After Suchindram we took another bus to Nagercoil. Nagercoil is situated at a distance of about 7 kms. from Suchindram. Nagercoil is the twelfth largest town of Tamil Nadu and a municipality in Kanyakumari district. It is the southernmost city in the Indian mainland, situated close to the tip of the Indian peninsula. The town is also the administrative headquarters of Kanyakumari District. It was a part of the erstwhile Travancore state, or later Travancore-Cochin state, till almost a decade after India’s Independence from Britain in 1947. In 1956, the city and the District were merged with Tamil Nadu. In its earlier days, the town and its surroundings were known as Nanjilnadu. We went to the Nagaraja temple. Nagaraja Temple is dedicated to the Goddess Naga, which is situated at the heart of Nagercoil. The name for the town Nagercoil originated from this temple. The temple is full of images of Snakes. In addition, the gatekeepers of the sanctums are two snakes. Besides Nagaraja, there are sanctums for Lord Siva and Ananthakrishna too. Images of Jain Tirthankaras, Mahavira and Parswanatha are seen carved on the pillars of the temple. The entrance of the temple is reminiscent of Chinese architecture of Buddha Vihara.
From the five headed-serpent deity of the temple, the name of this place Nagercoil is derived and gradually it’s old name Kottar has mostly faded. Still there is a part of the town that was called Kottar and hence the old name still remains. It is difficult indeed to ascertain the exact age of the temple. There is no authentic epigraph to aid this historian under the topic of Chronology. The Mountain Mahendragiri in the district of Kanyakumari is referred to as the abode of Nagas in the Ramayana of Valmiki. From this fact it can be presumed that the origin of Naga influence in the area goes back to legendary times. There is a traditional background regarding the origin of Nagaraja temple: One day when a girl was cutting grass, blood began to spurt from below. Soon she discovered that the sickle had cut into the head of a five-headed serpent. Dazed with fear the girl fled to the nearest village and reported what she had seen. People in large numbers flocked to the spot and witnessed the miracle with their own eyes. By the joint effort of the villagers, the place was cleared and preserved for the purpose of worship. They built a small shrine in the locality and worshipped the five-headed serpent. Hearing that the miracle happenend at this place people from different places used to visit the temple and offer poojas.
Another story associated with the temple goes like this: Once the King of Kalakkad who was stricken with leprosy came to the temple on Sunday in the Tamil Month of Avani and did penance before the deity. Miraculously, the king got cured of the deadly disease and the fame of the temple spread far and wide. The king in gratitude built the present temple and on every Sunday during the month of Avani (August/September) the king, accompanied by his wife and children, used to visit the temple and offer poojas. Ever since, the temple is visited on every Sunday in the month of Avani by thousands of devotees and the serpent shrine is worshipped.
In the courtyard there are several serpent idols under a peepal tree to which devotees offer worship. That’s the peepal tree:
Statues of Snakes under the peepal tree:
Near the this peepal tree was a small tank:
and this was the entrance of the main temple:
Then we went inside the temple:
Inside the temple there was a metal pillar:
At the entrance there were ancient stone sculptures: