Nileshwaram is a quaint town in Kasargod area of Kerala. The best part about Nileshwaram is that it is not crowded with tourists and hence makes it a lovely weekend getaway from Mangalore. Nileshwaram is a cultural capital of sorts of the Kasargod region. Several temple festivals, art and dance forms are popular here. Theyyam is a popular ritual of worship here, in practice for the last thousand years! My favorites in Nileshwaram are the Kavuus or sacred grooves, old market and the weaver street.
Nileshwaram is in Kasargod district of Kerala. It is 90 kms from Mangalore. If you take NH-17, you can reach Nileshwaram from Mangalore in 1.5 hours. Nileshwaram also has a Railway Station and is connected to major cities like Chennai, Trivandrum and Mangalore.
Nileshwaram lies between the rivers Nileshwaram and Karyangodu. Nileshwaram got its name from Lord Neeleshwar or Shiva, the deity of the Thaliyil Temple. Legend says that Sage Neela installed the statue of Lord Shiva at Nileshwaram thousands of years ago. Over the years, Nileshwaram has become the cultural capital of the Kasargod region of Kerala.
Theyyam is an ancient form of worship prevalent in Nileshwaram and other regions of North Malabar. A unique aspect of Theyyam is that it embraces all castes from tribals to Brahmins in its fold. Parashurama, the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu was supposed to have assigned the task of performing the Theyyam dance to the indigenous tribal communities like Malayar, Panan, Vannan and Velan. The Theyyam cult has drawn from many cults like Bhagwati or Mother Goddess, spirit-worship, ancestor-worship, hero-worship, masathi-worship, tree-worship, animal-worship, serpent-worship, the worship of the Goddesses of disease and the worship of Graamadevataa or Village Deity. In fact, the influence on Theyyam Cult is also from mainstream sects like Shaktism, Vaishnavism and Shaivism.
The Theyyam dance or invocation is usually performed in an open theater like in front of the village Shrine. The performer has heavy makeup, special costumes and a hair dress. The duration ranges from 12 -24 hours with intervals. The performer is not allowed to eat anything post Sunset. The overall combination of makeup, costume, musical instruments, vocal recitations and the dance makes this an enchanting experience.
The Shiva Temple of Thaliyil is the most famous temple of Nileshwaram. The temple also houses deities of Lord Ganesha and Sastha. Legend says that thousands of years back, Lord Parashuram had enshrined the idol of Shiva in this temple.
The Benkana Kaavu is a sacred grove which houses the famous Kanhiram Tree. This tree is supposed to have devotional powers and hence attracts thousands of devotees from the neighboring regions. The Tree looks magnificent on Tuesdays and Fridays when it is lit by lamps. The main festival here is Theyyam which is held every two years.
The Temple is managed by Arayakkil Perikamana Illom, an ancient family that came from Badiadka 300 years ago. In olden times, victims of snake and dog bites used to come to the Veerabhadrawami Temple. The prayer and vibhuti from the Temple was supposed to cure any kind of poison.
The Muthappam Temple in Nileshwaram has an amazing story behind it. Koroth Raman Nair was a teacher and used to live in a village near Nileshwaram. He has this habit of drinking Neera, an intoxicating drink taken out of Coconut Tree. He followed a ritual of pouring a few drops on the ground dedicating it to Lord Muthappa before drinking it! Post his demise; the villagers started facing a lot of trouble. An astrologer identified the problem that the Lord Muthappa was upset as he was not getting his drink. The villagers built a temple at the spot and today the Muthappa Temple is renowned to cure devotees suffering from diseases.
The Shaasta Temple represents the famous temple of Sabarimalai. The Shaasta Temple has an uncanny resemblance to the Aiyappa Temple of Sabarimalai. It is also located in a dense forest besides a beautiful stream. Pilgrims proceeding to Sabarimalai, come to Shaasta every year and perform rituals.
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