Thirunelli SreeMaha vishnu Tem­ple

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The name Thirunelli de­rives from the word nelli, the Malay­alam/Tamil equiv­a­lent for In­dian goose­berry (Amla) tree. Once when Lord Brahma while travers­ing the world, saw an idol of Lord Vishnu rest­ing on an amla tree in the val­ley and thus the place came to be named Thirunelli. In Padma Pu­rana (writ­ten by Veda Vyasa) there is men­tion of a beau­ti­ful Vishnu tem­ple lo­cated in the pic­turesque Sahya val­ley deep in the mid­dle of the for­est. Thirunelli tem­ple is also re­ferred to as Amalaka tem­ple and Sidha tem­ple.

His­tory de­picts Chera king Ku­lasekha­ran as the founder of this tem­ple. He lived between A.D 767 and A.D 834. Af­ter a brief reign, he re­lin­quished the throne and started mis­sion­ary work to prop­a­gate Vaish­nava or­der. It was he who wrote the San­skrit work Mukun­damaala in which he earnestly prays to Lord Vishnu to in­still in him devo­tion.

On stylis­tic ground this looks as a typ­i­cal Kerala tem­ple. The in­ner sanc­to­rum is sur­rounded by a tile roofed struc­ture. And there’s an open court­yard around the sanc­to­rum. At the east, in front of the en­trance is a gran­ite lamp-post. Cu­ri­ously enough the flag post is ab­sent, though one can spot a hole on the floor where it ought to be.

Along the outer wall of the tem­ple is a clois­ter made of gran­ite pil­lars cut in cu­bi­cal style. This part of the tem­ple ar­chi­tec­ture is slightly un­usual for a Kerala tem­ple. And it seems the clois­ter work was never com­pleted. The story goes that once the King of Coorg, tried to ren­o­vate this tem­ple. When he was half way through, the Vel­lat­tiri King who owned the tem­ple ob­jected to the same. Thus ren­o­va­tion was dis­con­tin­ued. Even to­day we can see proof of the half fin­ished ren­o­va­tion work.

It is an undis­puted fact that Thirunelli was once an im­por­tant town and pil­grim cen­tre in the mid­dle of in­ac­ces­si­ble jun­gled val­ley sur­rounded on four sides by moun­tains. The cop­per plates of the 10th cen­tury and a few books of the later cen­turies con­vinc­ingly prove that Thirunelli was an ur­ban hub in South In­dia at least from 10th cen­tury on­wards. Also in the dense for­est sur­round­ing the tem­ple, the ru­ins of two an­cient vil­lages can be found. Re­cent ex­ca­va­tions at the time of pav­ing roads have yielded coins of 9th and 10th cen­turies. There are two cop­per plate

in­scrip­tions per­tain­ing to the his­tory of Thirunelli Tem­ple. They date back to the pe­riod of Bhaskara Ra­vi­varma, a ruler of the Chera king­dom who lived in the 10th cen­tury. First in­scrip­tion is writ­ten in 999 A.D (37th year of the rule of Bhaskara Ra­vi­varma) and the sec­ond in­scrip­tion in 1008 A.D (46th year of the rule of Bhaskara Ra­vi­varma). The first one is re­gard­ing the al­lot­ment of the royal land in Thirunelli to the tem­ple, to meet its ex­penses to­wards daily poo­jas. The sec­ond in­scrip­tion deals with the pro­ce­dures to be ob­served dur­ing the tem­ple visit of the ruler of the Pu­raikeezhar King­dom. The donor in the first in­scrip­tion is Kun­hikutta Var­man Veer­aKu­rumpu­rai who ruled Ku­rum­branaad. The donor in the sec­ond in­scrip­tion is Sankaran Go­davar­man of Pu­ra­keezhar dy­nasty. Both the in­scrip­tions shed light to the rul­ing cus­tom­ary prac­tices and so­cial re­la­tions of the time. “Un­niy­achiCharitham”

“Un­niy­achi Charitham” is a po­et­i­cal work writ­ten by The­van Chiriku­maran (De­van Sreeku­maran) between 12th and 13th cen­turies. In this poem there is an elab­o­rate de­scrip­tion of Thirunelli, Pa­panasini and the four borders of Thirunelli. Among them 17 lines are in prose. There are two po­etic stan­zas each hav­ing 4 and 6 lines. It is in­deed a trav­el­ogue in which the poet imag­ines him­self as a Gand­har­van in­ter­ested in travel and tour. Ob­serv­ing the cus­toms, it is af­ter vis­it­ing Thris­silery tem­ple that the Gand­harva comes to Thirunelli.

Kok­ila San­desham

"Kok­ila San­desham" is a book writ­ten by Ud­handa Sashthrikal of Kanchipu­ram dur­ing the 15th cen­tury. The hero of this poem lived in his house at Chen­daman­gal­lur near Kochi. He hap­pens to be air­lifted from the house by some airy spir­its and gets stranded at Kancheer­pu­ramm in Tamil­nadu. Then the hero en­trusts a cuckoo to in­ti­mate his wife about his peril. This cuckoo on the way reaches Thirunelli to wor­ship the Peru­mal in the tem­ple. The 40th stanza of this poem de­scribes the visit of the Cuckoo in Thirunelli Tem­ple. The au­thor Ud­hanad Sashthrikal lived from 1405 to 1475. It is cer­tain from the de­scrip­tions about Thirunelli that the poet had per­son­ally vis­ited the tem­ple there.

Stone Ac­quaduct

Dur­ing early times, wa­ter for tem­ple use was brought from Pa­panasini stream. Dur­ing a draught pe­riod, the wife of Chirackal Raja who was a mem­ber of the fa­mous Vaarikkara Naya­nar thar­avad, came with her at­ten­dants to tem­ple to wor­ship. She asked the Priest some wa­ter to dis­solve the san­dal, which he was not able to give. Be­ing en­light­ened about the wa­ter scarcity in the tem­ple she asked her at­ten­dants to solve the prob­lem. They found out the wa­ter source called Vara­ham in the thick for­est. From there the wa­ter was brought, us­ing bam­boo halves for im­me­di­ate use. Sub­se­quent to her re­turn home, she sent men and ma­te­ri­als to con­struct the present stone aque­duct to bring

un­in­ter­rupted wa­ter sup­ply to the tem­ple. The gran­ite open chan­nels are sup­ported by pil­lars with in­ter­est­ing mu­rals carved on. Even till date, cold moun­tain stream wa­ter gush out of this aque­duct.

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