Visit Sri Krishnan temple at Ambalapuzha, Kerala, is one of the Seven greatest Vaishnava temples in Travancore.
Lord Krishna at Ambalapuzha, the poet says, gives darsan as ‘Madhuryasara Sarvasvama Venugopal.’ He must have sipped the famous naivedya here - superlatively sweet – madhu rotharam pal payasam. The town is situated on the shores where the wavelets of Arabian ocean salute Him in adulation and joy. All the charm and beauty of the Universe take a form sporting kanikonna poo – flowers of blooming golden yellow, the hands are blue. Lord seems to smile mischievously – a torrent of splendour and grandeur. It is frequented by ‘Radhikas, Gopis, Uddhavas, Arjunas and Uttaras’ all seeking prema bhakti mixed with jnana mukti. All their emotions are personified to purify and gladden the mind, heart and soul, which already one glance and the lovely smile has done.
If one desires to see Lord Krishna as seen by ‘Aranthakanni Yasoda’ or the Mayan, Krishnan, who captivated the gopis or the supreme Trivikrama, who measured the three worlds in three steps confirming himself in the ‘Manikkam Ketti Vairam Ketti, Adiponnil Chaita, Vannachiru Thotil,’ one should visit Ambalapuzha.
Devotees throng this place to drink the Kanthi Pravaham (torrent), which fights with Dyuti (Kalayadhytiodu Padavettunna). Many come with wishes such as santhushti, santhan, sukha bhoga, samasya, happiness and children but forget their purpose of visit on seeing the Lord. One seemed to visualise Ambadi cows pouring milk, at dusk, listening to his flute, which captivates the hearts of millions. This is Kusasthali,Vrindavan and Yamuna bank all together.Ambalapuzha is famous for its ‘Vanchipada boat soldiers 30,000’ who drove the Dutch away.
Legend has it that, one day when Puradam Tirunal Tamburan and Vilvamangalam Swamiar were travelling in a canoe on the River Pampa, they could hear the murali ganam from the top of a banyan tree at the south-east side of the present day temple. They stopped and searched. Vilvamangalam perceived a blue light, amidst the branches, which transformed into an adorable boy (blue in colour) with peacock feather on the ‘jada’ with a mellifluous flute and sparkling vanamala. He was lost in ecstasy, when the form disappeared and hecircumambulated the tree with overwhelming devotion. He told the local people to build a temple and install Gosala Krishna. A Balagopala idol was made, but while installing it, the tantri Puthumana Namboodiri said that it cannot be sanctified as the idol did not look perfect – with a small swelling on the left side. He thought of his paradevata Bhadrakali and started chiselling, and to everyone’s surprise, a frog and some dirty water sprung out. Later, a Parthasarathi idol from Karinakulam temple at Kurichi was brought and consecrated at a house in Chambakulam. The king went there in a majestic boat, moving over Pamba like a swan.
Pilithirumudi Charthu, Nava Vana
Lola Muraliravam Paithu (or) Paithoru
The stunning gosalakrishna vigraham was seen at Trivanvandoor. But, the melsanthi refused to give it. And further, he hid it in a pond and sacrificed his life to save the idol from being taken away. Many believe that the present vigraham is the same, but it was confirmed, in a devotee’s dream, that it is still hidden at the bottom of the pond.
Later, a special Parthasarathi idol was brought from Kurichi in Changanaserri. The king happily went in a palliodam (Lord’s regal canoe) accompanied by hundreds of people singing bhajans to greet the Mayamanusha idol with Panchajanyam in left hand and thong in the right.
All the small canoes accompanied the idol kept in a chundan vallam. People from all walks of life sang vanchipattu and accompanied to the sound of Kathinavedis and Kuravais. Every house was decorated with tender coconut leaves, fruit bunches, Nirapara, Nilavilakku and asthamangalyam. To commemorate this occasion, every year in the month of Mithunam, a water festival ‘jalotsavam’ and a feast are held. Now it has become a contest. It is said that in Kerala, there are three swayambu Vishnu idols Guruvayoorappan, Purnatrayesan and Ambalapuzha Krishnan.
Puradam Tirunal desired to see Sri Krishna and requested Vilvamangalam Swami to bless him but the Swami told him that he has not acquired the sufficient ‘punyam’ to see Him. He said, “I can show you His hand. What will you offer Him.” Even Kuchela offered puffed rice (aval) when he went to meet Krishna. Hearing this, Raja promised to give his wealth and rajya. Vilvamangalam did Uchi Kala puja and as a result a divine light rose above the curtain, at the nadai, slowly to the accompaniment of the puja bell.
As instructed by Vilvamangalam, Raja closed one eye and tried to see the Lord’s hands in the light, decorated with rings and bangles extended towards him. Overwhelmed by this, the king surrendered chembakaseri kingdom. Thereafter, he lost his sight – symbolising that those who have had the divyadarsan need not see the worldly temporal things.
One can see the tender radiance of the moon, enjoy the sweetness of the essence of grapes, feel the cool tender breeze, the softness of the branch of tender mango leaves, see the beauty of the dazzling rainbow and the fragrance of the vasanthi flower, which blossoms slowly at dusk without withering on the refulgent golden idol.
Ambalapuzha Sri Krishna temple is one of the seven greatest Vaishnava temples in Travancore. The inner walls of the chuttambalam of the temple are decorated with paintings. The idol is of Parthasarathi with a whip in the right hand and a sankhu in the left. The pratisha and dhyana slokam is that of Gosala Krishnan, expert opinion says.
It is believed that Guruvayoorappan visits this place daily during the naivedya time to taste the palpayasam. There is a legend regarding this. Krishna came in the guise of a sage to the king’s court to play chess. The prize chosen by the sage was a few grains of rice determined by placing one grain of rice in the first square, two in the second, four in the third square, eight in the fouth i.e., every square carries double the number of the previous square. The sage naturally won. The king realised the trap as he started to fill the rice grains in the chess board. By the 20 square, the number had reached one million grains and by the 40 it became more than that. The king realised that the granaries in his as well as the adjacent kingdoms will not be enough. By geometrical progression, 18,446, 744, 073, 700, 551,615 i.e., trillions of rice grains will only fill a 64 squared chess board.
The Lord, in the form of the sage, took his true form and allowed the king to pay the debt over the years. Accordingly, palpayasam made of rice, will be freely served in the temple everyday, until the debt clears.
The Chambakulam water festival is celebrated on Moolam Star during the month of Mithunam, bringing the idol of Lord Krishna from the Karinkulam temple. Once in 12 years, ‘Pallipana’ was performed by Velans sorcerers with human sacrifice in olden times – now only cocks.
Story behind Palpayasam
Ambalapuzha Palpayasam is a wonder of Kerala and it is believed that it doesn’t taste the same in other shrines. It is golden in colour. The story goes that, one Champakaseri Raja borrowed 10,000 para (measure) paddy from a Brahmin for his army. He couldn’t repay it. Enraged by this, the Brahmin asked the Raja not to enter the temple without repaying him. The Minister heard this and somehow collected the paddy 36,000 para with interest and dumped them at the eastern door near Anakottil. By the time it was measured it became 11 a.m. The minister told the Brahmin to remove it before noon sriveli (the idol circumambulating the temple). The Brahmin could not bring in enough people or shift the paddy elsewhere. The minister had told the boat people and others not to help if he calls. The Brahmin offered the paddy to the Lord for daily payasa naivedya. In olden days, 36 para milk, 18,000 para paddy/year was fixed. Daily 36 para milk, three para rice and 1.1/2 thulam sugar. The 36 para milk will be boiled down to six paras. Now the accounts show 72 litres of milk, nine kg rice and 16 kg sugar are used. By the time the uchi kala puja is performed, the milk becomes thick, with the water getting evaporated and ghee floating separately. During the ninth day of the utsav a feast is served mainly to the Mela people. 45 para rice is used.
Not seeing the Lord in Sreekoil one day, Vilvamangalam looked for Him everywhere. At the south nadai, the Lord had donned the garb of a Kuttipattar and was serving food to the Marars (the Chendai artists). When Vilvamangalam asked, “should He perspire and exert in the noon sun? There are enough servers,” the Lord replied, “these people make my utsav nice. I will be satisfied only if I serve them.” And even today it is believed that He comes and serves ghee to the Mararas.
On ninth day, golden umbrella and ‘seven and a half ponnana locket is used for decorating Thidambu, the idol on elephant. While the 7.1/2 ponnana was being taken to Ettumanoor in the canoe from Trivandrum, and opposite Ambalapuzha temple, it had hit a sand bar which came up suddenly and stopped. The king did prasna (astrology) which showed Sri Krishna was avoided. He vowed and gave a locket costing the same as 7.1/2 ponnana. Immediately, the boat moved.