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(Snake Worship)


The Athippatta Illam is in Chethalloor in Palakkat district, bounded in the north by the river "Kunthi Puzha" and to the south by the asylum which housed Naaraanathu Bhraanthan, "the wise lunatic", famous for his rolling of the rock uphill.


The legend goes thus: Long ago, a Namboothiri from Athippatta Mana, towards the end of his pilgrimage prayers at Vaikom, lamented loudly to himself about how "he might never be able to see the Lord of Vaikom again". The Lord rewarded the devotion of the man by accompanying him back to Athippatta attached to his palm leaf umbrella. Vaikathappan then chose to lose himself taking the shape of a golden serpent in the courtyard of the Illam, where soon thereafter an anthill appeared. A sanctum and a temple was soon built on the northern courtyard as recommended by soothsayers, where the Lord was subsequently duly installed. Even so, the anthill in the yard steals the show even now. The "Thaipooyam" in the month of Makaram is still observed as the installation day and Vaikath Ashtami in the month of Vrischikam as the celebratory week. The "Thaipooyam" is known as the "Naagini festival’ (the serpent maid having been transformed into the serpent goddess) and several devotees arrive regularly on that date to perform Pooja. The main offerings are tender coconut, little icons of serpent and its eggs crafted in silver, etc. as part of snake sacrificial rituals. The devotees are tendered mud particles from the sanctum, or kohl made from the soot of the wick burnt at the alter stone as sacred returns. These are believed to be antidotes for skin and eye diseases.

Historical Legend

The Athippatta Illam is reported to have had access to some herb that gave them traditional expertise in treatment of eye diseases, which they eventually lost. Once, while on a visit to Thirunavaya along with some friends, a member of this Illam was called upon to help out an eye patient (a Cheruman by cast). The Namboothiri jokingly shouted to his "patient" some herbal medication, which in reality was widely known to be so harmful as to cause blindness. The credulous patient dutifully applied the medication only to be completely cured, to everyone’s surprise. It was later found that the efficacy of the medication was due to the "visitation" of the snake gods and that the snake gods subsequently "entered" the ground under the fig tree where the patient was standing. Many devotees visit and give offerings even today under the tree on the day of Thaipooyam.

To this day, no member of the family or anyone of their kith and kin has been known to have died of a snake bite or venom, neither has anyone while inside the compound. The onus and responsibility of appeasing the snake Goddess has always lain with the eldest male member of the family.

| Article No:20.8.3 | Last update of this article:15th July 2008 |
Article by : Athippatta Ravi, Athippatta Mana, PO : Vellinezhi - 679 504, Palakkad Dt.
Phone : 0492-281003
English Translation : Prof. P Bhaskaran Nayar, Lincoln University, UK

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