In the days of the monarchy, a royal procession used to make its way to a Siva temple in Sasthamangalam
‘Radhapura Kunnu Lane’, a nondescript signage near Sasthamangalam junction may have caught your attention as you travel along Vellayambalam-Sasthamangalam road. However, if you are planning to explore the lane hoping to find the ‘Radhapura’ or at least the remains of an old chariot house, you will be disappointed. The lane now leads to a well-laid out residential area with no trace of any built structure to substantiate the name of the lane.
Radhapura Lane was in olden times known as Radhapura Kunnu, a hill that gradually descends to the banks of the Killi River. Senior citizens from Vellayambalam and Sasthamangalam regions still remember vivid images of a state procession that linked the region with a royal past. When the city cherishes the Arattu procession and related rituals, of the area recall the state processions that once came to Sasthamangalam.
Sasthamangalam Ezhunnalathu, a regal procession to Sasthamangalam, culminated at the ancient Sasthamangalam Mahadeva temple, where the sovereigns offered prayers and rested in the ‘palace’, a double-storied structure located near the western gateway of the temple. According to popular history, it was customary of the Travancore rulers to visit ‘Sasthamangalathu Madhom’, the abode of Koopakkara Pottis, and the Siva temple soon after the Tirunal (royal birthday) celebrations. Even though the origin of this practice remains unknown to this day, some historians are of the opinion that the practice could be dated to the eighteenth century, to the turbulent days of Anizham Tirunal Marthanda Varma.
It is said that the Koopakkara Potti had helped the King on one occasion and in gratitude the King and, later his successors, made it a custom to pay their respect, once in a year, to the Koopakkara family at their residence.
V Narasimhan Thampi presents a vivid portrayal of the procession to Sasthamangalam: “… the Maharaja rides to Sasthamangalam in his golden chariot, drawn by six white horses and behind him follow a train of horse drawn carriages of the royals and the various officials. The Elayarajas, Koil Thampurans, and the Chief Justice can be seen riding in carriages drawn by two horses, whereas the other officers ride in simple carriages. The state procession starts from the Fort at four in the evening and proceeds to Sasthamangalam via Pazhavangadi, Puttenchandai, Palayam, and Vazhuthacaud. At Sasthamangalam, the King worships at the temple and visits the Potti at his residence and returns to the Fort by six O’clock.”
On the way to Sasthamangalam, the procession first halted at Vellayambalam, from where the King went to the temple with a few select attendants and high officials. The royal chariot was stationed at Radhapura Kunnu and the royal party walked down to Pipinmoodu to the temple premises.
The temple, located between Sasthamangalam hill and the nearby elevated Oolampara region, claims antique origins. Old records mention ‘Thiru-chatta-mangalam’ (later Sasthamangalam) and the temple there. Old timers believe that the temple has its origins from a small sacred grove on the banks of the Killi River. A small fragment of the grove can still be seen right in front of the eastern gateway to the temple.
With the end of monarchy, the age-old custom of the Sasthamangalam procession passed into the annals of history, but the temple remains popular among the city dwellers.
(The writer is a conservation architect and history buff)
source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Society> History & Culture / by Sharat Sunder Rajeev / Thiruvananthapuram – May 05th, 2017