The Deity

Sri Venkateswara, the main presiding deity of the Cochin Thirumala Devaswom temple is known by the popular name Gosripurusha Thirumala Devar. Held in the highest veneration by all classes of Hindus, this temple is a religious institution of the Gowda Saraswath Brahmin community of Cochin and is the mother of all institutions of the Gowda saraswath community members of Goan origin living in different parts of the State of Kerala.

According to the legend, the idol of Lord Venkateswara installed in this temple belonged originally to the Vijayanagar Ruler Saluva Narasmiha Raya of 1472 AD. An ardent devotee of Lord Venkateswara, of Thirumala Hills, he was a frequent visitor to the hill top shrine. But when he became physically weak and incapable of visiting the Lord, he got a revelation that the Lord himself will come over to his capital city to enable him to pray to the Lord daily. The king was also told that a sculptor will call on him for casting the idol, which in turn would be a replica of the image of the Lord at the Thirumali hills.

As per the dream, a sculptor appeared before the king the next day. After sourcing all the requisite materials , the sculptor shut himself up in a  room. However, when the sculptor failed to come out even after a fairly long period of time, the king decided to get the room broken open. To his disbelief he saw a replica image of the Lord of the Seven hills in the room and the king understood that the sculptor was none other than the Lord Himself. Hence the image came to be known as swayamboo or an idol that emerged on its own and not made by man.


The main idol of Venkatesvara, his consorts, Sreedevi and hoodevi on either side is situated at the top of the throne, Utsava Murti with consorts in the middle and Utsava Lakshmi at the lower layer.  On the lowest layer are the Salagramas. Poojas & Festivals are conducted as prescribed by the scriptures namely the Aagama Sastra and particularly the Padma Samhita. A number of glittering Ghee Flames from different varieties of Gold, Silver and Bronze lamps keep the sanctum sanctorum always bright and shining. The Gold Garuda, Gold Palanquin and Gold Unjal bear and share much for the Fame and Glory of the Ancient Temple. A word about the architecture of the temple. Its sanctum sanctorum is of the Nagara style of architecture. The temple is also rich in wood work and   exquisite paintings, which depict stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. The northern Gopuram, a two storeyed structure with copper roof, is of the pagoda type resembling the Tibeto Indian style of architecture. Beautiful paintings done by indigenous craftsmen depicting various scenes from the Puranas and epics adorn its ceiling. Outside the periphery of the inner shrine there are four minor shrines dedicated to Mahalakshmi, Hanuman,Garuda and Vinayaka.


The installation of the deity was also carried out as per the instructions of the Lord who appeared in the dream of the King. The installation was to have taken place at an auspicious time, which would have been signalled by drum beating. But as the fate would have it, just at the moment the signal was expected to be heard, some crows flying over the Dunubhi (drum) dropped a few twigs, which gave out a sound similar to a drum beat. The installation ceremony took place immediately, which was later found out to be on an inauspicious time. Only when the king heard the real drum beat, did he realise his mistake. The king was grief stricken and depressed. However, the Lord appeared in his dream to pacify him saying that it was His wish that the installation took place at an inauspicious time for it was His wish to leave the city for Gosripura, which became the city of Cochin later.

After the passing away of the king, a massive fire occurred in the temple. The priest threw the idol to an abandoned well to save it from the ravaging  flames. Swami Vijayendra Theertha of Kumbakonam Matt of Madhavacharya lineage while on a tour to the pilgrim centres, made a halt near the well where the idol was lying. During the evening prayers, a serpent appeared suddenly with raised hood in front of the Swamiji and signalled to follow it. After crawling for a while, the snake slithered down the well and disappeared. On his inspection, the swamiji saw the idol of Lord Venkateswara. The Swamiji salvaged the idol and after performing the pooja, he left for the nearby village to spend the night. In his sleep he got a divine revelation to go to Gosripura with the idol as the Lord wanted His idol to be installed there permanently.

As per the direction of the Lord, Swamiji reached Cochin where he was welcomed by Mala Pai, the head of the Cochin Mahajanams. He expressed his desire to swamiji that the idol of the Lord be handed over to him for worship by the public. Swamji wanted the idol to be given a bath and the  rich headman of the Mahajanams offered to give a shower of gold coins to the Lord. However, inspite of trying many times, the top most part of the crown remained unfilled. Puzzled by this strange incident, they took the advice of the astrologers who opined that the Holy bath should be given with gold coins received from all the 360 families of the Mahajanams residing at Cochin. Though a holy bath was offered to the Lord with gold coins collected from all the families as per the astrological advice, the coins failed to cover the top portion of the idol yet again. It was then revealed that a Brahmin who was living in a roofless shanty was left out without receiving the contribution. Mala Pai immediately rushed to the house of this Brahmin and requested him to contribute his mite. The old man who was very poor offered a coin, which was his sole earning. Mala Pai went back to the swamiji and showed him the contribution of the poor  Brahmin. As directed by the swamiji, the coin was held at the top of the crown and Voila- the crown was filled to the brim in no time! The Astrologer explained that the Lord was more pleased with this poor man’s contribution than the rest. The Lord whole heartedly accepted the offering given with devotion by the poor. As the Lord is always pleased with the offerings made by the poor, he has to be named ‘Daridra Narayan’.

Later a temple was constructed for the Lord. Swami Sudhindra Theertha,  the immediate successor of Swami Vijayendra Thirtha of  Kumabakonam Mutt performed the first installation ceremony (Prathishta) of Lord Venkateswara in 1599 AD in the lunar month of chaithra on a full moon day when the moon was in conjunction with Chitra star. In commemoration of the installation ceremony, a 6 day festival called Araat was introduced, which is being observed even today with pomp and religious fervour.




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