Thiruvananthapuram : City Temple crosses a historic milestone

via Courtesy: published on September 14, 2010

THIRUVANATHAPURAM: Somewhere in the 12th century AD, the ire of the mighty Chola rulers came to rest upon Kanthallursala, the centre of learning that flourished in the regions of Venad and Ay kingdoms of the south. Repeated attacks and plunder of the Cholas routed the ‘sala’ and the temple that stood in the vicinity.

 Later on, a Venad ruler by name Sangramadheera Ravi Varma renovated the temple in the 13th century, an information handed down to posterity by an inscription left on the temple walls. In year 2010, the Valiyasala Mahadeva temple should then be celebrating the 700th year of its refurbished existence, say believers and enthusiasts who have decided to join hands to mark the event in a befitting manner.

 The temple and the educational centre must have had a stature of prominence in the ancient days, considering the abundance of references to it in texts and scriptures dating back to 10th century AD, says historian and academician M G Sasibhooshan. “The centre of learning called Kanthallursala has a history that arguably dates back to as far as the eighth century. Its geographical extent cannot be confirmed with any degree of certainty. We have also no way of ascertaining whether it fell within the boundaries of the Venad Kingdom or Ay kingdom. As of now, the temple is located on the northern banks of the Karamana River which was earlier the Venad kingdom.

 The importance of this university, which taught vedas, sciences and martial arts, is evident from the fact that it is referred to as ‘Dakshina Nalanda’ in many ancient texts. It must have been a very magnificent one since it is described as a large and beautiful structure in a poem by an anonymous author that is supposedly written in the 13th century and titled ‘Ananthapuravarnanam’, says Sasibhooshan.  The proof of an elaborate renovation work done by the Venad ruler was discovered some years ago from an inscription inside the temple. A stone statue of a man in the attire of a king stands on the premises even to this date. Says Sasibhooshan, “From the antiquity of the statue and the clothes worn by the male figure, it is assumed that it is made in the likeness of the king who renovated the structure.’’

 Corroborating these facts, Alex Mathew, Head of the Department of History, Marthoma College, Thiruvalla, who has done substantial research in the area, says, “Chola scriptures have references to what almost sounds like a saying on Kanthallursala. It is always referred to in the context of a harbour or port. It can be assumed that the reference is to the Vizhinjam harbour through which the invading Chola kings must have made their commutations.”

 According to Alex Mathew, the original temple must have been located very near to the Vizhinjam harbour.

“During the turbulent political age of the Cholas, it was a common practice to lay siege to harbours and ports. After the temple was devastated, the idol must have been installed in what may have been a small shrine in the Travancore province.”

 Accodring to Sasibhooshan, the temple lost its significance during the time of Marthanda Varma since the conspiracy of the notorious ‘Ettuveettil Pillai’ clique against the king was allegedly made on its premises.

“It is so believed since the wife of one of the Pillais had her house near the temple. After the assassination of the king, the people of Travancore, the loyal subjects that they were, restrained from paying reverence to the temple. And hence its faded importance in the present age.”

 The Temple Trust and the public have anyway decided to lift the bane of neglect from the legendary temple.

The anniversary will be marked with a performance of ‘Nangyarkoothu’ by Kalamandalam Sindhu, which will be staged in the old style, that is without a mike and lights, with only the ‘Mizhavu’ as accompaniment and the performer relying on her own vocal abilities. The performance will take place on September 19 from 9 am to 10.30 am.

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