Another Karkkidakam is drawing to an end... Ravana has been finished off, Sita has just passed her "fire-test" and Lord Rama is getting ready to take his family and army to Ayodhya (at least that's where I am in my annual reading of the Adhyatma Ramayana). As the monsoon rains slowly slacked off, hopefully to bring a sunny beginning to the new Kollavarsham, we left Karthi for the weekend for a jaunt to our hometown.
This time, we had a definite pilgrimage plan on our agenda. Karkkidakam is the best time for the "Naalambalam" (four-temple) worship. The little town of Ramapuram ( north of Pala, Kottayam) has 4 temples dedicated to each of the Ayodhyan princes. (A similar foursome are the famous temples of Thriprayar, Koodalmanikyam, Moozhikkulam and Payammal in Thrissur and Ernakulam). A complete circuit of all the temples starts at the Ramapuram Sree Rama temple, proceeds to Lakshmana Swamy temple at Koodappulam, the Bharata Swamy temple at Amanakara and the Methiri Shatrughna Swamy temple, finally coming back to the Sree Rama temple once again.
Our relatives who had gone for the Naalambalam darsan warned us of long queues that twisted and turned in the temple premises and then extended out into the long approach road and on to the main road at the temples. So we decided to start early. (Starting early is the usual way of things at Karthi. Although I am the only morning person in the family, when it comes to travelling, even our kiddos just have to be informed the previous day. They jump up all ready to go even at 2 am. They've been intensely trained since birth to do so, please don't envy us!!!)
Thus last Saturday morning we were all bathed and dressed and ready at 4 am. From DH's home, it's just an hour's drive to Ramapuram: the roads are wonderfully smooth with a few "natural" speed breakers aka pot holes here and there. We had our first darsan at the Rama Swamy temple at 5:15 am. Bus loads of people were already arriving at the time, but we were in and out without hustle or hassle.
The entrance to the temple was awash in lighting at the pre-dawn moment
We had a look at the "map" I have put at the top and wondered whether it would be enough to guide us. But thankfully, there are plenty of signs that point out the way to the next destination on the Naalambalam route.
Thus we easily reached the Kudappulam Lakshmana Swamy temple as dawn was breaking...
A steep flight of steps led us to the Lakshmana Swamy temple. I have never seen such a variety of flowering plants in one place as there is in the vicinity of this temple. It is a real feast for the eyes.
From Koodappulam, we headed towards Amanakara to the third temple in the quartet, the Bharata Swamy temple. The approach road to the temple is very narrow and not in good condition, so it is better to park at the side of the main road and walk down. The first thing we see is the temple tank as we approach this temple...
Meenoottu (feeding the fish) is an offering in this temple. We all enjoyed doing the same.
Finally, we went to the Shatrughnaswamy temple at Methiri. This time - and the only time - the road was very rough and we proceeded very slowly and carefully. Thankfully, the verdant hills rolled out in endless vistas all around us to compensate for the road. If you are thinking of doing the Naalambalam route, you might want to avoid the route from Amanakara to Methiri and instead drive down to Ramapuram and then proceed to Methiri and return the same way as the Ramapuram-Methiri road is not one-way.
Unfortunately I have no pictures of the Shatrughna Swamy temple as it was swathed completely in pandals and I couldn't take a discernible picture. Having completed our worship there, we proceeded back to Ramapuram to complete the circle. Fortunately, the second time over, we were directed to go in through the northern entrance to the Rama Swamy temple which is reserved for those coming back after darsan in all the four temples. We could see that the crowds had swollen considerably by then and it was just 8:45 in the morning. In the course of the morning, I caught Malayalam inflections of all sorts including the distinctive Ernakulam and Thrissur dialects. No wonder the queues were reputed to be really long by mid-morning.
On the way back, the part of my mind that was not agonizing over the umpteen twists and turns of the road was thinking about the special bond that the four brothers shared. In a world in which siblings fight over anything from a child's toy to their share of ancestral property, those brothers really set a high standard. One was willing to give up his birthright to his younger brother, one was ready to volunteer to live in the forest than let his brother go alone, the third didn't want the power that was thrust upon him and did all the work of governing a country by staying in exactly the same ascetic style his brother was following in the forest. The youngest one also followed suit. No wonder they are considered divine - just look at the models of "brotherhoods" we have around us in popular fiction, legends and scriptures. These four are really unique and rare in that they are of one mind always. Whatever happened around them, they always stayed together.
It's a good thing to remember... at least once a year.