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The Historical Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple

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Published: Wednesday, May 17, 2017, 10:30 [IST]
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The Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple is a very ancient and well-known temple that is dedicated to the serpent gods. The famous Nagaraja temple of Mannarasala is nestled in a forest glade, like most temples that are dedicated to the snake gods. The temple has over 30,000 images of snakes in various shapes and sizes along the path and among the trees, and it is one amongst the largest such temples in Kerala.

The temple is located in the town of Harippad in the Alappuzha district of Kerala state. Women seeking fertility come here to worship and upon the birth of their child come back and conduct special poojas, who often bring snake images as offerings.

Though the legend related to the origin of the place cannot be deemed as its history, the story on the evolution of Mannarasala as being one of the foremost places of worship of the Snake gods is associated with Lord Parashurama who is said to be the creator of Kerala.

Best Time To Visit The Temple

The temple can be visited anytime during the year, the temple witnesses a huge crowd on Shivarathri and other special occasions that are celebrated in the temple.

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The Story Behind The Raising Of Kerala

Parashurama wanted to release himself from the sin of killing the Kshatriyas, for which he approached the holy rishis who suggested that he should gift a land of his own to the Brahmins.

Parasurama asked Varuna the lord of the seas to give him some land. He threw his axe into the sea and thus raised the land from the sea and gifted it to the Brahmins, this land came to be known as Kerala.

The land was not habitable due to its salinity. Parashurama was deeply pained by this and undertook a penance to please Lord Shiva who said to him that the salinity can be removed only by the flaming poison of the serpents.

Parashurama began to perform a penance in order to please the Snake god, he along with his disciples set out into a deserted jungle in order to please Nagaraja who was inaccessible beyond anybody's understanding. He found a suitable place close to the seashore and constructed a Thirthasthala and began his penance.

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Nagaraja Makes His Appearance

Nagaraja who was pleased appeared before Parashurama, willing to grant him his desire. The sage prostrated at the feet of Nagaraja and offered his prayers to realize his objective. Nagaraja granted his request and the ferocious serpents arrived at the spot and began to spread the flaming Kalakda poison.

After which the land of Kerala became habitable and green. Parashurama requested the Lord to stay in this land forever and bless the residents of this land, which was accepted by Nagaraja.

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Details On The Installation

Parashurama conducted the installation ceremonies as per the Vedic rites and Nagaraja chose to reside in the Mandara trees nearby and the place was called Mandarasala. As time passed, Mandarasala became Mannarasala. The installed deity here represents Anantha who is seen as Lord Vishnu himself and Vasuki who is worshipped as Shiva in spirit.

Parasurama appointed Brahmins who were Tantric experts for performing the poojas, and nominated Kshatriyas, peasants and the Ashtavaidyas who were supreme amongst the physicians and just brought Kerala in to greenery and prosperity. He also gave instructions to be followed to preserve the sanctity of the place and left.

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The Story Of Vasudeva And Sreedevi

Many generations passed by and a particular family fell into the grief of being childless. Vasudeva and Sreedevi resolutely worshipped Nagaraja to bring an end to their sorrow. At about this time, an unexpected fire broke out in the jungle around the dwelling place of Nagaraja and brunt down the jungle.

The serpents were tortured by the flames, which forced them to hide in their pits with great difficulty. The couple took care of the serpents who had their hoods charred, half-burnt bodies and fainting from time to time. They gently fanned them with fans made of sweet-scented grass and poured ghee mixed with honey and oil on the wounds and cooled their melted bodies with sandalwood paste and comforted them.

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The Story Of Vasudeva And Sreedevi

Once the serpents were nursed back to health, they were put back at the foot of the banyan trees and also new pits were constructed for them to reside. The couple offered the serpents elaborate poojas which comprised of ghee, milk, payasam, rice powder, turmeric powder, coconut juice, bananas, cow's milk and mixed all these ingredients and offered it to Nagaraja. This offering was called Nurum Palum, which is seen as an important offering in the temple till date.

Nagaraja, who was greatly pleased by the rituals, made an appearance to the couple and said that he would incarnate as their son and would assume the form of a serpent and stay here permanently. The boon came true and the lady became pregnant and gave birth to a five-hooded serpent child as well as a human child.

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The Two Brothers

The two brothers grew up together and as time went by, Nagaraja instructed his younger brother to enter into matrimony for the perpetual reservation of the holy family and obeyed it.

When Nagaraja realised that the objectives of his incarnation had been done, he informed the mother that he would live at this home and suggested certain rituals and rules for offering worship and went into the cellar of the house and vanished.

It is believed that even today the five-hooded Nagaraja stays in the cellar in meditation for the prosperity of his dependents. The members of the household fondly address him as Muthassan and Appoppan (Grand Father). The jungle close by in the premises of the temple is known as Appoppan Kavu or Grandfather's Grove.

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Mannarasala Amma

The beliefs and rituals associated with the temple are different from most of the other temples, and this is one rare temple where the puja patterns are headed by a Brahmin lady. Legends say that when Muthassan left for the cellar, he had given certain instructions to his mother, which also says that only mother herself can offer worship to him and only on certain days men are allowed. It was decided that after the Mother's time, the senior most Brahmin lady in the family would have the status of the Mother.

Devotees who come to the temple make sure they have a darshan of Amma, who is to be seated at her residence and bless every individual whole-heartedly.

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Temple Timings

The Mannarasala Nagaraja Temple remains open from 5:00 AM to 12:00 PM in the morning and from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM in the evening.

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