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Thirunelli Temple




Wayanad, Kerala



Kown as 'Kashi of South' or 'Thekkan Kashi'

Best time to visit


October and March

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Thirunelli Temple is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu in the form of Chaturbhuja. Situated in Wayanad district of Kerala state, it is one of the famous pilgrim center in Wayanad. It is 32 km away from Manathavady and around 110 kms from Mysore.

Literally, Thirunelli Temple means 'the temple with the sacred gooseberry (nelli) tree'. Located in a valley surrounded by the beautiful South Brahmagiri peaks, the temple is located at an altitude of about 900m above sea level.

The significance of the temple is, it is the only temple in the world where the devotees can perform all the rituals related to one’s life, starting from birth to death and life after death.

Owing to its religious significance, Thirunelli temple is also known as 'Kashi of South' or 'Thekkan Kashi' and 'Sahyamala Kshetram'. The surrounding peaks are a trekker's and an ornithologists’ delight.

One of the most ancient temples in Kerala, the exact date of establishment of this magnificent temple is not known. The temple is believed to be 1500 years old. Archives and research have shown that Thirunelli was once an important town and pilgrim center in the middle of an inaccessible jungle surrounded its four sides by mountains till the16th century. There exists a record that Thirunelli, at the time of Tamil Chera king Bhaskara Ravi Varma I (962–1019 CE) was an important town and pilgrim center in south India. Noted historian V. R. Parameswaran Pillai in his book 'Thirunelli Documents' also states that this temple was once an integral part of the early history of North Kerala. And in some Malayalam works of 11th and 12th century like Unniyachi Champu, has references to Thirunelli.

Many myth relates with the formation of the temple itself. According to one legend, Lord Brahma was attracted by the beauty of the area around the Brahmagiri Hill. He descended on the spot and while wandering he noticed an idol of Lord Vishnu on an Amla tree and he installed the idol there and named it 'Sahyamalaka' temple. At Brahma's request Vishnu promised that the waters of the area would have the power to wash away all sins. From then on, the stream has been known as Papanasini (destroyer of sins). It is believed that a dip in Papanasini washes away one's sins.

On the southern side of the temple there is Panchatheertham - the holy temple pond where five rivers used to meet. In the summer the pond will be dried up. On the centre of the pond a stone slab containing imprint vishnu's feet is there.

Besides the main diety Vishnu, there are sub-deities of Ganapathy and Nagam. This temple exhibits beautiful Kerala style of architecture. The inner sanctorum is surrounded by a tile roofed structure. And there is an open courtyard around the sanctorum. At the east, in front of the entrance is a granite lamp-post.

Along the outer wall of the temple is a cloister made of granite pillars cut in cubical style.

The rituals are performed on the banks of the stream Papanasini which flows down from Mount Brahmagiri through roots, leaves and flowers of ancient trees and medicinal herbs. It is just around 1 km northwest of the temple premises. It is also believed that Papanasini is the confluence of the rivers Ganges and Saraswathy.

Another major attraction of the temple is the holy rock where people pray for their forefathers.

On the western side of the temple is the cave temple Gunnika, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Panchatheertham is the holy temple pond. One notable feature of the temple is the lack of a temple well. Hence water is transported from a perennial mountain stream deep in the valley by impressive stone aqueducts right into the priests' room.

Puthari, Chuttuvilakku, Navarathri, Shivarathri and Sreekrishnajayanthi are the major festivals conducted in this temple.

Temple timings: Morning: 5:30 am to 12:00 pm, Evening: 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm