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History of Cochin Thirumala  Devaswom  temple
By Mr.N.Purushothama Mallaya
( Courtesy: Venkatavani )

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Sri VENKATESWARA, the chief pre­siding deity of the Cochin Thirumala Devaswom Temple, who is also known. by the other popular name  Gosripurastha Thirumala Devar is one held in greatest veneration by all classes of Hindus, though the temple is a Socio‑religious institution of the Gowda Saraswath Brahmins of Goan origin living' in, all parts of Kerala.

Gowda Saraswath Brahmins.are known locally as 'Konkanies' since their forefathers came and settled down in Cochin during 1560 A.D. from Goa, the Southern most part of Korikandesh due to the fear of the then mass conversion policy adopted by the Portuguese there. They are Vishnavites by faith following the 'Madhva creed'. They are known as 'Sasastikars' which means that they belong to Sasasti, that is, the present Salcete district of Goa. They obtained a grant from His High­ness the Raja of Cochin to establish themselves at Cochin, on a spot, marked and alloted for the p urpose to build a Pagoda.

The image of Lord Venkateswara in­stalled in the Cochin Thirumala Devaswom Temple according to legend originally be­longed to the Vijayanagar Ruler by name Saluva Narasimha Raya who had usurped the throne in 1472 A.D. He was a great devotee of   Venkateswara of Thirumalai Hills, and fre­quently visited Him for worship. But when he became physically incapable of visiting Him, one night a vision appeared before the King in his dream and told him that he need not take   the trouble of visiting Him, and that he would Himself go over to his c4pit‑al city. The King. was further told that a sculptor would call on him for casting an Image, that he (the King) should provide him with all the materials necessary and that the image he would make would be the image of the Lord of Thirumalai Hills. The King was highly pleased.

True to the dream, a sculptor appeared, before the King and after getting the materials required for making, the Image, went into a room and ‑shut himself up. As the sculptor did not come out even after a reasonably long pe­riod of time, the King had the room broken open, when to his amazement he saw in the room a resplendent, image of the Lord of the Seven Hills! The King guessed that the sculp­tor was none other than Visvakarina himself. Hence the Image came to be known as "SWAYAMB.00", not made by men.

       Soon after, the King had temple built for the installation of the Image. But before the installation ceremony the Lord appeared before the King in his dream another night and gave him definite instructions as to the auspicious time at which the installation should take place; that it should take place. at a signal given by the beating of Dundubhi (Drum). But as fate would have it, Just at the time of the signal expected to be heard, some crows happened to fly over the Dundubhi with twigs in their beaks, and the twigs accidentally dropped down on.the Dundubhi, producing a sound which was mistaken for the signal indicated by the Lord, and the installation took place at once, which was later on found. to be at inauspicious time. Only when the King heard the real drum beat did he realise his mistake. The grief-stricken King retired to bed, but the Lord paci­fied him in his dream saying that he would al­ways remain with him till his death. The Lord added that it was at His will that the installa­tion took place at an inauspicious time, for it was His wish to leave the city for Gosripura, that is Cochin, later.

After the death of the King, a great fire occurred in the temple when the Image was thrown by the priest into a dilapidated well (in Konkani called Cheppe Bhayl) nearby. Swami VijayeendraThirtha of Kumbakonam Mutt of Madhwacharya lineage while on tour visiting pilgrim centres made a halt nearby the dilapidated well where the image of Lord Venkateswara was lying. At the time of the conclusion of 'Sandhya Vandana' by the Swamiji, a Serpent with raised hood appeared in front of the Swami showing the sign to follow the Serpent. Swami followed the serpent. After crawling a small distance the ser­pent went down in the dilapidated well and dis­appeared. Swamiji looked down at the bottom of the dilapidated well where the Serpent crawled down. To his surprise, Swamiji saw the Image of Venkateswara lying at the bot­tom of the well. Swamiji descended at the bot­tom of the well and took the image in his hands and ascended upwards from the well and went back to the place where Sandhya Vandhana was performed. Swamiji performed Pooja to the image and after the Poo)a performance, Swamiji continued his journey. He made his camp nearby the village. At night Swamiji had a dream and the Lord in the dream directed

            Swamiji to go over Gosripura, that is Cochin, where the Lord wished that His Image should be installed permanently. As directed by the Lord in the dream, Swamiji came over to Cochin. He was received by Mala Pai, the leader of the Cochin Mahajanams. He expressed his desire to Swaimiji that the Image of Venkateswara should be handed over to him for worship by the Mahajanams. Swamiji fullfilled the desire of Mala Pai by getting the Image given Abhishek (bath) in gold coins. Later, a temple was constructed for the Lord and Swami Sudheendra Thirtha, the immediate successor of Swami Vijayeendra Tirtha of Kumbakonam Mutt performed the first prathista of Lord Venkateswara at Cochin in the year 1599 A.D. in the Lunar month of Chaithra on Pournami day when the moon was in conjuction with Chitra star. To commemorate the First Prathilsta, a 8 day festival called 'Arat' was introduced in the temple which continues even today.

The temple was destroyed on 2nd March 1662 by the Portuguese. The houses of Konkanies were plundered and markets looted and the community fled with the Image of Venkateswara to Udayamperur nearby Tripunithura for safety. They remained there for nearly 10 months. The Dutch who came over Cochin defeated the Portuguese in a war on 6th January 1663.and established their rule at Fort premises of Cochin. The community came down to Cochin with the image and re­established their settlement in Cochin with the help of the Dutch. A new temple for the Lord was constructed and the second Prathista of the Image of Lord Venkateswara was per­formed by Swami Devendra Tirtha of Sri Kashi Mutt along with his disciple Swami  Madhavendra Tirtha in the year 1719 A.D.

Continued Page-2

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