Sree Krishna temple, Ambalapuzha
Ambalapuzha is a coastal town besides the N.H.47 about 13 kms to the south of Alleppey. The temple of Sree Krishna is located 1.5 kms east of the town junction. In olden days the headquarters of the Ambalapuzha Rajahs were near the temple. There was a time when the Ambalapuzha territory had been under the rule of Chempakasseri Rajahs. But when Marthanda Varma, the valorous ruler of Travancore conquered Chempakasseri territory in 925 M.E., there occured a gradual declension of the royal family of Chempakasseri.
Some people worship the presiding deity of the Ambalapuzha temple as ‘Parthasaradhi’ while others as Gopalakrishna but both the names of course, are the two sides of the same coin.
As it is said commonly, the legend about the origin and exaltation of the temple goes like this.
At one time in the history of Ambalapuzha, the place where the present temple is situated, was under water. While the Rajah of Ambalapuzha dynasty and Vilwamangalathu Swamiyar were going through the waterways, it so happened that they could hear a luscious sound of flute coming from a nearby huge and luxuriant peepul tree. Swamiyar was so attracted by the music that he wanted the oarsman to row the boat to the shore. On landing they went in search of the origin of the melodious song.
To his astonishment Swamiyar saw Sree Krishna sitting on a branch of the peepul tree playing his flute. At first he could not believe his eyes. He folded his hands and bowed his head, so did Rajah. Both of them went round the tree singing praises of the Lord. The Rajah thought that at last prosperity had come to his kingdom. He was so much pleased with the presence of the Almighty in his kingdom that he considered it as a blessing in disguise for the smooth functioning of his duties as well as the lofty administration of the territory.
Vilwamangalam urged the king to build a suitable temple for the Lord where they had seen him. The place belonged to an Ezhava leader Ambanattu Panicker. The king bought the land, a major portion of which was submerged land, by giving him adequate compensation. The submerged land was filled up with soil and temple was built in a few months. It was decided to install the image made for the purpose in an astrologically suited time. But the high priest, after examined the idol, expressed the view that the idol had certain inauspicious traits so that it was unsuitable for placement. The declaration of the priest fell upon the king like a thunder bolt. However, he wanted to get an idol placed at the stipulated time itself. He did not want to put off the function to a later period. It was a pity that the king could not make use of the original image meant for the purpose.
Some people believe that the present idol was brought from Thiruvanvandoor, a village near Thiruvalla by bullying and coaxing a Brahmin priest. On the other hand some are of opinion that it was brought from Koratti Thiruvampadi temple. Anyhow, the king and his men were able to find an idol suitable to be fixed, and it was carried out on the day of ‘Moolam’ astericism in ‘Midhunam’ (June / July). Every year on the same day people in and around the place, forgetting themselves of their caste or creed, celebrate the eventful day by arranging colourful boat-race which is now known as the famous - ‘Champakulam boat-race.’
Chempakasseri mana was the old royal palace on the southern part of the temple. Since all the Chempakasseri kings were Nampoothiries, the name of the ‘mana’ became the name of the kingdom. After having established the temple, Pooram Thirunal Maharajah handed over his kingdom into the divine hands of the Lord Unnikrishna and left his kingdom to become one with the Brahma.
The sweet broth made of milk, sugar and rice, otherwise known as ‘Ambalapuzha paal payasam’ is well-known because of its speciality. No other sweet broth of any kind is as delicious and melodious as this ‘payasam’.
The folk-story behind the source of this broth, as handed down from generation to generation is as follows.
When there existed an acute financial difficulty at Chempakasseri kingdom, the king borrowed some money and paddy from a Patter and saved the country from a crisis. But the king was not able to repay the debt in time. So he became very sad. One day when the king visited the temple as part of his daily routine, the Patter approached him and demanded the money and paddy. The king could not help avoiding the Patter and so he was completely at sea. At this time, as good luck would have it. Patter felt a sudden call of conscience and he told the king that he wouldn’t have to repay the debt and in lieu of this he would make use of the money and paddy for a daily offering of 'paal payasam' to the Lord Krishna. The king heeded to his request and from the next day onwards he arranged for the preparation of the broth to be used for the noon offering to the deity.
The ceremonial 10 day festival in 'Meenam' (March / April) is the most important festival at this temple. During this time there will be spectacular processions of deities on decorated elephants. Besides there will be a grand feast at the temple dining hall. It is believed that the Lord Unnikrishna will be present in disguise for the feast. So it is conducted with utmost care and sanctity. Once during festival Vilwamangalathu Swamiyar had seen the Lord in the mess hall!
‘Velakali’ a kind of dance in imitation of battle, is an important ritualistic item which is being performed in front of the shrine. It reminds us of the old type of warfare using shield and sword which was once prevalent in the Chempakasseri Kingdom.
A 12 day ‘Kalabham’ festival (smearing of sandal paste) from the 1st of ‘Makaram’ (January / February) and ‘Pallippana’ which is held once in 12 years are special occasions of the temple.
The main gate of the temple is on the western side. The golden top dome, a single-stone mandapam, the architectural stone images and the golden flag staff in front are a few signs of its eminence and splendour.
The temple has neither a gate tower, nor shrines for gods outside the main sanctum sanctorum.
The divine image has got about 3 feet high. Each day the holy face is adorned with gold when the rituals are being performed. In the right hand the divine holds a lash and in the left a conch which proclaim the deity is none other than Parthasaradhi himself.