|Mannarasala Snake Temple,Kerala. FindMessages.com|
There is a plethora of tales of Serpent gods and goddesses found in the Hindu mythology. In the Hindu pantheon there are Naga gods and goddesses. Nagpanchami in many parts of India and Ayilayam pooja in Kerala are important festivals that attract a large number of devotees. The strong belief, that snakes represent good spell of rain, fertility and prosperity, is common across the length and breadth of India.
Among the 48 Hindu temples there and in the fringe areas surrounding the countryside, two most famous temples are Subrahmanya Swamy temple and Mannarasala Temple; the former dedicated to Lord Subramanya, is one of the oldest temples in Kerala and was severely damaged but for Koothambalam and gold flag mast in 1096 AD. The temple was rebuilt during the time of King Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma (1930-1949 ); the latter is a Nagaraja temple located near Haripad in the midst of a forest area doted with thousands of stone carved snake images all along the paths and in the tree shades. There are more than 30,000 stone-carved snake images. Perhaps, the largest temple in terms of stone idols installed dedicated to serpents in the world. It is also an ancient temple and a major center of pilgrimage for the devotees of serpent God Nagaraja (also Nagarajan). It is believed to have been established by Lord Parasurama. Sarpa Yakshi and Naga Yakshi are the beloved consorts of Nagaraja. Here Nagaraja - main deity is endowed with the form of Hari (Lord Vishnu) and the spirit of Lord Shiva.
|Mannarasala Snake Temple,Kerala. The Bold Indian|
Unlike other temples of Kerala or else where, the beliefs and rituals associated with the Mannarasala temple are different and this is the only temple where the puja protocol is headed by a Brahman woman. Coming from a hereditary family, enjoying rights to conduct temple pooja, the woman assumes the role of a mother. Legend has it that the first priestess gave birth to a five-headed Naga which is believed to safeguard the family. Living as a Brahmacharini (practices strict celibacy) and observing long hours of meditation, prayer and fasting as a priest, she blesses the people for good health, prosperity and longevity. The woman head priest observes: ''Those who worship me with faith and devotion will have have every thing and be free from diseases.'' The woman priests who come from that family are said to have some kind of mystical power.
Mannarasala Aayilyam is the major festival here celebrated in the month of Kanni and Thulam (September - October). As part of the festival, all snake stone images on the temple premises and in the groves are taken in procession to the illam (Veedu in Tamil) of the priest family that is associated with the temple. Offerings - rice-flour and milk (Nurum palum), cooked rice and red fluid (Kuruthi) made by mixing lime and lemon are offered. The important feature of this traditional procession is the female priest herself will carry the idol of Nagaraja with devotion and the entire oorvalam (procession) is conducted with intense passion and commitment.