Nagaraja Temple, Nagercoil, Kanyakumari

Date built:
Deity: Nagaraja
Architectural style: Dravidian architecture
Major festivals
Locale: Nagercoil
District:: Kanyakumari
Address: Nagaraja Temple,Nagercoil – 629 001,Kanyakumari District
Phone +91 4652 232 420 / 241 270
 Nagaraja Temple is a Hindu Temple worshipping Nagaraja (King of Serpents- Vasuki) situated at the heart of Nagercoil Town in Kanyakumari District of Tamilnadu. The name for the town Nagercoil originated from this temple. The temple has innumerable statues of serpents. Snakes are an important part of the Hindu system of worship. It decorates the neck of Lord Shiva and acts as a bed for Lord Vishnu. Snake worship is prevalent all through India. The temple is a symbol of four religions – Jainism, Buddhism, Saivism and Vaishnavism.

Temple Opening Time

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.

Pooja Timings

Pooja Name Timings
Opening Time  5.00 am
Uchikala Abhishekam  10.00 am
Uchikala Pooja  11.00 am
Sayaratchai Pooja  6.30 pm
Arthajama Pooja  7.45 pm

Festivals

Thai Brahmmotsavam & Thai Poosam in January-February; Avani Sundays, Aavani Aslesha (Aayilyam) Star day & Krishna Jayanthi in August-September; Navarathri in September-October, Skandha Sashti, All Sundays and Tirukarthikai in November-December are the festivals celebrated in the temple. During Aavani Sundays, Lord Krishna is kept in a Adhishesha Temple car. Lord Krishna along with Sridevi and Boodevi will come around four Ratha street on the day of Thaipoosam.

Prayers

Devotees pray in the temple for relief from the adverse aspects of serpent planets. Devotes perform abishek to Nagaraja with milk and offer milk porridge – Paal Payasam – Nivedhana. They also install Naga idols in the temple campus. The Prasadam here is the sand from the ground in the sanctum of Nagaraja. The red color of the soil is said to be due to the blood shed from the idol when it got struck by the sickle. The soil that is given as   ‘Prasadam’ has medicinal properties capable of curing skin ailments of the devotees.

Nagercoil Nagaraja is believed to bless the childless couples. If the couple come to this temple and pray with sincere faith and devotion, soon their request for a kid will be answered. Several childless couples are reported to have admitted that they were blessed with children after their visit to this temple. To get rid of ‘Sarpa Dosham’, besides worshiping the snake stone images in the temple, devotees offer stone images of 5 headed snakes in silver to the temple and participate in a puja ritual called   ‘Noorum Palum’. This will relieve them of the bad effects of Ragu and Ketu.

Architecture

Legend / Local stories

Naga Worship:

Worship of Serpents had been there across all parts of the world since ancient times. Snakes had been worshiped by Hindus, Buddhist, Jains for ages. Even in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, the worship of Snake had been in vogue in ancient period. The Egyptian king had the symbol of cobra’s hood in his crown, even their Gods and Goddesses. (e.g. Osiris). There are similar instances from Babylon and Mesopotamia. Greece worshiped snakes as god for protection. They believed that the slain soldiers will be reborn as snakes.

Even its believed that Athens was guarded by a snake in 5th century BC. It is also their national symbol. In Ancient Rome, people believed that while felling a tree, if a snake is killed, its considered as bad omen, and God also moves out of that place. Australians and the Mayans also worshiped Snakes. Excavations in Mexico have lots of pots and utensils with Snakes symbol embossed on them.  In Africa Pythons are being worshiped even today and they worship it as God for Knowledge.

In India worship of serpents is there from pre-historic period. In U.P, Naga Panchami is observed even now. In Punjab, people draw pictures of Snakes on the wall and worship. In Bihar, ladies take fast for 3 days and worship Serpent God. In West Bengal, Manasa Devi is considered as the head of all Serpents. In a place called Subramanya in Karnataka, Snake is the worship deity. In Andhra in Laepakshi, there is a 6 feet high snake idol that’s worshiped.

In Kerala, worship of Cobra is of paramount importance. There are close to 16,000 temples (Sarpakkaavu) in Kerala, across all villages. Prominent among them are Manaarshaala, Vettikaadu, Paambummekaatu mana. In Manaarshaala, even today, a lady remains as Spinster, throughout her life, and does daily puja for this deity. In Tamilnadu, in Thiruverkadu, Devi is believed to have appeared initially as Cobra. In Tiruchengode, there is a 60 feet long cobra statue for worship. In Nagercoil, a temple is dedicated exclusively for Nagaraja. The name of this town is named after this temple only.

If we look at Valmiki Ramayana (episode 67, sloka 46-49), its mentioned that Nagas lived in Mahendragiri mountain area (20kms from Nagercoil) and worshiped Serpent god. Nagas are children of Kashyapa and Kadru. Among the prominent Nagas of Hinduism are Manasa, Sesha, and Vasuki. The Nairs of Kerala and the ethnically related Tulu people of Coastal Karnataka are clans which are believed to have originated from the serpent dynasty.

Legends says that the Nagas 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 Nagas 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, Nagas 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 by Tuluva’s in their honor.

The prominent of Nagas in the Puranas are;

  • Vasukior Naga raja, The King of the Nagas.
  • Ananda or Aadi Sesha, The serpent on whom Vishnudoes yoga nidra (Ananda Sayana).
  • Karkodaga, controls weather.
  • Padmavati, the Nagi queen and companion of Dharanendra.
  • Tarakaksha, his sword causes earthquakes and whose roar causes thunder.
  • Takshaka, tribal king of the Nagas, 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 Krishnain Yamuna river.
  • Matali, charioteer of Indra; Matali was also the charioteer of Ramaduring the Lanka Battle.

Ashta Nagas:

The eight revered Nagas are referred as Ashta Nagas they are Shesha, Vasuki, Takshaka, Karkodaga, Shankhapala, Gulika, Padma and Mahapadma. It is said about the colors of Nagas that Vasuki is pearl white, Takshaka is red, Karkodakan 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.

Origin of Nagaraja Temple:

It is believed, it was established by a senior member of the Nampoothiri Brahmin family of Kerala -‘Paambummekaatu Mana’ of ‘Mala, Trissur. The Nampoothiri consecrated a Nagaraja image in his residence after he had a vision of Vasuki, the head of snakes. Whoever came to his place with skin related problems, presumably caused by Sarpa Dosham – ill – effects of snakes as per horoscope were cured. Once the Nampoothiri priest visited the palace of a Pandya king on his request and cured his skin problem which happened to be leprosy, using his mystical power.

On his way back to Kerala, in the place where Nagaraja temple stands now, he saw a peasant woman quite upset over an incident in which her sickle had just hit the head of a Nagaraja stone idol hidden in the ground covered by bushes, etc. Surprisingly blood was oozing out of the idol. The place used to be a wooded area then. The learned Nampoothiri pundit realized it was five headed Nagaraja idol with enormous power.

Without wasting time, with help from the local community, in the same place he consecrated the Nagaraja idol with consent from the local ruler, which later became the famous Nagaraja temple of Nagar Kovil. Initially the temple was a hut with thatched roof. Responding to yet another vision he had during his sleep, he finally consecrated the Nagaraja idol in the same place where it was found and the idols of Shiva and Vishnu were consecrated in the new structure which became Sanctum Sanctorum or Srikoil.

The temple rituals and pooja protocols being followed here are based on Kerala tradition as this part of Tamil Nadu was under the control of Travancore princely ruler prior to 1956. The main tantri is from Kerala from the Nampoothiri family of Paambummekaatu Mana’ of ‘Mala, Trissur. Because of dispute over the puja rights, in this temple, the tantric rights are bestowed for alternative years only. One year for the tantri from Thiruvalla Illam and next year it will be tantri from Paambummekaatu Illam. This system is followed at present. The temple has been under the management of Tamil Nadu Devastanam since 1956.

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.

Cobra saved Marthanda Varma:

In mid-18th Century, King Marthanda Varma of Venadu kingdom (South Travancore) had lot of enemies. One day he was taking rest in the South side building of the temple. Knowing this, his enemy went up to kill him. His sword missed target as he was interfered by a cobra in between. The king woke up in the meantime and caught his enemy. From then on, the South Entrance is called as Maha Meru Maaligai.

Jain Belief:

Once upon a time, a pair of Snakes lived in this place. Mahibalan killed them. During death, they were listening to the chanting of Parsvanatha. By virtue of that, they got rebirth as the King and Queen of Snakes in the underworld. Later, a Gandharva named Samwaran was travelling across the sky. He was disturbed by the chanting of Parsvanatha. So, he made heavy rain fall to submerge him. The king cobra (Dharnendra) raised its hood over Parsvanatha and protected his tapas from the rain. As rain continued, water level raised. To prevent Parsvanatha from sinking, the Queen Cobra (Padmavathy) became a Lotus flower and gave seat to Parsvanatha. Samwaran couldn’t succeed in his effort.  People can see 2 huge snake statues in the temple, depicting this story.

No report of Cobra Bite:

A fascinating fact about this temple is there are several cobras moving here and around the temple prescient and so far, there has been no report of any cobra bite what so ever. No report of bite in the adjacent areas as well.

Photo Gallery

How to Reach:

Nagaraja Temple is situated at the heart of Nagercoil Town in Kanyakumari District of Tamilnadu. The Temple is located at about 1 Km from Nagercoil Bus Stand and Nagercoil Railway Station. Nagercoil is located at about 20 Kms from Kanyakumari, 9 Kms from Suchindram, 14 Kms from Boothapandi, 12 Kms from Villukuri, 13 Kms from Eraniel, 24 Kms from Colachel, 15 Kms from Thuckalay, 14 Kms from Padmanabhapuram, 83 Kms from Tirunelveli, and 74 Kms from Thiruvananthapuram. Nearest Railway Station is located at Nagercoil (1 Km) and Nearest Airport is located at Thiruvananthapuram.

Contact Details

Nagaraja Temple,
Nagercoil – 629 001,
Kanyakumari District
Phone: +91 4652 232 420 / 241 270
Mobile: +91 94439 92216