Thirunelli Temple, Wayanad Valley brings out prayers from the deep core of the hearts. The temple is encircled with Udayagiri, Brahmagiri, Karimala and Narinirangimala range in Kerala while the Papanasini mountain spring flows by it. The temple is at an altitude of 900 meters, facing east. Therefore, the first rays of the sun fall on the temple, creating a celestial atmosphere. The Thirunelli Temple worships Lord Vishnu.
History and Legend of Thirunelli Temple
The Thirunelli Temple opens up another golden page of South Indian religious life and beliefs.
- It is one of the oldest temples of Kerala. As per folklore, Lord Brahma built the temple. The temple also has other names, like, Sahyamala Kshetram and Kashi of the South.
- There is an old artificial water channel that brings water to the temple. It helps people to understand the age of the temple. The wife of Chirackal Raja once visited the temple. When she asked for some water to dissolve the sandal, the priest was not able to provide water. The lady understood the scarcity of water at the temple and ordered her attendants to discover a water source. They found a water source, varaham, within the forest. Water was brought from the place using bamboo halves. She built the stone water channel to ensure uninterrupted water service to the shrine. This water channel has mural decoration and comes with pillars.
- Thirunelli comes from the Malayalam/ Tamil word, nelli. It means gooseberry in English and amla in Hindi. As per myth, Lord Brahma was moving around the world one day. He saw an idol of Lord Vishnu resting on an amla tree. The tree was at the Wayanad Valley. Lord Brahma installed this deity. The place was Vishnuloka, the heaven of peace. Therefore, the Thirunelli Temple was built. For this reason, people also know the temple as Amalaka Temple and Sidha Temple.
- It is also a belief that the Lord Vishnu blessed the place with sacred waters which can wash away the sins both of mortal life and life after death.
- As per myth, Lord Brahma visits the place every day. The temple performs five worships in a day. But they arrange items for sixth worship before leaving the temple at night. Every morning it is found that the puja items have been used at night. People believe that Lord Brahma has used the items for worshipping Lord Vishnu. The priests swear thrice before entering the shrine in the morning that they will not disclose what they saw inside.
- Veda Vyasa has also mentioned the temple in his book, Padma Purana.
- Another myth states that Chera king Kulasekharan made the temple. The king was in power from 767 AD to 834 AD. Then he became a saint and practised Vaishnava order. He is also the writer of Mukundamaala. The book is written in Sanskrit.
- The temple has an incomplete walkway. It is said that the Coorg king once started the renovation work at the temple. The Vellattiri king owned the temple at that time. He objected to the work and hence the walkway is incomplete.
- Locals also believe that Lord Shiva lives at the temple premises. He started his journey to Kottiyur from here to kill Dhakshan. Dhakshan was the father of Devi Sati. She was the wife of Lord Shiva.
- There is a holy rock at the temple where devotees perform the funeral rites of their ancestors. People believe the rock is actually the bone of a demon. His name was Pazhana-bhedi and he was killed by Lord Vishnu. He prayed during his death to Lord Vishnu to divide his body into three parts so that devotees could use it for offerings to the departed souls. The head is at Gaya, middle part at Godavari and feet at Thirunelli. Lord Rama and his brother Laxmana performed funeral rites of their father, King Dasaratha at this rock.
Significance of the Thirunelli Temple
The Thirunelli Temple is unique with its different rituals and as a treasure of historic relics.
- Only at this temple, a devotee can perform rituals from life to death and for life after death.
- The temple has three deities, Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma. People call them trinity. There is a separate cave temple at the western side of the main temple. Lord Shiva is the presiding deity here. This is Gunnika temple. It represents Kongu-Chera style of handiworks.
- The temple showcases Kerala architectural style. The inner sanctum has a tilted roof and an open courtyard. Another feature of the temple is the granite lamp post. You can also see the hole of a flag post but the flag post is missing.
- The outer wall also has granite pillars. The pillars are cubical in shape. This part is different from the standard Kerala architecture.
- As per recent excavations, Thirunelli was an important business hub. The copper plates describe the history of the Thirunelli temple. From land allotment for the temple to details of expenses, everything is there in these plates.
- As per the inscriptions, the Kunhikutta Varman VeeraKurumpurai was the first donor for the temple construction, while the Sankaran Godavarman is the second donor.
- An elaborate description of the Thirunelli temple is also mentioned in the Unniyachi Charitham. This is a popular poetical work. The writer is Thevan Chirikumaran.
- The lord Vishnu is Chaturbhuja at the Thirunelli Temple. The Panchatheertham water tank has the marks of Lord Vishnu feet. This is known as Vishnupad.
Thirunelli Temple Timings
Pilgrims can visit the temple both in morning and evening.
- It is open from 5.30 am to 12.00 pm in the morning.
- The aarti is magical. It takes places at 11.30 am.
- At evening the temple is open from 5.30 pm to 8.00 pm.
Thirunelli Temple Food Timings
Prasadam is served after the evening prayers. You can also have meals at the temple. Visitors can also have free coffee and upma, both in morning and evening.
Dress Code at Thirunelli Temple
Devotees generally come in traditional wear. Men need to enter the temple without shirts. Leather apparels and items cannot be brought into the temple complex. Worshippers need to wear dhoti which is available at the priest office.
Festivals celebrated at Thirunelli Temple
Puthari, Chuttuvilakku, Navarathri, Shivarathri and Sreekrishnajayanthi are the major festivals of the temple.
Poojas and Rituals at Thirunelli Temple
- Ritual at the Papanasini River: Pilgrims from all over the world gather at the Thirunelli Temple to perform the ancestral rites. The rituals rake place at the banks of the river. Locals believe that the holy waters can wash away all the sins of the mortals.
- Pithrukarma: Also, there is a holy rock at the temple complex where worshippers pray for their forefathers.
- The temple also practices various customs related to the complete life cycle. Bali Tharpana, Oraalpindam are the other funeral rites that people do here.
- Another unique custom of the Thirunelli Temple is Brahmanas play musical instruments during food offerings to Lord Vishnu.
How to Reach: Road, Rail and Air
A trip to Thirunelli Temple is just not a pilgrimage but an immemorial journey through the Wayanad Valley. The place is easily accessible as it is a tourist hotspot. If you are coming from outside Wayanad, you can come from Calicut. The route from Calicut passes three cities, which are, Thamarasserry, Kalpetta and Mananthavady.
By Air: The Calicut International Airport is the nearest airport to the Thirunelli Temple. Another name for the airport is Karipur airport. This airport is at 161 kms from the Thirunelli Temple. Tourists can book cars directly to the temple. You can also use the Bangalore route to reach Thirunelli Temple. After reaching the Bangalore International Airport, tourists need to come to Mysore. From here proceed to Thirunelli via Hunsur and Nagarhole. The temple lies at 280 kms from Bangalore airport and 121 kms from Mysore.
By Rail: The nearest railhead to the temple is also at Calicut. From the railway station, tourists first need to reach Mananthavady and then to Thirunelli. There are many taxi and bus available from the station. The distance from Calicut to Mananthavady is 137 km if you are coming through the Koyileri – Mananthavady road. You can also take the 4th mile – Mananthavady road to reach the temple, but the distance is more; 141 kms.
The next nearest railway station to the temple is Mysore railway station. This is at 121 kms from the shrine.
By Road: You can enjoy the most if you are travelling to Thirunelli Temple via road. There are various ways in which you can reach the Thirunelli Temple via roadways.
From Calicut: After an hour journey from Calicut through the National Highway 212, you start climbing the hairpin slopes. There are 9 hairpin bends and the last bend gives a breathtaking view of all the Calicut valleys. You pass through the Vythiri and Chundale towns and then comes Kalpetta. This is the headquarters of the Wayanad district. From here you turn 2 kms left to the Mananthavady town.
From Kannur: The temple is 121 kms from Kannur. You can get a glimpse of the simple lifestyle of the locals as you pass the small towns of Koothuparamba, Nedumpoyil, Periya, Thalappuzha and Mananthavady to reach the temple. Moreover, there is a shorter through from Kannur. This route takes you through Kelakam, Kottiyur, Boy’s Town and Manathavady.
From Mananthavady: From this medium town, tourists head towards the Mysore Road, which is just at 10 kms. Then from Kattikulam tourists ride through a dense forest area till Thettu Road junction. This is an 8 kms ride to the junction and again a 13 kms ride to the temple. This path is idle for wildlife lovers, as bison, jumbo monkeys, peacocks and dear more around freely in the jungle.
From Kerala- Karnataka Border: From this place you need to ride till the Mananthavady road. After driving for almost 7.4 kms you will reach the Thetturoad Junction. Take a U-turn to reach the temple, which is 13 kms from the junction.
Hotels in Wayanad Valley: Where to stay
The temple has its own tourist accommodation. Panchatheertham Vishrama Mandiram is the name of the accommodation. Besides this, pilgrims can also stay at Himagiri Homes and Agraharam Resorts.
Where to eat
Besides having a meal, you can try out the food at Century Restaurant. The eat out is at 13.9 kms from the temple.
The Thirunelli Temple is closely related to the other nearby temples.
- Trisillery temple: As per mythology, Pinnappara continues from Thirunelli to Trisillery. Hence devotees who perform ancestral rites at Thirunelli first visit Thrissilery. They also make a Vilakkumaala offering at Thrissilery.
- Kottiyur Temple: This temple is at the dense forests of the Brahmagiri Valley. Earlier rice was brought from Thirunelli Temple to the Kottiyur Temple to meet the puja expenses. After the festival rice was returned to the Thirunelli Temple.
- Kalpetta: This region in Wayanad is a Jain pilgrimage. The place has various Jain temples and institutes.
Thirunelli Temple is also renowned for its Ayurveda treatments. You can also get organic honey and bamboo toys here. There is a shop just adjacent to the temple which sells these stuff. Besides visiting the Thirunelli Temple, tourists can also go for trekking at the Pakshipathalam. This trekking site is just 10 kms from the shrine.