Mannarasala Nagaraja temple-The Abode of Snake Gods

Apr 01, 2009 | Vol. 1, Issue 2

Mannarasa Nagaraja temple, situated near Harippad in Alappuzha district is one of few temples where the Serpent God, Lord Nagaraja as the main deity. The three main festivities of this temple fall on Ayilyam day (star sign) in the months of Kanni, Thulam and Kumbham, according to the Malayalam Calendar.

 

Snake worship is considered as one of the oldest forms of worship practiced from ancient times. In Kerala you find existence of sacred groves in almost all villages and feudal homes where the snakes are worshipped and they are generally known as Kavu.  Kavu is an isolated piece of virgin land rich in bio diversity. In most of the temples also you will find a place dedicated to the Snake Gods.

Mannarasa Nagaraja temple, situated near Harippad in Alappuzha district is one of few temples in Kerala, where the Serpent God, Lord Nagaraja as the main deity. The temple is surrounded and shrouded by green foliage. The three main festivities of this temple fall on Ayilyam day (star sign) in the months of Kanni, Thulam and Kumbham, according to the Malayalam Calendar. The main attraction is the holy procession of the Snake Gods followed by Noorum Paalum and Kalam pattumKalampattu is a ritual in which figures of snakes are drawn in the floor using five different colored powders and they sing songs praising the snake gods.

The temple belongs to the Brahmin family of Mannarasala Illam and by tradition all main religious rituals are performed by the oldest lady in the family addressed as 'Amma'- the mother. Amma has to observe strict regimen in her day to day life. The present Amma is Umadevi Thamburatty, who is over 75 years of old. She will be available to the devotees for counseling to solve their worries related to snakes.

The legend is that Lord Parasurama, who created the land mass of Kerala, assigned a group of Brahmin families for priesthood and administering the temples. The family of Mannarsala Illam was assigned to Mannarasala Nagaraja temple. Once upon a time, the family was almost on the verge of extinction as there were no children. But, after long prayers and lent Sridevi the lady of the family gave birth to two babies. The elder boy was the incarnation of Lord Nagaraja and was born with five heads representing and similar to the hood of a snake. As he grew up, he on his own took a decision to stay in the Nilavara- the cellar in the home to avoid the local people whom feared. He allowed only his mother to meet him. The family line was maintained through the second son. Since then the tradition has been that the head priestess was always addressed as Amma- the Mother.  Lord in the cellar is addressed as Appoppan, meaning the grand father.  

Like a typical Kavu, Mannarasala temple is also surrounded by thick virgin vegetation.  In the main temple, the deities are Lord Nagaraja (In this temple the concept is that Snake God Vasuki, a form of Shiva is prominent and Snake God Ananthan, the form of Vishnu as inherent) and one of his consorts is the Sarppayakshi. The shrines of other serpent deities, Nagayakshi, another consort of Nagaraja and Naga Chamundi, sister of Nagaraja are near the main temple. From here as you walk towards north, you reach Mannarasala Mana, the traditional home of the family. Here, Lord Appoppan, the five headed Snake man is believed to be residing in side the Nilavara, the cellar. Further north of this home are situated the shrines for Lord Dharmasastha and Goddess Bhadrakali. Both the shrines are situated in dense foliage of tall trees and wild creepers. Along the way to these shrines is Appoppankavu, the playground for the five headed snake. The belief is that this area is well protected by rattle snakes (‘chera’ in local language). Here the deity is installed in Chitrakootam, a geometrical structure in granite, which is meant for snake god.

An interesting sight here is that the whole temple compound has an array of idols of snakes mounted below the trees, on the walls and on both the sides of the pathway. These idols are innumerable and are offerings by devotees from different parts of Kerala. In Kerala almost every feudal home had their own sacred grove dedicated to the snake god. But, with the passage of time and urbanization/real estate development these groves are now almost extinct. According to belief, to avoid the curse of the snake god, idols of snakes are dedicated to Mannarasala temple.

Mannarasala temple attracts lot of devotees even from other religions. The reason is the belief in serpent god is deep rooted in the society. Devotees offer special offerings to overcome their difficulties in life and for prosperity, health, education, marriage, to have children, for protection from poisoning, skin diseases etc.

The main offering to please the God is Noorum Paalum. It is a pooja with specials offerings in milk, rice powder, and turmeric powder, tender coconut water, ghee and plantain. Another important offering is Uruli Kamizthal .Uruli is a flat vessel made out of bronze. This vessel when used for performing Uruli Kamizthal literally means dedicating an Uruli to God. This is done for having children. Miniature forms of snakes, its eggs, trees etc, made of brass, silver or gold is offered to overcome the curse and to relieve of the curse afflicted on you due to the harm you or your ancestors must have done to snakes. Offerings of spices, pepper, Kaduku (mustard) and Cheru payar(green gram) are done as a protection from skin ailments. Salt is offered for good health. A special medicine is also provided by the temple family, which is used as a remedy for rat bite/rat poisoning.

The management of the temple is now vested with a family trust which is headed by the senior most man in the family and at present it is Sri. M.V Subrahmanyan Namboothiri. Free lunch is provided to all who come here.

Timing: 5.30am to 12 noon & 5.30pm to 8pm

(timings are extended on Sundays and Ayilyam days)

Location/Access: Mannarasala, 3km from Harippad busstand. Harippad railway station (Ph: 0479-2412714) is a main station between Alappuzha and Kayamkulam.

For more info: The manager, Sree Mannarasala Nagaraja Kshethram

Ph:0479-2413214, 2141626, res-2413788

www.mannarasala.org,

 

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