Ochira Parabrahma Murthy Temple, Kollam, Kerala
The Parabrahma Murthy Temple at Ochira is unique in several aspects. To start with, this ‘temple’ is not a temple in the strict sense of the term. The first thing that you see upon entering the temple premises is a huge banyan tree. It must have been around for several centuries for it looks really old with a gigantic black trunk. Under this tree, there are a handful of idols and some oil lamps. Collectively they represent Brahman or universal consciousness. There is no roof over the idols except for the branches of the tree.
There is another huge tree behind this banyan tree. There are a few idols under that tree also. While it is not a banyan tree, it must belong to a related family. Actually, there are several such trees in the temple premises. Some have idols under them. Others merely have one or two oil lamps.
The word Para Brahman refers to the ultimate reality that pervades the universe. While Hinduism regards Brahman as the supreme truth, there are no temples dedicated to Brahman. The Ochira Parabrahma Murthy Temple in the Kollam district of Kerala is an exception to this.
At the Ochira Temple, the priests are not Brahmins. The chief offerings are jaladhara (the pouring of sacred water over the idols) and ilaneerdhara (the pouring of tender coconut water over the idols). While performing ilaneerdhara, the priest will cut open a coconut and pour some of its water on the idol and then offer the rest to the person who offered it. Most devotees share the coconut water with others present at the temple. You may also want to read about our trip to Ambalappuzha Sree Krishna Temple and Mannarasala Nagaraja Temple.
Some devotees offer chains made of Tulsi (Holy Basil) or Rudraksha beads to the deity. This chain will adorn the idol for a few minutes and then the priest will give it back to the person. If a devotee does not come to claim the chain it is hung on the branches of the tree.
Another ritual unique to this temple is the worshipping of bulls. The worship of cows is a common practice among Hindus. Bulls are also considered sacred because Nandi, the celestial vehicle of Shiva, is a bull. At Ochira, bulls carrying idols of various deities are stationed near the banyan trees. Devotees touch the bull and offer a small amount of money (typically ten rupees). Of course, this will go to the keeper of the bull who stands next to it.
Unlike other Hindu temples in Kerala, anyone irrespective of their caste, creed or religion can visit the Ochira temple which defies all norms associated with temples. Thousands throng to the temple every day. Most of them are devotees. There are also a few tourists who enjoy walking around the premises watching the priests and the devotees performing various rituals. Photography is permitted. There is a big mount of mud near one of the trees. This mud is taken from the temple premises and is said to have curative powers. Most devotees take home a small amount of it. They also smear it on body parts that require some healing. Applying it on one’s leg will reportedly cure the pain affecting that limb.
Ochira Parabrahma Murthy Temple provides an experience that you wouldn’t get elsewhere. The unique temple setting itself is a major attraction.
Ochira Kali is an annual festival associated with the temple. The word kali means game in Malayalam. In Ochira Kali men and boys indulge in mock fights in waterlogged paddy fields. This is a show of the physical prowess of the participants and it attracts thousands of spectators.
How to get there
Ochira is in the northern part of the Kollam district. The nearest railway station is the Kayamkulam Junction which is about 11 kilometers away from Ochira. The nearest airport is the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport (about 105 km).