Kerala, popularly cited as God’s Own Country due to the state’s undeniably breathtaking and innate beauty, is renowned for the sacred worship of Serpents. According to Hindu legends, Kerala was created by Lord Parashurama, the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu. He is accredited with establishing the tradition of Serpent worship, regarding them as the prime protectors of Mother Earth. A temple adhering to the Nagaradhana Sampradaya as instructed by Lord Parashurama is Pulikkal Nagayakshi Temple located in the village of Kavilpad, Palakkad.
The advent narrative of the temple propounds that Serpent worship has prevailed at Pulikkal for centuries and has been passed down for generations. Amidst the Pulikkal Kavu, there was a Serpent burrow (puttu) underneath a tamarind tree (puli maram). One day, the burrow cleft open and a self-manifested (Swayambhu) representation containing the divine energy (Chaithanyam) of Nagayakshi Amma emerged. This preternatural phenomenon paved the way for the construction of Pulikkal Nagayakshi Temple, with Nagayakshi Amma given utmost prominence here.
Subsequently, Nagayakshi Amma along with Sarpayakshi Amma were consecrated as consorts of Nagaraja Swamy in their respective graven images and established in the same Sanctum Sanctorum (Garbhagriha) - an attribute that cannot be found in Serpent shrines elsewhere and is exclusive to Pulikkal Nagayakshi Temple.
Nagaraja Swamy, Nagayakshi Amma and Sarpayakshi Amma are installed facing the East. In the peripheral of the Sanctum Sanctorum, the auxiliary deities (Upadevatas) reside. They are: Naga Muthassan, Maninagam, Karinagam, Koormam (Nagaraja Swamy's mount), Bala Ganapathy, Bala Dandayuthapaani, Bala Manikandan, Ambotti Kannan, Thapasa Hanuman, Loka Parameshwari, Naga Devatha, Naga Kanyaka, Naga Chamundi and Macchakathu Unni.
Numerous auspicious rituals are practiced throughout the year to gratify the Serpent deities which includes Noorum Paalum, Kadhali Pazha Naivedhyam, Ashtottara Pushpanjali, Moolamantra Pushpanjali, Sarpa Suktam, Sarpa Bali, Payasa Homam, Sharkara Payasam, Paal Abhishekam, Paal Payasam, Manjal Kaappu, Ilaneer Aattam and Kalamezhuthu Pattum.
Adjacent to the Sanctum Sanctorum is the Nalukettu (traditional homestead of old Tharavadu). It serves as the abode for the Thevaramoorthigal who inhabit the central courtyard open to the sky. The Nalukettu houses the Thevarapura (Moolasthana) and Grantha Pura.
Pulikkal consists of several Serpent groves (Sarpa Kavu) which are native to an array of trees, shrubs and herbs having medicinal properties. A sundry of reptilia and birds reside in these groves along with the sacred Serpents.
The various Serpent groves of Pulikkal Nagayakshi Temple are: Kaalasarpa Kavu, Krishnasarpa Kavu, Brahmanasarpa Kavu, Siva Kavu, Gandharvan Kotta and Agamasarpa Kavu.
Located at the entrance in the Eastern quarter of the temple, Krishnasarpa Kavu is the abode of the Karinagam which guards the temple premises and chattels. Also called the Kizhakke Kavu, it is exclusive to the Vaishya Sarpas. Situated underneath the shades of the Ezhilam Pala tree is the Nagagandharva in the Chithrakoodam built of Vettukallu (natural laterite bricks). The genus of flora here include Parijatham, Kanikonna and Sivamalli.
Sited at the Southern precinct, the Siva Kavu comprises of several enclaves of Deities and flora. Beneath the Daiva Pala is Yakshi Amma; under the Ilanji tree, the Rakshas; below the Iruppa tree, Gandharvan; and at the foot of the Mango tree, the Siva Nagams. The Siva Kavu is also known as Thekke Kavu and is unique to the Shudra Sarpas. The Pathala Karinagam is the regent here.
At the Western subdivision of the temple is the Agamasarpa Kavu. Otherwise named Padinjare Kavu, the Anjana Maninagam dwells as the chieftain. In the core is a granite paved pond with Naga idols and serpent burrows, encompassed with intertwined branches of ineffable plant species. Along with the serpents of various parentages, the Agamasarpa Kavu is inhibited by a diversity of small-sized reptiles.
Sanctified at the Northern zone in honour of the Brahmana Sarpas, it adjoins the Nalukettu (traditional homestead). The Maninagam presides over the Brahmanasarpa Kavu. Also regarded as the Vadakke Kavu, kolaprathishta of deities Adishesha, Vasuki and other Brahmin Nagas held by Boothas is hallowed here in idol exemplification.