ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Temple Arithmetic: Sets of Brother Temples across Kerala


Nowicka Olga - Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Department of Languages and Cultures of India and South Asia, Cracow, Poland


28 – South Asian sacred spots: Nodal Points in Webs of Connections


 The proposed paper will investigate the arithmetic and algebra of place based on the example of the nālampalam – the Vaiṣṇava temple clusters of Kerala. The arithmetic of place shall concern the creation of the numbered sets of places and their multiplication, while the algebra of place shall refer to the geography replication and relations between the particular elements of the discussed groups of places (Feldhaus 2003).

Nālampalam (from Malayalam “four temples”) is the concept of cluster of four temples dedicated to the sons of Daśaratha – Rāma, Lakṣmaṇa, Bharata and Śatrughna. The most famous cluster consists of the Śrī Rāmasvāmi temple in Tṛprayār, Kūṭalmāṇikyam temple dedicated to Bharata in Iriññālakkuṭa, Śrī Lakṣmaṇapperumāḷ temple in Mūḻikkuḷam, and Śatrughna temple in Pāyammal (Vaidyanathan 2011). The temples have adopted a particular pilgrimage pattern (nālampala-darśanam) that prescribes to visit all shrines during one day in the Karkkaṭakam month (July-August) – also referred to as Rāmāyaṇa māsam “Rāmāyaṇa month” in Kerala. Apart from the above mentioned temples, there are said to be at least three more sets of nālampalam that are located across the state of Kerala.

The proposed paper will discuss the rhetoric of replication of the Rāmāyaṇa geography in the local geospace of Kerala by examining the māhātmyas / sthalapurāṇas of the institutions in question, local oral traditions, temple rituals and festivals, as well as temple paintings and sculptures.