The serpent gods of Mannarasala…
Mannarasala is a renowned pilgrim centre where snakes are worshipped. Situated near Haripad in Alappuzha district, it is the exclusivity in rituals that gives the temple a unique character. The chief priest is a woman, who is the wife of the eldest member of the family _ a rarity where the daughter-in-law becomes the head of the family and thereby the inheritor of the temple. This custom is being followed for centuries. Accordingly, the daughters-in-law of the family carry with them the title “Mannarasala Amma’ for generations. Umadevi Antharjanam, the current Vallyamma, is an ardent worshiper of the serpent gods.
Childless couple used to offer ‘uruli' (a utensil that is circular in shape), as an offering to appease the gods. The temple is surrounded by forest that spreads over 30 acres. The rituals stop anyone from taking away even a leaf. Hence the greenery remains untouched at a time of rapid urbanization.
K Shaji/ Photos: B Muralikrishnan
October 20, 2016, 11:00 AM IST
It is believed that the serpent king resides in the vault of the Mannarasala. This vault has not been opened for centuries. The Vallyamma resides in the house where the vault exists. Umadevi Antharjanam seen in front of the vault.
Myths say ponds will dry up once the kavu (the sacred green patches) are violated. Mannarasala stands an illustration of this faith. Water-filled ponds are in plenty among the green patches here. The ponds and kavu preserve each other. The idols of snakes are seen beside the ponds as if they are standing guard.
The images of snakes will remain etched in your heart even after you leaving the premises. For believers, the blessings showered by the serpent gods soothe their minds. On the other hand, it teaches the great lesson on preserving the nature.
The Ayilyam pooja in progress. Amma performs the pooja that lasts for hours on the floor adjacent to the vault.
Ayilam procession of the Nagaraja. Vallyamma holds in hand the idol of Nagaraja, who is construed as her son.
When it comes to rituals, the Amma of Mannarasala is the last word. The wife of the eldest meber of the illam is anointed Amma. For the last 20 years, Umadevi Antharjam is the Vallyamma here. It is Amma who lend her ear to the grievances of devotees and offer them solutions. Devotees wait for hours to catch a glimpse of Amma.
The devotion towards the serpent gods shows the reptiles, which are also the rightful owners of the nature, are not the enemy of human beings.
The hooded serpent’s miniature idol before the coin box won’t give the devotees the jitters. For them, snakes are gods, who brings an end to their sorrows and miseries.
It is said that Mannarasala has around 50,000 snake idols. Even some idols are the kind of those used for worship in north India. Most of them are transferred from other kavus. At Mannarasala, there is an exclusive kavu for this purpose. Seen in the photo is an idol reserved in the hole of a centuries-old-tree on the temple compound.
Pulluvan pattu is the music for serpent gods. It is believed that the lullaby of the Pulluvan veena can free one of his/her curses. A day in Mannarasala starts with the pulluvan pattu on the entrance on the eastern side and will go on until the end of the day. The Pulluvas will play the veena for devotees who will mention them their name and star. It is believed that the Nagaraja in Sanctum Santorum, Sarpayakshi, updevedas Nagachamundi and Nagayakshi and thousands of snakes on the premises are pleased by the Pulluvan pattu.
The view of the temple located inside the forest. The entrance of the western side is also seen. Standing here, one can see the green foliage. The old temple is located inside the kavu. For generations, the popular belief is against reconstructing the temple. The restrictions may be placed upon realizing that trees have to be cut down for the purpose.