Keraleswaram aka Veera Keralapuram, is near Thuckalai (Thuckalay) now in Kanyakumari district of Tamilnadu. Originally part of Travancore, was transferred to Tamilnadu after the linguistic reorganization of states of Kerala and Tamilnadu. Keralapuram is also a home to an ancient temple devoted to Lord Siva. This is a region with several places of historic and religious significance. The name, Keraleswaram it is believed to be derived from Veera Kerala Varma, a legendary king who belonged to the Chera dynasty.
About the temple
This extremely powerful and one of its kind, rare temple of Lord Ganesha is said to have existed in Keralapuram for many centuries in Keralapuram. Locally known as “Atisaya / Adisiya Vinayagar Kovil’ which literally translates to ‘Miracle Ganesha Temple’ is said to attract devotees from far away places. The first glance of the temple will speak of neighboring state (Kerala’s) influence. There are no exuberant temple towers (Gopuram) that we usually find in other Tamil Nadu Temples. If not for the huge devotee following and a temple name plate, one cannot even recognize that this is the famous ancient temple. It is believed that the temple was built in 1317. The idols were established long before the temple was built!
Though its primarily a Shiva temple, one can clearly see the Vishnava’s influence in this temple. Those days Vishnava’s were dominant in this area hence it reflects throughout the temple. This temple was renovated many times over the centuries and this information is available in the temples scriptures. There are beautiful paintings drawn on the walls inside the temple.
Inside the temple complex
Once you approach the temple, you can find a huge yard with deep-rooted trees, a small dome and a sculpture of lord Shiva and Parvathi on it. It’s relatively very different kind of temple from the normal exquisitely carved Tamilnadu temples. You will also find a whole lot of snake idols, and each idol has a unique face to it and the whole place echoes simplicity!
Now that you are inside the temple premises you will see two temples inside the complex one belongs to Lord Shiva , locally known as Mahadevar while the second one belongs to Lord Ganesha, locally known as Vinayagar. As you pass by you will see a huge tree under which is a snake carved out of granite stone, I do not know what is the story behind this but, one can normally see a huge crowd of villagers offering their prayers here for astrological reasons.
Walking further from this place we head towards our destination = Adisiya Vinayakar Temple. This temple has a long passage and walls are adorned with magnificent paintings. The sacred sanctum has an iron grid sliding door. The sacred sanctum is not an enclosed chamber like the regular temples instead Ganesha is placed outside – under the huge banyan tree.
About the Idol.
Lord Vinayagar’s idol changes its color once in every six months into black and white. During Utharayana (March-June), the idol is black in color, and in Dakshiyana (July-Feb) idol turns to white. Hence this temple came to be known as ‘’Miracle Ganesh Temple. This idol is believed to be originally from Rameswaram and the king got it from the sea. Another legend says that this is the idol worshipped by Ravana himself, later reaching the Indian shores. The colour that changes from black to brown and white, then back.
Mythological story behind the idol
The Shaiva ruler of Keralapuram decides to go on a pilgrimage to Rameshwaram, which is a a famous temple dedicated to Lord Shiva – facing Bay of Bengal. While the king and his men were washing their feet at the Rameshwaram beach, A Ganesh idol is said to have washed over the shores. This idol is then gifted to Sethu Mannan, the Ruler of Rameshwaram by the Keralapuram King.
Upon receiving the Ganesha idol, Sethu Mannan was overwhelmed by the love and affection due to the gesture shown by the Keralapuram King. However he decides to returns the gift back since he firmly believed that the true owner should be the one who found the idol. He feels that their is divine play in work because of which the Keralapuram King was chosen to find the idol at the first place , so firmly makes a decision that handing over it back its the right thing to do. Along with the found idol, the Rameshwaram King gifts another huge emerald Idol to the Keralapuram King as a token of affection. However, the Mogul rulers later looted the emerald idol during their invasion.
They tried to loot the found idol of Ganesha too, but they could not move the idol. The idol was miraculously struck to the ground. So without much choice they left the idol behind. Though, the temple was built around the 12th century, the idol of Ganesha here are dated older than the temple. According to the temple priest, the idol is at least 2,300 years old! It is also noteworthy that this idol was not installed according to the agamana shastra; it is simply kept on the elevated platform.
Miracles of the Atisaya Vinayagar Kovil
It is believed that those who are looking for their soul mates or married couple wishing to have kids throng this temple. By breaking coconuts, and offering rice dumplings (Modak) to Ganesha, the devotees wishes will come true. Devotees reach this temple from far away places just to see the color change of the idol. There is another miracle associated with this temple. There is a well that is located inside the temple complex and the color of the water in this well too changes every six months. When the idol is white in color, the water changes to black and vice versa! Another noteworthy feature of this temple is the key temple tree (Sthala Vruksham) . The Banyan tree (Stala Vruksham) leaves starts to fall during dakshiyana, and new leaves starts to sprout from march. This is not a typical behavior of a Banyan tree and also the tropical states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu do not have a ‘’fall season’’.