The Temple in the Forest

In a forested area in Kerala, there is famous temple dedicated to the Snake God Nagaraja.

The story goes that, originally, the soil in Kerala was very salty and nothing would grow there. Lord Parasuram was told by Lord Shiva that the land would be fertile only if the poison of snakes was spread into it. So Parasuram and his disciples worshipped Lord Nagaraja, who granted the wish. Thousands of snakes poured their poison into the ground. The saltiness disappeared and Kerala became green and prosperous. Parasuram built a temple to Lord Nagaraja at Mannarasala, where the Snake God appeared to him, and left it in the care of a Brahmin family.

Many generations later, Vasudeva and Sridevi, the couple caring for the temple, did not have children. They worshipped Lord Nagaraja sincerely. Then one day, a fire broke out in the forest, and many snakes were harmed. The couple looked after the injured snakes devotedly. Pleased, Lord Nagaraja said he would be born as their son and remain at that place for ever. Soon, Sridevi gave birth to two children – a human boy and a snake boy. The two grew up together, until one day the snake son said he had achieved what he had come to do. He told Sridevi that she must personally worship him, and went into the cellar of the house, from where he vanished. Devotees believe he is still there, and pooja is performed regularly.

The senior-most lady of the family is known as ‘Mannarasala Amma’, and it is she who performs the rites and blesses devotees even today.

Couples who don’t have children pray at the temple, and when their prayers are answered bring idols of snakes as thanksgiving. Today, there are over 30,000 snake idols in the forest all around the temple.

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