The twin temples of Sri Kottiyoor Temple in Kannur district, Kerala are believed to be the abode of Lord Shiva where his sanctified spirit is present in its fullness. The temples, Akkare Kottiyoor and Ikkare Kottiyoor, located deep inside the dense forests on the two east and west banks of the sacred River Vavali, have a history associated with the Puranas.
The Exceptional feature of the exotic yaga festival conduced here is that it is held in a ‘temple without a temple ‘as Akkare Kottiyoor has no formal temple structure. The temple is also known for following extremely complex traditional rituals and tantrik rites which date back to several centuries. Thousand throng the venue of the festival in the dense forest braving the freezing temperature, lashing rains and rushing waters. Bathing in the cold waters of the turbulent River Vavali, devotees throng to attend the twenty-eight day long Vaisakha festival held once a year during May-June. Women are permitted to enter the temple only on special occasions. The consecrated deity at Ahhare Kottiyoor is believed to be a Swayambhoo Lingam (self created idol of Lord Siva)and is placed on a Thiruvonam Aradhana, Ilaneerveppu, Ilaneer Attam, Alingana Pushpanjali, etc. The Vaisakha Festival ends with the Thirukalasattu.
The temple at Ikkare Kottiyoor has a definite structure and allows devotees to visit for daily worship. It is believed that Lord Shiva is present at the Ikkare Kottiyoor Temple for eleven months a year. During the one month from the ‘Chothi’ asterism of Idavam to the Chithira’ asterism of Madhunam, the Ikkare Kottiyoor Temple remains closed at this is the time of the Vaisakha Festival at Akkare Kottiyoor.
Kottiyoor Mahadeva Temples are two famous Shiva temples - both in the deep forests, namely the Akkara Kottiyoor and the Ikkara Kottiyoor, in Kannur District of Kerala. These temples are located at Kottiyoor, on the banks of Bavali River. Kottiyoor Mahadeva Temple is an important pilgrim centre of North Kerala and is situated sixty five kilometes northeast from Thalessery. Kottiyoor Mahadeva is usually refered as Kottiyoor Perumal. Kottiyoor is often described as the 'Varanasi of the South'.
It is believed that Prajapathy Daksha father of Sathi Devi performed a Yaga at this place.Sathi Devi was the consort of Lord Shiva. Sathi had married Shiva against the wishes of her father. The vain Daksha performed a great yagna (with the sole aim of insulting Shiva), to which he invited all of the gods and goddesses except his daughter and son-in-law to participate in it. Sathi, who was angry at this treatment of her father, went to her father's place to ask the reason for it. Daksha insulted Sathi again by calling Shiva poor and wild. Being the ideal consort of Shiva, Sathi could not bear the fact that her husband was being insulted in front of the guests. She immediately jumped into the yagna fire out of shame and anger and killed herself.
Knowing this, Lord Shiva, became very angry and came to Daksha's palace.On the orders of Lord Shiva, his demons Veerabhadra and Bhadrakali destroyed the yaga and Veerabhadra beheaded Daksha. On seeing the dead body of Sathi, Shiva was so enraged that, he lifted the body on his shoulder and started dancing the tandav (the dance of destruction). The dance continued for several days and the earth was on the brink of being destroyed. Then, on the appeal of all the other gods and goddesses, Lord Vishnu with the help of his Sudarsana chakra, started cutting Goddess Sathi's body. It is said that the parts of Sathi's body fell at different parts of the country, which are all considered centers of power or 108 Shakti Peethas.
Later, conceding to the plea of Brahma and Vishnu, Lord Siva gave life to Daksha and completed the yaga. Daksha understood his faults and started worshipping Lord Shiva. Shiva appeared infront of him in the form of a Swayambhoo Lingam. Kapila Maharshi and Lord Parasurama worshipped this Swayambhoo Lingam for a long period. Later this place became a dense forest. Once a Kurichyan(a tribal) went into this forest to collect logs. His weapon struck the Swayambhoo Lingam and it began to bleed and he informed it to the lords and thus the place for Shiva of Kottiyoor was located. This Swayambhoo Lingam is in the Akkare Kottiyoor temple. This Lingam is in a forest and so the brahmins were unable to reach there to worship the Lingam daily. So they decided to offer poojas to this Lingam only for 28 days in an year. This was the wish of Lord Shiva too. Inorder to perform daily poojas they constructed a temple on the opposite bank of Bavalee river. This is the present Ikkare Kottiyoor temple. The Bavalee river is considered holy by the temple devotees. In Akkare Kottiyoor temple, there is no temple. The Swayambhoo Lingam is on a "thara" formed by a small heap of stones, called Manithara. This is the only visible signs of the ancient temple that draws thousands of faithful every year. Many feel the Siva power is solidified as the idol here.
Every year during May-June, it is festival season here, with thousands of devotees throng to see and participate the 27 day long festival. This festival is akin to the yaga performed by Daksha.A sword, which is believed to have decapitated the mythical character Daksha is brought to the Ikkara Kottiyoor temple from the Muthirikavu(it is an object of daily workship of Muthirikavu) temple, which marks the beginning of the annual festival. There is no worship at Ikkare Kottiyoor temple for the festival month. For the festival month Ikkare Kottiyoor temple is closed and the worships are taken place at Akkare Kottiyoor temple, which is closed for the other eleven months. The annual festival commences with Neyyattam(pouring of ghee) on the Swathi/Chothy day of the Malayalam month Edavam (May-June) and ends with Thirukalasattu, after 28 days. Neyyattam and Elaneerattam(pouring of tender coconut water) are special ceremonies connected with the festival. Innumerable temple rites are performed here during the festival time. Remaining period the Akkare Kottiyoor temple is closed. Before trekking on the holy hills of Kottiyoor devotees will take a bath in Bavalee river. They carry with them auda flowers (white fibres flowing down and looks very much like a white beard). These special days on which abhisheka is held are considered most auspicious in the month long annual festival here. The exotic and esoteric religious rituals here make this festival stand apart from the other temple festivals in Kerala.
Women are permitted only for some particular days. The "Pradhama Sthaneeyar" of Kottiyoor is from the Thekkedath Family of Kankol.
Kannoth Kunhikannan of Chala once went to the forest to measure and assess the land of Kottiyoor Perumal. There he saw Karimpalars(tribals) cutting cane for Elaneerkav. Kunhikannan demanded some cane; but they refused to give them. Kunhikannan forcefully took cane and beat the tribals. They went in front of the temple, cried and informed the God. Two snakes went away from there and entered the field of Kunhikannan in the form of two leeches. His younger sister was the Kettilamma of Chirakkal Thampuran and she was pregnant. On her way home, she got down from the palanquin in the field and the leeches bit her to death. Although the usual post-death performances were done, the crows did not touch the 'bali' rice. On astrological inquiry, it is understood that there was the anger of Kottiyoor Perumal and he had to present a gold cane as an atonement.