15 kms north of Krishnapuram Palace, and 32 km before Alappuzha, Mannarsala , on National Highway 47, is the site of the Nagaraja (serpent king) Temple, and the most significant site for snake worship in Kerala. According to the Mahabharatha, snakes fled from the fire started by Arjuna in the Khandava forest (believed to be an area near Alappuzha). They prayed for protection and the area around Mannarsala cooled down providing them a refuge.
Local legend relates that subsequently a Namboodiri woman developed sacred groves for the snakes and dedicated the land to the snake dieties , Nagaraja and Sarpayakshi. Today the tradition continues and the oldest female member (known as valiama) of the illam (women's section of the Namboodiri house hold), has the role of priestess and conducts rituals at the temple. On accepting the role she relinquishes her earthly marital status and assumes a spiritual one- that of wife of the serpent king deity. She lives alone in premises within the temple complex. The temple is in typical Keralan architectural style, with the larger central shrine surrounded by many smaller ones . Infinite number of cobra idols encompass the complex, it's said that many of their earthly cousins are there as well. The two main idols are those of the serpent king and queen. The annual festival is in the month of Thulam (October/ November) . At this time the main idols are taken in procession by the priestess and offerings of milk, turmeric and rice are made. As with Keralan temples generally, this is a peaceful place, apart from vedis (Explosive devotional sounds). Visitors who respect the rituals and the serenity of the temple are welcome. Men must remove their shirts, women must wear saris or similar clothing.

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