The temple is located in the heart of the city and is an architectural marvel. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is revered as Vadakkunathan in the city of Thrissur, the temple is sprawled over an area of 8 acre. It is surrounded by colossal walls of stone and the four cardinal directions have been indicated by four gopurams (gateways) inside the premises. The temple houses three key shrines, which have been dedicated to Vadakkunatham or Lord Shiva, Lord Rama and Shankaranarayana. As per archaeology, Vadakkunathan Temple is the oldest temple in South India and the largest one dedicated to Lord Shiva in Kerala. Perhaps that is why myths have originated around it that relate that it was the first temple built by Lord Parasurama. The temple has been constructed in classical Kerala-style architecture and boasts murals (17th century) echoing the story of the epic Mahabharata. Many believe that this is also the place where the legendary ruler of Mysore, Tipu Sultan once camped.

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