Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Tirtha-yatra, Part 27


BY: SUN STAFF - 8.9 2021

Broken bridge at Cherathala (Ciyadatala), Alappuzha

A serial exploration of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya.

In Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya Lila 9, we read about Lord Caitanya's travels throughout South India, which included many stops at tirthas in Kerala state. One of these, Ciyadatala, is mentioned in the Summary of Madhya 9:

Madhya 9 Summary

"Finally the Lord went to Sri Ranga-ksetra, where He converted a brahmana named Venkata Bhatta, who, along with his family, became a devotee of Krsna. After leaving Sri Ranga, Caitanya Mahaprabhu reached Rsabha-parvata, where He met Paramananda Puri, who later arrived at Jagannatha Puri. Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu then proceeded farther, arriving at Setubandha Ramesvara. At Sri Saila-parvata, the Lord met Lord Siva and his wife Durga in the dress of a brahmana and brahmani. From there He went to Kamakosthi-puri and later arrived at southern Mathura. A brahmana devotee of Lord Ramacandra's talked with Him. Then the Lord took His bath in the river Krtamala. On the hill known as Mahendra-saila, the Lord saw Parasurama. Then the Lord went to Setubandha and took His bath at Dhanus-tirtha. He also visited Ramesvara, where He collected some papers connected with Sitadevi, whose illusory form was kidnapped by Ravana. The Lord next visited the places known as Pandya-desa, Tamraparni, Naya-tripadi, Ciyadatala, Tila-kanci, Gajendra-moksana, Panagadi, Camtapura, Sri Vaikuntha, Malaya-parvata and Kanya-kumari."

Later, in Madhya Lila 9, we find further mention of Ciyadatala, with a little more information:

Madhya 9.220

ciyadatala tirthe dekhi' sri-rama-laksmana
tila-kanci asi' kaila siva darasana

"After this, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to a holy place known as Ciyadatala, where He saw the Deities of the two brothers Lord Ramacandra and Laksmana. He then proceeded to Tila-kanci, where He saw the temple of Lord Siva.

Ciyadatala is sometimes known as Cheratala. It is near the city of Kaila, and there is a temple there dedicated to Lord Sri Ramacandra and His brother Laksmana. Tila-kanci (Tenkasi) is about thirty miles northeast of the city of Tirunelveli."

Ciyadatala appears to be the ancient place name, while the tirtha is commonly known as Cherathala (Cheratala) today. Cherathala Taluk is in the Alappuzha (Alleppey) district of Kerala, about 2 km off the coast, west of Kottayam. This is in the southern third of Kerala state. Cherthala is 22 km. north of Alappuzha's center.

We do not find a nearby city of Kaila, as mentioned in the purport, although the nearby Kallara may be the current place name for Kaila.

Even less is found about the Rama-Laksman temple Sri Caitanya visited here. There are several famous Rama temples in Kerala, but none we can locate today that are in the Cherathala area, with Sri Rama-Laksman as the presiding deities. Of course, it's possible that the deities have been changed – a common phenomenon. We do find the Kottaram Temple at Cherthala, situated alongside the Alleppey-Chennai Express line tracks, but Sri Ayappan is currently the presiding deity.

Kottaram Temple, Cherthala

Cherthala, formerly known as Shertallai, is a very beautiful coastal town, about 40 kms south of Kochi (Cochin), on the National Highway 47. Famous for its beautiful white sands, Alleppey district has been called the Venice of the East.

Cherthala is also well known for having been visited by Saint Thomas, one of Christ's 12 disciples. St. Thomas traveled through Cherthala 19 years after Christ's death, and established a church nearby, in Kokkothamangalam

The name 'Cherthala' is said to be derived from a pastime wherein a Namboodiri sadhu named Villumangalath Swami, while travelling through the village, came across a deity whose head was immersed in mud. The sadhu built a temple for this Devi -- the Karthiyayani Temple. The word 'cher' means mud, and 'thala' means head, in Malayalam.