Description: This ancient
temple located in Kanyakumari district, on the railroad between Kanyakumari and Thiruvanandapuram, has been glorified by a
decad of 11 verses composed by NammAzhwar in the first millennium CE. . The architecture here, as with several other temples
in Kanyakumari district resembles that of the Temples of Kerala. Worship protocols followed here are also the same as those
of Kerala. This temple is an important center of worship and is referred to as Aadi Anantam and Dakshina Vaikuntham. Thiruvattar
is referred to in the Sangam period Tamil work Puranaanooru.
The deity Aadi Kesava Perumal in a reclining posture faces West. As in Thiruvanandapuram, the deity
is viewed through three openings in the sanctum. The sanctum has been designed so that the rays of the setting sun illuminate
the face of the deity.
Legend has it that Perumaal vanquished the demons Kesa and Kesi ,(hence the name Aadi Kesan) and took abode on the coils of
Aadi Seshan here at Thiruvattaar. Kesi took on the form of the Tamraparani river. Shiva is believed to have taken on 12 forms
to witness the battle between Perumaal and Kesi, and worship Perumaal. A pilgrimage to all of the 12 Shiva temples is considered
complete after visiting this temple at Thiruvattaar.
The Temple: The sanctum faces West, although the main entrance is on the East. The temple stands at an elevation and
is surrounded by fort like walls. A majestic towered entrance is reached through a flight of steps. There are also shrines
to Adi Kesava, Venkatachalapati and Thaayaar. The flag staff of copper was built by the Travancore royal family.
The circumambulatory passage around the sanctum (Sri Balippuram) is lined with 224 granite pillars,
each one of which carries sculptured images of Deepa Thaayaar. Interestingly, no two of these images are alike. The balipeetha
mandapam has life sized images of Lakshmana, Indrajit, Nataraja, Perumaal and Bhrama, Rathi and Manmathan. The sanctum has
beautiful wooden carvings. There is also a shrine to Thiruvambadi Krishnan. Inscriptions from the period of Rajendra Chola
(early 11th century CE) are seen in this temple.
In front of the sanctum is the Udaya Maartaanda mandapam with ornate woodwork. Mention must be made
of a carving of Ganesha, and that of Shiva engaged in tandavam.
The temple is constructed in such a manner that the sun's rays fall on the feet of the deity's image
from the third to the 8th day of the Tamil month of Panguni and on the 3rd and the 4th days of the Tamil month of Purattaasi.
There is incredible similarity between this temple and the Anantapadmanabhaswamy temple at Thiruvanantapuram.
It is even said the Thiruvanantapuram temple was built after this temple. As with the Padmanabha temple at Thiruvanantapuram,
the deity is represented as an imposing image of Perumaal in a reclining posture viewed through three doors. There are some
differences in iconography of this image between the two hoary shrines. For instance, the Shivalingam (Kasi lingam) is seen
near the head of Perumaal's image at Thiruvanantapuram while it is seen near the feet here. Also, the presence of Bhrahma
on Perumaal's navel is a feature that is absent here unlike Thiruvanantapuram.
Representatives of the maharaja of Travancore accompany processions at Thiruvattar, symbolizing the
living link between the Travancore royalty and the Thiruvattar temple.
The image of Garuda in this temple is made of gold inlaid with precious stones and is taken out in
procession in the Tamil months of vaikasi and aippasi.
Festivals: The Kerala tantram is the protocol of worship conducted here,
by Namboodris of Kerala. Four services are offered each day. There are two annual festivals, the first one in the month of
Aippasi, where the Teerthavari (Aarattu) is held in the river Tamraparani near the Shiva Tali. The Golden Garuda Sevai is
held during both these festivals. Krishna Jayanthi, Vaikuntha Ekadasi, Aavani Thiruvonam, Kalabham in the month of Thai, and
the Perunthamritu poojai (Aadi and Thai) on the eve of the summer and winter solstices are some of the festivals celebrated
here. The utsava images are taken out in procession every day.
Legend has it that an army of invaders from North India, were miraculously turned away by
a swarm of wasps, in answer to prayers by the Maharaja of Kottayam (17th century). Legend also has it that the festival image
was stolen by the armies of the Nawab of Arcot in the 18th century and that a mysterious ailment which gripped the Nawab's
wife was cured, only after he returned the image to the temple. A special service by name 'Thiru Alla Poojai' is offered suring
the annual festivals here. It is also believed that the festival image being returned by him, got stuck to the ground near
the Shiva temple, and that it came unstuck only after a decision was made to carry out the Aaraattu near the very spot.