Vaikom is a small picturesque hamlet situated in Kottayam district, Kerala. Aside it’s abounding beauty of luscious greenery and the frills of the Kerala backwaters and lakes that surround the region, the place is also most famous for a prominent temple of Lord Shiva. The temple is one of the biggest in Kerala and is spread across nearly eight acres of land. The main Shiva Lingam inside the temple is believed to date back to the ‘Treta Yuga’. Every day at noon, lunch is offered to devotees, with the most choicest and tastiest spread of Kerala vegetarian dishes, as part of the temple custom for LordShiva, fondly referred to as ‘Annadhana Prabhu’ or the giver of food. The food is supposedly said have healing powers and considered an effective cure for stomach ailments. Devotees offer money or grains of rice to organize the lunch or the ’Sadhya’, for each day as an offering to the Lord.
The 12 days festival in the temple in the Hindu month of Vrischika - mostly in November/ December every year as per the English calendar is one of the other most important events of the temple. ‘Vaikath Ashtami’, as the 12-day festival is referred to has some very interesting happenings unique to the temple. And there is so much to be written about beautiful events during the festival, especially the concluding day, when local deities of the surrounding temples come to pay their obeisance to Lord Shiva. One such interesting occasion in the temple is ‘Koodi Puja’.
The Koodi Puja
Udainapuram, a village close to Vaikom, is popular for the temple of Lord Karthikeya, located there. Every year, the day of Thri Karthika’-a festive day celebrated for three prominent Hindu zodiac stars, in the Hindu month of ‘Vrischika’, happens to be very important for Lord Karthikeya. Lord Subramaniya, as he is otherwise referred to, is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathy. “Thri Kathikey’ or three heavenly stars were celestial ladies who were considered to be the foster mothers of Lord Karthikeya. As per Hindu Mythology, Goddess Parvathy blessed the three ladies and had turned them into glowing stars- the harbingers of bright light for the universe, in return for their motherly care for her son. And so every year, this day happens to be very important for Lord Karthikeya. The next day after ‘Thri Karthikey’, the Lord visits his father’s temple in Vaikom as a conclusion to his festival celebrations. He is first bathed in the temple pond at Vaikom. The ceremonial bath is as per Vedic scriptures. The Lord is then taken inside to meet his father.
The celestial meetings of the Gods are undeniably divine. The Son is first taken inside the temple sanctum sanctorum and made to sit beside his father. As per beliefs, the idol of Lord Karthikeya is placed on the right thigh of Lord Shiva- a befitting imagination to having his son on his lap. At this time, the main pujas are performed by the temple Thantris. According to the age-old traditions of the temple, during the ‘Nivediyam’ (the ceremonial offering of cooked food to the Gods and a main puja in every Hindu temple), Lord Shiva feeds his son balls of rice, lentils and sweets. Lord Shiva is believed to give utmost importance to his visiting son, radiating fatherly love during his time with him. As the temple doors open after the ritualistic feed between the Gods, toddlers, who are not less than 6 months of age are fed the rice offered to the gods-a ritualistic beginning to their first partake of solids.
After more pujas inside the temple, the idols of the father/son duo are mounted on caparisoned elephants and amidst the rhythmic beatings of musical instruments, the two gods are taken out in procession around the temple. And close to midnight, the father/son part ways to meet again on the last day of the festival. A very important and interesting fact about the Koodi Puja is that in no other temple in Kerala, the idol of any god from another temple is allowed inside the sanctum sanctorum.
Read our online space next month on the popular Ashtami festival.