A seat of learning and a place of worship are both revered in Indian culture. And that reverence is apparent in two centuries-old temples and a school in Kerala that have survived the onslaught of time and retained their inherent character. Thrikkuratti Mahadeva Temple, Vettakkorumakan Temple and Leo XIII English High School continue to act as the bridge between past and present.
Thrikkuratti Mahadeva Temple
The Thrikkuratti Mahadeva temple in Mannar, Alappuzha district is legendary. Believed to have been built 10 centuries ago, it is one among the 108 Shiva temples in the country, and considered the oldest in the state. Though the temple does not have a written history to fall back on, temple advisory board member Kaladharan Pillai says there is a mention of the temple in the Unnineeli Sandasam, a poem written in the 13th century. Concerned about its upkeep, the state archeological department is set to declare it a protected monument.
The murals and engravings within the sanctum sanctorum and its outer walls reveal much about the temple’s history. The boundary wall (Chuttambalam) boasts rare paintings and engravings. But now, the engravings in wood and stone need preservation. “The Ganapathy, Kali, Narasimham and other gods and goddesses are also engraved inside and outside the sanctum sanctorum and the walls of the temple,” says Pillai. They all need urgent attention.
Owing to paucity of funds, the temple authorities are unable to preserve the treasures on their own.
“If the Archaeological Department declares it a protected monument, the rare paintings and murals will get a new lease of life,” says Pillai.
If one travels one-and-a-half kilometres north of Balusseri town, one will reach Balusseri Kotta, the site of the 1,500 year-old Vettakkorumakan Temple of Kurumbanad rajas in Kozhikode district. The deity is Vettakkorumakan, son of Lord Shiva, who is believed to grant favours to his devotees in the form of a kiratha (hunter).
As in several other temples of Kerala, the nalukettu (traditional homestead) modelled Vettakkorumakan Temple is also home to priceless murals.
The three walls of the thekkini (southern part) are adorned with intricate mural paintings. According to historian M G S Narayanan, the paintings on the wall are a specimen of 18th and 19th century mural art.
The southern wall of the thekkini carries a massive mural painting of Ananthasayana. (Lord Vishnu resting on thousand-headed serpent Ananthan). It is perhaps the largest in the Malabar region.
In the painting Lord Vishnu appears in communion with eternity. Encircling Lord Vishnu are several figures of monks, gods and goddesses. “It is believed that Lord Vettakkorumakan merged into the walls of thekkini,” says Balusseri Kotta Trust Board Chairman
V M Padmanabhan.
Adjacent to the Ananthasayana mural is a painting of Shiva as Nataraja. On the eastern wall is another mural of Lord Ganesha. The work of different artists have been retouched in the past one year under the direction of the Archeological Department. Says Balusseri Kotta Chala Devaswam Executive officer K V Narayanan Namboothiri: “The temple is believed to be a prime example of Vettakkorumakan deities in Kerala.”
Leo XIII English High School
Leo XIII is one of the oldest schools in the state. The Jesuit Missionaries established it in the old port town of Alappuzha in 1870. The main aim was to educate students of orphanages run by the church and students of the seminary which functioned near St Antony’s Church. The school was named after Leo XIII to celebrate the golden jubilee of the pope’s priesthood in 1888.
In 1912 the school was upgraded to matriculation level. “In 1969 the Jesuit Missionaries handed over the administration of the school to the Alappuzha Catholic Diocese,” says school manager Fr Stanley Pulimootuparambil. There are about 3,350 students on the rolls attending Classes from 1-12. The main heritage building is more than 100 years old.