This temple enshrines the deity of Krishna as Santhana Gopala Swami – He who blesses childless devotees with children & protects them. The deity is believed to be of heavenly origin & is a rare one, depicting the Lord sitting on the coiled bed formed by the divine serpent Ananta (Adi Sesha) whose 5 hoods are spread out, holding a conch & discus in the upper hands, lower left hand resting on the serpent bed & lower right hand holding a lotus flower.
The legend of Santhana Gopalam (Bhagavatam):
A brahmin living in Dwaraka was distraught by the deaths of 8 of his children immediately after birth. In his anguish he blamed Krishna for not protecting his children & fulfilling His duty as a protector of His subjects. Arjuna, one of Krishna’s closest friends & devotees was unable to bear the insults hurled at Krishna & immediately vowed to protect all future children of the brahmin. Failing to do so, he vowed to give up his life by jumping into fire. So Arjuna, proud of his archery skills, erected an armour of divine arrows around the brahmin’s hut & stood guard outside.
Unfortunately, the 9th child too died. True to his word, Arjuna prepared a fire & was about to jump into it when Krishna stopped him & took him to the abode of Yama, the god of death & justice. Yama bowed down to the Lord but said that the 9 children were not in His possession. Krishna & Arjuna then went to Vaikuntha where Mahavishnu lay on the serpent Ananta. Here the 9 children were found unharmed & playing happily. Mahavishnu, considered to be an expansion of Krishna, who is the original Supreme Lord, entrusted the children to Krishna & Arjuna. He said it was all divine play, an excuse to see Arjuna & Krishna together in Vaikuntha, who were none other than Nara & Narayana – the twin manifestations of the Supreme being. Nara represents the enlightened human soul & Narayana representing its eternal companion, the Supreme Being. Mahavishnu also entrusted the deity of Santhana Gopala to Arjuna, which he installed at the temple as we see today. The 9 children were entrusted to the brahmin who apologised to Krishna & was designated as the chief priest of the temple. It is believed that all subsequent priests are descendants of that brahmin.
Arjuna asked Lord Ganesha to find a suitable place to install the deity, & Ganesha, coming upon the beautiful village of Poornavedapuram (Tripunithura) chose the place for Himself. Arjuna is said to have shifted Ganesha to the side & installed the deity of Santhana Gopala instead. Hence the deity of Ganesha is found on the southern side of the same sanctum, which is in the form of a chariot. Arjuna is also believed to have crushed a few mustard seeds from the surrounding fields & lit a lamp with the oil. The lamp in front of the sanctum is believed to be the one lit by Arjuna & is kept continuously lit. The oil is said to possess miraculous healing powers. Considered to be the complete repository & Lord of the 3 Vedas (Trayee), the Lord is called Poornathrayeesa.
May Poornathrayeesa bless one and all. Hare Krishna!