Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple
Mannarasala Temple is devoted to serpent worship. It is located near Haripad, 32 km south of Alappuzha,14km from kayamkulam,115 km from Cochin International Airport and 125 km from Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, Kerala.
Serpent worship is part of the Hindu religious practices and Kerala is a place where one would come across temples dedicated to serpent gods. Serpent worship is practised in several ancestral homes, which have special worship places called Kaavu (serpent grove).
Among the temples dedicated to serpent gods, in the most famous is the Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja temple located at Mannarasala, near Harippad in the district of Alappuzha. This temple is managed by a Brahmin family headed by a priestess. As per belief, the first priestess of Mannarasala gave birth to a five-headed snake, which is believed to reside in the ancestral house to safeguard the family.
In this temple, the rites are presided over by a priestess. The temple covers an area of 16 acres of dense green forest grove. The two main idols are Nagaraja or the serpent king and his consort, Sarpayakshini. The most popular offering of this temple is ‘Uruli Kamazhthal’, the placing of a bell metal vessel upside down in front of the deity, which is believed to restore fertility to childless couples.
Though the legends related to the origin of a place cannot be deemed as its history, the story on the evolution of Mannarasala as the supreme place of worship of the serpent Gods is associated with Parasurama, the creator of Kerala. The history of Mannarasala has been mentioned in the ‘Mandara Salodayam‘ Sanskrit poem written by Mannarasala M.G.Narayanan Nampoodiri of the sacred family, who wrote it on the basis of reliable accounts and legends traditionally handed down and in the light of old books available with the temple. Since the poem was incomplete, the history narrated here is from the book ‘The Serpent Temple Mannarasala’, published by Mr.N.Jayadevan of Manasa Publications (Translated to English by the renowned scholar Dr.Ayyappa Panikker). This book is also based on the advice and instructions received from the former Great Mother, and in accordance with the other members of the family as well as the old records examined for the purpose.
Location : Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple, Mannarasala P.O, Haripad, Alappuzha, Kerala, India.
Gods : Nagaraja, Naga Yakshi
Landmark : The temple is located about three kilometers to the south-east of the bus station in N.H.47 at Haripad, in Alleppey district of Kerala. Proper signboards are available from the N.H.47 to the temple. Since the temple is very renowned, accessibility to the temple may not be a problem for the devotees. Various cabs and auto rickshaws are available near the Haripad bus station and Railway station to reach Mannarassala at nominal fare. Since located near the highway almost equidistant between the cities of Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi (approx.113 kms and 103 kms respectively), it is easy to reach Haripad via bus and train. Nearest Airports are Thiruvananthapuram International Airport - Distance 121 kms. and Nedumbassery International Airport - Distance - 132 kms.
The Ayilyam day in Tulam, Kanni and Kumbham months in the Malayalam calendar and the Mahasivarathri are celebrated here with great pomp. The Ayilyam in Kanni is the birthday of Nagaraja and that in Kumbham is the birthday of Anantha, the Muthassan of Nilavara (cellar).
Ayilyam of Thulam
The most celebrated festival at Mannarassala is the Ayilyam of Thulam. In the beginning, the Ayilyam of Thulam had no speciality or importance. It was a regular custom for the Maharaja of Travancore to visit this temple on Ayilyam day in Kanni. On one occasion, the Maharaja could not reach the temple as usual and had to postpone the visit to the Ayilyam day in Thulam. The royal palace met all the expenses for the celebrations of that Ayilyam. Several landed properties were given away to the temple free of land tax in order to make the festival more attractive, as an expression of repentance. Thus the Ayilyam of Thulam came to secure a royal splendor and official glamour without difficulty. The Ayilyam days of Kanni and Kumbham are still celebrated with befitting grandeur.
Sivarathri, the day of the great festival in Siva temples, is given unusual importance in this temple of Nagaraja. Celebrations are also held accordingly though this is not very widely known even today. The installation of the Nagaraja is in accordance with the concept of Siva. The poojas also are on the Saivite model. Thus Sivaratri assumed special importance among the annual festivities.
The festivities on Sivarathri day at Mannarasala are also associated with Vasuki, the King of Serpents. Legends say that once Vasuki went round the gigantic Thanni tree in front of the temple in a sportive mood and stretched his hoods shining with jewels towards the east; opened his mouth and hissed; all the sands in that place flew away; and a little pond came into being. This is Karoli pond (Karoli Kulam). On Sivarathri day, it is believed, he goes in procession in that direction to have a glimpse of his playful creation.
Annual pooja in Nilavara
Only once a year Nurum Palum is offered and performed in the cellar (Nilavara): that is on the day next to Sivaratri. On the fifth day after Sivaratri, the Mother comes to the Illam after the daily pooja in the temple, and opens the cellar. The prasadam of the Nurum Palum is distributed among the members of the family by the Mother. After the pooja in Nilavara, Nurum Palum and other poojas are performed in Appooppan Kavu ( Grandfather's Grove), which is the abode of "Muthassan".
Only for Sivarathri is the evening ceremony for lights held in this temple. After the meal, there is no Pooja in the sanctum sanctorum. It may be that Sivarathri was chosen for the ceremony of lights because fasting is compulsory on that particular day. All Poojas including the 'Athazhapuja (evening worship) are performed on that day. The main items of that day are Sarpabali and Ezhunnallethu (procession).
The 'Uruli Kamazhthal' offering with devotion and prayers, has helped numerous devotees to have children, who come to this temple.
- For wealth and prosperity: A pot filled with gold or a gold pot filled with other things.
- For education, prosperity and fame: Silk grains, divine ornaments.
- For recovering health: Salt
- For protection from poison: Turmeric
- For curing diseases: Pepper, mustard, green peas etc.
- For protection from damage: Serpent cave made of gold etc., images of serpents' eggs, tree, earth etc.,
- For long life: Melted butter (ghee)
- For getting whatever one wants: Milk, ripe kadalai fruit, nilavarapayasam.
- For having child: A vessel named Uruli made of brass, bronze etc. for performing 'Nurum Palum'.