Friday, October 20, 2017

Nagaraja Temple, Nagercoil – The Temple

Nagaraja Temple, Nagercoil – The Temple
The temple has two main deities, Krishna (revered as Ananda Krishna) and Nagaraja. The Upa Devathas are Shiva, Subramanya Swami, Ganesha, Devi and Dwarapalaka. As ancient tradition, the priests are Namboothiri Brahmins who are referred by Paambummekaatu mana in Thrissur, Kerala. The temple has a vast pond. Devotees consecrate Naga idols in the temple and offer milk and turmeric powder as a part of their prayers. Another attraction of Nagercoil is the Nagalinga flower of the Cannon-ball tree (Couripita gynensis). The combination of its 6 petals, fleshy disk, stamen and the reduced styles are so marvelously coinciding with a Shivalingam being protected by a 5 hooded Nagaraja. 

Behind the Sanctum sanctorum, there was a dense growth of an herb (Oda valli). Recently temple officials removed them, as they found lots of snakes were living there. After that, they tried to regrow the herb. Till date it hasn’t grown again. Earlier every devotee was given 1 leaflet of this  herb as Prasadam. Every leaf had different taste it seems.  Latest Science has discovered that the venom of Cobra can be used as a medicine to Leprosy.

Lots of Cobras are there near the temple area. Within 1 mile area from the temple, there’s no history of anyone being killed by the venom of a snake bite. Inside the temple, lot of Jain inscriptions, Idols of Mahaveera & Parsvanatha – the 23rd Thirthankar can be seen. In 1968, when they were cleaning the temple pond, they found a Durga idol and it has been installed on the right side of the temple. The Devi is like Vishnu Durga. Deities for Lord Muruga & Idumban can be seen in the Temple.

There is a strong belief that this serpent was Krishna's erstwhile enemy Kalia. It is being believed that Lord Shiva is being installed in between these 2 deities, mainly to avoid any possible conflict between Lord Krishna & the erstwhile Kalia. The main diety in the sanctum sanctorum is installed on water. Water keeps oozing slowly and the sand from this basement is given as Prasadam to devotees. 6 months the sand will be black and for next 6 months, it will be normal sand. For centuries together, they are taking up sand as prasadam and giving to devotees. But there is no crater created in that spot from where sand is being continuously taken as prasadam.

The level of the basement of the sanctum sanctorum is remaining the same. There is neither any Peetam nor any roof for this sanctum sanctorum. During the 8th century, this area was referred as Kottar only. Thirugnana Sambandar has mentioned about Kottar being a main centre for Jains during his period. Till the 16th Century mid, this was a Jain temple only. There are 2 huge 6 feet high snake statues in the temple. Scholars have done research of the same and declared that male snake will be carved smaller in size and female snake is generally carved bigger in size.

Seeing the southside snake, they confirm that the main diety here is Nagarani only. Looking at the inscriptions of Jains, its mentioned as “for Nagar and Nagarajar”. Its inferred that Nagar means Queen Cobra. The place Nagercoil also has got its name from Nagar (Nagarani). Till 1589 (Kollam era 764), the diety on the left is named as Nagarajar. Between 1589 to 1644, it was named as Thiru Anantha Alwar. From 1644AD, its named as Anantha Krishnan. None of the inscriptions have any mention of a Krishnan deity here. Even the Dwajasthambam (flag mast) has Koormam on its top, as seen in Mahameru. Since its not Garudan on the flag mast, its told that the deity is not Krishnan and its only Nagarajan.

So, the main sanctum sanctorum deity – the 5 hooded Cobra is Nagarani only. The Ananthakrishnan is actually Nagarajan. In between these 2 deities we see a beautiful Shiva lingam deity. Here Lord Shiva is in the form of Vayu (Air). Sri Nagaraja Swami is a Swayambumurthy in the temple. This is an ideal prayer destination for those facing adverse aspects of serpent planets. Lords Kasi Viswanatha, Ananthakrishnan, Kannimoola Ganapathi grace the devotees from separate shrines. Custodian deities Nagamani Bhoothathan, Sastha and Lord Bala Muruga are in the prakara.

As Chandi and Mundi are the Dwarapalakas in Shiva temples and Jayan and Vijayan in Vishnu temples, a male snake Dharnendra by name and female snake named Padmavathy are the Dwarapalakas (securities) in this temple.  It is believed that snakes are here as securities of the temple. Therefore, to facilitate their living, the sanctum sanctorum has a thatched roof.  During the month Aadi-July-August- the roof is renewed. It may be recalled that the divine serpent Adisesha in the milk ocean serving as a bed to Lord Vishnu, was born as Lakshmana when Lord took the Rama Avatar. 

Lakshmana’s birth star was Aslesha-Aayilyam. Based on this fact, people facing Naga doshas perform milk abishek to Nagaraja on this star day. Also, the milk abishek takes place each day at 10.00 a.m.  Devotees offer Paal Payasam – Milk porridge as Nivedhana and place naga idols in the temple campus. Monsoon begins in the month of Aavani-August-September when movements of snakes would be more. To avoid any hardship or accidents, farmers took up this Naga worship and comforted their fury with milk abishek. It also happens that Sunday is a suitable day for Rahu-serpent planet worship. Aavani also happens to be the first month according to Malayalam calendar. Pujas are performed in the temple according Kerala tradition.

Lords Ananthakrishnan and Kasi Viswanatha shrines are located to the right of Nagaraja shrine. After puja to Nagaraja, pujas are performed in these shrines. However, the last puja of the day-Arthajama puja- is dedicated to Lord Ananthakrishnan. The name of the place became Nagercoil and the mystical power of this temple also spread far and wide. Now it is a popular temple - a parikara Sthalam for those affected by Sarpa Dosham as per their horoscope. As for Agama pujas, both Vaishnava and Saiva traditions are followed.