north of Thrissur in Kerala houses the twin temple
complex atop the Vilvadri hill, dedicated to Rama and Lakshmana.
As in the case of Triprayar, Moozhikkalam,
Irinjalakuda and Payyamel, the images
held in reverence here are those of Maha Vishnu, worshipped as Rama
and Lakshmana respectively.
The name Vilvamala or Vilvadri
arises from the belief that there is a subterranean chamber beneath the temple housing a
golden vilva tree.
The Bharatapuzha river:
About half a mile north of Tiruvilvamala is the Bharatapuzha river,
considered to be the Ganges of Kerala. Tiruvilvamala, Tirunaavai, Tiruvituvakkode, Tirthala and
Tiruchikuzhi are five of the shrines along the course of the river. It is believed that Tiruvilvamala
is to the Bharatapuzha river what the Manikarnika ghat
in Benares is to the Ganges.
To the east of the Tiruvilvamala temple
is a cave, known as the Punarjanani. It is believed that trekking through
this cave would end one's cycle of births and deaths. It is only on the Ekadasi
day in the month of Scorpio that this pilgrimage is undertaken.
Architecture: The temple
complex consists of two sancta with pyramidal two tiered copper plated roofs with gables.
There is no flagstaff here as in Triprayar. The entire temple complex has
ornamental gopuradwaras or entry tower - bases, without the towers.
It is believed that the towers that
existed here used to be lit at night and that the lighted towers used to be visible from
as far away as Tirunaavai, and that
the towers were struck down by lightning.
The two shrines house images of Mahavishnu.
The west facing sanctum houses a five feet tall gold plated image of chaturbhuja Vishnu.
The gold kavacam covers what is believed to be a svayamvyakta (self
created) image. The gold covering is never removed.
The east facing shrine houses a three
feet tall stone image of Mahavishnu and is decorated with fine jewelry
While the west facing image is worshipped
as Rama, the east facing image which is believed to be older is
worshipped as Lakshmana.
Also in this temple are shrines to
Ganapati and Saasta.
The current structure is largely a result
of renovations carried out by the rulers of Cochin in late 19th century
after a devastating fire destroyed much of the temple. Prior to it it had been renovated
in mid ninteenth century, and prior to it it had been attacked by the armies of Tippu
Sultan in the 18th century.
Legends: The east facing
image (Lakshmana) is believed to be an image of Vishnu held in worship by
Shiva. It is said to have been granted to Parasurama (yet another incarnation
of Vishnu) who is said to have established the image here and initiated a worship
The west facing image is said to have
been installed by a sage by name Aamalaka who with intense fervor prayed
to Vishnu and requested that he take up abode on the Vilvadri
Festivals: The annual
festival here falls on the Ekadasi day in the month of Pisces (February - March).