When you drive down the National Highway from Kollam to Alappuzha, it is difficult to miss the temple at Ochira. And personally, I would suggest you make a stop here. For it is a temple like none other.
From the main road, you can see the decorated archway. As you walk in, you will see a vast tract of land. Devotees walking around. People relaxing under the trees. And a couple of old banyan trees where people light lamps, and some bulls all decked up in finery walking around harmlessly. There is a temple dedicated to mother goddess just outside the gates. But for that, you will not find a conventional temple here.
The worship happens around these banyan trees. It is here that the lamps are lit, prayers are offered. There are idols of the snake god (nagas) on these platforms around the banyan trees. But the temple is not dedicated to the 'nagrajas'. It is dedicated to 'Parabrahmam'- the Supreme Consciousness. And as usual, there are a couple of interesting stories about this temple.
Parabrahmam as a bull
Long long ago, there was a brahmin, who along with his attendant set out on a religious quest - that of finding Parabrahmam. They walked for a long long time and the attendant kept asking the master what form the parabrahmam would take when a common man called upon the supreme consciousness. The master, annoyed, retorted that the parabrahmam was like a bull. After some time, the master saw their luggage floating next to them and the attendant talking to himself. The master was dumbstruck and asked his attendant who he was talking to. The attendant said that he was talking to Parabrahmam who was carrying their luggage. When the master said he could not see the Parabrahmam, the attendant told the master to touch him and see the Parabrahmam for himself. This incident supposedly happened at Ochira. And from that day on, bulls are revered at this place of worship.
The other interesting story is that it was a 'Buddhist Vihara', which later became a popular place of worship.
The main festivals
There are three festivals that are celebrated here. One is the Ochira Kali that falls mid-June. The 28th day after Onam and the first 12 days of the Malayalam month of Vrishchikam sees a lot of devotees flocking to Ochira. All you need to know about Ochira Kali
Once you walk through the main entrance, you may be accosted by people who sell camphor and small metallic replicas of foot and hands. For it is believed that if you place it in front of the banyan tree, with a heartfelt prayer, all ailments will pass. The other issue at this temple, if you are visiting it during the festive season is a large number of beggars.