The Structural Temple and Continuing Brahman Tradition,’ are cited as the basis of identification of Alattur in Tiruras, an early Brahman settlement. The title of Karathola has been made based on an updated Visnu image of the `Pallava tradition’, some place names and a reference in a recent palm leaf record. Early and medieval inscriptions, the temple there, medieval work Chandrolsavam, and local tradition have been used to identify Sukapuram as a Brahman village. The same is the case for the identification of the Panniyur settlement. He cites inscriptions from the 11th century onwards, listing Karikkkatu as a Brahman settlement. The exact location of Isanamangalam is not even clearly determined. The sources for this settlement are references to medieval Manipravalam works, the Tiruvalla copper plate, and a Tamil Nadu inscription. References in the medieval and later medieval Manipravalam works to ‘some Brahmans of this village’, 12th-century inscriptions, and the temple there are used as evidence for determining Thrissivaperur.

It references a few Brahmans from Peruvanam in the Tiruvatur and Kollurmatam inscriptions, Peruvanam temple inscriptions, and praise of the temple in Chandrolsavam that are taken to establish that it was an early Brahman settlement. Chemmanta near Irinjalakkuda is considered Chamunda, citing the 13th-century inscriptions and temple ruins. A mid-9th century inscription was found at the temple in Irinjalakkuda. References to this village in the Manipravalam work and Talakkad inscription of the 11th century, mention of Brahmans from the village in the 11th and 12th-century inscriptions found at Tiruvatur and Kilimanur, and tradition have been used to identify Irungatikkutal. Comment of Brahmans and families in the Tiruvatur inscription and the early 10th-century inscriptions found at Avattipputtur has been used in determining Avattipputtur. Paravur is identified from references in notes in other places, such as Cennamangalam and Tiruvatur and Manipravalam’s work Kokasandesam. Airanikkalam is considered an early Brahman settlement based on descriptions found in the temple there, references to Brahmans from the place in the Kilimanur inscription, and mention of the village in Kiltali and Kondungallur inscriptions.


In Dwaparayuga, the great Maharshi, Kulumuni and his four disciples practiced austerities in his hermitage in the Himalayan valley. Once when his disciples were returning after gathering the necessary ingredients for the daily Homa- such as ‘darbha, chamata, etc., they saw a black snakelet in their path. While three of the disciples fled in panic, the eldest of the four, Devalan, courageously picked up a forest vine, made a noose with one end, tightened it around the neck of the harmless snakelet, and killed it immediately.

Seeing this infelicitous incident, the other three disciples were perturbed and distressed. They rushed back to the hermitage, prostrated themselves at the lotus feet of their guru, and informed him of the happening. When Kulumuni heard what had happened, he was highly disquieted. He hastily accompanied his disciples to where he saw the dead serpent hanging by the noose and Devalan, who was attempting to remove the vine. Unable to bear his grief and anger, eyes flashing with rage, he lashed out, ‘O vile fellow, sinner, Chandala, what have you done? Cruel ruffian, who has forever sullied the pristine purity of our hermitage. Only the lowest of the low commit the sacrilege of serpentinite. Because of this heinous sin, may you become a snake yourself’ Hearing this, the forlorn young Devalan was terrified. With brimming eyes, in deep sorrow and regret, he fell at his guru’s feet, ‘O, Swami, this most foolish of your disciples plead for mercy. Perhaps it was the karma of my previous birth or the impetuousness of my youth. I do not know why I so unthinkingly committed this immoral action. As your humble disciple, I pray you to save and release me from your curse. Forgive my sins and instruct me on the right path.’

Hearing the desperate pleas of his disciple, Kulumuni’s rage abated, and his heart melted with love. He went into a period of Samadhi, and when he emerged, he advised Devalan: ‘Young Devala, do not grieve further. With my Divya Drishti, my divine perception, I understand the cause of your imprudent action and my resultant curse. You are required to undergo the results of the sins of your previous birth as well as the guilt of serpentinite. Sree Parameswaran will be pleased with you and release you both from my curse and eventual salvation. For removing this kind of dosham, there is no recourse other than the service of Lord Shiva. Further, for polluting our gothram, you can no longer bear the name of Devalan, which you have also besmeared. Henceforth, you will be called Nagarshi. You will rid yourself of all doshas through your devotion to Shiva and acquire fame and salvation.’ With this, the tenderhearted guru blessed his disciple and returned with the others to his hermitage, continuing the services to the Lord.

Meanwhile, due to his guru’s curse, Devalan was transformed into a many hooded serpents-face. Grieving over his fate and trying to suppress his sorrow, Nagarshi acquiesced to his guru’s words and went to the foot of Mount Manadara. After years of intense penance to Sri Parameswara, he heard a divine voice from the heavens: ‘O, Nagarshi, cease the penances you are practicing, and listen to my words. Go half a nazhika east from here; you will reach Bahularanyam. Amid the woods, you will find three Elanji trees in full bloom. There, under the protection of a Krishnasarpam, you will find a divine Shivalinga. With the praiseful description of the serpent, request that the divine Lingam be given to you for Aradhana. The divine lingam will be immediately released to you, and the serpent will disappear. With faith, devotion, and daily pujas practice, take the lingam to Rameswaram. There is the darshan of Sethumadhavam, and they bathe in the sea. When you return, the place where the lingam settles and merges into the ground will be the holy place appropriate for liberating you from your troubles and sins and for your salvation.’

Following the divine utterances, Nagarshi, at once, set out for Bahularanyam, where he sighted the elanji trees in bloom and the serpent guarding the lingam. He prostrated before the serpent and addressed it: ‘O, holy Nagashrshta, please show kindness towards me and grant me this divine lingam as alms for my daily worship.’ Hearing the entreaty, the serpent released the lingam to Nagarshi and vanished.

History of the Divine Lingam

Long ago, the third Pandava, the jewel of his dynasty, the glory of his gurus, and the dear devotee of Harihara, was at the valley of the holy mount Mandara. There, amid the lush Bahularanyam, he was undergoing severe penances to propitiate Lord Shiva. Pleased with his devotee, the lord desired to grant Arjuna the boons he wished for, spread his fame throughout the world, and impress Parvati Devi with the intense Bhakti of Arjuna, as well as his exploits and his skills in warfare. To that purpose, lord Parameswara, the loving lord of his devotees, disguised himself as the hunter, Kirata, and Sree Parvati Devi, as his wife, Kiratini. All of us, servants of the lord, came in guises appropriate to the disguises of the Bhagawan and Devi, and along with Parvati Devi, accompanied Bhagawan into the lush forest and started hunting. At the time, under the influence of the evil-minded Duryodhana, who desired to possess half of the kingdom that belonged to the Pandavas, the Asura, a mooka, came into the forest disguised as a boar and lay waiting for an opportunity to kill Arjuna. Sree Parameswara chased him, and the asura, in the boar’s disguise, fled and came upon Arjuna, whose Samadhi was disturbed. Seeing the boar approaching to kill him, Arjuna whipped out his bow and arrow and aimed directly at the boar’s head. Simultaneously, Bhagawan aimed for the boar, and Mookasura, pierced by arrows from the front and back, fell dead, splitting into two to reveal his proper form. As a result, an argument arose between the Lord and his devotee on whose arrow had killed the boar. The angry exchange of words escalated into a full-blown quarrel and a fierce battle between Lord Shiva and Arjuna. As the war progressed, the lord and Devi were pleased with Arjuna’s battle skills, accomplishments, and devotion to the Lord. But to destroy his devotee’s pride and arrogance and grant him the other boon, Sri Parameswara did not stop the combat and soon routed Arjuna in a wrestling match. Thrown and lying weak on the ground by the Kirata, Arjuna’s devotion to the Lord still did not waver. Though unable to stand, as he lay prone on the ground, he gathered mud in that position and made a Shivalingam. With an intense concentration on his ‘ishtadeva’, he gathered the leaves that lay around and worshipped the lord. Hearing the laughter of the Kirata who stood watching him, Arjuna turned around and was wonderstruck to see the leaves he had offered the Lingam adorning the head of the Kirata. As he looked closely, he could discern the Ganga, the crescent moon and the matted locks that slowly manifested on the Kirata. Arjuna realised that Kirata and his wife were the lords of Parameswara and Parvati devi. With the image of the Kirata in mind, Arjuna continued worshipping the Lingam, and Lord Parameswara and Parvati Devi immediately appeared before him in their forms. Blessing Arjuna, who was overflowing with ‘bhakti’, granted him the boons he desired and the divine Pasupatastra, the most destructive weapon of the lord, and then returned to Kailasa. Thoroughly contented, Kireeti ended his austerities and left with his earned boons. This is the story behind the creation of this Lingam. Anyone who prays with devotion before this Lingam will not only be granted all his desires but will also be released from sin, illness, and enmity and gain salvation at the end of his life. Therefore, ‘O, Nagarshi, worship this Lingam with reverence as the heavenly voice advises. Under the commands of my swami, Lord Parameswara, I have intimated to you the history of this Lingam to help the devotees in the ages to come. Understand it is Kiratamurthi that resides in this Lingam. I’ll instruct you in the mantras and means of worship for Kiratamurthi.’ Saying so, Nandiswaran imparted the mantras to Nagarshi, disclosed the secret ‘Tiraskarinimantra’ that could make one invisible, and left for his heavenly abode.

As soon as Nandiswara left, Nagarshi had a ritual bath and, according to prescribed rituals, offered the Shivalinga pujas. Contentedly he then set out from Mandara mountains and travelled due south towards Sethusamudram, praying at all the holy temples and bathing in the sacred rivers in the way. As he travelled, though some loafers tried to harm him physically when they saw his unfamiliar shape, he could escape unhurt by employing the Tiraskarini mantra, rendering him invisible. Unhindered. Thus, he continued his mandated rituals and finally reached Rameswaram. He performed the Setumadhava darshan there, bathed in the holy sea and conducted the ‘Lingarchana’. After a few days, he moved west with the Shivalinga, praying at religious shrines and bathing in sacred streams until he finally arrived at the place now known as Ernakulam, which was once known as Rishinagakulam.

Tantra System and Practice

The temple in Śaiva theology is conceived as a powerful, sacred space where various divine energies are invoked and worshipped for the benefit of all creation. Temple construction was a perfect collaboration between the Ācārya and the Sthapati, using the canonical texts of the śaivāgama-s and śilpaśāstra manuals. The rich temple-building culture of Hinduism seems to have been carried to foreign shores, at least in part with traders, merchants and emperors.

Tantra is very close to real practice. Things done come first, and interpretations come later. No Tantrika would expect to be able to move straight from ordinary life to the most exalted stages of internal symbolism by mere thought. Some people will say that Tantra represents a thoroughgoing, practical system for manipulating and focusing human libido, enhancing it and then withdrawing it entirely from the passing and valueness phenomena of the word and directing it instead to a transcendent object. 

A temple evokes in the visitor a sense of beauty in art and life as well. It lifts his spirit and elevates him to a higher plane. At the same time, it awakens him to his significance in the Creator’s grand design. It is a structure established on a site that was well chosen and considered most proper after examining and verifying its suitability from various aspects. Elaborate rules are laid out in the āgamas about śilpa; describing the quality requirements of the places where temples are to be built; the kind of images to be installed; the materials from which they are to be made; their dimensions, proportions; air circulation; lighting in the temple complex etc. The Mānasāra and Mayamatam are some of the works dealing with these rules. They are the standard texts on śilpaśāstra and codify the theoretical aspects of all types of constructions, specifically temple construction. Mānasāra is a comprehensive treatise on architecture and iconography. The universality of the Vāstu tradition is represented here. It is also considered as the sourcebook for consulting any doubts and queries.

According to Tantra, creation is sexual self-realisation through the activity of the goddess. Tantra is esoteric, and much of it is always kept secret. In all Indian ceremonies, pooja is the root activity. In Tantric pooja, the most important point is that the symbolism of the whole ceremony is taken over and applied by the pujari to himself through an intense meditation on the significance of each act as he performs it. Innumerable works of Tantra contain references to basic pooja. The vessels and implements by the Tantric pujaris are often worshipped as devatha emblematic of the activities of the transmuted self.

Mayamatam is a work on the dwelling, and as such, it deals with all the facets of gods’ and men’s dwellings, from the choice of the site to the iconography of the temple walls. Numerous descriptions of villages, towns, temples, houses, mansions and palaces are given precisely. It indicates the proper orientation, the correct dimensions and the appropriate materials.

The six main styles of temple architecture are  Nāgaram,  Drāvidam, Vesaram, Sārvadeshikam, Kālingam, andVarātham.

The Ernakulathappan Tantric system follows strict Tantric rules. Only after the Dehasudhi (body cleaning based on Tantra) can the chief priest enter the Sanctum.  He must do the body cleaning based on Tantra before entering the sanctum. The Dehasudhi is one of the critical actions in the daily activities of a temple priest. Without Dehasudhi, he can’t start his daily temple activities. The chief does Dehasudhi with the help of a filled silver pot. Firstly, he wishes lord Ganapati. After that, he starts Dehasudhi at the Mandapam. Deva’s daily offering rights are reserved only for the chief priest.

Rudra Abhisheka

Sri Rudram appears in the 4th Kanda, 5th Prasna or Prapataka of the Taitiriya Shakha of the Krishna Yajurveda. It includes 169 mantras in 11 Anuvakas. It’s a Hymn of Lord Rudra. It can be found both in Rig Veda as well as Yajur Veda. Usually, Sri Rudram is recited during the Abhishekam to Lord Shiva. Sri Rudra is a powerful chant of Lord Rudra. EkashaRudra (one day), MahaRudra (11 days) and AtiRudra as a part of Sri Rudra. Those are the varieties of Rudra Chanting. When it is recited eleven times, it is called EkadashaRudram. When it is 121 times, it is called LaghuRudram. When it is 1331 times, it is called Maha Rudram. When it is 14641 times, it is called AtiRudram. When Sri Rudram is recited in a place, it protects the home of recitation and the surrounding areas from natural calamities and any virus. Sri Rudram is mighty and significant because it has Panchakshara Mantra.

“नम: शिवाय”in the 8th Anuvaka. The Ancient tradition says that listening to Sri Rudram helps to Purify man. During the time of Maha Rudra and AtiRudra, you used different kinds of Dravyas for RudraAbhishekam. Usually, RudraAbhishekam does with Pure water, milk and ghee.

The most potent chant of lord Shiva is Sri Rudram, also called NAMAKAM. The word Rudra has multiple interpretations in the Sanskrit language.

“रोदिति रोदयति इति रुद्र:”The one of who roars, and causes a roar, is Rudra.

“रुधितं द्रावयति इति रुद्र:” The one who bursts forth with a reddish hue, is Rudra.

The word Rudra refers to a roar, a burst, or an explosion of energy. Rudra is the explosive energy of a flash of lightning, an erupting volcano, the jutting up of dormant Kundalini, and the very first bang that sprang forth material creation. This aspect of the design is worshipped as a fierce aspect of lord Shiva in a personified form. In fact, of this aspect itself, there are 11 different manifestations called ekadasharudras.

Various fantastic stories in the Puranas describe the origin of the eleven Rudras differently, with different names ascribed to them. These stories from the Puranas might seem like fiction initially, but they contain some of the most profound secrets of creation, conveyed in the form of beautiful fables.

Bhagavata Purana describes that Brahma created 11 different forms of Rudra by the names of

“मन्यु, मनु, महिनास, महान्, शिव, ऋतध्वज, उग्ररेतस्, भव, काल, वामदेव, धृतवृत|”

The corresponding feminine aspects of these energies are known by the names of

“धि, धृति, रसला, उमा, नियुत्, सर्पी, इला, अम्बिका, इरावति, स्वधा, दीक्षा |”

These energies corresponded to 11 specific aspects of human creation like Hrudaya (heart), Indriya (the sense organs), Asu (the life breath), Vyoma (the primordial element of space), Vayu (the air element), Agni (the fire element), Jalam (the water element), Mahi (the earth element), Surya (the sun), Chandra (the moon), and Tapas (the radiance that is brought about through austerities). The nature of these 11 manifestations of explosive energy, and the various aspects of creation that correspond to, are things that one has to discover for oneself experientially.

The Concept- Sri Rudram

SriRudram refers to the combination of two chants, Namakam (नमकम्) and Chamakam (चमकम्). Both नमकम् and चमकम् contain 11 different segments of their own. Namakam, which gets its name because of the repeated usage of the word “नम:” at the end of every line, contains 170 lines. The term “नम:” indicates two sounds, and म, नम: is the combination of two words and . The first word means NOT, and the second word means Me. The utterance of the word Nama diminishes limited identity and makes way for a more significant aspect of creation being worship. One recitation of the entire Namakam after that entire Chamakam is called a Roopakam. Chanting the Namakam as a whole once followed by the first Anuvaka of Chamakam and then repeating the process ten more times for each of the next ten Anuvakas of the Chamakam is called Ekadasharudram. Doing this entire process eleven times is called Laghurudram. The Laghurudram. doing into eleven times is known as Maharudram, and the process of doing into eleven times is known as Atirudram.


The inner sanctum sanctorum is where the presiding deity’s idol is installed and worshipped. It shall be an independent structure, detached from other buildings with no connections and having its roof shared with none. The ShreeKovil has no windows and only one large door opening mainly towards the east (sometimes it happens towards the west, whereas a few temples have a north-facing door as its speciality, while no temples will have a south-facing door). The Shreekovil may be built in different plan shapes – square, rectangular, circular, or apsidal. Of these, the fair plan shows an even distribution throughout Kerala. The square shape is the form of the Vedic fire altar and strongly suggests the Vedic mooring. It is categorised as the Nagara style of the temple in the architectural texts. The circular plan and the apsidal plan are rare in other parts of India and unknown even in the civil architecture of Kerala. Still, they constitute a significant group of temples. The circular plan shows a greater preponderance in the southern part of Kerala, in regions once under the influence of Buddhism.

Usually, the ShreeKovil is on a raised platform and has a three or five-step flight. The steps are called Sopanapadi, and on the sides of the Sopanapadi, two giant statues known as Dwarapalakas (door guards) are carved to guard the deity. As per Kerala rituals style, only the prominent priest (Thantri) and second priest (Melshanti) are only allowed to enter SriKovil.


The Namaskaramandapa is a square-shaped pavilion with a raised platform, pillars, and a pyramidal roof. The width of the shrine cell decides the size of the mandapa. In its simplest form, the pavilion has four corner pillars, but larger pavilions have two sets of pillars; four inside and twelve outside. Pavilions of circular, elliptical and polygonal shapes are mentioned in the texts but not in Kerala temples. The Mandapams are used to conduct Vedic-Tantric rites.


In the Pradosha evening, the Pradosha pooja happens. Pradosha evening or Pradosha sandhya is significant. In the evening session, Deva takes a special bath. The abhisheka is oil, ghee, honey, panchamrut, milk and tender coconut, followed by Dravya Bhasma Abhisheka. The lord takes a shower in Bhasma.

Dhvaja Sthambham

In all the temples, we have a pillar in front of the Garbhagraham or Moolasthanam, known as Dwajasthambam or Kodimaram. In Sanskrit, the word Dwaja means ‘Flag’ that raises high. In the religious sense, whatever presents a man with a higher understanding and activity is a Dwaja. A Dhvajasthambham, kodimaram, or kodikkambam is a flagstaff, a common feature of South Indian Hindu temples. Two other objects grouped with this flagstaff are the Bali Peetam and the vehicle of the deity to which the temple is dedicated.The dhvajastambha (ध्वजस्तम्भ) refers to the flagstaff erected in front of the mukhamaṇḍapa (front pavilion) of a Hindu temple. The dhvajastambha is usually built within the temple walls (prākāra). They are traditionally made of wood, mainly teak and stone, whereas the wooden variety is often finished with a metal covering (kavaca). The dhvajastambha is a common feature in South Indian temples.


It is a major offering at the time of the festival. Mulapooja happens before the daily night offering (AthazhaPooja). The Mula-Pooja is done with NavaDhanyas. The grains are fixed according to the lord. Navadhanya is one of the essential items for many Tantra pooja rituals. The nine grains offered to Deva are Black Sesame Seeds, Bengal Gram, Horse Gram, Green Gram, Rice, White Beans, Chickpeas, Black Gram, and Wheat.

Normally, on the festival days, the EthrithuSheeveli happens after the PandeeradiPooja. There is no UchaSheeveli on festival days. The sheeveli occur after the ShreeBhutaBali. The sixth day of the festival is UtsavaBali Day. On this day, the UchaSheeveli will happen.

The seventh day of the festival is Pallivetta. The Pallivetta happens during the evening session. After Pallivetta, the lord takes rest at the Mandapa. This night the lord sleeps at the Mandapa. So, the Thruppuka happens at the Mandapa.

Ritual Bath

The eight day of the festival is Arattu. It is the last day. Arattu is the preceding function of the eight-day festival. On the Arattu day morning, after Nirmalya at the Mantapa, the replica is set up in the sanctum. The daily poojas continue, and after the EthruthuSheeveli, the sanctum closes. Thus concludes the morning session.

Arattu takes place in the evening session of the festival’s last day. During the morning session, only up to the Ethruthu pooja is done. The ritual bathing is done in the temple pond. In the Arattu pond, the Pandeeradi pooja takes place.  After all the ritual bath pooja, the replica returned to the sanctum. Then the Uchapooja is performed after which 25 Kalasa Abhishekas are done. This is followed by Uchasheeveli. Ārāttu is an annual ritual performed during temple tantra festivals in Kerala, India, where a priest bathes a deity’s idol by dipping it in a river or a temple tank. It is mainly carried out at the end of a temple festival.

After all the festival pooja, is the time for Athazha pooja and Athazha Sheeveli, finally culminating in the last function of the daily offering, Thruppuka. This is followed by Pallikkuruppu, a birthday celebration of the deity. This takes place at Thiruvathira Nakshatra.

The term tantra throughout this study is employed in the sense of several interrelated but fundamentally varying sects like Saiva, Vaishnava, Sakta, etc. Western philosophers coin tantrism, which generally refers to a distinct tradition parallel or entirely different from orthodox Vedic tradition. Tantrism was not considered to be an independent tradition at earlier times. The early scholars raised concerns about acts of esoteric and exoteric practices as salient features. However, studies suggest that tantrism cannot be considered anti-Vedic at its core, and tantric rituals are very similar in structure.

To get oriented to the subject-centred discourse, it is necessary to provide a tentative working definition of tantra at the outset. Of the modern writers on tantrism, Christopher Wallis’ meaning of tantra appears to be much closer to reality. Moreover, it is all-inclusive. He defines tantra as ‘An Indian Interreligious movement driven by a ritual practice presupposing initiation, oral instruction from a guru, and micro-meso-macrocosmic correlations and utilising mantras, creative meditations, and sometimes sensual or antinomian means to access and experientially assimilate the divine energy of the Godhead, to achieve power, pleasure, and liberation.’

It is far from certain when tantra emerged as a system and characteristic feature of primordial customs and practices. Moreover, there is no evidence to prove beyond doubt that there were differences. It is performed on specific occasions, like the second day of purificatory rituals or on the day before flag hoisting during the festival season. The ritual package includes Suddhi, KalasaPuja, Vastuhoma, Vastubali, and Rakshognahoma. These rituals mark the beginning of the festival, and they are done in the evening after sunset. On the following day, Suddhi, Dhara, Panchagavya, and Kalasa are set ready by worshipping each one separately in pots, and each of these pots bathes the idol. Finally these purificatory rites culminate in Sribhutabali after Kalasabhisheka on the previous day of Araattu.

In Utsavabali, the offering procedures are much more elaborated, and the pantheon of retinues consists of a relatively few more deities, mainly worshipped at the inner compound. Moreover, it is performed only during the Utsava season. 

On the previous night of the ritual bath, the deity is taken in procession to royal hunting, an act of shooting an artificially created wild beast. After this dramatic enactment of royal hunting, the deity returns to Mandapa, where he rests the whole night in a ritually prepared bed surrounded by greenish sprouts. This is known as Pallikkuruppu or royal sleep. The deity is awakened the following day before sunrise by showing Astamangala and cow as auspicious signs and ritually anointed by several kinds of oily substances. After the ritual bath, the deity is taken into the inner sanctum. 

Generally, the other rituals of the same structure and order, performed incidentally and characterized by many KalasaKumbhas (The Pots), are known as Kalasa throughout Kerala. 

‘Many tantras preached by the lotus face of Siva are quite unintelligible for the dull-witted. Also, their practices are not brought together in one place. Therefore, having consulted all the Sivagama texts, I shall briefly teach the various rites and those found prescribed in the texts on the consecration of Linga’

Generally, the Saivapaddhatis or manuals follow the system of the Kalottara tradition. The Prayogamanjari also follows the Kalottara tradition but differs from the paddhatis of general convictions. In its description of the throne, the Prayogamanjari follows the early paddhatis and indicates only the Yogapitha in contrast to the Panchasana concept of dividing the throne into five sections, namely Anantasana, Simhasana, Yogasana, Vimalasana, and Padmasana which is followed by the later texts. In the visualisation of Pitha, Prayogamanjari follows a different tradition than the other texts, according to which the feet are a red bull, a black lion, a yellow Bhuta, and a white elephant. Prasadamantra, which we notice in most of the Paddhati, is prescribed by the Prayogamanjari. Even though the Prayogamanjari is written in the style of a Paddhati text, it deals mainly with the Pararthapuja. Topics such as the daily routines, usually described in the Paddhatis, should be dealt with. It devotes nearly 150 verses to describe the process of Diksha. Auspicious days for the ritual, the places for the initiation, the Mandala for the initiation, preliminary rites for the initiation, agnikarya, description of bhuvanas and tattvas, nadisodhana, the performance of samskaras, final oblation with the tuft and abhisheka all are included in the report. 

While most of the other texts of Kerala on tantra deal with different deities, the Prayogamanjari deals only with the installation and worship of Siva. The phrase Siddhanta-diksha… used by the author makes clear that one should be free from sins to be able to install the deity. Apart from prescribing the initiation as a qualification for doing the building, the Prayogamanjari stresses its importance as a path for liberation. The work has been elaborately commented upon by Trivikrama, son of Narayana, in his commentary called the Pradyota. 

Most historians of Kerala Sanskrit literature do not seem aware of a text named “Saivagamanibandhana” by Muraridatta. Not much information is available about the author, but the text has been quoted in different contexts in the commentary of Trivikrama on Prayogamanjari

Most of the manuals written after the period of Prayogamanjari deal with both the Saiva and Vaishnava systems, and among these manuals, the Isanagurudevapaddhati, also known as the Tantrapaddhati could be the earliest one. It is an elaborate treatise dealing with different aspects of tantra. Some historians of Sanskrit literature in Kerala date the Isanagurudevapaddhati to the 11th century A.D, but if we consider the works cited by Isanagurudevapaddhati, especially the Somasambhupaddhati, we may only be able to date it by the 12th century A.D.

Narayana, a Namboothiri Brahmin from the Chennas family in Kerala, who flourished as one of the ‘eighteen and a half’ poets in the court of Zamorins of Calicut during the 15th century, is the author of the Tantrasamucchaya. While we can see that most early tantric texts dealt with a specific deity, this text deals with the gods of the Saiva, Vaishnava, and Sankaranarayana systems. This may be why the work achieved such a prominent place among the tantric texts produced in Kerala. This text is still used as a manual by the priests of different temples in Kerala.


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  12. Bengal Tantric Studies.
  13. Indian Tantric Traditions. 

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