When you pray at the Ambalappuzha Sree Krishna Temple, you kind of get the feeling that you are at the Guruvayoor Sree Krishna Temple. Apart from the obvious similarities that they are both dedicated to Krishna, there is a strong connection between them. Guruvayoorappan (the deity of Guruvayoor temple), it is believed, visits the Ambalappuzha temple every day at the time of the offering of the palpayasam (an unbelievably delicious dessert made of rice, sugar and milk). Such is the fame of this palpayasam that it has inspired countless anecdotes and serpentine queues.
Ambalappuzha Sree Krishna Temple is one of the most famous Hindu temples in Kerala. Built in the traditional Kerala style, the temple and its premises spread over several acres of land.
Malayalis absolutely love Lord Krishna. His temples are also the busiest temples in the state. They call him Kannan or Unnikkannan. The only other deity who can challenge his popularity in Kerala is Swami Ayyappan. While the Ambalappuzha Sree Krishna Temple does not attract as many devotees as the Guruvayoor Sree Krishna Temple, it has every right to be called the Guruvayoor of southern Kerala. The inner walls of the outer sanctum have mural paintings depicting the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu. They are the first thing that grabs your eyes as you enter the temple.
History of the temple
Legend has it that Saint Vilwamangalam Swamiyar and Pooradam Thirunal Thampuran, the then ruler of the region, were once traveling along the backwaters. Suddenly, Swaiyar heard the melodious sound of a flute and his inner eyes gave him the vision of Krishna playing the flute from a Peepul tree. An ardent devotee of Krishna he considered the music of flute as the presence of Krishna in that place. Upon hearing this, the king decided to build a temple there. Krishna worshipped at Ambalappuzha is adorably called Unnikkannan (baby Krishna). Several popular film songs have immortalized the temple and its premises.
The exact date of the construction of the temple is not known. It is believed to have been built sometime between the 15th and 17th AD by the local ruler Chembakasserry Devanarayanan Thampuran. The idol of Krishna is carved out of black granite stone. It carries a whip in the right hand and a conch in the left. This form gives the idol the appearance of Parthasarthi (the charioteer of Partha (Arjuna)).
The Ambalappuzha Sree Krishna Temple has a strong association with the Guruvayoor Sree Krishna Temple. During the invasion of Tipu Sultan in 1789, the idol of the Guruvayoor Temple had been brought to Ambalappuzha to protect it from the plundering army of Tipu. The idols remained in the safe custody of the Ambalappuzha temple for about 12 years.
The Palpayasam served at the temple is as famous as the temple itself. Legend has it that Guruvayoorappan himself visits the Ambalappuzha temple everyday at noontime to have the payasam. Palapayasam is first offered to the deity during ucha pooja (noontime puja) and then it is offered to those who have pre-booked it. Those who haven’t booked it can also have it if they are lucky. The queue for palpayasam is pretty long and only 75 people can buy it directly from the counter without booking. One person can get only half-a-liter. If you really must know its taste, you should pre-order it. One liter costs Rs. 180.
The Ambalappuzha Temple festivals
The Ambalappuzha Temple festivals are colorful and vibrant. They showcase the cultural riches of Kerala. There are mainly two celebrations. The main festival is the Ambalappuzha Arattu festival. It is a ten day festival celebrated in the Malayalam month of Meenam (mid March – mid April). Velakali, a peculiar martial dance form, is an important part of this festival.
Champakkulam Moolam Vallam Kali
The other festival is the Champakkulam Moolam snake boat race. According to historical manuscripts, it was started by the rulers of Chembakassery Devanarayana dynasty during the 15th century. They were devotees of Lord Krishna and decided to bring an idol of Krishna from Karimkulam Temple to Ambalappuzha temple. The idol was brought and installed on the Moolam day in the Malayalam month of Mithunam (June/July). To commemorate the installation of the idol, a snake boat race is organized every year at Champakkulam (in Alappuzha) on the Moolam day in Mithunam. The Champakkulam Moolam Vallam Kali (boat race) is also the oldest snake boat race in Kerala. It is a colorful event that attracts thousands of domestic and international tourists. The boat race is held in the placid waters of River Pampa.
Ambalapuzha Moolakazhcha, another important ritual associated with the temple, is held inside the temple premises on the Moolam Nakshatra in the Malayalam month of Mithunam.
Interesting Facts about Ambalapuzha Temple
Ottanthullal, a satirical dance form of Kerala developed by poet and satirist Kunjan Nambiar, is believed to have originated in the premises of the Ambalappuzha Temple. The temple still preserves the mizhavu (a big copper drum used as a percussion instrument) of Kunjan Nambiar.
It is also believed that Thunjathu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan who is revered as the father of Malayalam penned his epic work Adhyatma Ramayanam Kilippattu during the days he resided at the temple.
Ambalapuzha is well-connected by roads and railways. The nearest railway station is the Ambalapuzha station which is about 2 km away. Alappuzha is about 14 km away. It is about 60 kilometers from Ernamkulam and about 120 kilometers from Thiruvananthapuram. There are frequent bus services between Ambalappuzha and Alappuzha. The nearest airport is the Kochin International Airport. Trivandrum International Airport is about 139 km away.