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Vilwamangalam Swaamiyaar

Vilwamangalam Namboodiri (Swaamiyaar) was so great a believer in God that he was said to possess the ability to actually "see" gods. He was instrumental in setting up several famous temples in Kerala such as Thiruvananthapuram, Thiruvaarppu, and Cherthala Kaarthiaayani.

God's Visitations ("Seeing Gods")

Once on a Vrischikam Kaarthika (Kaarthika star of the Malayalam month Vrischikam) day, {click here for "Malayalam Months" and "The 27 Stars" in the article, "Vaaram, Thrisanddha, Othoottu and Panchasanddha") when he went to Vadakkunnaathha temple in Thrissur, the deity was "missing", but on his stepping out, he found the god sitting on the south wall facing south, apparently waiting to watch Kumaaranalloor Kaarthiaayani's arrival after her bath and fully attired. Ever since, every year a Pooja {click here for Pooja or worship) is performed on the south wall on the Kaarthika of Vrischikam.

On an Ashtami day (one of the 15 Thithhis - 8th day) (click here for Thithhis in Anadhhyaaya Dinangal), he visited Vaikom temple but could not find the deity in the sanctorum, but when he carefully searched, the lord was found disguised as an old Braahmanan sitting and eating among a crowd of Braahmanans enjoying a Sadya (feast), next to a pillar in the north "Chuttambalam". Since then, during every feast in the temple, a plantain leaf is placed near that pillar with all dishes of the feast served.

During an "Utsavam" (temple festival) day in Ambalappuzha temple, Swaamiyaar found the missing god serving feast to the "Maaraars" (traditional temple drummers) in the "Naatakasaala" (drama hall). Even to this day, the Naatakasaala feast for Maaraars is given much importance owing to the supposed divine presence.

On one of his sojourns, while approaching a forest area near Cherthala, the Swaamiyaar came face to face with seven divine women (angels). On approaching them, one ran away but fell into a very muddy part of a pond. When he extricated her, her hair was full of mud, and that was the reason for the place to get the name "Cherthala", and the deity Cherthala Kaarthiaayani.

If these legends are to be believed, there must have been more than one Vilwamangalam Swaamiyaar, since historically these events must have occurred in different periods. Ulloor S Parameswara Iyer (the famous poet) believes that there were at least three Swaamiyaars.

"Sreekrishna Karnaamritham"

Vilwamangalam Swaamiyaar had a local "Ambalavaasi" for wife ("Sambandhham") whom he loved dearly. He would visit his wife across the river every night, whatever be the obstacles. On a very stormy night, he took off with a torch ("Choottu", lighted bunched palm leaves) and somehow managed to cross the river using what appeared to be a log with a rope at one end. After crossing the river, he tied the log to a tree using the rope. Hearing about the trouble he had taken to visit her every night, she told him that he would have obtained "Moksham" or "Saayoojyam" (salvation), had he diverted all that energy and single-mindedness to pray to (please) God.

These words of his wife really shook him and there was a revelation in him, which led him to create his devotional masterpiece, "Sreekrishna Karnaamritham", which he wrote under an assumed name "Leelaasukan". Next morning he left his wife telling her that she was henceforth his mother and teacher. At the river-bank he found that the log he had used the previous night was actually the dead body of a man, and the rope, a dead python. After reaching home and taking bath, he arranged for "Punyaaham" {click here) to be performed on him, and soon thereafter he sought "Samnyaasam" and became the well-known "Vilwamangalath Swaamiyaar". His mother was Neeli and father Damodaran.


After making his presence before the Swaamiyaar, Lord Sreekrishnan used to take the form of a boy and tease him during "Thevaaran" ("Sandhyaa-Vandanam" and other daily rites). One day when the boy became too naughty, Swaamiyaar pushed him away with the back of his palm and scolded him. The lord was a bit offended and disappeared saying that if he wished to see him again, he will be at "Ananthankaad".

Disturbed by this, Swaamiyaar started searching far and wide and finally found him in "Ananthasayanam" pose with "Bhoolakshmis" near his head and feet. The "Bhagavaan" (Lord) was happy to see him and said he was hungry. Whereupon the Swaamiyaar gathered some tender fallen mangos, crushed them with a stone and served in a coconut shell, and the Lord was happy.

When the Swaamiyaar told the Travancore Mahaaraaja that he had seen the Lord in the Ananthasayanam pose, the king had the trees cut, a temple built and the deified at the spot. But neither was the king willing to release the Swaamiyaar, nor was the Swaamiyaar willing to leave the Lord. The king therefore built a house (Mattham) west of the temple and decided that the Swaamiyaar shall perform "Pushpaanjali" (offering of flowers) to the Lord uninterrupted and this is continued this day by Thrissur Thekke Mattham Swaamiyaar.

During "Navaraathri Vaakyaarthha Sadass", a scholar from "Choladesam" was defeated by the Swaamiyaar who put forth the answers by communicating with the Lord. The "Saasthrikal" declared : "Thiruvaayakku Ethirvaayilla" (One cannot contest the divinely spoken words.), prostrated and left.

Though a Keralite, his fame as a poet had spread through the entire country. Bengalis believe that the Swaamiyaar was born in Bengal. Oriyas believe he was born in Orissa. However, the fact remains that he belongs to the Panniyoor Graamam of Kerala State.

Vilwamangalam Illam

There are several versions as to where "Vilwamangalam" is located - Thavanur, Puthanchira, Kasaragod and other places have stated claims.

  1. THAVANUR : One version claims that Vilwamangalam is the same as "Vella" Illam of Thavanur (from "Thapanoor", the village of the "Thapaswi", the sainty). The compound and basement remnant of this Illam exist nearby even today. Also in the vicinity on the south bank of Bharaathapuzha is "Vasudevapuram" temple apparently built for Swaamiyaar's mother to pray to Vishnu during her old age. Even today, on the Vella Illam basement, "Yogeeswara Pooja" is performed in a grand way on the Sraadhham day (death anniversary) of the Swaamiyaar, adding to the belief that Vilwamangalam is here. The Swaamiyaar's writings about Mookkuthala Bhagavathy, Sukapuram Dakshinaamoorthy and Thriprangottappan appear to substantiate this view. Ulloor suggests the original Sanskrit name would have been "Kodandamangalam" which translates to "Villumangalam" and changed to Vilwamangalam and hence to Vella.

  2. PUTHANCHIRA : Some believe that his "Poorvaasramam" (pre-Samnyaasam home) was in Puthanchira, between Kodungallur and Mala in Mukundapuram Taluk of Thrissur distrct. He is said to belong to one branch of the Vella family of Panniyoor which settled there, and later this family as well as their property got merged into Mechery Mana of Paravur. The Paaramel Thrikkovil temple of Puthanchira is said to be that of Sreekrishnan, Vilwamangalam's "Paradevatha". A homestead of 57 cents near Anappara was set apart as Vilwamangalam's, which continues to have rituals. The paddy fields there are still known as Vilwamangalam "Paadam".

  3. KASARAGOD : The people of Brahmapuram Desam of Kasaragod district are of the opinion that Vilwamangalam belongs to that place. They believe that it was in their Ananthapuram temple that Sreekrishnan chided the Swaamiyaar to meet again in Ananthan forest. They also claim some connection between the Swaamiyaar and a temple near Kaithapram, and that the spring in the sacred temple pond ("Theerthham") was generated by him.

  4. OTHER CLAIMS : During his stay in the Mattham at Trichambaram, after gifting Vadakke Mattham and properties to Othanmaar Mattham, Vilwamangalam reached Vishnumangalam temple near Edaneer Mattham, before starting off to Banares (Kaasi). He stayed in Edaneer Mattham as requested by the Yaadava families of Trichambaram, and under the care of those local families who later took up Samnyaasam, apparently from Vilwamangalam Swaamiyaar.
These events took place around 500 years ago. There have been twelve Swaamiyaars there and ten given for adoption to Perumpadappu. Ulloor and others state that there have been three from Vilwamangalam family who had become Swaamiyaars, and that one of them might have offered the afore-mentioned Samnyaasam.

There is one Vilwamangalam family listed among the Saagara Dwijans {click here). It is likely that his disciples might have stayed with him and perhaps later they began to be referred to as Vilwamangalam.

His Teachers

One of Vilwamangalam Swaamiyaar's teachers was named Eesaana Devan. Somagiri an expert in Thaanthrik traditions may also be considered Leelaasukan's Guru (teacher). Ramachandra Budhendran and Paapaayallaya Soori, both from Andhra Pradesh, were his commentators.

His Period

It may be conjectured that the first Vilwamangalam was around the ninth century, and the later ones were around the 13th and the 17th centuries, AD, and that they were Swaamiyaars of Thekke Mattham.

His Works

1. Sreekrishna Karnaamritham,
2. Sreechinham,
3. Purushakaaram,
4. Abhinava-Kausthubha-Maala,
5. Dakshinaamoorthy-Sthavam,
6. Kaalavadha Kaavyam,
7. Durgaasthuthi,
8. Baalakrishna Sthothram,
9. Baalagopaala Sthuthy,
10. Sreekrishna Varadaashtakam,
11. Vrindaavana Sthothram,
12. Bhaavanaamukuram,
13. Raamachandraashtakam,
14. Ganapathy Sthothram,
15. Anubhavaashtakam,
16. Mahaakaalaashtakam,
17. Kaarkotakaashtakam, 
18. Krishnaleelaa-Vinodam,
19. Sankara-Hridayamgamaa,
20. Subanda-Saamraajyam,
21. Thinganda-Saamraajyam, and
22. Kramadeepika

A grand total of 22 works.

| Article No:5.2.2 | Last update of this article:3rd October 2003 |
Article by :  (1) Akkitham Achyuthan Namboodiri, Akkithath Mana ("Devaayanam"), PO : Kumaranallur - 679 552, Palakkad Dist., Phone : 04926-276081 and
(2) Adv. B Agnisarman Namboodiri, Athrasseri Mana, PO : Thrikkalathur, 683 557, Ernakulam Dist., Phone : 0484-2652450

With inputs from :  "Aithihyamaala" - by Kottarathil Sankunni.
1st Published : 1909 (8 Vols.); 4th Impression : Oct. 1985 (Single Vol.).
Publishers : Kottarathil Sankunny Memorial Committee, Kottayam - 686 001.
Distributors : Current Books, Kottayam. Price : Rs.75-00

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