Koothattukulam Mahadeva Temple Conservation
The Koothattukulam Mahadeva temple is of great significance from different view points such as historical, architectural, archaeological and cultural. The temple has a prominent place among the 108 famous Shiva temples in Kerala. You can see the best craftsmanship in this temple, but this has been badly damaged. The temple is in bad shape now. Conserving the temple complex is relevant, as the Mahadeva temple is an integral part and an excellent example of the temple architecture in Kerala.
We prepared the proposals for the conservation of this temple in 2011. All the photos presented below were taken in 2011. It would have deteriorated further since no preventive measures have been taken.
History of the Shiva Temple
History has it that when King Marthanda Varma conquered Vadakkumkur, he gifted the Ettumanoor Temple with abundant gold and the Vaikom Mahadeva temple with lands. Along with these temples, he renovated the small Mahadeva temple in Koothattukulam as well. The sculpting was done by “thachans” or traditional craftsmen. The rare idol of Lord Shiva with a pleasant expression alongside Parvati, Subramanian, and Ganapati is seen here. In this temple, the epic Ramayana is also engraved on a wooden slab.
The Kerala Temple Design
The gable of the Padippura (entrance gate) has elaborate timber carvings that resemble a small door and is flanked by two Dwarapalakas on both sides. The gable has detailed carvings while columns are plain with a shaft and a base.
The roof is made of timber in traditional Kerala temple design. Mangalore tiles have been used as the roof covering. The main Srikovil (sanctum sanctorum) roof that is made of copper sheets is also in need of repair. The roof has timber purlins and rafters to support the Mangalore tiles and the copper sheets respectively.
The temple has beautiful timber carvings. The sculptural ingeniousness of the traditional craftsmen is evident from the intricate woodwork on the ceiling. It depicts Lord Vishnu’s ten incarnations and is reasonably intact even today. Lord Vishnu's 10 incarnations look down on us from above, giving the ceiling the appearance of a chunk of heaven. There is also caving of a lotus flower, to remind us of Padmanabhan or the lotus bearer himself.
The mural paintings seen in the temple is considered to be ancient. Rich, brightly coloured murals which stood the test of time adorn the Srikovil (Sanctum Sanctorum) with all their glory. Orange, yellow, green and blue colours enlighten the space surrounding the Srikovil. The orange and yellow colour is also used above the niches present there. These paints extracted from vegetables contrast the sober colours of the rest of the interiors in the temple.
In the case of a historic building, important decisions, which will alter the character of the building should not be taken. A structural assessment has to be conducted before structural modifications are proposed. The most important point to note is that the Koothattukulam Mahadeva temple has not been spoilt by "modern development”. It has not undergone any change in recent years, as many temples, churches, and mosques have. But, immediate conservation measures need to be carried out to protect the Shiva temple, especially in areas where the timber has been attacked by termites.
Lately, the Travancore Devaswom Board has taken over the Mahadeva temple after a long legal struggle between them and the Sivaswom Trust. It is expected that the Government of Kerala will be funding the conservation measures. I hope the Devaswam Board will conserve the temple by keeping all its heritage values intact.