I was in Kerala for 4 days from 8-11 Jan'08 and my first stop was Trivandrum. Revisited Padbanabhaswamy & Attukal Bhagavathy temples. Regarding Padbanabhaswamy temple please refer to my blog written in Feb'07 (go to archives) for detailed information.I am now furnishing additional information. As you go around the inner sanctum you can see shrines for Narasimha on the South and Vyasar & Aswatthama towards the North West. Inside the sanctum sanctorum you have two shrines - one for Viswakhsenar(North) & another for Rama,Lakshmana & Sita (East). On either side of the Utsava Moorthy of the Lord besides Bhuma Devi & Sree Devi there are two sages seated in obeisance to the Lord - one of the sages is Koundinya Muni & the the other is Agatsyar. The Lords right hand drops down & one finger is touching the Siva Lingam.
In the outer most prakaram as you walk the splendidly corridorred seeveli pura - you reach the Sastha temple on the South. After offerring prayers to Ayyapa you continue clockwise & towards the North West corner you reach the Thiruvambadi Temple - Ambadi is the abode of Krishna. This has a large Mandapam with exquisitely carved wooden structures. A group of women were singing bhajans in praise of Lord Krishna. You go inside the sanctum and pray to the Lord. Around the sanctum you can see brightly coloured paintings depicting the life & times of Krishna.
On the Western side in the open sandy space between the corridor & Temple walls you can see two very tall multi tiered brass tortoise lamps (ama vilakku). The Temples walls carry myriad lamps on all sides These lamps are fitted with small zero watt bulbs & electrically illuminated at night. Unless you look very closely you will mistake these for oil wick lamps. However inside the sanctum only oil lamps are used. There were large contingents of Ayyapans ( devotees of Lord Ayyapa) that evening to offer prayers to Padbanabhaswamy before proceeding to Sabarimala for the forthcoming Makara Vilakku.
Next I visited Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, one of the most ancient temples of Kerala - located at Attukal, 2 km away from the city. 'Pongala' is the favorite offering to Attukal Bhagavathy. This temple is considered as the Sabarimala for Women. Women form the major portion of the devotees here. The Goddess is worshipped here as the Supreme Mother. The pilgrims who visit the Sri Padmanabha Swami Temple also visit Attukal amma without which their pilgrimage is not considered complete.
According to the legends, the Attukal Bhagavathy is the divinised form of Kannaki, the heroine of the famous Tamil work Silappathikaram. Kannaki is considered as an incarnation of Goddess Parvathi, the consort of Lord Shiva.The temple structure is a blend of Kerala and Tamil styles of architecture.
The Attukal Pongala festival is celebrated once a year during the months of February and March. It is a festival of ten days with the Pongala offerring on the ninth day & is a festival exclusively for women. During this festival, the Temple becomes very colorful and lakhs of women throng to the city and enjoy the festive mood. In 2007, the Pongala was held on 3rd March and it has been reported that about 2.5 million women participated.
I also visited Rajamony Mama & Rajam mami at Revathy, Thycaud & had breakfast of idiappam & coffee. I took snaps of Anna & Manni from their well preserved portraits hanging in the drawing room. Mama gave me the shocking news that the out house in Lakshmi Niwas ( where we had lived during late fortie & early fifties) has been pulled down to make way for a new structure. The main house is also expected to be demolished shortly.
As I prepared to leave mami handed over a packet of delicious home made Chakka Varatti to carry to Coimbatore !