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Janardhana Swamy temple, Varkala – photo gallery
The temple is located on a small hill about 1.5 km west of Varkala maidan junction. The eastern gate-tower is architecturally attractive and enterprising.
In stanza 67 of ‘Unnuneeli Sandesom’, a poem written in the form of a message to the beloved, written within the period of 525-540 M.E., there is a reference to the Janardhana Swamy temple at Varkala, which lends support to the fact that the shrine was a significant one even at that time.
The temple is one of the most famous Vaishnava temples in India. So it is known as the ‘South Varanasy.’ According to the Hindu mythology this was the place where ‘Valkalam’ was thrown down by the sage Narada on his way to heaven. It fell on to the ground at this place. So the place was known as ‘Valkalam’, later by constant use shortened to form ‘Varkala’.
The legendary story goes like this. Once sage Narada (a divine minstrel) singing songs in praise of God Narayana, went to heaven. Maha Vishnu who was attracted by the song, followed Narada. No sooner did Narada reach heaven in front of his father Brahma than he folded his hands in reverent salutation. But Brahma did not take any notice of his son. His attention was centered on Maha Vishnu. Brahma was so pleased with the presence of Maha Vishnu that he bowed before Vishnu. But the Gods mistook it by taking into consideration that Brahma had bowed before his son Narada so that they ventured to make fun of Brahma. This made the creator furious so that he cursed the Gods (Devas) by commanding them to go to the earth and take rebirth as human beings. Brahma disappeared soon after the condemnation. The Gods were greatly shocked when they realised that they were under a severe curse. The accursed Gods became so sorry that they wanted to beg for atonement but Brahma was not anywhere there. Narada sympathised with the Gods and became uneasy when he thought that he was the root cause of all these unpleasant happenings. So he decided to help the Gods by all means. He took off his Valkalam and threw it down to the earth. Narada advised the Gods to go to the earth where his Valkalam had fallen and get redemption from the curse by worshipping the God Janardhana Swamy.
Thus the Gods came to Varkala, took rebirth and became human beings. They began to worship Maha Vishnu. Eventually He reclaimed the temple which had been once immersed in the sea. How did the Janardhana Swamy temple immense into the sea? It is another story. The legend says that Sree Krishna defeated the demons known as ‘Janans’ who lived in the middle of the sea. As a result the sea became so rough that it immersed the Janardhana Swamy temple.
Maha Vishnu was so pleased with the Gods that he consoled them by telling them that they would soon get redemption from the curse.
By this time there felt extreme scarcity of water at Varkala. As a remedial measure Maha Vishnu hurled his Chakrayudha and threw it violently on to the ground. The spot where it fell turned into a spring known as ‘Chakratheerdha’. There is also another holy spring in Varkala which is known as ‘Papanasam’. It is said that when Brahma calmed himself, he took pity on the Gods and provided them with this water spot.
‘Papanasam’ beach is famous for conducting ‘Vavubali’, a sacrifice to the spirit of the departed ones. It is the month of 'Karkadakom' (July / August) on the day of new moon. Every year people from far and near come to this place and offer their sacrifices to the departed soul of their dear ones.
Historians recorded that the temple was constructed by a Pandi Rajah. In the 3rd century while the Tamil Nadu was ruled by Nedumchezhian, the most famous king and ardent devotee of Maha Vishnu, took the initative to build the temple. It is believed that the Pandya king had an oration from the divine to construct a temple for the one which had already been sank into the sea. After the construction of the temple the soldiers of the king wandered here and there to find a suitable idol to be installed in the shrine. At last they got one which was emerged from the sea and it was placed in the shrine with ‘tantric’ rituals.
One can understand the main deity of the temple by the name itself. The word ‘Janardhana’ can be applied to both Maha Vishnu and the incarnation of Vishnu, Sree Krishna. Janardhana means one who annihilates the wicked.
Sree Narayana Guru Deva founded two Ashrams, one at Sivagiri in Varkala and the other in Alwaye. Both are run by ‘Sanyasins’ who had renounced all worldly pleasures. The Samadhi Mandapam of Sree Narayana Guru is also situated at Sivagiri. A large number of devotees visit both the temple and the Samadhi Mandapam throughout the year.
A big bell at the Janardhana Swamy temple has got its own story to tell. The number 1757 is marked on it. It is a clear indication of the year in which the bell had been fixed there. It is said that the bell was offered to the temple as a gift by the Dutch navigators. Perhaps they might have considered the deity as the sea god and they believed that their ships would be safe in the hands of Lord Janardhana Swamy.
Kanwamamala is another small hill near the Sivagiri monastery in Varkala. It is believed that the sage Kanwa did arduous penance on this hill top and performed sacrifices, the evidence of which can still be seen on the spot.
Places of tourists’ interest are so many in Varkala. One can pilgrimage at Janardhana Swamy temple and Sivagiri Sree Narayana Guru Samadhi monastery. ‘Papanasam’ sea coast is one of the rarest sea cliff beaches in the world. ‘Varkala Thurangam’, an underground tunnel for water transport, is a relic of the engineering work. This picturesque place is also a health resort centre.