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Monday, August 15, 2011

Temples of Kerala-Thirunelli Maha Vishnu Temple

Thirunelli Maha Vishnu Temple

It is one of the most ancient temples in Kerala. It is believed that here the prathishta of Lord Vishnu was performed by Lord Brahma. It is also known as ''Sahyamala Kshetram'' and ''Kashi of the South''. This is the only temple in the world where the devotees can perform all the rituals related to one’s life, starting from birth to death and life after death.The ancestral rites are performed on the banks of the stream Papanasini which flows down from Mount Brahmagiri. It is believed that this stream has divine power to dissolve sins of all the mortals. Another major attraction of the temple is the holy rock where people pray for their forefathers. Legend is that this temple was dedicated by Lord Brahma to propitiate Lord Vishnu. The idol is in the form of Chathurbhuja .There are numerous legends about the origin of the temple. The most interesting one is that Lord Brahma (the Creator) while traversing the world on his swan got attracted by the bewitching beauty of the area. Then he landed on a hill which is later known as Brahmagiri. Lord Brahma while walking through the hills enjoying the tranquility and serenity of the surrounding hills, saw an idol of Lord Vishnu resting on an amla tree. Brahma realized that this abode of peace is nothing but Vishnuloka. This was confirmed by a disembodied voice. Soon he installed the deity with a request to Lord Vishnu that he should remain in this area to give peace to the human souls hounded by the thought of their sins. Lord Vishnu assured that the rivers around this temple would wash away the sins of human beings during their mortal life and life after death. Brahma entrusted two pious Brahmins of the Amalaka village, its keeping. He also instructed them that everyday he himself visit the place and do service to Vishnu.

The puja (worship) in every shrine closes ordinarily at about 9 to 10 P.M. But in this shrine, where the ordinary puja is done five times, from morning till 10 P.M. the priest prepares for a sixth puja before leaving the place. On opening the doors next morning he finds that all the materials for the puja have been utilised during the night. It was Lord Brahma who performed the sixth puja when the animate and inanimate objects are in deep slumber. This has been going on every day and will go on for ever.

The priest before entering the temple in the morning swears thrice that he will not divulge what he sees there on opening the door, and no priest dares to give out the secret at the risk of being bitten by cobras emanating from the shrine. Lord Brahma ordained that visits and prayers at the temple would remove the sins and secure paradise. He also ordained that the performance of prayers and ceremonies would lead to the perpetual salvation of the spirits of the departed, to the world of “Pithurloka” (region of blissful spirits). It is to attain this blessing, pronounced by Brahma, pilgrimages are undertaken to the shrine.


This rock is supposed to be the bone of an asuran (demon) named Pazhana-bhedi, who was killed by Vishnu. At the time of his death he prayed to Vishnu that his body be converted into a rock extending from Thirunelli to Gaya and divided into three parts fit for the performance of offerings for the departed, at (1)Thiurnelli representing his foot, (2)Godavari representing the middle part, and (3)Gaya representing the head. Offerings at any of these three places are supposed to have special benefits in producing happiness and in the propitiation of the spirits. In Thirunelli ritual offerings to the spirits are made at Pinnappara, especially on the New Moon days of the Malayalam months Karkkidakom, Thulam and Kumbham.


The steps at the back of the temple actually leads to the tank Panchteertham. It is believed that Panchteertham, at one point of time was a meeting point of five rivers. Hence its sacred importance was immense. But today most of the water has dried up and the only remaining attraction is the footsteps of Vishnu, Vishnupad. It is the image of a footprint on a boulder in the middle of the tank. It is believed that Sri Rama and his brother Lakshmana performed the ‘pithrukarma’ of their father King Dasaratha, standing on this rock.

Gunnika Temple
As you walk from Thirunelly temple to Papanasini along the riverbank , somewhere midway on your left, a small bridge appears. Cross this to go to a cave temple called Gunnika temple dedicated to lord Siva. Legend is that a fruit ( again Nelli fruit ) plucked by a pilgrim was turned into a Phallus (Shiva linga), as he was finishing bath in the Papanashini. The Gunnika temple on the western side is the abode of Lord Shiva. Thus all the members of the trinity Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma are omnipresent here. The belief is that, Gunnika was the abode of Lord Shiva and it was from here that he started to Kottiyur to kill Dhakshan, the father of Sathi Devi. After the ancestral rites at Pinnappara, pilgrims visit Gunnika temple also.

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