The sacred greens of Kallil Bhagavathi temple in Perumbavoor
Kallil in Malayalam means ‘in stone’. As the name suggests, this is a cave temple and is built of natural rocks and caves in its all grandeur. Situated in Asamannoor village, near Perumbavoor, Ernakulam district, the temple is in a natural cave formed by a gigantic rock about 75 feet in length, 45 feet width and 25 feet height. The position of the rock which forms the roof and the places where it touches the base cave is still unknown and nothing of that sort is seen there except for a few weak man-made walls. So it looks as if the huge boulder is mysteriously suspended in the air.
About the formation of the temple, it is believed that once a man saw a beautiful girl juggling stone during hunting and he was dumbstruck. Seeing him, the girl froze the stone in the air there itself and used the other one as her seat. This formed a cave and the girl disappeared into it. The man sensed a divine presence and built a temple there.
The temple is on a hilltop which can be reached climbing 64 steps, inside a vast forest of 28 acres. It is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. “As it is a protected monument any development project requires the sanction of Archaeology Department,” says K. P. Appu Marar, the Manager of Kallil Pisharoth Devaswom.
Like many other Hindu temples, this was once a Jain temple and it still has many stone-carved idols of Jain Tirthankaras (Parshvanatha, Vardhaman Mahavira and Padmavati Devi). This could have been a place once used by Jain monks for their penance. The temple which dates back to 3rd century BC then got converted to a Hindu temple in 9th century AD. Jains still consider this as one of their main pilgrim sites.
The tranquil temple now has Shiva, Vishnu, Goddess Durga and Srichakra in the main shrine. Brahma is carved on the stone which serves as the roof of the temple. The difference of these idols from other local ones establishes that these were brought from a distance. Also, the idols of Vishnu and Shiva are like Tirtankaras, seated. There are also many other features which keep the temple different from other Hindu temples; like a north-facing Vishnu and even worship of Shiva, Vishnu and Shakti in the same shrine.
It is not just the images of Tirthankaras but there are also numerous other carvings on the rocks around the temple, some of which are believed to be ancient scripts. This attracts historians and archaeologists to the area.
Till recently the rituals in the afternoon were carried out in front of the idol of the Goddess in the ancestral home of Kallil Pisharody family (who owns the temple) because it was dangerous and difficult for the priest to reach the temple at that time through dense forest. This has changed now.
The unique history and other stories
The 7 days festival in the temple starts on the Karthika day of Malayalam month Vrischikam. The procession of the Goddess during the festival is on a female elephant. It is believed that once a tusker was used and the Goddess cursed the animal and turned it into a rock. The rock in the nearby land is still called elephant rock and is believed to be the elephant which was once cursed.
Since it is a cave temple, there is no proper circumambulatory path here. The devotees climb and walk through rocks and complete circumambulation. This adds an adventurous feel to the whole atmosphere.
The older generation here claims that the idol of Goddess is moving to its right to avoid itself covering the Shiva idol. They say that earlier people didn't need to move so much to their left as the idol was a bit more towards left and was easily visible from the front.
The administrative control of the temple was once given to the ‘Chenkottukonam Sree Ramadasashramam' which retrieved back due to the hassle between local people and Ashram authorities. A case had been filed and is still pending in the court. As of now the RDO is in charge and appointed the Asamannoor Village Officer as the receiver of the temple with a 13 member advisory committee.
As a place where history, mystery and myth intertwine itself to form an aesthetic and spiritual atmosphere the temple attracts many visitors. It can also be called as one of the most important relics of Jain tradition in Kerala. A peaceful place, away from the congested and chocking city life beckons its visitors with its calm and serene atmosphere.