The Indian Census Organisation is generally well known to both the national and international community of social scientists as one, which collects, processes and disseminates tabulated data on population characteristics through the decennial population censuses. However, one of the strong pillars on which the organisation has built up its reputation in the field of social sciences are the inter-censal studies undertaken on a variety of subjects which touch the life of the people, reflecting the culture and the organisation of the Indian society. Whereas the pro-independent censuses were predisposed for their in depth investigation into the social and anthropological characteristics of the Indian population, the post independent censuses have attempted to undertake studies on more diverse socio-culture topics. Far example, the monographs on the Fairs and Festivals of India, Village and Town studies have contributed to a better understanding of the social fabric of the Indian society. The current study ‘Temples of Palakkad District’ is a similar effort and forms an integral part of the ‘Temples of Kerala’ study already completed by the Organisation. Shri S. Jayashanker, who retired after a very distinguished innings as Deputy Director of Census Operations, Kerala, has authored the present volume. His devotion, commitment and dedication reinforce and add to the great census tradition of bringing out unique monographs on subjects of topical interest through special studies, The present work reflects the painstaking efforts of Shri Jayashanker has single handedly undertaken over the past several years (post retirement) in data collection and providing a vivid description on the temples of the region. The earlier volume “Temples of Kerala” has been received with much admiration and some sense of surprise as to how the Census Organisation continues to churn out such scholarly, fascinating and comprehensive volumes.
Temples have been the life line of an important and significant segment of the Indian society from times immemorial and in a way not only reflect the religious feelings of the community but also depict it graphically in an outstanding architectural form. The present set of volume enumerates and describes at length in text form the ‘Temples of Palakkad District’. This obviously was a Herculean effort but has been carried out meticulously by the author with a great sense of devotion and commitment. The photographs, diagrams, maps, glossary and transliteration provide rich background and reference material and considerably enhance the value of the publication the common reader and the distinguished one as well, I am confident that this rich collection which in a sense remained largely unknown till date, will invoke a great sense of satisfaction and admiration both by the discriminating mind and those who have Interest in study of the Indian culture and the temple architecture. This effort, therefore, should further enrich the existing literature in the domain of social sciences and make the temples of Kerala well known to the world.
The chief glory of Palakkad district is the long and continuous array of the majestic Sahyadri (Western Ghats) with a sole break of 30 km. There are two famous valleys of great importance in this mountainous range, the Silent Valley Biosphere and the Attappadi Valley, both helping a visitor to enjoy the serene, flawless, inimitable and impersonal beauty of nature. The unique Palakkad Gap has paved the way for shaping the destiny of the district by allowing the general powers of Vijayanagar, Chalukya, Rashtrakuta, Chera, Chola etc. to enter Kerala through this Gap in early centuries and Mysorean rulers in later centuries. The district is greatly influenced by the synthesis of cultures of Kerala and Tamilakam by adopting their traditional rituals and practices. It is of historical importance that the district has in it the oldest temple of Kerala, Sree Varahamoortty temple at Panniyoor, which dates back to 700 B.C. There is also a wide spectrum of deities belonging to Saivite, Vaishnavite and Sakti mode of worship. The spectacular and attractive festivals in the temples of the district provide an opportunity to the people to witness almost all the folk art forms prevalent in the region. The monograph is a treasure as it brings out the details of about two thousand temples of the district at the beginning of the twenty first century.
The monograph on Temples of Kerala which was published earlier covered the general aspects on temples in Kerala like history of temples over the last two thousand years. e of worship, architectural features, iconography of idols, deva-prasam, temple ‘—rites priesthood, temple, customs, offerings, temple administration, ritualistic and —performing, arts, carvings and paintings etc. This volume, the sixth In the series of district c. is an addendum to the monograph on Temples of Kerala and It attempts to cover an account of the temples of Pãlakkãd (Pãlakkãt) district.
The background of taking up this exhaustive study needs little elaboration. The C-s Organization of India undertook a study on Temples of Madras State as an ancillary study of the 1961 census. This study evoked keen interest among scholars, the Government and statutory bodies of Kerala etc. Late Sree R. Vasudëva Poduvãl a renowned Atibo1ogIst, requested the Registrar General, India (late Sree A. Chandrasëkha) as early 1969 to launch a study on temples of Kerala similar to the one that was conducted In Madras state and the latter readily agreed to this suggestion. But the study could not be taken up due to heavy pressure of work in connection with the 1971 census. In 1973, me Travancore Dëvaswam Board also came up with a similar request but the backlog of census work of 1971 census stood in the way in launching the study. In 1979 the Advisor to the Government of Kerala on Temples and Traditional Arts again requested the director of Census Operations to commence the study. But again some unforeseen circumstances prevented the organization from taking up the study. However, In May 1990, the Government of Kerala again requested the Census Directorate to take up a detailed survey on Temples of Kërala and the Registrar General (Sree A.R. Nanda I.A.S.) directed to commence the survey In June 1991.
For canvassing the data a schedule was designed in consultation with tantris, silpis etc., besides incorporating the valuable suggestions given by Sree A.R. Nanda, I.A.S. (former Registrar General, India), late Dr. K. P. Ittaman (former Deputy Registrar General, india) and late Sree K.C. Nãrãyana Kurup (former Deputy Director of Census Operations, Madras). The schedules were printed in September 1991 and the, work commenced.
Originally it was decided to collect data of temples by mailing the schedules to temple authorities of statutory bodies and collecting details by deputing trained field staff to temples exclusively managed by private individuals and institutions. But this procedure did not work well as the response from the statutory bodies was found defective as the filled-in schedules had both content and coverage errors. Therefore in March 1992 it was decided to engage a small team of trained staff (of the Directorate of Census Operations, Kerala) for the field-study. The survey covered all temples which are open to public, irrespective of whether they are owned by statutory bodies, private institutions, families or Individuals.
The procedure for the collection of data for the survey deserves special mention. The staff deputed for this study was directed to visit all panchaayatts, village offices and note down the names and location of all temples. They were then directed to visit all such temples located In every nook and corner of the panchaayatt, some of which situated even in dense forests and in areas Inaccessible by roads, apart from making local enquiries on any possible omissions. These visits and enquiries helped them to prepare a Directory (presented as Section 3) of all temples open to public and collect data regarding the name, location, principal deity, antiquity, structural type of main sreekovil, time of worship and poojas, utsavam/festival besides details on ownership/management.
Further based on certain criteria i.e., all the temples having swayambhoo (self- revealed) idols and other important temples depending on number of prãkãras, architectural excellence, number of poojas, antiquity and number of worshippers were selected for detailed study. It may be said that great care has been taken to include almost all Important temples based on these criteria and the data so collected through a separate detailed schedule are presented in Section 2 (Salient features of important temples) of this monograph. This does not mean that other temples are unimportant. But the more prominent ones based on the above mentioned specified criteria were given due weight age. Section 1 gives an overall review and analysis on temples of Palakkad district with a backdrop on geographical setting, historical and other aspects.
It is worthwhile to mention here the limitations of the data. The informants, mainly temple authorities, were generally co-operative. However, some of them were reluctant to provide details fearing that their private temples might be taken over by the Government and they took the stand that those temples were exclusively used by family members and not open to public. On the other hand some Insisted on having their temples enumerated hoping to get some financial assistance for their family temples at a later stage. Another difficulty encountered by the field staff was that very often they had to go to the same temple several times to collect details as the temples were kept open only for specified hours (either morning or noon or evening) or on specified days besides non-availability of reliable Informants. Similarly it was difficult to verify the claim of informants on the data of antiquity and myths associated with those temples. In spite of these limitations every effort was made to collect detailed data as one could.
The field-survey of Pãlakkãd district was done at different periods during 1992-97 and, therefore, subsequent changes on structures, idols etc. have not been incorporated in this monograph except in few cases where re-visits were done. The data thus collected through the field-survey is published in this monograph. The earlier proposed title of the monograph, i.e., Temple Directory (mentioned in the first monograph - Temples of Kerala), had to be changed in the District monographs consequent on the introduction of a section dealing with the General background of temples of the district. Thus this volume has three sections viz. Section 1: General Background, Section 2: Salient features on important’ temples and Section3: Temple Directory (which covers list of all temples m the district).
The field survey was initially monitored by Sree K. Sivaramakrishna Iyer (former Assistant Director of Census Operations). The field staff Included Sarvasree R. Chandrachoodan, M. Chandraëkharan, MR. Sukumaran Nair, Thampi N. Suresh, G. Sivadãsan and R. Mãdhavan Nair of the Census Directorate and Sree M. Narãyanan kutty who was taken on deputation to the Census Directorate. The tireless team work of the field staff is highly commendable. The wholehearted dedication in spite of several odds of travelling through difficult terrain on foot withstanding the onslaughts of climate deserves special mention. At the time of writing this volume I had to again utilize the services of Sree G. Sivadãsan, Statistical Investigator of the Census Directorate. I take this opportunity to record my great appreciation for his invaluable contribution.
I am ever grateful to all those temple authorities and the informants who willingly furnished data to the field staff. But for their contributions the report would not have been brought to light.
The major task of, translation of data of the Temple Directory (Section 3) into English and presenting It in the final format was done painstakingly and with great dedication by Sree K. Sivarãmakrishna Iyer, former Assistant Director of Census Operations. The entire credit of this well presented basic data goes to him. I do not know how to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude to his dedicated services.
The general background (Section 1) and salient features on important temples (Section 2) and other items like Glossary, Annexure etc. were written by the author himself by utilizing the field-data, besides many published and unpublished reports. The brunt of the work of reading the proof and giving valuable suggestions were gladly and conscientiously undertaken by my wife Prof. A. Anandam. I have no words to thank her.
It is my pleasant duty to acknowledge the co-operation extended to me by officers and staff of the Census Directorate. In the initial stages I got full encouragement from late Sree N.M. Samuel, I.A.S., Director of Census Operations, Kerala. Mrs. Sheela Thomas, LAS who succeeded him as Director of Census Operations was indeed very helpful in the continuation of the project and the bringing of this monograph to light. I am greatly indebted to both of them. My earlier colleagues in the Census Directorate also greatly helped me in bringing out this monograph. However I would like to mention my sincere appreciation and special thanks to V. Thulasëdharan, Senior Draftsman, who has meticulously drawn the rough maps of taluks and in designing plates of photographs in this monograph.
The keying of data, lay-out of pages and preparing camera-ready copy of this volume were conscientiously done by Sree G.S. Sudheer Kumãr ‘as a love for labour. I am deeply impressed by his stupendous work and place on record my profound thanks to him. The photographs on the temples of the district were taken by Sree Santosh, Channãnkara, Still Photographer. I express my appreciation and thanks to him.
Now it is my pleasant duty to thank the officers and staff of the office of the Registrar General, India, particularly Mr. B. Malilk (Joint Registrar General / Joint Secretary), Dr. R.P. Singh (Deputy Registrar General, Map Division) and Mr. C. Chakravorty (Joint Director), Mr. Bal Krishan (Deputy Director) and the Printing Section for their great help in bringing out this volume.
It is my great privilege to acknowledge my unfailing obligations I owe to Dr. M. Vijayanunni, I.A.S., former Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India, who had always guided me by giving his valuable advice and helped me a lot by his timely interventions at a critical juncture when the project was about to be shelved. His involvement and vision have paved the way in completing the field work and publication of earlier three monographs viz. Temples of Kerala, Temples of Kasaragöd district and Temples of Kanoor district) on this subject well in time. I am ever grateful to him for laying the foundation for this project which brings out the cultural heritage of Kërala.
Shri Jayant Kumar Banthia, I.A.S., the Registrar General, India, was very generous, extremely considerate and greatly helpful to solve many problems associated with the printing and release of the three District monographs (Temples of Wayanad district, Temples Kozhikkode district and Temples of Malappuram district). I am particularly grateful to him for providing a valuable Foreword for this monograph. I am sure that this monograph will indeed be useful for the posterity. On behalf of the future users of these monographs I express my deep gratitude to him.
While writing this volume I have experienced the Divine Grace of the Almighty and boundless blessings of Gurus and I have no words to express my deep feelings. I humbly pray for their continued benediction.
The views expressed in this monograph are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Government of India.
The author is happy if the monograph can be of some use as a background document on the subject for administrators, devotees and the general public.
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