Where the bells ring
|The small town of Taliparamba near Kannur is famous for its many temples.|
Photo: Sheila Kumar
EVEN in a state that throws up one fresh tourist spot after another, the small town of Taliparamba, 20 km north of Kannur, lies a little off the beaten track. Basically a spread of about 47 villages, the place has a pastoral ambience: men clucking to keep their cows on the straight and narrow paths that wind among the fields, balmy breezes, blue hills, the Kuppam and the Vallapatanam that flows around the town, the Arabian Sea just 15 km away, an age-old aal tree under which gather, at different times of the day, both the old men and the young blades.
Then again, let's face it: these are the hallmarks of almost any small town in God's Own Country.
What is utterly charming about Taliparamba, originally a Brahmin settlement called Lakshmipura, is that it may well be the last bastion of pera veedus, the old tiled houses of Malabar. Also the fact that, despite the nightie being the undeclared official attire of most women in Kerala, in Taliparamba you still see women wearing the starched kara mundu. This is because most of them are either heading to or from one of the temples the place is famous for.
The Trichambaram temple's deity is Sri Krishna. It is built on a modest scale, with a two-storeyed sanctum and four projecting gables on a pyramidal roof. Believed to date back to the 10th century, the idol is a jubilant Bala Krishna immediately after annihilating Kamsa. Since Kamsa had sent his royal tusker, Kuvalayapidam, to attack Krishna, elephants are not allowed at this temple, though they are an integral part of temple festivities in all Kerala temples.
Worth a study
The murals and woodcraft in the sanctum sanctorum of this temple are enthralling, worth a long leisurely study. There is a shrine to Bhagavathy in the middle of a small tank. The temple pond is a-bloom with the brightest of pink lotuses, the bells sounds deep and sonorous and in the evening, thevilakkus (lamps) are lit with ghee. Naivedyams are a specialty here, as are the aayiram appams, a sweet made in a thousand different ways by local Namboodiri women.
The fortnight-long festival, the thirtambu nritham, held in March attracts the devout from far and near. The highlight is a dance that features both Krishna and his brother Balaram.
The Rajarajeshwara temple, locally known as the Taliparamba temple, plays host to Shiva and is of such hoary vintage that legends talk of Parasurama himself building the ancient temple... a look at the massive boundary wall and one may well believe it! The temple occupies pride of place in the State — being one of the 108 ancient Shiva temples of Kerala, one of the Shakti peethams (Sati's head is supposed to have fallen here after her self-immolation), as also the place where problems encountered in temples through the state are resolved. Unusually the temple has no kodi maram(flagstaff) but is a sheer visual delight, with its ancient stone walls and its two-tiered pyramidal roof. One charming story goes that Shiva gave sage Maandhata a lingam and asked him to install it at the most sacred spot he could find... the sage's search ended at Taliparamba. Another tale goes that Sri Rama, returning from his Lanka expedition, stopped to worship at this temple; that is why devotees are not allowed into what is known as thenamaskara mandapam even today. For that matter, women are allowed to enter the temple only at prescribed times. Koodiyattam and Chakyar Koothu performances are held regularly here.
Of the people
The third temple, a little distance away from Taliparamba town, is Parassinikadavu, home to Sree Muthappan, arguably the most popular deity in all Kannur. The temple sits on the banks of the lovely Valapattam, a popular boating spot for locals.
This is an unusual deity, by all accounts, powerful yet imbued with human flaws. Muthappan, an incarnation of Shiva, is a hunter who sports animal skins, and is partial to toddy, which is why during the theyyam, the dancers actually drink toddy and then pass it on, down to the audience!
The Muthappan theyyam is held all year round, morning and evening, in the Parassinikadavu temple; the only temple in the state to do so. There is also a Kathakali yogam maintained by the temple, which holds evening performances on request. Muthappan is truly a deity of the people!