Cultural Tourism   - Heavens on Earth - Part III   By Govind Kumar

                  Unknown Spiritual Spots - Tirunelli - A mystic journey

                                                  

When TV people were talking about Kerala as an alternative tourist spot to the disturbed areas of Lanka and Kashmir, I was reminded of a trip I had taken some ten years ago to an exciting Temple -- the Tirunelli Perumal temple.

As a branch of the Sahyadri ranges in the dense forests of Waynad, Kerala, this magnificent Temple rests on the base of a Hill, adorning the upper & northern part of Waynad. We drove from Calicut on a road that crossed streets of swaying palms & majestic teak, we came across Gandhigramam, a well kept herb garden and its shops offer essential oils, spices, coffee, tea & handicrafts on the outskirts of Waynad's capital, Kalpetta. My heart was thrilled at the sights when estates of tea, rubber & coffee gave way to forests dense and we receded furthur & furthur away from the Madding Crowd & Civilization into the uncorrupted heart of Nature Divine. 

 

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Eco Tourism is Tourism without disturbing the Green Environment. Oxygen giving trees have been defined as equal to ten sons ( Dasa Putro Sama Druma ). They are the givers of oxygen and the absorbers of carbon dioxide. Nature is divine and is revered as such in Pagan Thought. Indians call Nature Manifest Divinity ( Saguna Brahman ) and She is considered to be the Eternal Consort of the Unmanifest Divinity which is Absolute & Infinite. Did not Spinoza say " Nature & the Divine are One Being, acting by necessity and by inexorable Law "?

 

 

 

From Kattikulam, we turned left to Tirunelli through bamboo forests and Elephant sanctuaries. We travelled past places devoid of habitation ( except for the occasional vehicle ) and suddenly the glorious Temple sprung into view. A small restaurant provides tolerable food. But we were overwhelmed at Nature's pristine beauty and the magnificent view provided by viewing from heights ! 

 

Let us hope that archaeologists and Indologists will be motivated enough to investigate further locally available information as historic information about this ancient temple is meagre. This was a flourishing township and spiritual center till the 16th century and copper plate inscriptions belonging to the period of Ravi Varma I & II have been discovered here. 

 

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The two streams that flow down to the Temple from Brahmagiri - the Papanasini & the Panchathirtha - are named after two villages, whose vestiges can be seen at Pakshipatalam. Coins with Zodiac inscriptions discovered while laying roads indicate a close connection between Tirunelli and the King Kulasekhara ( Ninth Century ).

From the temple which is on a hillock , a flight of steps steep leads one to the Papanasini river, which flows into the Kalindi. Legend has it that some mythological figures, Parasurama & Jamadagni , held expiatory rites here.

 

Indian Mythology has it that Brahma, the Creative aspect of Godhead, was enchanted by the beauteous splendour of the Sahyadris, while tranversing the Earth on his swan. He landed on a Hill, which came to be called after him. He saw a magnificent idol on an Amla ( Emblica Officinalis ) tree. With his Yogic Vision, he came to know that that Idol belonged to Lord Vishnu & this area was the Abode of Vishnu. A disembodied voice told him to install the idol there. Lord Vishnu, enthused by this work, granted him a boon. Brahma requested him to abide eternally & offer Final Emancipation to souls caught in the morasses of worldliness. The Lord told Brahma that the rivers of this place will wash away the sins of all mortals. Hence one river came to be called Papanasini. 

Another legend has it that three scholars, after a long trek, saw their supply of food and water ran out and to their joy, found an Amla ( Emblica Offinalis ) tree laden with fruits on the banks of a river. They found themselves refreshed when they ate just one fruit. They thanked the Lord, when the deities Siva & Vishnu appeared before them. Realising that it was no ordinary Amla they had eaten, they called it " Tirunelli ", the divine Amla ! 

 

 

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According to Ayurveda , the Science of Life,  a great rejuvenative is Amla. It is a natural antioxidant & is a respository of Vitamin C. It can purify the blood & has miraculous powers to control all illnesses. It is the main ingredient in that Herbal Honey , Chayvana Prash. Hence the Amla tree holds an exalted & sacred position in the Indian tradition.  It is utilised for treating scrubby, pulmonary turberculosis etc as it gets assimilated in the human system easily. Raw Amla fruit is also used in making pickles and preserves. Also in making ordinary dyes, hair dys, quality inks, shampoos and in the tanning industry. It is antibacterial, diuretic & laxative. Its astringent properties help in the healing of ulcers & prevent infection.