Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple - Kerala, India

Built in 800 A.D, the Ambalappuzha Temple stood virtually unknown for the next 1000 years. On 4th May 1799, the Temple became a nation-wide sensation and millions of people flocked to pay their respect to the deity and the priest. How did the Temple become an overnight sensation? What could have possibly happened on that particular day?

Tipu Sultan, the most formidable Muslim ruler of India was killed by British forces on 4th May 1799.  He had been trying to convert the Hindus of Kerala to Islam by force, however one thing stood in his way: the statue of Lord Guruvayurappan. When he raided the temple of Guruvayur in 1790, he managed to demolish everything, but the main statue had been moved to a secret location. The Hindus of Kerala openly swore that they bore their allegiance to Guruvayurappan. Tipu Sultan and his troops would search all over Kerala for the next 9 years to find the statue and publicly demolish it, in vain. When he died, it was revealed that the statue had been kept safely in the Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple. Devotees from all over India thronged the temple, and it became an iconic place of worship.
The front walkway leading to the Ambalappuzha Sri Krishna Temple
Essential Information:
Address: Thiruvalla Highway, Ambalappuzha, Kerala - 688561, India
E-mail: Not Available
Phone: +9104772272090
Timings: 3 A.M to 12.30 P.M ; 5 P.M to 8.00 P.M; Open Everyday
Entrance Fee: Free
Photography: Not allowed inside the temple's sanctum
Note: Men should remove their shirts to enter the sanctum.


The Sri Krishna Temple located in the town of Ambalappuzha is a beautiful place to visit. The temple is constructed in typical Kerala style architecture, with roof made of slanted tiles. This is different from most Hindu temples in India where the structures are made of rocks. The temple contains some unique carvings, a huge temple tank and Lord Krishna stands as a warrior - a rare spectacle.  This temple is sometimes referred to as the "Dwaraka of the south".
Above: Virtual tour of Sri Krishna Temple, Ambalappuzha
Temple History:
The temple was initially built around 800 A.D as a structure for a multitude of Gods. For this reason, the locals still refer to the temple as "Ambalappuzha Ambalam" simply meaning "Ambalappuzha Temple". Devanarayanan Thampuran, a local ruler initiated the construction. There are no written documents or stone carvings about the history of the temple. The turning point occurred when renowned Guruvayurappan idol was housed here for 9 years (1790 - 1799). After the death of Tipu Sultan, the idol was transported back to its original location, and a new statue had to be placed in the sanctum.

Since Guruvayurappan is generally portrayed as baby Krishna, the priests decided to install a similar statue. However, since the Temple had protected the idol despite the fierce wartime oppression, a martial form of Krishna was carved. The temple area was expanded and remodeled at this time. The temple was officially renamed as "Sri Krishna Ambalam - Ambalappuzha" in 1800 A.D.
The front entrance of the Sri Krishna Temple is packed with a medley of shops
Entrance: The passage to the temple is aligned with shops which sell devotional items and souvenirs. A very bustling bazaar, indeed. If you are planning on purchasing knickknacks, do it on your way back from the temple. This way you won't have to carry these trinkets while you are inside the temple. There are plenty of handmade goods sold here, but make sure you bargain.
Lord Krishna's statue in a unique martial form, with a whip and a conch at Ambalappuzha Temple
Krishna's Unique Statue: The usual portrayal of Lord Krishna in most temples is a playful, child like appearance. In this temple however, he is portrayed as a wartime chariot rider. The whip on his right hand denotes the readiness to act. The conch on his left hand is used to indicate the commencement of war. This type of portrayal is very rare and is only found in a few other temples like Parthasarathy Temple in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
This huge copper drum (Mizhavu) was used by the eminent artist Kunchan Nambiar
A Preserved Copper Vessel: This is called "Mizhavu" in Malayalam and is used as a percussion instrument. It is well over 2 feet tall and was used by Kunchan Nambiar,  the inventor of local art form Ottamthullal. The place where the vessel sits now, is the place where the art form was born. Therefore, Sri Krishna Temple was the birthplace of the fantastic art form Ottamthullal.
A fantastic piece of sculpture where Krishna sucks milk directly from a cow's udder
A Unique Carving: In one of the pillars, there is a very intriguing sculpture. Lord Krishna drinks milk directly from a cow's udder. While the cow is carved as being very calm and looking at Krishna, the carvings below are bewildering. Krishna seems to be sitting on a tree, while holding on to a branch. A flower towards the right bottom corner confirms that it is in fact a tree (or a plant). So where is the cow standing? On top of the tree? If you know the answer, please leave a comment.
A very large temple tank is used for ceremonious bathing and is loaded with a variety of fishes (look closely)
The Temple Tank:  Behind the temple is a gigantic pond, with well constructed walls around it. This water is not only used for many Hindu rituals but also used for the play called "Kulathil Vela". This unique play is performed by dancers who perform on the bank while the spectators watch their reflection on the water. The tiny waves and ripples in the water of the temple tank create a magical effect and is an impressive sight. The temple tank is usually swarmed by a lot of fish, which are unafraid of humans. Many visitors throw in a few grains of rice to satisfy the fishes' hunger.
Intertwined Nagas (divine snakes) are depicted on a lamp post
Nagas: These mysterious creatures are capable of shapeshifting from snakes to humanoids and vice versa. Nagas are mentioned a lot in Hindu and Buddhist scriptures, and their shapeshifting prowess has sparked some alien theories. In this temple however, these Nagas are depicted completely as serpents. Specifically, these are Indian cobras which can be identified by their spectacle shaped ocelli patterns in the middle of the hood. They are shown as raising their heads and spreading their hoods while their bodies are intertwined.
A stylized turtle sits at the base of a ceremonial lamp post. Why? 
Giant Lamps: There are three gigantic oil lamps in the temple which are used during special occasions. The base of this lamp in the picture is a turtle, symbolizing one of the avatars of Vishnu. According to mythology, Vishnu took the form of kurma (turtle) to churn the ocean of milk. While he supported the churning staff (Mount Mandara) on his shell,  the great serpent Vasuki was used as the churning rope. Why am I boring you with this story? Because on top of the turtle's shell, you can see the churning rope, i.e, the intertwined snakes. These gigantic lamps stand as a symbol of churning the ocean of milk, in order to obtain the immortal nectar.

Other interesting facts:

Original Deities? Since the arrival of Gurvayurappan idol in 1790 and subsequent installation of Lord Krishna statue, the original statues of the temple have vanished. It is rumored that two idols lay buried somewhere in the temple premises.
Above: Baby's first rice ceremony held in Sri Krishna Temple in Alappuzha 
Choroon / Annaprashana Ceremony: This temple is quite popular for baby's first rice ceremony. To read more about the ceremony, click here.

Paal Payasam (Milk Porridge): A delicious sweet gruel made of rice, milk and sugar is distributed for free everyday to the devotees. This tradition has made the temple more popular than ever before. This tasty porridge has recently attracted a lot of western tourists who come to relax in Alleppey Houseboats.

An Elephant: This animal is housed inside the temple premises and is used for blessing devotees on a daily basis. During rituals, festivities, and ceremonial processions, the Elephant is beautifully decorated and paraded around the town.

The Sri Krishna Temple elephant is ornamented during festivals, and used for processions
Pallipana Festival:This is a special ceremony that is conducted once in twelve years. The last Pallipana festivities were held in March 2014. A very intense set of rituals including burning dry leaves, trance dance and firewalking are performed by a certain community called Velans. These rituals are performed to enhance the spiritual power embedded in the idol of Lord Krishna.

Human / Animal Sacrifices: It is reported that human sacrifices were made at the altar during Pallipana festival to appease the Gods until the last century. Animals sacrifices are still practiced in this temple, and roosters or goats are ceremoniously killed during Pallipana rituals.

As a tourist, you will be intrigued and excited while you are at this temple. Remember that this temple is usually bustling with people, and the sanctum will be crowded. If you are looking for a quiet, rather serene shrine, visit the Chavara Bhavan. Visiting the Sri Krishna Temple is strongly recommended if you are new to Kerala or India.

3 comments:

Thank you Chitra. I am glad you liked it.

the cow stands on/in the flower while Lord Krishna is holding the flower at its base, and sits on a leaflet from the branch. (the branch really looks like a human spinal column.
Lord Krishna is drinking spinal fluids thru the cows utter? (or Lord Krishna is enjoying human experiences?
The front of the cow is standing on top of a flower, that has its stem going into the pillar.
.
the bottom 2 flowers could be lymph nodes, and the unclear bottom part could represent nerves branching to the legs, between it it really seems like an anus.

Post a Comment

Share

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More