Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple

Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple, Malayalam അംബലപ്പുഴ ശ്രീകൃഷ്ണ ക്ഷേത്രം, is a Hindu temple in Ambalappuzha, Alapuzha district of Kerala, in south India. The Puthumana Thanthri family of Namboodiri Brahmins are the priests of the Temple.

The temple

The Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple is believed to have been built in the in the year AD 790 by the local ruler "Chembakasserry Pooradam Thirunal-Devanarayanan Thampuran".

This temple is directly associated to the Guruvayoor Sri Krishna Temple. During the raids of Tipu Sultan in 1789, the idol of Sri Krishna from the Guruvayoor Temple was brought to the Ambalappuzha Temple for safe keeping.

The "pal payasam" served in the Ambalappuzha Temple is famous among Hindu devotees. This sweet pudding made of rice and milk has an interesting mythological legend behind it.

Ambalapuzha is a coastal town besides the NH 47 about 13 km to the south of Allepey. The temple of Sree Krishna is located 1.5 km east of the town junction. In the olden the headquarters of the Ambalapuzha rajahs were near the temple. There was a time when the Ambalapuzha territory had been under the rule of Chempakasseri rajahs. But when Marthanda Varma, the valorous ruler of Travancore conquered Chempakasseri territory in 925 M.E., there occurred a gradual declension of the royal family of Chempakasseri. Some people worship the presiding deity of the Ambalapuzha temple as ‘Parathasarthy’ while others as Gopalakrishna but both the names of course, are the two sides of the same coin. As it is said commonly, the legend about the origin and exaltation of the temple goes like this:-

At one time in the history of Ambalapuzha, the place where the present temple is situated, was under water. While the rajah of Ambalapuzha dynasty and Vilwamangalam Swamiyar were going through the waterways, it so happened that they could hear a luscious sound of flute coming from a nearby huge and luxuriant peepul tree. Swamiyar was so attracted by the music that the wanted the oarsman to row the boat to the shore. On landing they went in search of the origin of the melodious song. To his astonishment Swamiyar saw Sree Krishna sitting on a branch of the peepul tree playing his flute. At first he could not believe his eyes. He folded his hands and bowed his head, so did rajah. Both of them went round the tree singing praises of the Lord. The rajah thought that at last prosperity had come to his kingdom. He was so much pleased with the presence of the Almighty in his kingdom that he considered it as a blessing in disguise for the smooth functioning of his duties as well as the lofty administration of the territory. Vilwamangalam urged the king to build a suitable temple for the Lord where they had seen him. The place belonged to an Ezhava leader Ambanattu Panicker. The king bought the land, a major portion of which was submerged land, by giving him adequate compensation. The submerged land was filled up with soil and temple was built in a few months. It was decided to install the image made for the purpose in an astrologically suited time. But the high priest, after he examined the idol, expressed the view that the idol had certain inauspicious traits so that it was unsuitable for placement. The declaration of the priest fell upon the king like a thunder bolt. However, he wanted to get and idol placed at the stipulated time itself. He did not want to put off the function to a later period. It was a pity that the king could not make use of the original image meant for the purpose. Some people believe that the present idol was brought from Thiruvanvandoor, a village near Thiruvalla by bullying and coaxing a Brahmin priest. On the other hand some are of the opinion that it was brought from Koratti Thiruvampadi temple. Anyhow, the king and his men were able to find an idol suitable to be fixed, and it was carried out on the day of ‘Moolam’ astericism in ‘Midhunam (June/ July). Every year on the same day people in and around the place, forgetting themselves of their caste or creed, celebrate the eventful day by arranging colourful boat-race which is now known as the famous Champakulam boat-race.

Chempakasseri mana was the old royal palace on the southern part of the temple. Since ll the Chempakasseri kings were nampoothiries, the name of the ‘mana’ became the name of the kingdom. After having established the temple, Pooram Thirunal Maharajah handed over his kingdom into the divine hands of Lord Unnikrishna and left his kingdom to become one with the Brahma.

The sweet broth made of milk, sugar and rice, otherwise known as ‘Ambalapuzha palpayasam’ is well-known because of its speciality. No other sweet broth of any kind is as delicious and melodious as this payasam.

The folk-story behind the source of this broth, as handed down from generation to generation is as flows:-

When there existed an acute financial difficulty at Chempakasseri kingdom, the king borrowed some money and paddy from a Patter and saved the country from a crisis. But the king was not able to repay the debt in time. So he became very sad. One day, when the king visited the temple as part of his daily routine, the Patter approached him and demanded the money and paddy. The king could not help avoiding the Patter and so he was completely at sea. At this time, as good luck would have it, Patter felt a sudden call of conscience and he told the king that he wouldn’t have to repay the debt and in lieu of this he would make use of the money and paddy for a daily offering of palpayasam to Lord Krishna. The king heeded to this request and from the next day onwards he arranged for the preparation of the broth to be used for the noon offering to the deity. The ceremonial 10 day festival in ‘Meenam’ (March/ April) is the most important festival at this temple. During this time there will be spectacular processions of deities on decorated elephants. Besides, there will be a grand feast at the temple dining hall. It is believed that the Lord Unnikrishna will be present in disguise for the feast. So it is conducted with utmost care and sanctity. Once during festival Vilwamangalam Swamiyar had seen the Lord in the mess hall! ‘Velakali’ a kind of dance in imitation of battle, is an important ritualistic item which is being performed in front of the shrine. It reminds us of the old type of warfare using shield and sword which was once prevalent in the Chempakasseri kingdom. A 12-day ‘Kalabham’ festival (smearing of sandal paste) from the 1st of ‘Makaram’ (January/ February) and ‘Pallippana’ which is held once in 12 years are special occasions of the temple. The main gate of the temple is on the western side. The golden tope dome, a single-stone mandapam, the architectural stone images and the golden flag staff in front are a few signs of its eminence and splendour. The temple has neither a gate tower, nor shrines for gods outside the main sanctum sanctorum. The divine image is about 3 feet high. Each day the holy face is adorned with gold when the rituals are being performed. In the right hand the divine holds a lash and in the left a conch which proclaims that the deity is none other than Parthasarathy himself.Link [http://zamjose.tripod.com/temple/Ambalapuzha.html]

An idol of Sri Krishna, The Lord Parthsarathy idol was installed in the temple.

The Aaraattu festival commences with the flag hoisting ceremony on the Atham star in Meenam (March-April). The important Aaraattu festival takes place on the Thiruvonam day of the same month.

In this temple 'Pallipana' is performed by 'Velans' (sorcerers) once in twelve years. Human sacrifice was conducted in ancient times. However, cocks have now replaced humans on the sacrificial altar.

Kalakkaththu Kunchan Nambiar(1705-1770) also spent his youth at Ambalappuzha.

Ambanattu Panikkar Varavu

This is a ceremonial procession of members of the Ambanattu Panikkar family memebrs, bringing pots of honey as ritual offering to the deity at Sree Krishna Swamy Temple, Ambalapuzha. Link [http://www.globalpathmonitors.com/gb5festivals.htm] . Link [http://www.geocities.com/purushothaman_avaroth/mbh/temple_mbh1.html] . The land where the temple was built was belonging to a rich Ezhava landlord and kalari asaan Ambanattu Panikker. While the rajah of Ambalapuzha dynasty and Vilwamangalathu Swamiyar were going through the waterways, it so happened that they could hear a luscious sound of flute coming from a nearby huge and luxuriant peepul tree. To his astonishment Swamiyar saw Sree Krishna sitting on a branch of the peepul tree playing his flute and suddenly diappeared. To his astonishment Swamiyar saw Sree Krishna sitting on a branch of the peepul tree playing his flute. Link [http://zamjose.tripod.com/temple/Ambalapuzha.html]

Legend of the Ambalappuzha Paal Payasam

According to the legend, Lord Krishna once appeared in the form of a sage in the court of the king who ruled the region and challenged him for a game of chess (or chaturanga). The king being a chess enthusiast himself gladly accepted the invitation. The prize had to be decided before the game and the king asked the sage to choose his prize in case he wins. The sage told the king that he had a very modest claim and being a man of few material needs, all he wished was a few grains of rice. The amount of rice itself shall be determined using the chess-board in the following manner. One grain of rice shall be placed in the first square, two grains in the second square, four in the third square, eight in the fourth square and so on. Every square will have double the number of grains of its predecessor.

Upon hearing the demand, the king was unhappy since the sage requested only a few grains of rice instead of other riches from the kingdom which the king would've been happy to donate. He requested the sage to add other items too to his prize but the sage declined.

So the game of chess started and needless to say the king lost the game. It was time to pay the sage his agreed-upon prize. As he started adding grains of rice to the chess board, the king soon realised the true nature of the sage's demands. By the 20th square, the number had reached one-million grains of rice and by the 40th square, it became one-trillion. The royal grainery soon ran out of grains of rice. The king realised that even if he provides all the rice in his kingdom and his adjacent kingdoms, he will never be able to fulfill the promised reward. The number of grains was increasing as a geometric progression and the total amount of rice required to fill a 64-squared chess board is (2^{64} - 1) which is equal to 18446744073709551615 grains (about 18*10^{18}, or 18 billion billion grains). This amount of rice would weigh about 461*10^{12} kg, or 461 billion tonnes (1,000 grains of rice weigh about 25g [http://www.agric.nsw.gov.au/reader/tg_Size_and_Weight.htm).

Upon seeing the dilemma, the sage appeared to the king in his true-form, that of lord Krishna. He told the King that he doesn't have to pay the debt immediately but can pay him over time. The king shall serve paal-payasam (made of rice) in the temple freely to the pilgrims every day until the debt is paid off.

Ambalapuzha Velakali

Velakali is a group dance held in the open air as an exhibition of the martial feats in front of the raja (king) of Ambalapuzha (erstwhile "Chempakassery"), who wanted to see how his soldiers had performed in the wars. This show meant to be witnessed by the deity of the temple which is taken out in procession to the courtyard of the temple on a caparisoned elephant. The play consist of a procession in the beginning in which, the dancers walk in line through the village road holding the sword made of rattan in the right-hand and a shield in the left. They move elegantly keeping their pace to the rhythm followed by a hilarious group of villagers encouraging the dancers by jumping and singing and waving small colourful flags. By dusk 'Kulathil vela' or the play on the bank of the tank commences. The dancers take their position on the bank of the temple tank and with weapons in their hands start the play moving their bodies. Their movements get reflected in the water probably reminding one of the war in the sea or rivers. On the other side of the tank the caparisoned elephant with the deity takes position. The dancers do not change their position but exhibit only the swaying of their bodies to the rhythm of Velappara, the main percussion instrument. Then the dancers disperse to assemble again in the southern quadrangle of the temple to start the regular exhibition of the feats. There the deity appears on the elephant. By about 8.p.m 'Tirumunpil vela' or the play before the divine presence of the deity, start.

Now "Ambalapuzha Velakali" is performed every year inside the temple premise during the March-April 10 festival days("malayalam:Ulsavam") except on the first and last days.

External links

* [http://hindubooks.org/temples/kerala/ambalapuzha/index.htm Ambalapuzha Temple from the book: "Temples and Legends of Kerala"]
* [http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=ambalappuzha,kerala,india&ie=UTF8&ll=9.38363,76.369545&spn=0.003652,0.004662&t=h&z=18 Ambalappuzha temple in Google Maps]


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