Author: Tirur Dinesh, English version by Anjali George
Thirunavaya Thali temple in Malappuram district is one of the 108 Shivalayas installed by Sage Parashurama in Kerala. In the Shivalaya stotra, one can see
“…… Shringapuram Kottoor Mammiyur Parambunthala Thirunavaya Karikkattu Thenmala…”
The 108 Shivalayas installed by Parashurama are very auspicious for Hindus. If we go for a pilgrimage through these temples, we cannot find Thirunavaya Thali Shiva temple. Local people have no idea about such a temple because there is no Shiva temple in Thirunavaya Panchayat. Google search shows Shiva temple in Thavanur panchayat from south of Thirunavaya being posted as Thirunavaya Shiva temple. It is wrong to show Thavanur Shiva temple as Thirunavaya Shiva temple.
Then where is Thirunavaya Shiva temple?
Search for an answer to this question will take us to a Thara (a raised platform) in Kodakkal junction in the Thirunavaya Panchayat. It is a beautifully built rectangular platform. An ancient well can also be seen in this platform along with a non-dated granite layer on which lies a carved round pedestal. Such pedestals are seen in Mahakshetras (Great temples). We can see a Signboard installed by the government which says, ‘Nilapadu Thara’. The Kerala State Tourism department took over this site and opened for tourists!! And according to the Kerala state government, this is the platform (nilapadu thara) on which the Samuthiri used to stand during the famous Mamankam festival.
How could ancient well come on the ‘Nilapadu Thara’? Inquiry about the reason for the presence of ruins of an ancient temple on the Nilapadu thara unfolded the truth.
Thali Shiva temple installed by Sage Parashurama used to be here. This is Thirunavaya Thali Shiva temple. It has been a century since this temple has been demolished and left to be forgotten. Although Shivalinga and the Pedestal were excavated in 2003, it has been again secretly buried underground. The burial of the ancient Thali temple in Thirunavaya did not pain any Hindus. Those who want to react against are in fear. They maintained silence on the face of this atrocity to protect secularism.
Thali is a hilly area almost a kilometre westwards from the Thirunavaya Nava Mukunda temple, another famous temple in Kerala. The name of the land under the Thirunavaya re Survey No: 316/2 B is also Thali. The area of the property including that in this survey number is 46.18 acre. As per historical records the ancient Thali yogam (also known as Kalakkam) used to be conducted in Thirunavaya Thali.
The mention of Thali temple is found in the ancient history of Kerala, the glimpses are as below.
First Perumal in Kerala was elected at Thali temple according to the historical records. Thirunavaya Magha maka (mamangam) festival is an ancient Festival of Bharatapuzha which has been conducted every three years in ancient times and later twelfth year. According to tradition the 28 days till Makam in the month of Magha all holy rivers including river Ganga will be present in the river Nila (Bharatapuzha). It is believed to be auspicious to take a dip in the river Nila during these days. People from distant places used to throng in the Trimurti Sangam here. This festival of Bharatapuzha was celebrated with equal fervour as the Kumbhmela in north India.
Since Perumals came to power bearing the authority of the Protector of Kerala (Rakshapurusha), the Perumal preceded to Thirunavaya for every Mamangam. ‘Nilapad nilkkal’ was a custom in the festival in which king raise his sword climbing up on an elevated platform which has been built temporarily on the Westside of the Navamukunda temple. Last Cheraman Perumal was Rama Varma of Kochi. He abdicated his power and lived as a sanyasi assuming the name Sundara Murthy Swamikal until attained samadhi.
Valluvakonathiri used to conduct Thirunavay Mamangam after Cheraman Ramavarma. Krishna Iyer records that he might have been holding Mamangam for a century till AD 1101. Later the Samuthiri of Kozhikkode seized the right to conduct the most prestigious cultural festival of south India. A troop led by a Namboothiri of Panniyur village killed the Valluvakonathiri and captured the Mamangam rights.
Samuthiri who captured the right to conduct Mamangam and stand at Nilapadu used to stay at Thali in Thirunavaya during the Mamanga days of the month of Magha. A temporary special Kovilakam (palace) used to be built during the destival. It was known as Vakayur Kovilakam. Before standing at Nilapadu, the parade of the Samuthiri and his troops used to leave Vakayur Kovilakam and take a dip in Bharatapuzha.
However the great Tirunavaya Tali Siva temple, associated with rich tradition and history of Kerala was demolished by Tipu Sultan during his invasion of Kerala. Infact Mysore troop also had aimed at demolishing all the icons representing Samuthiri and the Hindu religious traditions.
After the Mappilas and the Tipu Sultans army ravaged Thirunavaya Panchayat, the Shiva temple was left abandoned with weeds growing on it. Whatever was left after destruction by Muslim invaders, it was the time for Christian missionaries to damage the rest.
During the times of British rule of North Kerala called Malabar, Basel German Evangelical Mission reached Thirunavaya for Proselytation. At that time people belonging to the Nayadi community used to live in this area. Missionaries assigned Herman Gundert to convert them into Christianity. He was surprised to see the poor living conditions of the Nayadis and hesitated to baptise them. He wrote to the Society;
“We have baptised Nambuthiris, Nairs etc. before. If we convert the Nayadis here and make them Christians, those sections I mentioned earlier may not sit with them even for eating food. Hence, I retreat from this task.”
This is detailed in the diary of Gundert.
After Gundert, another missionary named Michae Fritz was appointed to complete the mission. Collector Henry Canoli facilitated the process by stationing at Ponnani, another major Hindu town in Malappuram district. The plan was to establish a Tile factory. They chose the land of the Thali Temple destroyed by Tipu Sultan.
The missionaries made documents showing Azhvanchei Thamprakkal giving the property for a lease of 99 years and constructed a Tile factory over the temple. This came to be known as Kodakkal TIle factory. The area around the Thali temple has also been known as Kodakkal. Nayadis who change their religion were promised land, job and house. Lot of Nayadis converted and became Christians. A group of Nayadis who refused to baptise crossed the Bharathapuzha and settled in Ponnani. People from the present day colony named as Nayadi colony are the heirs of those who declined to change their religion.
Thali Shiva temple then remained underground for more than a century. Later, an industrialist from Coimbatore, Subbaiah Chettiyar bought the Tile factory and associated property. Legally, the leased property should not be sold and must have been attached by the government. After Subbaiah Chettiyar passed away, his son S P Palaniyappan took care of the factory. Meanwhile, this property got involved in C:R: No 141/73 case. Palaniappan sold the land pieces to many people.
Tile factory was sold to a person from Pattambi. Registration department remained silent. The government went one step ahead and acquired the southern portion of the Thali land for KSEB (Kerala State Electricity Board), Thus strengthening the Land mafia, The government paid money and bought the property which should have been taken back to the government.
The person from Pattambi sold the Tile factory and the property to a Muslim, who later demolished the tile factory. A sawmill came into being on that part. Also, started to keep slaughter animals.
Meanwhile, the District Collector as per letter number FIn – 2/30 500/2003 asked the Archaeology department to find out the memorials of Mamangam in 2003. On 2003 September 13 the Archaeology department with the help of Revenue officials did some inspections in Thirunavaya. Excavations in the Tile factory premises revealed the remains of the Thali temple.
Shivalinga and the Pedestal were buried there itself due to external pressure. Listening to random opinion and without checking any documents, the archaeology department acquired 7.25 cent by recording this place as where Nilapadu thara was situated in. Tourism department placed a board showing ‘Nilapadu Thara’. By this action, the archaeology department provided an opportunity for the land mafia to handle the property of Thali temple.
The verdict on the ceiling case involving Thali land was out on 7th March 2017. The whole area was declared as surplus land . Deeds and titles were cancelled. Although the Land Board chairman T V Subhash ordered the government to take over the surplus land within 15 days no action has been taken so far. Two people who have possession of the property have approached the High court against the Land Board verdict. No evidence has been presented before the Land Board or the High court regarding the truth of this land being Thirunavaya Thali.
Siva temple consecrated by Parashurama is still lying buried deep under the soil along with the Sivalinga. It is only a matter of time before the temple rise again from its ruins and the Sivalinga gets its due worship.
Several temples in Malabar still stand as testimony to the atrocities committed by Tipu Sultan in Kerala. We are documenting all such Hindu temples which were destroyed by Tipu Sultan and during subsequent Moplah riots in Kerala. #ReclaimTemples volunteers and researchers are visiting these sites and collecting all information available. The research articles will be published on www.reclaimtemples.com website and later will be published as a reference book.
You can contribute to the project via www.instamojo.com/@ReclaimTemples
NB: Bharath KshethraBhumi Samrakshana Vedhi, a registered organisation in Kerala is leading the efforts to recover the land belonging to Hindu temples from the encroachers. Some of the photos used in this articles are taken during the visit of their office bearers to Tali Siva temple site in Malappuram .