A Unique temple in many ways; foremost among the Nagaraja temples in Kerala.
Legend is that Lord Parasuram created the land of Kerala out of the sea and donated it to Brahmins to alleviate his sin of killing many Kshatriyas. But the Brahmins complained to Parasuram that the land he gave to them was uninhabitable due to the salinity of the soil.
Sri Parasuram requested Lord Shiva to find a solution. Lord Shiva told Parasuram that the only solution to the problem is sprinkling the flaming poison of the Serpents into the soil, so that salinity shall get neutralized. For that Lord Shiva asked Parasuram to please Nagaraja , the King of Serpents.
Pleased by the devotion of Lord Parasuram, Nagaraja appeared to Lord parasuram at this place and spread his flaming poison across the land that Parasuram had gifted to the Brahmins. Soon, the land became fertile. Parasuram, asked the Brahmins to build a temple and worship Nagaraja at this place. This is the origin of the Mannarasala temple.
Unlike in other temples, chief priest is a woman known as “Valiyamma” (Elder mother). There is a legend on this practice. Once upon a time there lived a Brahmin couple, namely Vasuki and Sri devi at this illam. They were staunch devotees of the Nagaraja of this temple. But they had no children and they felt very sad on it. One day, the thick forest surrounding the illam, was caught by a major fire. Many Serpents in the forest were seriously burnt. Seeing the plight of these snakes, the couple took many measures to cool off their body. They fanned them, protected the little ones from fire by covering them with an uruli (traditional, round-shaped brass pot) and so on. When the fire subsided, they were allowed to return back to the forest safely.
This devotion, care and activism of the couple pleased the Nagaraja greatly. He appeared on their dream; promised to become his son. Soon Sri Devi became pregnant and gave birth to two children. One is a human and the other is a Serpent.
Soon after the birth, the Serpent son asked his mother to worship him in snake form and disappeared to a ‘Nilavara’ (Chamber) of the illam. There after the practice of worshipping the snake by the eldest woman of the temple started. The snake that took abode at ‘Nilavara’ came to be known as ‘’Moothappan’’ or grandfather and the eldest women of the family, worshipping him became ‘Valiyamma’ that is the elder mother.
The temple is known to answer the fertility prayers of couples. The most important offering is ‘Uruli Kamizthal’ (that is keeping the brass pot in upside down position in a ritualistic manner). This ritual commemorates the event, when on fire, Sridevi antharjanam protected little snakes under a traditional brass pot. This offering, when done with devotion, is said to provide fertility to the couple.
Though there are many festivals in the temple, Aayilyam festival in the Malayalam month of Thulam is considered important. The temple attracts many devotees during this festival. The Shivarathri in the month of February is also celebrated with much devotion.
Mannarasala is about 35 kilometers from Alapuzha.