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. Celebrated at Shree Nagaraja Temple in Haripad, Alappuzha, the festival is dedicated to the serpent god, and all the rituals are performed by a brahmin priestess.
The Ayilyam festival is celebrated annually in the month of Thulam (month as per the local calendar of Malayalam), which is generally October or November. The Ayilyam festival will take place on November 8th, 2020. Every year all the rituals are performed with great zest and zeal. The temple attracts a huge footfall on this day, which includes tourists and devotees alike. People arrive at the temple to be in the grace of the serpent god and seek his blessings. Local administration often declares a day’s off so that people can celebrate and take part in the festivities.
The festival has been a part of the local culture of Mannarasala for ages now. According to the legends, the Shree Nagaraja Temple is believed to be built by Lord Parshurama. Initially, a local priest from the Mannarasala Illam was appointed the priest by Lord Parshuram to conduct the day to day ceremonies and to perform the holy rituals. After several years, a fire broke out in the forest that surrounds the temple, during which a childless couple from the priests family took care of the snakes of the forest. As a reward for this kind gesture, Lord Nagaraja blessed the couple with twins, out of whom one was the serpent god Lord Nagaraja himself.
Later, Lord Nagaraja attained samadhi, and before disappearing, he appointed his mother 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 3000 carvings and statues of snakes on its premises, which is a forest. The head priestess who performs all the rituals is known as Valia Amma. Culinary delights offered to Lord Nagaraja on this day include Nurum Palum, Cooked rice, and Kuruthi.
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 taken 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.
Haripad, where the festival is celebrated is nearly 2700km via NH 44, 1300 km via AH 47, 2300km via NH 16, and 627km via NH 44 from Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bengaluru, respectively. Haripad is located in Alappuzha district in Kerala and is conveniently accessible by roadways, railways, and airways. Here, we have compiled some of the best routes that you may consider to reach Haripad.
By Air. 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.
By Rail. 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.
By Road. 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 arriving here via road route convenient and comfortable as well. Listed below is the estimate of distance and the best route that you may take if you are arriving from nearby cities.
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