The reading of Ramayana (the epic of Lord Sri Rama) during the whole month of Karkidakom (July 17/August 16) in Hindus homes, especially in upper cast homes, in Kerala is a practice followed time immemorial. This practice is stemmed from the belief that it will create peace and prosperity in the home. Nalambala Darshan (obeisance at four temples) during Karkidakom is believed to be a Punyam (heavenly reward of holiness). The Nalambalam is of Rama and his brothers Baratha, Lakshmana and Satrugna.
The worshipping and praying at Sree Rama Temple at Triprayar, Bharatha Temple at Irinjalakuda, Satrugna at Payammal (all in Thrissur district) and Lakshmana Temple at Moozhikulam (in Ernakulam District but somewhat near to Payammal) in a day is the practice. After the Darshan at Triprayar in the morning the devotee is supposed to worship at Payammal before noon.
More than one legendary tales take the round about the creation of Nalambala. The more credible one: Once the fisher-folks got a good catch from the sea. The weight in the net led them to believe it is a good catch. When they reached the shore they realized the catch is not a big fish but four idols tied together. They entrusted the same to Vakkayil Kaimal who was a local landlord. He called in Astrologers for astronomical investigation. Their findings were that these idols were the ones Lord Krishna worshipped during Dwaraka Yuga (era) in Dwaraka. When Dwaraka submerged into the sea the idols came along to sea and trapped in the fishermen’s net. The astrologers further said that these idols should be installed at appropriate places and suggested the places. It is thus the birth of Nalambala took place.
First Visit - Triprayar Rama Temple
The pilgrimage to Nalambala has to begin with Sree Rama Temple at Triprayar. Bharatha is the first brother of Rama. The next worship is there to Bharatha. The second brother is Lakshmana. It therefore necessitates the next worship at Moozhikulam where Lakshmana is. The final worship is to Satrugna at Payammal.
Out of the four idols the first installed idol is of Rama the elder at Triprayar. Confusion prevailed as to where the idol is to be installed. During the confusion an omnipresent voice uttered that a peacock will come and install the idol where the peacock sits. But, the peacock did not appear even after waiting for a long time. In its absence the installation was done. The installation is over, the peacock appeared. The Balikallu (sacrificial altar) was erected where the peacock sat, as a solution. In the beginning the Balikallu was being shaken. It was nailed aground by Naranath Brandan (an insane- feeling admired saint) when he visited the temple.
Ganapathy, Dharma Sastha and Gosalakrishna are worshipped here as sub-deities. Ganapathy is in south-west corner, Dharma Sasthra in south and Gosalakrishna in north of the Chuttambalam (building surrounding sanctum sanctorum).
Vedi (bursting of gun-powder from a small but strong iron barrel with about 10 inch length and 4 inch dia with a horizontal hole to hold the gun-powder) and Meenoottu (feeding to fish) are important offerings here.
There is a tale about Vedi offering. Hanuman who located Sitha (when she was in the custody of Ravana in Sri Lanka) reported the same to Rama in a country-style ‘Sithaye Kandutto’(hey, I saw Sitha). The sounding voice of ‘tto’ of Kandutto was most liked by Rama. It was thereafter the offering of Vedi commenced in the temple, so say legends.
The day of Triprayar Temple starts with the Vedi. Whenever the deity goes out (the deity goes out for 7 days as a prelude to Arattupuzha Pooram (Festival), where he is the chief guest, for giving blessings to the devotees of nearby villages, the materials for Vedi are also taken along.
Aval (roasted and pressed rice) and Kadalipazham (a tasty variety of plantain) are the materials used for Meenoottu. Canoli Canal flows in front of the temple. Cemented steps with more than 50 metres length from compound wall of the temple lead down to the Canoli Canal. The Meenoottu is done in the Canal water standing in the steps. The devotees dip in the Canal prior to the worship.
The festivals celebrated here are Ekadashi in the month of Makaram (December/January), Pooram Purappad (starting for Pooram) and Utharam Vilakku. Pooram Purappad is a short festival lasting two to three hours in the afternoon 7 days prior to Arattupuzha Pooram for participating in it as chief guest. Utharam Vilakku is the re-entry of the deity to the temple after participating in Arattupuzhu Pooram in the following day of Arattupuzha Pooram. This too is a short festival lasting 2 to 3 hours in the afternoon.
The adoration ceremonies in the temple start at 3 am and close at 12 pm. Again adoration restarts at 4 pm and ends after dinner adoration.
Visit Second- Koodalmanikyam Bharatha temple
After the Darshan of Sri Rama the devotees long to Koodalmanikya Kshetram at Irinjalakuda, about 14 km from Triprayar, for Darshan of Bharatha. The temple has many specials of its own. Big front covered passage (called Nadapura in Malayalam) with big round pillars, astronomically calculated and measured Koothambalam (temple theatre), 1.5 acre spread temple pond known as Kuleepani Theerth etc make Koodalmanikya Kshetram distinct from other temples. The name Kuleepani Theerth is given to the pond to honour Kuleepani Maharshi (sage) who descended here when human habitation was impossible in Irinjalakuda. Sitting in a spot where the temple came up later, he under-took Yaga (holy sacrifice performed to propitiate the gods). After a long period of Yaga goddess Lakshmi and god Purushotama appeared and asked the Maharshi what he desires to have as Varam (blessing). He demanded only the eternal presence of God. Granting the Varam, the god and goddess disappeared.
Beneath the Kuleepani Theerth there are Homakundams (pits for offering made with fire), it is believed. There is no Mani Kinar here (the well for taking water for adoration ceremonies). The water for adoration is taken from Kuleepani Theerth. The devotees circumambulate the Kuleepani Theerth also along with the circumambulation of the temple.
The Koothambalam is a sanctified erect here. If the sanctum sanctorum is maligned due to any reason, Koothambalam houses the idol till the sanctum sanctorum is purified. This multiplies the importance of the Koothamblam here.
There is a tale behind the name Koodalmanikya (ruby joined). Once, a divine light with profuse brightness appeared on the forehead of the idol to the utter surprise of all present. One among them said that it has no that much brightness as that of the ruby in the possession of Kayamkulam king. A dispute raged. Ultimately, decided to bring the ruby of the king to match test. A deputation went to the king. The king gave the ruby with a condition that it should be returned immediately. No sooner the ruby placed near the idol than it stubbornly joined with the idol, making it impossible to detach. The temple, after this incidence, came to be known as Koodalmanikya.
Visit Third - Moozhikkulam Lakshmana temple
The temple has no sub-deities. All gods are present here, widely believed. There is a story about the presence of all gods. Once, a priest avowed to bring invoked all the gods from the temples and align with the temple of his village. He reached Koodalmanikya after invoking the gods from all other temples. When he was returning after invoking the god here also, the conch in his hand in which he had kept all the invoked gods, fell down and shattered which resulted in aligning all the gods in the Koodalmanikya Kshetram. This obviously negated the need of sub-deities in the temple.
For getting the desired wishes fulfilled the offering made to he deity is garland made of lotus flower. The deity food made of brinjal offering is for relief of stomach related ailments. Meenoottu (feeding to fish) is considered for pulmonary related sicknesses. The deity food offering of Mukkudy (an ayurvedic preparation) once a year is meant for forbidding and curing of all diseases. The Mukkudy is prepared by the eminent Ayurveda Physician Kuttanchery Mooss and the know-how for its preparation is guarded by him as a close secret.
The next pilgrimage is to Thirumoozhikulam, 7 km from Annamanada, to worship Lakshmana, the second brother of Rama. The Sreekovil (sanctum sanctorum) of the shrine is copper sheet roofed and the Chuttumbalam (the building surrounding the sanctum sanctorum) is large. The lamp shelter is guarded by the servants of the gods.
Among the Lakshmana temples in Kerala, Thirumoozhikulam temple is the most famous. The decisions taken here in relation to the practices to be followed are said to have followed by other temples as well in Kerala.
In ancient time, Thirumoozhikulam was densely forested. Attracted by the place, an eminent Maharshi (sage) came over here for Tapas (penance) for blessings from Mahavishnu. The pleased (in the Tapas) Mahavishnu appeared and explained the practices to be followed by the people of Kaliyuga (the era of hatred and disunion). The name of the place Thirumoozhikulam was derived from this incidence. Thiru (divine) Moozhi (pronouncement) Kalam (venue) clubbed reads Thirumoozhikalam. The Kalam of Thirumoozhikalam was later pronounced as Kulam (pond) following the creation of the temple pond.
Worshipping of Lakshmana wards off fear and bite of serpent, it is believed. The deities of Shiva, Ganapathi, Sree Rama, Sitha and Hanuman also have here for worship. Outside the Chuttambalam, Gosalakrishna is idolized. Other deities in the temple include Sastha and Bhagawathi.
Specific modalities for Darshan have been set forth. Devotees enter the shrine through eastern entrance and first worship Lakshmana. Shiva, Ganapathy, Sree Rama, Sitha and Bhagawathi are worshipped after circumambulation. Then get out and worship Gosalakrishna. Lastly, again come to eastern Nada (the front place of the sanctum sanctorum) and worship Lakshmana again.
The annual festival is in Medam (April/May).
After Moozhikulam, a return journey to arrive at Payammal Sathrugna shrine. The Payyammal temple is near Koodalmanikya Kshetram. The custom prohibits coming to Payammal straight from Koodalmanikya. The worshipping of Sathrugna, the younger amongst the four, is to be only after worshipping Lakshmana during the Nalambala Darshan.
The usual practice at Payammal is to close the doors at 11 am. Not to inconvenience the surging crowds of devotees all through Karkidaka, the temple keeps its doors open for longer hours.
There are only two Sathrugna shrines in Kerala. Payammal temple is the most famous among the two.
Ganapathi is a sub-deity here. The idol of Ganapathy is within the sanctum sanctorum, in the north-west direction in a same stone base.
Food offering in the form of Aval (roasted and pressed rice) to Hanuman is practiced here.
Penance for the misdeeds done knowingly or unknowingly can be done after the last adoration ceremony of the day.
Visit Fourth Payammal - Sathrukhnan Temple.
The temple is considered as a symbol of Mahasudarsana Chakra of Mahavishnu. Based on this belief, the major offering here is Pushpanjali (flower-offering).
The annual festival lasting 5 days in the month of Kumbam (February/March) takes place.
Throughout Karkidakam Nalambalam witnesses long queues for worship and pray.
Now-a-days group visiting to Nalambalam has become more popular. The group visit reduces the cost of pilgrimage. Hired buses full to capacity start from the vicinities of many temples.
If a devotee starts from Thrissur City he can go to Triprayar via Cherpu. From Triprayar to Irinjalakuda it is via Pazhuvil-Chirakkal-Thanissery. From Irinjalakuda to Moozhikulam is via Vellangallur-Veliyanad-Kombidi-Ashtamichira-Mala-Annamanada. From Moozhikulam to Payammal, return to Vellangallur and then to Aripalam, Oluppukazha and the destination Payammal. Those who are coming from south part follow the route from Kodungallur to Triprayar through NH 17. For the devotees coming from south-east direction, head to Chalakudy through NH 47, to Potta through NH 47, to Irinjalakuda and then to Triprayar. The devotees coming from north through coastal routes head from Guruvayur/Chavakad through NH 17 to Triparayar..