Alappuzha: The Ayilya Mahotsav at the Haripad Mannarasala Sri Nagaraja Temple in Alappuzha is today (November 6, 2023). The festivities began with the sacred ‘Maha Deepakazhcha’ ceremony. Special pujas marked the occasion, during which Thiruvabharanam (gold jewellery) would be offered to Nagaraja and Sarpa Yakshi, led by the younger karanavar (chief priest), MK Kesavan Namboothiri. At 9:30 AM, devotees were granted the auspicious sight of Mannarasala Amma Savitri Antarjanam on the south floor near the “Nilavara” (vault).
As it marked the samadhi year of Mannarsala Amma Divyashree Umadevi Antarjanam, the former chief priestess of the temple, the Ayilyam Mahatsavam, is being observed without any artistic performances. Due to Amma’s observance of Samvatsara vratadiksha, there will be no pujas conducted near the vault on the eve of Ayilyam.
To accommodate the large number of devotees visiting the temple, a local holiday was declared for all government offices and educational institutes in the Alappuzha district on this day. This holiday order did not apply to the conduct of scheduled public examinations.
Thousands had gathered to see the ‘Pooyam Thozhal’ the day before. In the morning, devotees were initially granted entry through the western gopuram. However, as the crowd continued to grow, darshan was later shifted to the eastern side of the temple. The rush of devotees continued throughout the day and even late into the night. Throughout the day, Savitri Antarjanam, the new antarjanam of Mannarasala, continued to give darshan in the southern part of the vault.
The Sree Nagaraja Temple’s history is steeped in legend and tradition. Lord Parashurama appointed a priest from the Mannarasala Illam, a Brahmin family, to serve at the temple, a tradition that continues to this day. Remarkably, this sacred temple is still under the custodianship of this family.
In the annals of the temple’s history, a significant event unfolded when a fierce fire broke out in a forest near the village of Mannarasala, causing injuries to numerous snakes. A childless couple took it upon themselves to tend to the wounded snakes. The wife applied a soothing mixture of turmeric, coconut water, and honey to the snakes’ bodies. In return for their unwavering devotion, Sree Nagaraja, the divine serpent, granted them the gift of twins, with one of the children being Sree Nagaraja, a five-hooded serpent. Several years later, Sree Nagaraja withdrew into Samadhi, and it is believed that his spirit continues to reside within the cellar of the Mannarasala Illam.
Sree Nagaraja imparted the sacred rituals and traditions of the temple to his mother, subsequently designating her as the temple’s priest. The central priest is known as Valliamma.
During the month of Thulam, the Mannarasala Ayilyam festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Members of the royal family pay homage to the temple and initiate the puja ceremonies. It is widely believed that those afflicted by Srapa Dosha can find solace and relief by visiting this temple. Childless families hold the hope of receiving the divine blessing of children through their devotion to Sree Nagaraja.