Legend says that Saint Parasurama threw his battleaxe into the sea and reclaimed the narrow strip of land from Kanyakumari to Gokarnum. He divided this into sixty-four settlements, thirty-two of them in kerala. Torrential rains nourished evergreen forests and an enthusiastic race prospered on the bounties of nature. Small wonder that intellectual giants stamped these cultural centres. For several centuries, the Peruvanam settlement was the greatest of them all.
Life; in the settlement centered on the magnificent Eratttayappan Siva temple of Peruvanam and the exquisite Sastha; temple of Thiruvullakkavu. The settlement enjoyed a large measure of autonomy ,the village council which periodically met in the Peruvanam temple directed the destiny of Central kerala. The temple owned a large part of the land and the pious tenants paid their rent faithfully so that it was very rich. The benevolent Lord supported a large number of employees fed the hungry and provided for the needy. All forms of art flourished in this fertile region. More ;important, great scholars of Yajurveda provided the melody for the divine couple, Siva and shakthi, to perform the dance of bliss. But it was at Thiruvullakkavu that the ancient masters perfected their recital by making hymn-offerings to Sastha, the deified Vedas.
The settlement worshipped Lord; Erattayappan of Peruvanam as the supreme tutelary deity and Lord Sastha of Thiruvullakkavu as the Grama Paradevatha, the personal deity of all the people living there. This dual worship is rather unusual and confusing to the layman but it is not unique. The Sukapuram settlement too had two deities, Lord Siva; as the tutelary God and His own manifestation Dakshinamoorthi as the personal God. While the Lord of Peruvanam, gracing the tallest sanctum sanctorum in India showers benediction, Sastha, His active principle, rides the settlement as the protector. He has small shrines at the four Boundaries of the settlement at Akamala, Kuthiran, Oozhath and Edathirithi as also innumerable temples scattered around the region.
Lord Sastha of Thiruvullakkavu is deified Wisdom whose blessings make the [devotees intelligent enough to achieve wordly success and paradoxically, great enough to realise the fickleness of prosperity. Hindus usually worship goddess Saraswathi and Lord Dakshinamoorthi as the Gods of knowledge; all arts, sciences and philosophy. Sastha is the divine Hunter, the fiery deity who protects the virtuous and destroys the vicious, not a smiling god full of benevolence only. But the people of Peruvanam worship Sastha as the god of wisdom. The forest where He hunts is the dense human mind where insatiable carnivorous desires loam about. Sastha stalks the base qualities of man, sins like atheism and laziness and destroys them. So, he is the guide leading His children through the dangerous hills and dales of life to the lord of lords at Peruvanam. But that is the final step; first, he gives, them material pleasures to the point of satiety to prepare them for the blissful release and renunciation. In his allegorical manifestation. He gives wordly happiness and in His trasscedental Omnipotence, He folds the devotee to His blissful bosom. That is the unique concept of personal deity. Sastha has to manifest Himself as the God of wisdom! The people of Peruvanam have always realised the extraordinary effulgence of Thiruvullakkakvu.
Legend claims that the temple of Thiruvullakkavu is as old as civilization itself. For centuries, the divine glow here attracted savants who performed austerities here. Perhaps, there was a long interlude when it remained forgotten, in the midst of an impenetrable forest. Till Sastha manifested Himself again. Even afterwards the place remained a forest; till recently. Kavu was a subsidiary temple of Peruvanam, the settlement temple. Vilwamamglam swamiar, the Godman, who visited the temple of Peruvanam, saw Siva holding Sastha in His right hand. That is why Kavu has another name, Thiruvullakkayyoor.
In ancient time, Chittoor, Avanavu and Kuruvattavanavu Namboodiripads ruled the peruvanam temple as the Uralans, hereditary administrators. Formerly lit was a single family but the names. The village had a loose democratic set up and all the families of the settlement had some power over it. Thiruvullakkavu, being a subsidiary temple, the Uralian’s managed that also. Temple administration virtually meant the complete control of the whole region since it was the nerve center in the material sense also. The Maharaja of Cochin and the Zamorin Calicut knew it well and fought to become the overlord. Ultimately the Maharaja of Cochin was able to keep the others away. He took to himself the powers of the uralans and the Namboodiris of Peruvanam lost all their powers, which created a big problem. They needed a temple where they could perform austerities. They begged the Maharaja to give the Thiruvullakkavu temple back to them since the deity was their Paradevatha. For all its wonderful effulgence, Kavu owned no property and the maharaja did not mind that generosity. As the sole representative of the settlement, Chittoor Namboodiripad received the temple back from the Maharaja and became the hereditary administrator. Now the Namboodiris could live there and chant Yajurveda as they would.
Times changed and in the late seventies the local devotees set up a special Committee to facilitate the administration. The temple developed very quickly and the member of devotees visiting the temple increased by thousands. Under the present, very efficient, management this rather small and plain temple has become a superb centre for devotees seeking refuge from worldly trails.
Most of the ancient temple, especially, the settlement temples, were massive and well constructed life a fort. Peruvanam too was magnificent. Thiruvullakkavu was not. It used to be insignificant in the physical sense. Instead of large and beautiful idols , it has three small granite, projections, barely visible above the ground. Elsewhere, the idols stand roundly on pedestals, smiling at the pilgrims. Here, the icon is granite lined. Square hole! He is Swayamboo’ Self-manifest. Usually the chief priests consecrate the deities in the idols through elaborate rites. Thiruvullakkavu was different, the effulgence of? Sastha become revealed in the icon even without rituals to invoke Him. Wind, rain; and sunshine beat down on it, till Mazhamangalam covered the sanctum. Now it has a very strong roof. Scholars filled up the space around the icon with sand energlised with the Veda ,so that sanctum has a double effulgence that of Sastha and the; scriptures. Recently, the management built two magnificent Nadapuras, porches to cover the western and the eastern courtyards. Also, a fine Gopuram, gateway, in the front. They have made; it a fitting palace for the effervescent effulgence within.
The astrologers who conducted diving rites at Kavu proclaimed that Shasta’s effulgence is not limited to the temple or the immediate neighborhood. It pervades the whole of Central Kerala.
The concept of a deity guiding the settlement is truly sublime. A child is carefree when it holds on to its father’s hand and skips happily without any fear of pit falls. But its hold is weak and might break easily. When the father holds it’ the confidence is greater. God saves the devotees who come to the temple. The Grama deities, on the other hand are such tender Fathers that they hold their children whether they beg for that reassurance or not. If the strong hands of a father fold his boy to the warmth of his populating heart, the boy knows what true bliss is. Thiruvullakkavu Sastha is like that His heartbeats make the devotes wise, whisper what divine Love is. Often, the Stern, looking Father plays with them. Promptly, He rides out of His sanctum when danger threatens his devotees.