Friday 5 August 2011

Lokanarkavu Bhagavathy Temple

The Lokarnarkavu Bhagavathy temple near Vadakara, Kerala
The number of Durga temples of legendary importance in Kerala are 108. Lokanarkavu is one of them.  The name and glory of this temple, of the Mother Goddess, have been the subject of many ballads and keertans.
One who knows about the history of Kerala or anyone having a vivid imagination would be able to recapture the great days of the power  of Lokanarkavu that existed over the people of the region nearby and all around. At starlit dusks, you might perhaps be hearing the sounds of the movement of youngsters trained in martial arts keeping trysts with their loves near the temple bank of Lokanarkavu.
The Lokarnarkavu Bhagavathy temple near Vadakara is one of the most ancient and one of the best known temples in Kerala.
There are many ballads and devotional songs where the deity, ‘Amma,’ the Devi of the temple is extolled as the Great Mother Goddess- parasakthi and as the bestower of all boons on devotees who worship Her with unflinching devotion.
Tacholi Othenan was a great bhaktha (devotee) of the Lokanarkavu Amma.
The deity in this temple, Bhagavathy is worshipped as Saraswathy in the morning, at noon as Durga and as Parvathi in the evening. In many other Durga temples in Kerala and elsewhere, the practice of seeing and worshipping the Mother Goddess with Her various attributes exist.
 Devi is goddess of  learning. She is fearful at times when she is fighting evil. She is the symbol of power, creativity, learning and also of destruction.
Lokanarkavu actually forms part of a complex of temples with shrines of Siva and Vishnu nearby. The Vishnu temple is believed to be 2000 years old. The idol of the deity, Mother Goddess is made of panchaloha (five metals) with four hands, crown on Her head, armed, and with a girdle and an assemblage of ornaments, she looks superbly beautiful, grand and divine. 
One of the raised hands of the Devi proclaims that She is not in need of any gifts from the devotees, and another hand is extended downwards to indicate that the poor people were to be given the help and things they require. This was the inspirational philosophy of all those who belonged to the nobility, the tharwadis also.
The great Malayalam writer Nalangal writing about the idol of Lokanarkavu Amma, in his books, on the temples of Kerala, has mentioned about the resemblance he found between this idol and that of the idol in the Cherthala Bhagavathy temple. Here the backside of the idol is covered with a red silk shawl. It is said that the real idol of the Lokanarkavu Devi is on the other side of the real silk shawl.
Quite close to the Devi temple there are temples for Siva and Vishnu. Inside the Siva temple, is installed Aditya (Surya or the Sun God) facing west.
Outside the sanctum sanctorum both, in the Devi and the Vishnu temples, on the southern side Lord Ganapathy is installed.   Outside the temple under the sacred banyan tree also Ganapathy has an idol.
This temple looks like any other temple in an ordinary village in Kerala. It is located in a place where the residents are few; it is a quiet place.
It is usually on occasions like the Utsavam or Mandalavilakku that the devotees coming from outside and even the people of the locality come to realise about the greatness of the deity who has attracted so many thousands of people to come to this temple.
The temple is below the level of the road. There is a fairly big maidan in front of the temple. In the maidan there is an old banyan tree. Surrounding the temple, there is a wall. The total area of the temple would be about half an acre.The sanctum sanctorum has a roof of copper sheets. The sculptures in the temple and the mural paintings on the temple walls are very beautiful.
The icons of the Navgrahas and the sculptures of the Ashtadikpalakas in the Siva temple are of   high artistic standards. Some pictures in the Siva temple are erotic in nature, yet they are of artistic excellence.
There is a big chira (tank) on the south-western side of the temple.   There are a number of legends about this temple. Such legends go to confirm that this is indeed an ancient temple. One story is that, some 1200 years ago, a branch of the royal family of the Zamorins of Calicut had come here to Vadakara and that they had built a temple for their tutelary deity (Kuladevata)on the southern side of the Sun temple which was in existence there at that time. The princes from Calicut had earlier subdued easily the Kadathanad chiefs and they wanted to impress upon the people about their valour. That was how the Lokanarkavu had its origin.
Another story is that about 1300 years ago, some 500 prosperous North Indian Vysias (men engaged in business activities hereditarily) had migrated to the south, first to Kollam and from there to North Malabar. They are stated to have built the Lokanarkavu temple where they installed the deity they had brought with them from the north.
It is believed from the Kalaris (a technical term for places where the traditional Kerala martial art Kalarippayattu is practised) of Kadathanad the domain of Lokanarkavu Devi, there was the origin of Chinese and Japanese martial arts. Considering that the Chinese had close contacts with the people of Kerala for more than 2000 years,  we can say that Karate and Kungfu were the offsprings of Kalaripayattu.
Certain traditional customs are being observed here during the Onam festival (August-September) and the Vishu (April). Special woven cloth would be taken by the elders in procession and would be offered to the Bhagavathy. Husked coconuts would be dipped in the temple tank and taken around the temple (in pradakshinam) and thrown over the stone in front of the temple and broken on the Onam and Vishu days.
There are two important festivals in this temple every year. They are:
i.. Vilakkutsavam lasting for a month in Vrischikam (November-December), the celebrations on the night of the 16th, 20th, 26th, 27th and the 28th are the highlights of this month-long festival.
ii. Pooram Utsavam - the Kodiyettam (raising or hoisting of the Utsavam flag) is on the Rohini asterism in the month of Meenam (March-April).
On the above occasions and during the Navarathri season, the temple and the nearby areas become an ocean of humanity.
The nearest railway station is at Vadakara at a distance of 5 kms and the nearest bus station is at a distance of 4 kms from the temple.
The temple is situated in Ayanchery Panchayat of Kozhikode District. The greatness of the Lokanarkavu Devi temple was brought to the people all over Kerala by Tacholi Othenan (born in 1585).
He is said to have earned the displeasure of the Goddess in his last days and that resulted in his being betrayed and killed.
To a Westerner, the area around Lokanarkavu would appear like a tournament ground of Ivanhoe-type knights of the Middle Ages. The uniqueness of Lokanarkavu is that it is not only a Kavu or the abode of the Mother Goddess but it has always been regarded as the nurture ground of the brave. Here fear did not exist: Mother Goddess made all her devotees  fight , and die if necessary, for  what is right and virtuous.
If Swami Vivekananda who had opened a new chapter in the history of Hinduism in India and who wanted the Indians to know that  weakness was poison had heard or known about this Devi, he would have exhorted all Indians to worship the Lokarnarkavu matha.
Pilgrims, tourists and students of history who would like to visit the Lokanarkavu Devi temple might camp at Thalassery (22 kms) or Kozhikode (47 kms) where they could have their choice of accommodation. Vadakara is linked by rail to Chennai, Trivandrum, Bangalore and many other places.
Article by : K. P. Menon
Source: Bhavan's Journal 15 May 2009
To know more about Bhavan's Journal and to subscribe visit:


  1. The photo is of a Chatan temple.Here is the photo of the Devi.

  2. Dear Vaidyanathanji,
    Thanks for providing the link to a better photograph of Chatan Temple.