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|Sri Janardanaswamy Maha Temple|
|Festivals||Annual flag-hoisting festival in Meenam|
Sri Krishna Janmashtami
|Date established||13th Century AD|
|Temple(s)||3 (Vishnu, Hanuman and Sastha)|
|Elevation||53.28 m (175 ft)|
Janardana Swami Temple is a 2000+ year-old temple situated in the municipality of Varkala city in Thiruvananthapuram district. It is also known as Varkala Temple. Janardana Swami is a form of Vishnu. It is a very well-known temple in Kerala, about 10.9 km west of Kallambalam on NH 66 near the sea, 25 km north of Thiruvananthapuram city, 8 km south of famous backwater destination Kappil and 2 km from Varkala Railway Station,14 km north west of Attingal municipality. It is situated near the Arabian Sea and has been referred to as Dakshin Kashi (Benares of the south). The temple is near Varkala Beach, believed to have medicinal properties since the waters wash the nearby medicinal plants. It is also an important Ayurveda treatment center. The temple has an ancient bell removed from a shipwreck, donated by the captain of a Dutch vessel which sank near Varkala without casualties.
Varkala, a seaside city of Trivandrum, also known as Janardanapuram or Udayamarthandapuram or Balit, is a sacred pilgrim center in Trivandrum, famous for its ancient temple of Vishnu, popularly called as Janardana. Sri Maha Bhagavatham mentions that Balarama, the elder brother of Sri Krishna, visited this shrine during his pilgrimage to the Kanyakumari temple and other temples in the south. It is also known as ‘Gaya of the South'. Varkala draws hundreds of pilgrims and visitors all the year round.
Sage Narada, after paying his respects to Narayana, left Vaikuntha to see Brahma. Enraptured by the sweet music of Narada, Narayana followed him unobserved. When Narada reached Brahmaloka, Brahma saw Narayana following his son Narada and offered salutations to him, at which Vishnu, realizing the awkward situation, suddenly disappeared. Brahma found that the person whom he had revered was his own son, Narada. The 'prajapatis' laughed at this incident were cursed by Brahma to be born on earth and suffer the miseries of human lives. Narada advised them to perform penance at a place he himself would select for them. Narada threw his ‘Valkalam' (bark upper garment) into the air and where it fell, they consecrated a temple for Janardanaswamy (a name of Vishnu). The name Varkala, a corruption of ‘Valkala', came into prominent usage.
The temple of Sri Janardana sits on a tableland adjoining the sea, and is reached by a long flight of stairs. The entrance to the inner shrine is flanked by the idols of Hanuman and Garuda on either side. In the main shrine is the idol of Janardana with Sridevi and Bhudevi.
The temple of Janardana is a fine example of Kerala art and architecture. The circular ‘Sanctum sanctorum" surmounted by a conical dome of copper sheets, the square mandapa with beautiful wooden carvings of Navagrahas on the ceiling and copper-plated roof, the quadrangular enclosures (prakaram) around them, a hall containing a Bali Pitha in front of the inner temple are characteristic features of Kerala architecture and the highly embellished temples of the period. One of the inscriptions indicates that the temple was improved during the reign of Umayamma Rani, who ruled this region in 1677-84 CE. The main idol has a striking appearance with four arms having all the attributes of Vishnu. In the south-western corner and on the north-eastern side of the outer enclosure are the shrines of Sasta and Shiva with Nandi.
Besides the sea view, there is also the backwater journey by canal hewn out of the tremendous heights of hills on either side of it. The vegetation on either side of the canal has given rise to a series of springs from which sparkling water gushes throughout the year. The water is said to have medicinal properties
In times of yore, Brahma came to earth to perform a Yaga (fire sacrifice) in the present Varkala. He was so immersed in doing Yaga that he forgot his creation job. Vishnu came to Varkala in the form of a very old man to remind Brahma about it. The Brahmins assisting Brahma received the old man and gave him food. But whatever he ate, his hunger was not satiated. Brahma’s assistants told him about this. Brahma could understood that his guest was Vishnu himself. He immediately went to Vishnu and found him trying to eat Aabhojanam. Brahma prevented Vishnu from eating it and told him - "If you eat it, then the final deluge will swallow this world." Vishnu asked Brahma to stop the Yaga and recommence his job of creation. He also showed him his vishvarupa.
After this, one day Sage Narada followed by Vishnu was walking in the sky over Varkala. Brahma, who came there, saluted Vishnu. The nine prajapatis, who only saw sage Narada, laughed at Brahma because they thought that Brahma was saluting his son Sage Narada. Brahma corrected them and they regretted having committed a sinful deed. Brahma told them that the proper place to pray for their redemption would be shown to them by Narada. Sage Narada threw the valkala (deer’s skin) he was wearing towards the earth. It fell in the present Varkala. The prajapatis wanted a pond to do the atonement. Sage Narada requested lord Vishnu, who made a pond there, using his Chakra (wheel). The prajapatis did thapas there and were pardoned for their sins. It is believed that the 'devas' constructed a temple of Vishnu there and worshipped the Janardana.
But the temple became dilapidated. At that time, several centuries ago, the then Pandya king was affected by a ghost. He went on a pilgrimage but nowhere did he find a cure. When he came to the present-day Varkala, he saw the remnants of the dilapidated temple beside the sea and prayed to the deity, saying he would rebuild the temple there. A dream told him that he should go to the seashore and near the temple the following day. Nearby he would see a huge mass of flowers floating in the sea, and if he searched there, he would find an idol. He was instructed to make a golden hand and attach it to the idol and build a temple around it. The present Janardana idol was recovered from the sea by him. He built the temple and laid down the rules for the maintenance of the temple. The idol of Janardana has Aabhojana in its right hand.
People believe that over years this hand is rising slowly. The day the idol can eat the aabhojana from his right hand, the world will face the great deluge. There are small temples of Shiva, Ganapati, Shastha and Naga Devata in this temple. The idol is always dressed in sandals and flowers, either in the form of Janardana, Narasimha, Venugopala or Mohini. Ashtami Rohini, the birthday of Krishna in the month of Chingam (August–September) is celebrated as a festival here. On the southern side of the temple, two bells are tied. There is a story about them as well. A Dutch ship was passing this way and suddenly, the ship could not move despite all efforts. The people told the captain of the ship to tie a bell in the Janardana temple, and the captain and his assistant came ashore and tied the bells. As soon as they did, the ship started moving. The names inscribed in the bell are 'Peter von Belson' and 'Michelle Evarald'. People believe that ancestors worshipped in this temple will be pleased. Possibly because of this, the Janardana is also called Pithru Mokshakan.
Every year, in the month of Meenam (March–April), a ten-day Arattu festival is celebrated at the Janardana Swamy Temple in Kerala's beach town of Varkala. The festival starts with a Kodiyettam flag hoisting ceremony, and ends with a procession of five decorated elephants through the streets. During the fourth and fifth days of the festival, the celebrations include all-night performances such as traditional Kathakali dancing. The arattu (holy bath) of the deity is conducted on Uthram day in the Arabian Sea behind the temple. Apart from this festival, the days of the appearance of Vishnu's avatars (e.g.: Rama Navami, Ashtami Rohini, Narasimha Jayanthi), Karkidaka vavu (Amavasya day in the month of Karkidakam, which comes in July or August), and Vaikuntha Ekadashi are also celebrated in the temple. The days of Thiruvonam star, Ekadashi and Thursdays are also considered important, since according to popular custom, these days are dedicated to Vishnu.
The presiding deity of this temple, Sri Janardana Swami, is found standing, facing east. His right hand performs "Aachamanam". His right hand is raised towards his mouth and legends say that if his hand goes nearer to his mouth, the world will end. It is believed this happens at the end of the Kali Yuga.
According to the legend, attracted by the music from Narada’s veena, Vishnu followed him and reached Satyaloka. Seeing Vishnu, Brahma prostrated before him. Vishnu soon realized that he had reached Satyaloka but did not realize that Brahma was prostrating before him and returned to Vaikuntha. It seemed as if Brahma is falling at the feet of Narada and all the 'devas' laughed. This made Brahma angry and he cursed the devas to be born as humans on the earth. The devas repented their folly and begged to be forgiven. Brahma replied that the curse would be withdrawn when they had performed a penance to please Vishnu. The devas asked where they should do the penance, and Brahma told them that the place was where Sage Narada’s ‘Vastra’ fell, Varkala, and the devas did the penance accordingly to get relieved of the curse.
According to the Mahabharata, Balabhadran visited the place on a pilgrimage.
Offering obeisances to the departed souls and forefathers is a very important ritual. Four poojas are conducted a day.
The temple's chief priest is a Tulu Brahmin, who should not be a native of the place where the temple exists. Ganapathi, Shastha, Ananthan (Nagam) Shiva, Chandikesha, and Hanuman are sub-deities. A ten-day festival with Arattu is conducted in the Malayalam month of Meenam on the day of Uthram.
Janardana Swami Temple is located at .