Mannarassala Sree Nagaraja Temple is a very ancient and internationally-known centre of pilgrimage for the devotees of serpent gods. 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.Among all the Naga Temples, Mannarasala, stands as awe inspiring and legendary. It is not a rare thing to see the same serpent appear in the same location for a number of days in the temple premises. On the steps of the gatehouse, on the hedgerows, among the creepers; those who perform bhajanam in the temple can stand very close at any time and pray.
About the Temple
The pooja is headed by a Amma, the senior most Brahmin lady in the family, even though men are given chances to worship rarely. After Mother’s time, the next Amma is chosen. Valia Amma of today is Uma Devi Antharjanam, and she was consecrated as the Valia Amma on 24th October 1993, when she was 64 years old. She is also the wife of the late Shri. M.G.Narayanan Namboothiri. Devotees who worship with devotion are blessed with children, cured of diseases, will have long life and health and wealth; the men of the family will have the title of ‘Vasukisridevi”. The poojas are striclty followed as prescribed by Lord Parasurama.
Legend says that Lord Parasurama when offered prayer to Nagaraja, he blessed him with his divine darshan and agreed to reside in the divine land. At a very auspicious moment according to Vedic rites, Nagaraja idol was installed, who is Brahma, Vishnu and Siva in one in the ‘Thirthasthala’ (Hall of pilgrimage) filled with Mandara trees, the place now known as Mannarasala. (The installed deity here represents Anantha (Vishnuswaroopa) and Vasuki (Siva in spirit). The installations of Sarpayakshi, Nagayakshi and Nagachamundi, the Naga deities, as well as of their associates were conducted in the proper places with the proper rituals. Parasurama performed to the accompaniment of Vedic recitation and singing of Sama, Abhishekam, Alankaram, Neivedyasamarpanam, Neeranjanam, Sarpabali and other rites pleasing to the serpents and thereby made all the serpents happy.
Vasudeva & Sreedevi
After many years the couple Vasudeva and Sreedevi of the illam were bearing the grief of childlessness, who resolutely worshipped Nagaraja to allay their grief. It was about this time that unexpectedly fire broke out in the jungle around the dwelling place of Nagaraja and burnt down the jungle. The serpents were tortured by the flames, forcing them to hide in their pits with great difficulty. Vasudeva and Sreedevi looked after the serpents, who had their hoods charred, bodies half-burnt, and fainting from time to time, falling down and crawling along. They gently fanned them with fans made of sweet-scented grass and poured ghee mixed with honey and oil on the wounds; cooled their melted bodies with sandalwood ointment; and comforted them. They put them at the foot of banyan trees. They performed purification ceremonies and consecrated the pits; and were put up in special places under the shade of deodar trees and in Chitrakudas. The couple performed abhisheka with thirtha like Panchagavya (a holy mixture of five items from the cow’s milk, curd, butter, urine and dung); observed elaborate poojas according to rules with areca nut flower bunches, fragrant flowers and water, incense etc., Nivedyam with melted butter (ghee), milk, payasam with molasses, rice powder, turmeric powder, coconut juice, Kadali fruit, cow’s milk, all mixed together in the proper form as Nurum Palum, equivalent to the elixir of life. They offered serpent deities with great devotion, appam, aval (beaten rice or rice wafers), tender coconut etc. They chanted vedic mantras, performed circumambulation and performed all kinds of poojas to restore those crowds of serpents to full health. The omnipresent and omnipotent Nagaraja was greatly pleased with their continuous penance and the love shown to his associates; Nagaraja made himself visible to the couple and blessed them that he would incarnate on the earth as their beloved son. He said ” I shall assume the form of a serpent and stay here (in Mannarasala) permanently, as long as the sun and the moon are there, showering prosperity on your family and granting protection to all the devotees who come here”. The Brahmin lady became pregnant and gave birth to five-hooded serpent-child as well as a human child. The two brothers grew up together. Initiation ceremonies and Vedic education were carried out at the proper time in the traditional style. Nagaraja instructed the younger brother to enter into matrimony for the perpetual reservation of the holy family and he obeyed it. When the five-hooded Nagaraja realized that the objectives of his incarnation were realized, he informed the Holy Mother that henceforth he would live at this Illam by entering into Samadhi to bless the devotees. Then he suggested certain inviolable rituals and rules for offering worship and then went into the immaculate cellar and vanished. (It is believed that even today that five-hooded Nagaraja stays in the cellar doing Tapas for the abound prosperity of his dependents. The members of the household always refer to him with great respect and devotion as “Muthassan’ and “Appoppan” (Grand father). The jungle close by is the exclusive preserve for his unobstructed peregrinations (Appoppan Kavu – Grandfathers’ Grove).
Valia Amma’s pooja pattern
Valia Amma has a special pattern of pooja everyday, and she must perform pooja in the sanctum sanctorum itself on certain days like
On the first day of every month, malayalam calendar
On the day of Pooyam star each month, malayalam calendar.
From the beginning of Magha to the eve of Sivaratri.
Thiruvonam in the month of Chingam.
From the 1st to the `12th of Karkitakam.
Twelve days before Ayilyam in Kanni and Tulam.
When Valia Amma attains Samadhi, only milk and fruit will be offered in the temple. After offering naivedyam the door will be closed immediately and will be opened the next day, for three days.
Anniversary celebrations: 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).
Mahasivaratri :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.
Nilavara Pooja :Once a year Nurum Palum is offered Nilavara, 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”.
Deeparadhana: Only for Sivarathri ceremony for lights held in this temple. Athazhapuja, Sarpabali and Ezhunnallethu are done.
Sarpabali is performed by Valia Amma herself on the platforms in front of Nagaraja and Sarpayakshi. The members of the Illam grind rice in the mortar for the Nurum Palum of the Sarpabali on Sivarathri day. The Sarpabali is the offering made by the Illam. Hence, grinding rice is a voluntary sacred offering by the members in the family. That only on Sivarathri day is the Sarpabali which is pleasing to Nagaraja offered on behalf of the Mannarasala family because of the special attachment to Siva. In the last quarter of the night – the images of Nagaraja and Sarpayakshi from the temple are carried on head – the senior and the junior are taken out in ceremonial procession towards the due east of the temple and placed at the foot of a divine tree about half a kilometer away. The journey is around the Illam; when the procession returns to the sanctum sanctorum by the southern side of the temple, the scarlet glow of the rising sun will have come up in the sky. The bright light of the traditional torches (theevettis), silver umbrellas, decorative discs and fans (Aalavattam and Venchamaram), all accompanied by musical instruments add to the grandeur of the celebrations. Sarpabali is more of a ritual of the members of the Illam, when compared to other festivities where devotees are offered to take part and share the devotion of the festival.
Sarpam Pattu : This holy ceremony is to be conducted once every forty-one years. Separate poojas are offered to the nine Nagas namely Nagaraja, Sarppa Yakshi, Naga Yakshi, Naga Chamundi, Nilavara Muthassan, Kuzhi nagam, Kari Nagam, Mani Nagam and Para Nagam during these days. The rituals that go for days and nights last until the day when Amma becomes divinely possessed and makes prophetic announcements.
Pallippana and Gandharva Song:The year after the Sarpam Pattu is celebrated Pallippana. It is the ‘pana’ performed by the Velan tribe. Gandharva song is held during the year after Pallippana. The ‘Kurups’ draw the figures on the ground known as Kalam, Valia Amma performs the Pooja; and this is known as Gandharvan Pattu.
Pulasarpam Pattu: Pulasarppam Pattu is an annual offering in Pulakkavu, situated to the north-east of Illam. The main Pooja here is Nurum Palum. Valia Amma has the right to offer pooja. (Nurum Palum is offered here regularly on Ayilyam Day in Kumbham or on any other Ayilyam coming thereafter).
Kavumattam and Sarpabali: Kavumattam is a traditional ritual performed to shift the serpents from their place of permanent residence to a place that they deserve which pleases them and honors them, with the blessings and instructions from Valia Amma. There are rituals concerning the installations of Chitrakudas. There are long lasting and varied Poojas and rituals for Sarpabali. The Sarpabali that begins after sunset will come to an end only during the last quarter of the night. Cheria Amma grinds the rice for Nurum Palum. The head of the family often goes to perform Sarpabali in other places.
Offerings and Contact
The offerings can be booked in advance and the details can be fetched from the temple site. D.D./ or Money Order for any offering should be addressed as –
Harippad, Kerala, India
Pin : 690550.
Proper signboards are available from the N.H.47 to the temple. 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.