Azheekal Sree Varaha Swamy Temple, Cherai
Presiding Deity: Sree Varaha Moorthy. Sree Venkatachalapathy with Lakshmi Devi and Bhoomi Devi on left/right side is also installed in the Srikovil. Sree Varaha and Sree Venkateswara installed side by side and worshiped as single moorthy.
Sub temples: Hanuman, Ganapati, Mahalaxmi and Garuda are installed outside the srikovil inside the nalambalam at its four corners. There is a Tulsithara outside the nalambalam on the left side. Tulsi pooja is an important daily function in the temple. After the morning pooja, Arati is shown (see pic above) at the Tulsi and believed that Lord resides there till the noon pooja. In 1918 AD sub-temples dedicated to Siva and Durga were constructed outside the Rathaveedhi in the north-west corner of the temple. Yakshi and Naga prathista is located at the Althara.
The temple has a large open ground in the front, not available in other gsb temples in Kerala, and typical of major temples of Kerala like Trichur, Ettumanoor and Kottayam.
The dwaja with decorated roof (dwaja mandapam) with wood carvings is a unique feature of this temple. The Dwaja was constructed in 1900 AD.
The famous Ratha or Vimana was dedicated to the presiding deities in 1909 AD. This is the only chariot in the world, which runs on rails. The temple has a Ratha Veethi to pull the chariot around the temple on fesivals by the devotees.
The Rathaveethi is outside the main gopuran as seen in picture on the left. The Rathaveethi (rail) was constructed under the supervision of European Engineers in 1908 AD.
Seven of the families who migrated to Cochin from Goa in 16th century settled in Azheekal in the Vypeen island near Cochin. A wealthy merchant among them, Krishna Prabhu, was in possession of two idols - Sree Varaha and Sree Vithoba. Both these idols were temporarily installed at Azheekal and worshipped. Sree Varaha soon became the Gramadevata of the Azeekal community. Krishna Prabhu purchased extensive plots of land at Vypeen from Paliyath Achan. A new temple was constructed at Azheekal and the idol was consecrated in 1565 AD by Sri Yadavendra Tirtha Swamiji, the first pondiff of Kashi Mutt. The temple came to be known as Sree Varaha temple.
The idols in the temple at Azheekal were stolen in 1723 AD and could not be traced. Efforts were made to cast new idols in Panchaloha but were found defective. So, the mahajans of Azheekal approached the Cochin temple and got two idols of Venkatachapathy and Mahalakshmi and were installed in the temple in 1724 AD. Extensive plots of land and properties were donated to the temple by 32 families of the Yogakkars for the daily expenses. Meanwhile, the stolen idols were recovered and it was also installed in the temple by the side of SreeVenkateswara. With new Prathista, Sree Venkatachalapathy was given more importance and the annual flag festival was celebrated only for Him. In 1857 AD, there was a major fire in the temple. However, the temple was re-constructed shortly after.
Shifting to Cherai
The temple at Azheekal was close to sea shore. Due to continuous sea erosion and high tides, the temple and the local community suffered many losses. Many Yogakkars left the place in 1866 AD and migrated to nearby places like Kuzuppally, Cherai, Ernakulam in Cochin state and also to places in Travancore state. The mahajans purchased land in Cherai in 1867 AD and constructed Agrasala and installed the idols shifted from Azheekal. The old temple at Azheekal was also dismantled and brought to Cherai.
A temple was then constructed and Prathista done in 1880 AD. This was also attended by Paliyath Achan representing the Maharaja of Cochin. The eastern gopura, Anapandal, Agrasalas, the temple tank (Sree Varaha Pushkarani) were subsequently constructed. The Vahanas - Aswavahana, Simhavahana, Hastivahana and Garudavahana were also constructed and dedicated to the deities.
In 1897 AD, the temple was struck by lightning. A devaprasnam was conducted and as revealed, Sree Varaha Swamy was treated as the presiding deity and annual flag festival commenced to be celebrated for Him also, since 1898 AD. The festival take place twice in a year. The Ratholsav is a speciality and attended by devotees in large numbers. The chariot is pulled around the temple by devotees.
This temple is under the Azheekal Sree Varaha Devaswom, Cherai. The temple owns paddy fields in Kumbalangi near Thuravoor. The fields are leased out every year for acquaculture and earns income to run the temple.