deities were transformed and absorbed into the Hindu pantheon. Thus the Dravidian Goddess
Kottavai became Durga, Kali and Bhagavati. The popular non-Aryan deity Sasta came to be
looked upon as Hariharaputra, the son of Vishnu (Hari) and Siva (Hara), in order to
make Him acceptable not only to the Saivite and Vaishnavite sections of the Hindu
population but also to the converts to Hinduism from within the Buddhist fold.
It was during the period of Kulasekharas of the second
Chera empire (800-1102 AD) - the golden age of ancient Kerala - that Hinduism made
spectacular progress. This was due to the Bhakti movement
in the 9th century and to the teachings of Sankaracharya
(788-820 A.D.). As already stated, the Bhakti movement was led by Saiva Nayanars like
Appar and Sambandar and the Vaishnava, Alwars, likeThirumalisai and Tirumangai, who
toured the land, findling the religious fervor of the masses by their Bhajan or
devotional parties and processions.
Of the sixty-three Nayanars, Viralminda (also called
Viramainter) and Cheraman Perumal, and- of the twelve, Alwars, Kulasekhara belonged to
Kerala. We shall discuss briefly the life and work of these Kerala savants in the
propagation of the Bhakti cult,which provided the real impetus to the temple - building
activity in Kerala.