Kerala is rightfully known as ‘God’s own country’ because of its scenic beauty, picturesque hill stations, lush greenery, and enchanting beaches. The region is also famous for its rich culture, traditions, and festivals.
In Kerala, we find the perfect amalgamation of the past and the present. The younger generations embrace their unique culture and traditions wholeheartedly.
Today we are about to tell you about Mannarasala Ayilyam a festival celebrated in Kerala, its place of origin, and unique features.
Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple
To understand Mannarasala Ayilyam, we first need to understand its place of origin, the Mannarasala Nagaraja Temple.
The Mannarasala Nagaraja Temple is dedicated to the serpent god Nagaraja. The temple is one of the first places of worship of the serpent gods.
The temple is situated amidst a dense green forest that provides a peaceful and tranquil environment. The strong spiritual vibes of the temple are bound to fill you with devotion.
The rituals, offerings, customs, and traditions of the temple are bizarre as well as astonishing. Being a part of this festival and its celebrations is a divine and spiritually enriching experience.
Long ago, Kerala was not a habitable land due to its salinity. Lord Parashurama, who is believed to be the creator of Kerala, performed acts of atonement to please Lord Shiva and find a solution.
He informed him that the salinity of the land could only be removed by the flaming poison of serpents.
Lord Parashurama performed penance to please the serpent god, Nagaraja. Lord Nagaraja was very pleased by his dedication and fulfilled his request. The serpents arrived and began spreading their poison.
This helped the land of Kerala become green and habitable. Lord Parashurama requested the Lord to stay there forever and continue blessing the people of the land.
He found the perfect place called Mandarasala due to the Mandara trees growing there in abundance for building a temple. This Mandarasala later came to be known as Mannarasala.
Lord Parashurama established the idol and performed the ceremonies as per the Vedic rites. He also entrusted a scholarly Brahmin for performing the daily poojas.
The Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja temple has over 30,000 paintings and drawings of snakes in various shapes and sizes all along the path. The deity of the temple is ‘Anantha’ representing Lord Vishnu and ‘Vasuki’ representing the spirit of Lord Shiva.
Another unique feature about the Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple is that unlike other temples and shrines, it has a head priestess.
The legend behind the Nagaraja Temple goes like this:
A couple named Vasudeva and Sreedevi resided in the temple. They were childless and worshipped Lord Nagaraja to bless them with a child.
Once there was a blazing fire in the forest, and hundreds of snakes were injured from the scorching heat while many could not survive the flames. The snakes somehow managed to crawl to their pits.
The childless wife of the Brahmin took the snakes in her care and treated their burns by applying turmeric powder, honey, milk, and cooled their burnt bodies by applying sandalwood paste. They were able to nurse the snakes back to health and even constructed new pits for them.
The couple performed poojas and offered Nurum Palum (ghee, milk, payasam, rice powder, turmeric powder, coconut juice, cow’s milk, and bananas) to Lord Nagaraja, which is an important offering in the temple till today.
Lord Nagaraja was pleased with the couple, he appeared to them and told them that he would incarnate as her son.
The Brahmin lady soon gave birth to two sons, a five-headed serpent child, and a human child. When the two boys grew up, the five-headed boy disappeared into the underground cellar after assigning the familial responsibilities to his younger brother.
He also asked his mother to perform certain rituals without fail. He instructed that only the mother can offer worship to him and on certain days men are allowed. After the mother’s passing, the eldest Brahmin lady of the family would have the status of the mother. This custom has been followed to date.
The head priestess is known as Mannarasala Amma. She is venerated as the mother of Lord Nagaraja. Every year, devotees gather in the temple in large numbers to receive her blessings.
It is believed that the five-headed Nagaraja still resides in the cellar and meditates. He is referred to as Muthassan or Appoppan (grandfather). The jungle surrounding that area is known as Appoppan Kavu or Grandfather’s Grove.
The Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple has another specialty. A turmeric powder is given as prasad and it is believed to have special curative powers.
Mannarasala Ayilyam Festival 2021
Mannarasala Ayilyam 2021 falls on the 30th of October.
Mannarasala Ayilyam is a major festival of the Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja temple. It occurs during the Malayalam month of Thulam.
Mannarasala Ayilyam of the Thulam month got its significance from the time when the Maharaja of Travancore who frequently visited the temple was not able to visit it on the Ayilyam day in the Malayalam month of Kanni and had to postpone his visit to the Ayilyam day in Thulam.
The Royal palace bore all the expenses for the celebrations of that Ayilyam and it gained a royal splendor and henceforth became the festival of the masses.
One important event of all three Ayilyam- Kumbham, Kanni, and Thulam is Ezhunallathu.
During Ezhunallathu, the Mannarasala Amma (head priestess) carries the Nagaraja Thirumukham and Nagaphanam in a spectacular procession from the temple to Illam (ancestral home of the priestess located near the temple). The Elayamma follows her carrying the idol of Sarpayakshiyamma. The Karanavar (male head) carries the idols of Nagayakshi Amma and Nagachamundi Amma.
The procession is accompanied by people playing traditional instruments like ‘muthukuda’ and ‘venchamaram’ as well as other percussion instruments.
Once they reach the Illam, the head priestess performs her daily Thevaram followed by the Ayilyam pooja. The Ayilyam pooja is performed during every Ayilyam but the Ezhunallathu is carried out only during the Ayilyam months of Kumbham, Kanni, and Thulam.
Another event that takes place during Mannarasala Ayilyam is ‘deepakazhcha’ which is the lighting of thousands of lamps around the temple.
Various cultural programs and competitions are organized during the Ayilyam days and prizes are distributed for the same.
Rituals of Mannarasala Ayilyam
The rituals and festivities for the Ayilyam day start with the opening of the temple for Nirmalya Darshanam. After that, the Karanavar, male head of the Mannarasala Illam administers special poojas.
Then, the head priestess Valiya Amma gives darshan to the thousands of devotees who gather around to celebrate the special day.
A mass feast known as Prasadamottu is organized for the devotees after the Nivedyam (sacred food).
The Nagakkalam rituals are organized next which are administered by the Karanavar.
After all these rituals, the Ezhunallathu, grand procession takes place.
After reaching the Illam, Valiya Amma performs special pooja followed by the Thattil Noorumpalum ritual conducted by the Karanavar that marks the end of the Mannarasala Ayilyam festival.
Former Valiya Amma
Savitri Antharjanam was the former Valiya Amma of the Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple. She became the Valiya Amma on 28th Tulum (the third month of Malayalam calendar) 1093 and attained Samadhi on 24th October 1993 at the age of 91 after completing close to eight decades as Valiya Amma.
Current Valiya Amma
Uma Devi Antharjanam is the Valiya Amma of the Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja temple as of now. She became the Valiya Amma on 24th October 1993 at the age of 64.
Prominent Offerings of the Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple
|Education, prosperity and fame||Silk grains, Divine ornaments.|
|Protection from poison||Turmeric|
|Curing diseases||Pepper, mustard, green peas etc|
|Protection from damage||Serpent cave made of gold, silver, copper or bronze. Images of serpents’ eggs, tree, earth etc|
|Getting whatever one wants||Milk, ripe kadalai fruit, Nilavarapayasam|
|Having a child||A vessel known as Uruli made of gold, silver, brass, bronze for performing ‘Nurum Palum’ ceremony.After the prayers are met and the couple is blessed with an offspring, they visit the temple to offer thanksgiving prayers.|
Facts About Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple
- The temple is one of the largest Nagaraja temples in the state of Kerala.
- One of the rarest things about this temple is that it is headed by a Brahmin woman while most temples have a head priest.
- The Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja temple is believed to possess Sarpa Dosha Nirvana, to overcome the snake curse.
- Many barren women, visit the temple and offer ‘Uruli Kamazhthal’ that is the placing of a metal vessel upside down in front of the deity to seek blessings of Lord Nagaraja to have children.
- Many devotees give offerings in the form of small stone idols of serpents to the temple to show their gratitude towards Lord Nagaraja.
- The turmeric powder given as a prasad in this temple is believed to possess special curing powers.
- The snakes that live in the temple premises guard the property and there are hardly any cases of snake bites.
Ways To Reach Mannarsala Temple
The nearest airports to Mannarasala Nagaraja Temple are Thiruvananthapuram International Airport and Cochin International Airport which are situated at a distance of 118 Km and 112 Km respectively. From there you can take a taxi or local bus.
The nearest railway station to Mannarasala Nagaraja Temple is Haripad Railway Station which is situated at a distance of 3.4 Km. The best way to reach Mannarsala Temple from here is by auto-rickshaw.
The nearest bus station to Mannarasala Nagaraja Temple is Haripad Bus Station which is situated at a distance of 3.4 Km.
Snake worship is a common practice in India. Every year, devotees flock to the temple in large numbers on the occasion of Mannarasala Ayilyam to seek blessings of Valiya Amma and offer prayers to the serpent god, Nagaraja.
This temple is highly regarded as the one which brings the joy of offspring to childless couples.
It is a highly enriching experience to be a part of these unique festivities and celebrations.
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