A famous abode of Lord Vishnu in Kerala. This is one of the oldest surviving temples in India and the best specimen for the traditional temple architecture of Kerala.
Two conflicting legends on the origin of this ancient Hindu temple.
The first legend tells us that once upon a time there was a pious woman, a devotee of Lord Vishnu, at the present day Tiruvalla. She was affectionately called as ‘Sankroth Amma’ after the name of her illam, Sankaramangalath illam. Being a staunch follower of Lord Vishnu, she regularly observed the Ekadasi vratha every year. On the final day of this vratha, she used to feed Brahmin boys of the area as an offering to Lord Vishnu.
But, one day a demon called Tholaga (Thulaga) appeared in the area. He began to obstruct the Brahminic rites in many ways. That year, when the Ekadasi arrived, the parents refused to send the boys to ‘Sankrothamma’s illam fearing attack from Tholaga. So Amma desperately prayed to Lord Vishnu.
Lord Vishnu, disguised as a Brahmin boy, arrived at the illam and asked Amma for food. Joyous Amma directed him to a pond for bathe before taking the food as it is customary, but the boy insisted on a running water to purify himself. So Amma told about the presence of a river nearby but warned that he may be attacked by Tholaga as he resides on the banks of that river.
The boy went to the river bank and killed the demon using Lord Vishnu’s Sudarsana chakra. He returned to the illam and helped to complete the Ekadasi ritual of his devotee – Sankrothamma.
As the news of the death of Thologa spread, the boy revealed to Sakorothamma who he is. After directing her to build a temple nearby, so that he can reside there and bless the humanity, the boy disappeared.
The second legend tells us that the idol of this temple was worshipped by Lord Krishna himself. When the time for his Swargarohana came, Lord Krishna handed over the idol to his cousin Satyaki. Lord Krishna directed him to find a suitable place on earth to consecrate that idol for future worship. Meanwhile, Satyaki entrusted this job to Lord Garuda. Lord Garuda started searching for a suitable place carrying the idol on his talons. The legend tells us that when Garuda reached the present day Tiruvalla the idol slipped from his talons to the nearby river.
Years passed by, one day the then Kerala ruler Cheraman Perumal heard a divine voice of Lord Vishnu, asking him to retrieve the idol from the river bed. Lord Vishnu sent Lord Garuda to help the king. Finally they retrieved the idol from the river bed and consecrated it at the present temple.
The architectural beauty of this temple is note worthy. The lofty, multilayered sanctum sanctorum of the temple is a masterpiece in stone. So is the 50 feet high flagstaff, carved out of a single stone, with the idol of Lord Garuda on its top.
The eight feet high Lord Vishnu idol in the Sanctum Sanctorum itself is a beauty. The Lord Vishnu faces on East, where as there is shrine for Sudarsanachakram known as Sudarsana moorthy on the west side of the same sanctum sanctorum.
Offering Kathakali (the famous temple art of Kerala) play is the most important offering to this deity. There is a story behind this association with Kathakali. One day Sri Vilvamangalathu Swamiyar arrived at the temple late night. He could not find the Lord at the Sanctum. After some search Vilvamangalam spotted Lord Vishnu as enjoying Kathakali performance at the eastern Gopura of the temple- in disguise as a boy. So Vilvamangalam directed the temple authorities to consider Kathakali performance as the most important offering to the Lord.
This is a Divya desam temple of Lord Vishnu. Sri Thirumangai Alvar and Nammalvar prayed in praise to this Lord between 7th – 9th century AD. But the existence of the temple is proved to date back to1st century making it one of the ancient Hindu temple in India.
Uthra Siveli festival in March – April is the most important festival.
Tiruvalla is about 30 kilometers from Kottayam.