Deity of Sri Rama Temple at Triprayar
The idol is a four-armed one like all Vishnu images with Sankha and Chakra in the left hands and kodanda (bow) and a mala or garland in the right hands. Though the deity is in the Vishnu form, in the srikoil it there is an image of Dakshinamoorti facing south, which is commonly found in Shiva temples. There is also a lamp behind the image which is kept burning all the time. Because of these and also because of the fact that people get relief when troubled by evil spirits- chathan-the deity is believed to have a Shiva aspect also.
It was after killing the asura, Khara that Lord Rama got both the Shaiva and Vaishnava aspects. Thus some pundits are of the opinion that the pratishta here is that of Rama after killing Khara. Some believe that the mala which the image holds in one of the left hands indicates the aspect of Lord Brahma. Thus, the deity is said to have the aspects of Trimurti, namely Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
The image of the deity is a beautiful image, the face beaming with a sweet smile, the neck radiant with the Kaustabha ornament, the chest charming with the Srivatsa mark and the body shining with necklaces, shoulder bracelets and bangles and garlands. Indeed one cannot take one's eyes off easily and those who had darshan once would want to come again and again. The temple itself, situated close to the river and amidst gracefully swaying palms and various other trees, has a unique charm that is captivating.
Architecture of the Sri Rama Temple
The central shrine of the temple is circular in shape with a conical roof and is surmounted by a stupi. The namaskara mandapa which is copper-plated is profusely sculptured-having 24 panels of wood carvings representing navagrahas. Its walls are decorated with mural paintings of a bygone age.
Episodes from the Ramayana which are sculptured on the srikoil have a subtle grace and exquisite beauty blended with imperishable charms. It can be said that the architectural beauty of the temple is lively and graceful.
Outside the temple in the southern side of the courtyard there is an Ayyappa (Sasta) shrine. It is believed that this deity was originally at the place where the present Rama idol is installed. With the arrival of Sri Rama, Ayyappa moved to the south in the present location in the same way Edathedathu Kavu Bhagawati at Guruvayur moved to the north side on arrival of Sri Krishna. In fact, it is believed that in olden days Kerala had only three kinds of shrines or kavus that is for Ayyappa, Naga and Bhagawati. It was with the advent of the Nambudiris that these kavus were converted into temples dedicated to Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Lord Shiva, etc. At Triprayar the original temple of Ayyappa appears to have been converted into the Rama temple.
Outside the srikoil there is an image of Ganapati. In the mandapa opposite the sanctum sanctorum, Lord Hanuman is believed to be present though there if no image as such. Devotees generally bow before the mandapa imagining the presence of Hanuman there before worshipping Sri Rama.
It is said that once the image of Rama was found slightly turned to one side. As the Kalasam cannot be performed without straightening the position, Kanip-payar Nambudiri and others went inside the sanctum to set right the image. In the process they covered the image with a new cloth. Suddenly it turned itself and assumed the original straight position.
Worship in Sri Rama Temple
Kuttu is an important vazhivadu or offering at this temple. Now, Kuttu, which is mono-acting, can either be a discourse (prabhandha) or a pantomime (abhi-naya). At Triprayar the latter is presented. Formerly, prabhandha kuttu used to be performed.
From Vrischikarh 1 (mid-November) kuttu is presented for 12 days by the temple management itself. The subject enacted is Anguliyangam in the Ramayana, that is, Hanuman taking the ring from Sita after finding her in Lanka and taking it back to Sri Rama. The major part of the performance is devoted to a conversation between Hanuman and Sita.
There are five pujas conducted here as in all great temples-usha (early morning) puja, following this etirthu puja, panthirati (about 10 a.m.), uccha (noon) puja and athazha (night) puja. There are also sivelis three times when the deity is taken in procession around the temple. Nirmalya darshan (early morning when the sanctum opens for the day) and athazha puja are considered very sacred. For athazha puja especially devas and asuras are suppcsed to be present to have darshan of the Lord.
Festivals of Sri Rama Temple
Ekadasi in Vrischikam (November-December) and pooram in Meenam (March-April) are the two annual festivals conducted in the temple. Ekadasi celebrations start on Dasami day itself when Ayyappa is taken in procession. On Ekadasi day, Sri Rama is taken in procession with as many as 21 elephants participating. It is an occasion for devotion and pageantry attracting thousands from far and near.
The seven-day pooram festival begins on the Maki-ram asterism in Meenam (March-April) and ends on the pooram asterism. There is no flag-hoisting ceremony here-in fact there is no flag-staff itself-to herald the annual utsavam. The festival is part of the famous Arattupuzha pooram festival in which over a hundred elephants took part until a generation ago. Now with the change of times, the number of elephants has come down. But there is no diminution in the rituals or in the pageantry.
Every day for seven days the procession starts from Triprayar for a certain place where the arattu (bathing ceremony) is held, giving opportunity to thousands outside Triprayar to offer worship to the deity.