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It is said that "Chaarvaakans" believe only what can be seen. But God has neither shape nor form, and by ordinary mortals, can be seen only through certain media, say by meditating in front of an idol. Though considered an inferior way, this is essential for most people.


The daily rituals in Kerala temples are traditionally performed by Namboothiris, and often by Embranthiri migrants from the neighbouring Karnataka, but not by Tamil Braahmanans. Even among Namboothiris, only certain designated families deserve to become "Thanthris". Thanthris have to perform the incredible task of transferring ("Aavaahanam") the aura ("Chaithanyam") of God and energizing the idol. The techniques employed are described in the "Aagamams".

The first step of a "Yajamaanan" (a person who has prepared himself mentally and financially) to build a temple, is to seek and accept ("Varikkal") an "Aacharyan" (Guru, Thanthri). "Thanthra Samuchayam" (Granthham) identifies an ideal Aachaaryan as one who "is born into a high class Braahmanan family, has peformed all the "Shodasakriyas" (click: "Shodasakriyakal") from "Garbhaadhaanam" to "Agnyaadhaanam", has understood the concepts contained in the Vedams and Aagamams (Braahmacharyam, Gaarhasthhyam, Vaanaprasthham and Samnyaasam), has received blessings and Manthram advice from Gurus and elders, is an expert in performing rites and rituals (Karmams), is capable of receiving spiritual powers through meditation and penance ("Thapas"), and is a believer (in God, of course). Future Aachaaryans of the temple must be descendants of this Guru or Thanthri.

During the evolution and development of Thaanthric philosophy, two kinds of Aachaaryans emerged - the Theoreticians and the Practitioners. While the former developed concepts and prescribed procedures, the latter perfected their performance through strict discipline, leading to the attainment of the expected results. Ancient Thanthris were adept in both aspects.

Granthhams on Thamthram (Treatises)

There have been numerous Granthhams, many of which might have been lost, while most of the surviving ones may be lying unseen and unread in some archive or library. Even the most intelligent scholar cannot, during his entire lifetime¸ learn fully nor even read all the Granthhams on the Thanthram.

The treatises may be divided into three categories - Aagamams (Saivam), Samhithas (Vaishnavam) and Thanthrams (Saaktheyam). Aagamams include Nigamam versions too. The former are Sivan's advice to Parvathy, while Nigamams are spoken by Parvathy to Sivan. Other classifications are regional, like Vishnukraanthaa, Rathhakraanthaa and Aswaakraanthaa, and also like Yaamalams and Daamarams. Usually, all branches of knowledge are dealt with in Thanthra Granthhams.


1. Andalaadi Namboodiripad
2. Animangalam Namboodiri
3. Azhakath Namboodiripad
4. Chennaas Namboodiripad
5. Eekkaatt Namboodiripad
6. Kaambrath Namboodiri
7. Kaattumaadam Namboodiripad
8. Kainikkara Thekkedath Namboodiripad
9. Kainikkara Vadakkedath Namboodiripad
10. Kakkaad Namboodiri
11. Kalloor Namboodiripad
12. Kalppuzha Namboodiripad
13. Kunnathoor Padinjaaredath Bhattathiripad
14. Kuttaalakkaad Namboodiri
15. Kuzhikkaatt Bhattathiripad
16. Manayathaatt Namboodiripad
17. Mattappilli Namboodiri
18. Paaderi Namboodiripad
19. Paathirisseri Namboodiri
20. Pudappoor Namboodiripad
21. Puliyannoor Namboodiripad
22. Sreedharanchumarath Namboodiripad
23. Thaazhamon Potti
24. Tharananelloor Namboodiri
25. Vembiliyath Namboodiripad
26. Vezhapparamb Namboodiripad

NOTE : Given above is a list of Namboothiri families who are practising Thanthram now, in Kerala. A slight difference exists with the list given in the article on" Temples and Temple Rituals".
- Editor

Even treatises written by Keraleeyans are numerous. The most popular among them is the "Thanthra Samuchayam" by Chennas Narayanan Namboodiripad, who was one among the 18 ½ poets (click for "Pathinettara Kavikal") of the Saamoothiri's court. He consolidated and systematized the scattered literature which had then made its learning and practice quite cumbersome. Written in simple style and understandable by the common man, it covers topics like building of temples, consecration of idols, Kalasams, Uthsavams and Praayaschithams.

There have been several commentaries (Vyaakhyaanams) on it, both in Sanskrit and in Malayalam. The treatise describes rituals related to seven gods, Sivan, Vishnu, Durga, Saasthaavu, Subrahmanian, Ganapathy and Sankaranarayanan The Aagamams of these gods have been condensed, as expressed by the author himself, when he stated "Swaagama-saara-samgrahaal".

Two known commentaries in Sanskrit are "Vimarsini" and "Vivaranam". Later, there have been several translations into Malayalam, of which "Kuzhikkaattu Pacha" by Kuzhikkaattu Maheswaran Bhattathiripad (see box) is the most popular. Works such as "Thozhaanooranushtthaanam" and "Parameswaraanushtthaanam" deal with the same topics, also from Kerala.


There are 12 chapters or "Padalams" in Thanthra Samuchayam.


  1. Aachaaryavaranam, Bhoo-pareeksha, Vaasthubali, Nidhikumbha Shadaadhaara Prathshttha, etc.
  2. The whole of this chapter pertains to "Silpasaasthram" (architecture) - Different types of Sreekovil (sanctum sanctorum), Mandapam, Valiyambalam, Chuttambalam, idol construction, "lingam" construction, etc.
  3. Mulayidal, Bimba-parigraham, Jalaadhivaasam, Prasaada-suddhi, etc.
  4. Mandapa-samskaaram, Thorana-prathishttha, Agni-jananam, Shodasakriyas, Jaloddhaaranam, Nethronveelanam, etc.
  5. Deha-suddhi, Dhyaanaadhivaasam, Shadadhvanyaasam, Chakraabja-pooja, etc.
  6. Prathishttha, including Dhwaja-prathishttha
  7. This chapter describes major Poojas.
  8. Kalasams prescribed for different gods, including Sahasrakalasam.
  9. This explains Utsavams.
  10. Praayaschitham is the subject dealt with in this chapter.
  11. Samhaara-thatwa-homam, Jeevakalasa pooja, etc.
  12. To know the directions, Nidhi-kalasaadi, Ishtaka, Garbhapaathram, Prathishtthaastthaanam, etc.
- K P C Narayanan Bhattathiripad

Another popular Thanthra Granttham is the "Sesha Samuchayam", a work of Sankaran Namboodiripad, son of Chennas Narayanan Namboodiripad, and deals with several other gods and goddesses not included in the original. (The commentary "Vimarsini" on his father's work is also by the same author. "Rurujidwidhaanam" discussed in Sesha Samuchayam needs special mention and occupies about half the text. There have been Sanskrit and Malayalam commentaries on Sesha Samuchayam also. A recent one (1977) is a publication by Kalppuzha Divakaran Namboodiripad.

The afore-mentioned two treatises are, of course, the most authentic and popular in Kerala. Yet, some Thanthris follow procedures prescribed in other works such as "Karutha Paara Anushtthaanam", but with only minor and superficial differences.


Sesha Samuchayam describes the divine rituals relating to Brahmaavu, Sooryan, Vaisravanan, Gopalakrishnan, Saraswathy, Sreebhagavathy, Sreeparvathy, Jyeshtthaa-bhagavathy, Bhadrakaali, the Saptha-maathrukkal which has Veerabhadran and Ganapathy combined, and Kshethrapaalan, and in addition, goddess (Devi) Rurujith popularly worshiped in North Kerala.

Such North Kerala temples have Sivan facing east and to its right, in the space for Maathrukkal, Rurujith facing north. In the rectangular sanctum of Rurujith, idols of Saptha-maathrukkal and Veerabhadran-Ganapathy will also have been consecrated. The idols are all full-bodied and made of wood.

- Prof: P C K Nambudiripad

The intensity of the aura (Chaithanyam) in and around the idol is of prime importance. It is natural for the aura to overflow or radiate when idols are consecrated by great Yogis and Rishis. An example is the Guruvayur where the idol is said to have been worshiped by Vasudevar. Such idols are rare in Kerala. The aura of idols in famous temples like Kaasi and Raameswaram overflow and flood not only the temples themselves, but the entire surroundings. The wise men of old insist that it is the Aachaaryan's meditation, chanting of Vedams, Pushpaanjali and Abhishekam with Vedam, the Poojaari's discipline and earnest performance of rites and rituals special festivals like Utsavam, and distribution of food, which irradiates the idol and makes the temple prosper. It is a pity that such temples are becoming rarer in Kerala, as one might expect in this "Kaliyugam".


"Kuzhikkaattu Pacha", authored by Kuzhikkaattu Maheswaran Bhattathiripad, has been acclaimed as one of the main referral texts on rituals in Kerala temples. This book, an interpretation in Malayalam of the Sanskrit text "Thanthra Samuchayam", specifies the ritual procedures like installation of new deities and renovation of temples.

"Pacha" in ancient Malayalam means colloquial or plain style and thus Kuzhikkaattu Pacha refers to the style of temple procedures followed by the famous Thanthri family, Kuzhikkaattu Mana. Many Thanthri families in Kerala follow this authentic text.

The book is believed to have been written in early 1800s as Maheswaran Bhattathiripad left this world in 1004 ME (1829 AD). His works were collected and compiled by D Subbaraya Thanthri of Neeleswaram and later published in 1974 by Panchaangam Pusthakasaala, Kunnamkulam. Since then five more editions of it also got published which shows its popularity. Late Kalpuzha Divakaran Nambudiripad, a doyen in Thaanthric rites and founder of Thanthra Vidyaapeettham (click), has reviewed this book.

- P C Raman Nambudiripad

| Article No:7.4 | Last update of this article:9th August 2004 |
Article by : K P C Narayanan Bhattathiripad, Padinjaredath Mana, Peruvanam, PO : Cherpu - 680 561, Thrissur Dt. Tel: 0487-2343881
With inputs by : Prof: P C K Nambudiripad, Perindiri Chennas, Guruvayur - 680 101 Tel: 0487-2555832 and P C Raman Nambudiripad, (Former Indian Express journalist and the present Thanthri), Perindiri Chennas Mana, Post Eramangalam, Via Ponnani, Malappuram District, Tel: 0494 - 2670365

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