There are five classes of temples in Kerala.
There are minor variations in the ceremonial aspects of worship among the three main schools of thought ("Paksham"), though their fundamental concepts are identical. A spiritual relationship ("Aatma Bandham"), akin to that of a father and son, is presumed to exist between the manifest energy or aura ("Chaithanyam") of the main and other lesser deities in a temple and the person (and his heirs) who was instrumental in their glorification through his daily ritualistic worship. There are also some families to whom these qualities and authority were transferred for reasons such as the family becoming extinct with no male lineage.
There are many temples where the "Sraadhham" (annual rituals related to death) of such original Thanthris are performed by the god's representatives. Thaanthric procedures differ slightly among the followers of "Eesaana Gurudeva Padhhathi" (scheme), "Prapanchasaaram", "Thanthra Samuchayam", the "Anushthhaana Padhhathi" of the Tharananalloors and the "Kriyaa Padhhathi" of southern Kerala.
temples ("Mahaa Kshethrangal") will have the "Panchaprasaadams" and "Panchaprakaarams".
1. Sree Kovil
The following is a region-vise list of important Thanthris of Kerala Temples (Incomplete list)
Following consecration ("Prathishttha") of the deities ("Moorthys") in major temples, they should be given all the prescribed "Shodasa Samskaarams". Only those persons who had received such Samskaarams or better are eligible to become the "Poojakans" (priests) there. If "Pooja" is performed by persons who had not received all such Shodasa Samskaarams, then the aura and glory of the deities will be diminished.
The purity and serenity of the designated "Aachaaryan" or Poojakan of the temple is very important. The general process of worship stressing on concept and meaning is discussed elsewhere (click for "Pooja" or Worship). The deity or its aura ("Chaithanyam") is invoked and propitiated with oblations and prayers and later released back to the idol. Apart from the normal daily worship rituals for propitiating the deities, there are many Thaanthrik rituals ("Thaanthrika Kriyaas") aiming at increasing the glory and power of the deities and sometimes for atonement for any fading of such power. The latter includes "Dravya Kalasam", "Ashtabandha Kalasam", and "Naveekarana Kalasam". The annual festival ("Utsavam") rituals include "Prasaada Sudhhi", "Rakshoghna Vaasthu Homam", "Prasaada Raksha", "Chathassudhhi", "Dhaara", "Navakam", "Panchakam", "Panchagavya Kalasam", etc. (theses are "Abhishekams"), "Kotiyettu", "Pallivetta", "Pallikkuruppu", "Aaraattu", "Kotiyirakku", etc. and in between "Sreebhootha Bali" and "Utsava Bali".
The "Saanthi Kriyas" in temples are the daily Pooja rituals for maintaining the glory of the deities and for obtaining the blessings for the devotees. In the morning, the Poojakan first awakens the deity, opens the door, lights the lamps, and performs Abhishekam, Malar Nivedyam, Usha Nivedyam, morning Pooja, Pantheeradi Pooja (when the shadow lengthens to 12 steps), Noon Pooja, Sreebali along with any of the Poojas, Pradosha Pooja (evening Pooja, if normally practiced in that temple), Athaazha (night meals) Pooja, Athaazha Sreebali and Thruppuka. The elaborate Pooja process is performed usually only for the first Pooja of the day, while the later ones are often brief, with either three or one Pooja, or in some temples, just with a "Nivedyam". If even the minimum required Nivedyam is avoided, the glory or power of the deity will be diminished, and its re-introduction will need a "Praayaschitham" (atonement/expiation) to be performed first.
It has been a practice for the Thanthri to decide and declare the normal worship rituals proposed to be performed in a temple even at the time of the consecration ceremony of the deity in that temple. It is said that, next to the spiritual concentration and power ("Thapassakthi") of the Aachaaryan (or Poojakan) and his adherence to the daily Vedic rituals, it is the strict performance of all the rituals so prescribed by the Thanthri, which helps to maintain the power of the deity; it is even said to increase the power and glory.
by : Adv. B. Agnisarman Namboodiri, Athrassery Mana, Thrikkalathur
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Further Reading : "Kshethraachaarangalum Vrathaanushtthaanangalum" (Malayalam) by K P C Anujan Bhattathiripad
Published by : Jwalamukhi Publications, Mannuthy - 680 655, Thrissur Dt.