The birth of Kerala
Beautiful backwaters. Tropical trees. Sunkissed shores.
That is how we describe Kerala. But have you ever wondered how Kerala came into existence? Well! I would not have known the history had I not visited Mannarsala, the abode of serpents.
A 119 km bus journey from Thiruvananthapuram will ferry you to Mannarsala which houses the Sree Nagaraja Temple, an eminent pilgrimage spot for devotees of the serpent god. It is said that Kerala, is the result of Lord Parshurama’s penance and Mannarsala, is the gift from Parshuram to Nagaraja (the king of snakes).
During the long bus ride, my Malayali friend, narrated the history of Mannarsala to me about how it became a home to the snakes and is still a one.
According to history, Parshurama (Bhrigu’s son) had committed a great sin by killing the Kshatriyas. In order to cast away his sins, he approached the holy sages who said that he should make a gift of a land of his own to the Brahmins. He appeased Varuna Deva (the god of the oceans and seas) in order to acquire his own land. He threw in his axe, which Shiva had blessed him with and a land rose out of the sea. Thus, Kerala came into existence. But this land was uninhabited and neither flora nor fauna thrived on the land. When people started leaving the land it grieved Parshurama.
He prayed to Shiva, who told him that the only way to get rid of the salinity of the soil was to irrigate the land with the flaming poison of the snakes. To please the snakes, Parshurama would have to pray to Nagaraja.
The determined Parshurama, undertook a journey to find a place, where he could meditate and call out for the Nagraja. Having found a silent sea shore, to the south of Kerala, Parshurama submerged himself in the reverence of Nagaraja.
Pleased with his severe penance, the inaccessible Nagaraja appeared before him. Parshurama then bowed before the lotus feet of the god of the serpents and asked him bless Kerala with envious greenery and prosperity.
Nagaraja, then summoned his serpents to take over the tedious task to irrigate Kerala with their poison. Venomous snakes soon arrived and spread their flaming kalakuda poison.
To express his gratitude, Parshurama offered Mannarsala to Nagaraja. Even till date snakes are prayed to in this temple. Every now and then, a snake continues to appear in the compound of the temple. And if one is lucky enough, you will get to pray to the snake.
The snakes in Mannarsala are least feared by the devotees as they never harm them.
When the bus dropped us off at the temple, our way to the temple was obstructed by a huge crowd. Luck was indeed with me. After squeezing my way through the crowd, I found myself looking at an enormous cobra, which had wound itself on the boundary wall of the temple, which was smeared with turmeric. While the two and a half feet cobra continued to silently glare at us onlookers, we stood before it with folded hands and bowed heads.
Nagaraja may be inaccessible but Mannarsala is indeed a home to the omnipotent and omnipresent god and Kerala is no wonder god’s own country.