108 Divya-deshams: Thirunavai


BY: SUN STAFF - 22.4 2024

Tirunavaya Navamukunda Temple

A tour of the 108 Divya-desams, the divine abodes of Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi.

Tirunavaya Navamukunda Temple is located in Tirunavaya, central Kerala, on the northern bank of the Bharatappuzha (River Ponnani). This Divya Desham is dedicated to the worship of Lord Visnu as Navamukunda Perumal (Narayana-Vishnu) with His consort Malarmangai Nachiyar (Laksmi). The presence of Cherutirunavaya Brahma - Siva Temples across the River Ponnani at Tavanur makes it a Trimurti sangama.

The presiding image of Navamukunda Perumal/Tevar is believed to be the ninth deity to be installed in the temple by a group of nine yogis known as the Navayogis. The first eight idols sank into the Earth as soon as they were placed there and the ninth sank to its knees before it was forcibly stopped. As the location of the sunken idols were not known, devotees used to make pradikshina here on their knees. Tirunavaya is also known as called Navayogisthala.

Goddess Lakshmi and Gajendra, the king of the elephants, worshiped Lord Vishnu here with lotus flowers from a lake nearby; with the two devotees using flowers from the same source, its supply dwindled, and Gajendra appealed to Vishnu, who took Lakshmi by His side on the same throne and accepted worship offered by Gajendra.

The temple was the venue of the Mamankams, a festival celebrated once every 12 years from at least the 8th Century CE. The temple building was attacked and destroyed during the invasion of Kerala by Sultan of Mysore Tipu (18th c.), and was later attacked in 1921 during the Mappila Rebellion. The present temple building was constructed in the indigenous Kerala Temple Architecture style.

A rectangular wall around the temple, called kshetra-matilluka, encloses all the shrines within the temple complex; the wall is pierced by gateways. A metal flag-post (dvaja sthambha) is located axial to the temple tower leading to the central sanctum and there is a dipasthambha (light post). Chuttuambalam is the outer pavilion. The central temple and the associated hall is located in a rectangular structure called nalambalam, which has pillared halls and corridors.

Between the entrance of nalambalam and the sanctum, there is a raised square platform called namaskara mandapa, which has a pyramidal roof. Thevrapura, the kitchen used to cook offerings for Navamukunda is located on the left of namaskara mandapa from the entrance. Balithara is an altar is used for making ritualistic offerings to demi-gods and the festive deities.

The central temple, called sri kovil, houses the deity of the Navamukunda. It is on an elevated platform with a single door reached by a flight of five steps. Either side of the door has images of guardian deities, the dvarapalakas.

The outer walls around the sanctum of the temple

The central temple has a square plan with the base built of granite, superstructure built of laterite and conical roof made of terracotta tile supported from inside by a wooden structure. The roof projects in two levels to protect the inner structure from heavy rains during monsoon. The roof of the temple and some of the pillars have lavish wood and stucco carvings depicting various stories of epic Ramayana and Mahabharata. The outer walls around the sanctum have a series of wooden frames housing an array of lamps, which are lit during festive occasions.

The deity of Navamukunda is portrayed only from above the knee, the rest being concealed underground. There is believed to be a bottomless unexplored pit behind the deity in the sanctum. Sri Navamukunda is 6 ft. tall, made of stone and covered with pancha loha. The Deity is facing east in a standing posture, with four hands carrying Panchajanya conch, lotus flower, Kaumodaki mace and Sudarshana discus.

River bank


Goddess Lakshmi has a separate sri kovil in the temple, unlike most of the other Narayana-Lakshmi temples. Ganapati (Adi Ganesa/Gajendra), Lakshmi (Malarmangai Nachiyar) and Ayyappa Swami are the associated pratishthas.

The temple has no pond or well, and water from the river is used for all rituals. The river bank in the temple complex is considered to be as holy as Kasi.