Temples of Kerala - Ambalapuzzha Sri Krishna Temple

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

The Ambalapuzzha Sri Krishna temple is situated in Ambalapuzzha, a small town in Alapuzzha district of Kerala State. It is one of the three important Sri Krishna temples in the state of Kerala. It is believed to have been built in the year 790 AD by the local Brahmin ruler Chembakasserry Pooratam Thirunal Devanarayanan Thampuran.

The legend says that when Pooratam Thirunal Thampuran was travelling in boat accompanied by sage Vilwamangalam Swamiyar they happen to hear the melodious music of the flute. The music was emanating from the southeast corner of the present temple at Ambalapuzzha where a peepal tree stood. The sage, being the devotee of Krishna recognized that the music was that of the lord Krishna. So, the king and the sage got down, circumambulated the tree and worshipped the lord.

This temple is also associated with the Guruvayoor Sri Krishna Temple. When Tipu Sultan raided in 1789, the idol of Sri Krishna from the Guruvayoor Temple was brought to the Ambalappuzha Temple for safety. A sweet pudding made of rice and milk called Payasam is very popular among Hindu devotees. There is a legend behind this Payasam being offered to Lord Krishna.

It is believed that Lord Krishna in disguise of a sage appeared in the court of the king who ruled the region and challenged him for a game of chess. The king agrees and asks about the prize he has to pay to the sage in case he wins. The sage claims to be modest and being the man of fewer material needs, he asks for a few grains of rice on a condition.

The condition was that one grain of rice in the first square, two in the second, four in the third, eight in the fourth square and so on which meant that every square had double the number of grains than its predecessor. King was unhappy about such a small request and requested the sage to add any other items to his prize for which the sage declined. Finally, the game of chess started and the king looses the game. When the king started adding the grains of rice to the chess board, he realized the true nature of the sage’s demands.

The number of grains reached one million by 20th square and by 40th square it became trillion. Soon the king realized that he would never be able to fulfill the promised award. At this stage, Krishna reveals his true form and tells the king to serve Paal-Payasam in the temple freely to the pilgrims every day until the debt is paid off. Since then, offering Payasam at this temple has become very popular.

The Aaraattu is the popular festival of the temple and it begins with the flag hoisting ceremony in March or April. It is mainly celebrated on the Thiruvonam day. In ancient times, human sacrifice was in practice. But now cocks have replaced humans in the sacrificial altar.

The Velakali dance is performed every year inside temple premises. It is a group dance held in the open air as an exhibition of the martial feats depicting how soldiers performed in the wars. This dance is witnessed by the deity in a procession on a caparisoned elephant.

 

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