Nagaraja Temple, Nagercoil
Nagaraja Temple is a Hindu temple worshipping Nagaraja (King of Serpents- Vasuki) situated at the heart of Nagercoil town. The name for the town Nagercoil originated from this temple. The temple has innumerable statues of serpents.
The temple has two main deities, Krishna (reverred as Ananda Krishna) and Nagaraja. The upadevathas are Shiva, Subrahmanya Swami, Ganesha, Devi and Dwarapalaka. As ancient tradition the priests are Namboothiri Brahmins who are referred by Pambumekkat mana in Thrissur, Kerala. The temple has a vast pond. Devotees consecreate Naga idols in the temple and offer milk and turmeric powder 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
Legends says that 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 or Naga raja, The King of the Nagas.
- Ananda or Aadi Sesha, The serpent on whom Vishnu does yoga nidra(Ananda shayana).
- Karkotaka, controls weather.
- Padmavati, the Nāgī queen and companion of Dharanendra.
- Paravataksha, his sword causes earthquakes and whose roar causes thunder.
- Takshaka, tribal king of the Nāgas, whose kingdom was called as Takshashila.
- Ulupi, a companion of Arjuna in the epic Mahabharata.
- Manasa, the Hindu goddess of Nagas; the curer of snake-bites and the sister of Vasuki
- Kaliya, a snake punished by Krishna in Yamuna river.
- Matali, charioteer of Indra; Matali was also the charioteer of Rama during the Lanka Battle.
The eight revered nagas are referred as ashta nagas they are Shesha, Vasuki, Takshaka, Karkotaka, Shankhapala, Gulika, Padma and Mahapadma. It is said about the colors of nagas that Vasuki is pearl white, Takshaka is red, Karkodaka is black with 3 white stripes in his hood, Padma is pink as lotus with white streak and coral ornaments, Mahapadma is white with trident mark in head, Shankhapala is yellow with white streak in hood, Gulika is red with crescent mark in hood.
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 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.
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.
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- M. A. Stein (1 January 1989). Kalhana's Rajatarangini: a chronicle of the kings of Kasmir. Motilal Banarsidass Publ. pp. 424–. ISBN 978-81-208-0370-1.
- "The legend of Annu-Nagi, Mythology and History of Naga People and Queen Gaidinliu of Naga". Academia. 2016. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
- The New Indian Express, Madurai edition, August 28, 2006.
- Sura's, Tourist guide to South India, 2004, ISBN 81-7478-175-7.