Wall Murals in Kerala’s Vadakkunnathan Temple, Thrissur: A Glorious Testament to Ancient Art

Spread India's Glorious Cultural & Spiritual Heritage


Nestled in the heart of Thrissur, Kerala, the Vadakkunnathan Temple stands as a majestic testament to the rich cultural and religious heritage of India. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this ancient temple is not only a significant place of worship but also a treasure trove of artistic brilliance, particularly its mesmerizing wall murals. These murals are a visual narrative that brings to life the mythological stories of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, and other deities, encapsulating the essence of divine lore through vibrant colors and intricate designs.

Historical Significance and Architectural Grandeur

The Vadakkunnathan Temple, believed to have been built by Parashurama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, is one of the oldest temples in Kerala. The temple is an exquisite example of the architectural style typical of Kerala, featuring monumental towers on all four sides and a kuttambalam (theater hall). The temple complex is adorned with majestic gopurams (entrance towers) and a vast courtyard, providing a serene and sacred ambiance for devotees and visitors alike.

The Splendor of Wall Murals

The wall murals of Vadakkunnathan Temple are a significant aspect of its artistic heritage. These murals, dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, are painted using natural pigments derived from minerals and vegetables, showcasing the traditional Kerala mural painting style. The murals are spread across the walls of the nalambalam (the inner temple courtyard), the srikoil (sanctum sanctorum), and other parts of the temple complex.

Depictions of Lord Shiva

At the heart of the murals in Vadakkunnathan Temple are the vivid portrayals of Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of the temple. The murals depict various forms and stories of Lord Shiva, including:

  • Tandava Dance: One of the most striking murals depicts Lord Shiva performing the cosmic Tandava dance, symbolizing the cycle of creation, preservation, and destruction.
  • Dakshinamurthy: Another notable mural shows Lord Shiva as Dakshinamurthy, the divine teacher, imparting wisdom to the sages.
  • Tripurantaka: The mural of Lord Shiva as Tripurantaka, the destroyer of the three cities of demons, showcases his fierce and protective nature.
Stories of Lord Vishnu

The murals also feature elaborate depictions of Lord Vishnu, illustrating his various avatars and divine exploits. Some prominent representations include:

  • Vishnu’s Dashavatara: The ten avatars of Lord Vishnu, from Matsya (the fish) to Kalki (the warrior), are beautifully illustrated, each avatar narrating a significant mythological event.
  • Vishnu Ananthasayana: The mural of Lord Vishnu reclining on the serpent Ananta, signifying his role as the preserver of the universe, is a captivating sight.
Other Deities and Mythological Tales

In addition to Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu, the murals also portray other deities and mythological narratives, such as:

  • Goddess Parvati: The consort of Lord Shiva, depicted in various forms such as Annapoorneshwari, the goddess of nourishment.
  • Lord Krishna: Depictions of Lord Krishna’s playful and heroic deeds, including the Rasaleela and the lifting of Govardhan Hill.
  • Goddess Durga: Illustrations of Goddess Durga’s triumph over the buffalo demon Mahishasura, symbolizing the victory of good over evil.

Symbolism and Artistic Techniques

The murals in Vadakkunnathan Temple are not just artistic marvels but also carry deep symbolic meanings. Each mural is meticulously crafted to convey divine attributes and philosophical concepts. The use of vibrant colors, dynamic compositions, and detailed expressions brings the deities and their stories to life, creating a spiritual and immersive experience for the viewers.

The traditional techniques used in these murals involve natural pigments mixed with lime and other binding agents, applied on a wet plaster surface. This method ensures the longevity of the colors and the durability of the paintings, allowing them to withstand the test of time.

Preservation and Cultural Significance

Preserving these ancient murals is of paramount importance to maintain the cultural heritage and artistic legacy of Kerala. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and other heritage conservation organizations have undertaken efforts to restore and protect these invaluable artworks. The murals not only serve as a visual feast for art enthusiasts but also provide a profound insight into the religious and cultural ethos of the region.


The wall murals of Vadakkunnathan Temple are a testament to the rich artistic and cultural traditions of Kerala. They offer a captivating glimpse into the mythological world of Hindu deities, presenting timeless stories through the lens of ancient artistry. As we marvel at these exquisite murals, we are reminded of the profound spiritual and cultural heritage that continues to inspire and enrich our lives. Visiting the Vadakkunnathan Temple and witnessing these magnificent murals is not just an aesthetic experience but also a journey into the heart of India’s sacred and artistic legacy.

Spread India's Glorious Cultural & Spiritual Heritage

By Mala Chandrashekhar

Introducing Blogger Mala Chandrashekhar - A specialist academically trained in modern Western sciences, yet deeply enamored with India's timeless ethnic arts, crafts, and textiles. Her heart beats for the rich and glorious cultural and spiritual heritage of India, and she has dedicated her entire blog to spreading the immortal glories of ancient India worldwide. Through her simple yet impactful blog posts, Mala aims to reach every nook and corner of the globe, sharing India's beauty and wisdom with the world.

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