Kerala is a treasure trove of surreal sites, mystic temples, multiple art forms, breathtaking backwaters, traditional feasts, and larger than life festivals. One such fascinating festival that gathers devotees and tourists from across the globe is Mannarasala Ayilyam which is celebrated with great fervor at Shree Nagaraja Temple in Haripad, Alappuzha. This temple festival of Kerala is dedicated to Nagaraja who is believed to be the lord of serpents. There are over 1,00,000 images of snakes in this temple that is also considered as the largest temple in Kerala. What sets this festival even more unique is the rituals that are performed by a Brahmin priestess unlike other temples in India where priests are usually males.
The Ayilyam festival is celebrated annually in the month of Thulam (month as per the local calendar of Malayalam), which generally falls in October or November. The temple attracts a huge footfall on this day, which includes tourists and devotees alike. The temple holds immense significance for the couples dealing with fertility issues. Devotees believe that the turmeric paste available at the temple has curative powers. Local administration often declares an off so that people can celebrate and take part in the festivities of this religious festival.
The festival has been a part of the local culture of Mannarasala for ages now. According to the legends, Shree Nagaraja Temple is believed to be built by Lord Parshurama. Initially, a local priest from Irinjalakuda Gramam was appointed by Lord Parshuram to conduct day to day ceremonies and to perform the holy rituals. He devoted his life in the service of a serpent lord, however, after several years, a fire broke out in the forest surrounding the temple. During this crisis many snakes of the forest succumbed to the heat and many got injured. The priest's wife took care of the remaining snakes of the forest like a mother. Lord Nagaraja, pleased with her devotion, told her in the dream that he would take birth from her womb.
After a few years, she gave birth to twins, out of which one was Lord Nagaraja himself. Both the brothers grew up together but Lord Nagaraja later attained samadhi. Before disappearing into the underground cellar of the Illom, he appointed his mother as the priest of the temple and advised her about all the rituals to be executed in the temple. Since then, only a brahmin lady gets appointed to this position to perform all the sacred ceremonies. Locals believe that praying to Lord Nagaraja on this day removes Sarp Dosha and blesses childless couples with children.
Shree Nagaraja Temple, where the festival is celebrated, has over 1 lakh carvings and statues of snakes all through its premises. The head priestess who performs all the rituals is known as Valia Amma.
2. Offerings & Prasadam
Special delicacies offered to Lord Nagaraja on this day include Nurumpalum, Nilavara payasam and Kuruthi which are popular Keralite dishes.
As per the folklore, the serpent god was born to the childless couple in the Ayilyam nakshatra (asterism) and it is believed that on this day, the grace of the serpent god is optimum. Along with the rituals, a procession is carried out wherein Valia Amma carries the idol of Lord Nagaraja to Brahmin’s house situated close to the temple.
Another intriguing ritual named Uruli Kamazhthal is performed by women devotees seeking fertility. In this ritual, an Uruli is offered to the serpent god which is a vessel made of brass, gold, silver or bronze. After the birth of a child, the couple revisits the temple for thanksgiving.
Mannarasala Ayilyam Festival is held at a temple in Haripad that is located in Alappuzha district in Kerala which is also known as Alleppey. It is conveniently accessible by roadways, railways, and airways. Here, we have compiled some of the best routes that you may consider to reach Haripad.
Cochin International airport is the nearest to Haripad. After deboarding the flight, you may take a taxi or a bus to cover another 114km to reach Haripad, which will take nearly 3 hours via NH 66. The airport manages the arrival and departure of non-stop/connecting domestic and international flights.
Haripad railway station is where you must deboard the train to enjoy and be a part of the festivities. From the railway station, you can take a taxi or board a bus to reach your desired destination.
You can arrive here via inter-state tourist buses from nearby cities or may drive to Haripad in your vehicle. Haripad is linked to other cities via well-maintained highways which makes it easily accessible through roads. Listed below is the estimate of distance and the best route that you may take if you are arriving from nearby cities or all metropolitan cities in India.
Q. Where is Mannarasala Ayilyam celebrated?
A. Mannarasala Ayilyam is celebrated in Shree Nagaraja Temple in Haripad, Alappuzha.
Q. What makes Mannarasala Ayilyam unique?
A. Mannarasala Ayilyam is a unique festival of Kerala that is dedicated to Lord Nagaraja, the serpent god. The rituals of the festival are carried out by the woman priest which is unlike other temples of India where only male priests are allowed to do the service of God. Uruli Kamazhthal is another unique ritual of the festival wherein women offer Uruli to the serpent god which is basically a vessel made of brass, gold, silver or bronze.
Q. Who is Mannarasala Amma?
A. Mannarasala Amma is the mother of Lord Nagaraja. Devotees also seek her blessings along with the lord of snakes in order to be blessed with a child.
Q. When is Mannarasala Ayilyam celebrated?
The festival is celebrated every year in the Malayalam month of Thulam which usually falls in October or November.
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