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The origin of snake worship goes back to remote antiquity. But in no part of the world is the snake worship still such a live tradition as in Kerala.
In almost every house the south-west corner of the compound is set apart for the snake shrine called sarpakavu. The propitiation of the serpent god is considered essentials to the wellbeing and prosperity of the family. Incidentally with snake worship came also the principle that what is feared is respected.

According to tradition , the first Aryan colonists settled by Parusurama found this place very uninhabitable, so they left. Then the nagas of the lower world came and occupied the land. When the Aryans came again they found the land occupied and waged war against the Nagas. Parusuram decided in favor of the early colonists and ordered that they should set apart a corner of their compound as an abode for the serpent gods.

It is said the word Nayar is derived from Naga, because of the special adoration they paid to snakes and possibly the belonged to the Naga race
who settled in the heart of the Dravidian country. As evidence of the connection between the Naga and the Dravidian is the grove found in every house for Snake worship.

It was estimated that even over a century ago there were 15000 serpent groves in the former Travanacore and Cochin states alone. Of course there have been many addition ones erected since. One such grove is at Mannarsala, the abode of the snake king and queen, the most important serpent worship center in Kerala. It is a small beautiful village about 3 km to the north west of the famous Sree Subrahmanyaswami temple in Haripad.

The temple is situated in the Midst of a Magnificent grove covering and area of 16 acres. There are thousands of Snakes of Granite in this area covered with dense thickets. In the main temple there are two idols. One is of the Nagaraja or the Snake king and other of Sarpayakshi or the Snake queen. On northern side of the temple there is an illam or house whose heir is the oldest female member. She is called nambiathy who performs puja in the temple.

According to the legend the site of the Khandava forest was the land from Avur in the North of Allepey on the south. When Arjuna set fore to the forest the serpents fled in confusion to Mannarsala and prayed to god for protection. Then the earth miraculously cooled down. After the serpents found refuge , an ancestress of the Namabiathy had a vision to dedicate the grove and the land of Nagaraja and to build a temple there on. These commands were promptly obeyed and going forward the Nagaraja became the family Deity of Nambiathy.

Posted by: Vamsi      Date: 2015-12-28

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