Nagaraja Temple, Nagercoil
Nagaraja Temple (Tamil: Naga (serpent) + Raja (king)) is a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Nagaraja situated at the heart of Nagercoil. The name for the town Nagercoil originated from this temple. The temple is full of images of snakes. In addition, the gatekeepers of the sanctums are two snakes.
The temple has two main deities, Ananda Krishna and Nagaraja. The upadevathas are Mahadeva, Subrahmanya Swami, Vighneshwara, Devi and temple guardian. The temple has a vast pond.
The installation of Naga idols on the temple campus by devotees is unique to this temple.
Before the temple entrance there are many Snake statues. People pour milk and turmeric powder on all of these as a part of their prayers.
The temple is open from 4.00 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. and from 5.00 p.m. to 8.30 p.m
Contact Numbers: +91-4652-232420, +91-94439-92216
Nagas are children of Kashyapa and Kadru. Among the prominent nāgas of Hinduism are Manasa, Sesha, and Vasuki.
The Nairs of Kerala and the ethnically related Tulu Bunts of Karnataka are clans which are believed to have originated from the serpent dynasty.
The nāgas also carry the elixir of life and immortality. Garuda once brought it to them and put a cup with elixir on the ground but it was taken away by Indra. However, a few drops remained on the grass. The nāgas licked up the drops, but in doing so, cut their tongues on the grass, and since then their tongues have been forked.
Nagas are snakes that may take human form. They tend to be very curious. According to traditions, Nāgas are only malevolent to humans when they have been mistreated. They are susceptible to mankind's disrespectful actions in relation to the environment. They are also associated with waters — rivers, lakes, seas, and wells — and are generally regarded as guardians of treasure.
They are objects of great reverence in some parts of southern India where it is believed that they bring fertility and prosperity to their veneration. Expensive and grand rituals like Nagamandala are conducted in their honor (see Nagaradhane).
The prominent of nagas in the Puranas are
- Vasuki, The King of the Nagas who helped the devas recover amrita from the Ocean of Milk.
- Aadhi-Sesha, ("Limitless-Eternal") the world serpent with a thousand heads.
- Karkotaka, controls weather.
- Padmavati, the Nāgī queen and companion of Dharanendra.
- Paravataksha, his sword causes earthquakes and his roar causes thunder.
- Takshaka, tribal king of the Nāgas.
- Ulupi, a companion of Arjuna in the epic Mahabharata.
- Manasa, the Hindu goddess of Nagas; the curer of snake-bites and sister of Vasuki
- Kaliya, a snake conquered by Krishna in Yamuna river.
- Matali, charioteer of Indra; Matali was also the charioteer of Lord Rama during the Lanka Battle.
The head priest, who was interviewed in 2009, believes that the Nagaraja Temple was originally a Dravidian Tamil Jain temple, later taken over by Hindus and rechristened for a new mythological god, by name Naga Raja.
Beside Nagaraja, there are images of Jain Tirthankaras, Mahavira and Parswanatha carved on the pillars of the temple. In total, six Jain idols have been found from this temple. Mahavira's and Parsvanatha's idols are still kept in the temple. The entrance is reminiscent of Chinese architecture of Buddha Vihara[which?].
It is difficult to ascertain the exact age of the temple. There is no authentic epigraph to aid the historian with its chronology. The mountain Mahendragiri in the Kanyakumari district is referred to as the abode of Nagas in the Ramayana of Valmiki. From this, it can be presumed that the origin of Naga influence in the area goes back to legendary times.
From the five headed-serpent deity of the temple, the name of this place (town) Nagercoil is derived; gradually its old name, Kottar, has mostly faded. There is a part of town called Kottar, so the old name remains. Within a five kilometer radius of the temple, there has been no recorded human death from snake bite.
There is a traditional background regarding the origin of Nagaraja temple.
One day when a girl was cutting grass, blood began to spurt from below. She discovered that the sickle had cut into the head of a five-headed serpent. Dazed with fear, the girl fled to the nearest village and reported what she had seen. People in large numbers flocked to the spot and witnessed the miracle with their own eyes. By the joint effort of the villagers, the place was cleared and preserved for the purpose of worship.
They built a small shrine in the locality and worshiped the five-headed serpent. Hearing that the miracle happened at this place, people from other places visited the temple and offered poojas.
King of Kalakad
Once the King of Kalakkad, who was stricken with leprosy, came to the temple on Sunday in the Tamil month of Avani and did penance before the deity. Miraculously, he was cured of the disease, and the fame of the temple spread far and wide. The king built the present temple in gratitude. On every Sunday during Avani (August/September) the king, accompanied by his wife and children, used to visit the temple and offer poojas. Ever since, the temple is visited on every Sunday in Avani by thousands of devotees and the serpent shrine is worshiped.
- The New Indian Express, Madurai edition, August 28, 2006.
- Sura's, Tourist guide to South India, 2004, ISBN 81-7478-175-7.