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108 Dhivya Desam - Thirunaavai

Location :  Thirunavaya near Kalikota - Malappuram - Kerala
Perumaal :  Thirunavai Mukundhan, Navamukundan (Narayanan)
Thaayaar :  Malarmangai Naachiyaar
Theertham : Senkamala Saras
Paasuram :  NammAzhwar, ThirumangaiAzhwar
Vimaanam : Veda Vimanam
Travel Base : Thrissur

Description: This is an ancient temple of Kerala - considered equivalent to Banares, located on the Bharatapuzhaa river.  Across the river are temples to Shiva and Bhrama. Thirunavaya is located on the Malabar railroad from Palakkad to Mangalore. The railhead Thirunavaya is about a mile away from the temple.

 

Deities: The presiding diety here is Navamukundan. There are subshrines to Ganapati on the South West corner and Bhagavati on the North East corner.

 

The base of the temple is built of stone, while the superstructure above is of laterite, stucco and timberwork. The temple is considered to be demonstrative of the evolved Kerala type of architecture, dating back to the 13th -14th centuries although in a comparatively poor state of existence today. There is a separate shrine for Malarmangai Naachiyaar unlike the other Dhivya Desam temples in Kerala.

 

Legend: The name Thirunaavaai is said to have stemmed from the legend that nine yogis offered worship here. Legend has it that Thaayaar and Gajendran the king of elephants worshipped Perumaal here with lotus flowers from a lake; with two devotees using flowers from the same source, supply dwindled, and Gajendran appealed to Perumaal, who took Thaayaar by his side on the same throne and accepted worship offered by Gajendran. The name of the theertham Senkamala saras arises from the legend of the lotus filled lake.

 

The image of Navamukundan is portrayed only from above the knee, the rest of the image being concealed within the ground. There are interesting legends associated with this state of the image. There is believed to be a bottomless unexplored pit behind the image in the sanctum.

 

Another legend has it that a group of nine yogis or siddhas offered worship to Perumaal at this shrine and attained moksham or salvation; hence the name Nava Narayanan.

 

The Bharatapuzha river, the presence of temples to Bhrahma, Perumaal and Shiva on its banks, accords this temple town a stature equivalent to Benares. As in Benares, cremation of the dead is carried out in ghats along the river.

 

Legend also has it that Markandeya, fleeing the clutches of Yama appealed to Perumaal for help at this shrine and upon his direction crossed the river Bharatapuzha to worship Shiva, while Perumaal blocked the rear entrance to the temple, to prevent Yama from clutching him.

 

Festivals: The Maasi makam festival used to be celebrated at this temple in great splendour on the Bharatapuzha river bank for a 30 day period commencing with Thaippoosam, once in 12 years (corresponding to the Maha makam festival at Kumbhakonam). This celebration stopped after control of the region passed on to Hyder Ali in the 18th century.

 

Two of the Tamil Azhwars have sung of this temple (in the 8th-9th centuries - NammAzhwar and ThirumangaiAzhwar) in a total of 13 verses in Tamil

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