04 August, 2021

Fertility Cove

A lady lords over the temple rituals at Mannarssala

Fertility Cove

IT is certainly a temple with a difference. In the heart of central Kerala, some 150 km from Thiruvananthapuram, Mannarssala is a sylvan nine-acre paradise of bamboo thickets, entwined creepers and banyan trees. Dangerous snakes, like cobras and kraits, slither in the shrubby vegetation. In the middle of this lush and riotous green landscape stands the fabled snake temple by the same name. Snake worship here, according to legend, has been going on for the past eight centuries.

But that is not what is unusual about this temple. What is unique about Mannarssala is that its affairs are run by a woman. She's certainly not the first head priestess-her predecessors have all been women. And this had nothing to do with women wresting the exalted position by declaring war on male supremacy in temple administration.

The head priestess at Mannarssala is actually an obedient spouse discharging the will of the Namboodiri patriarchal order as decreed by serpent king Nagaraja. Legend has it that a childless Namboodiri couple lived exactly where the illam (the priest's residence) stands...

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