As you step into the tile-roofed building, you could feel the presence of serpents in the air. The huge trees with hanging vines and the walls with snake images point to the charm of serpents. As you walk through the arched gateway, you will reach a centuries-old mansion built in the traditional ‘ettukettu’, which has eight expansive halls and two central courtyards, architecture style of Kerala. You could also feel the aroma of oil, bananas and pooja essentials wafting through the air.
The Pambummekkattu ‘mana’ is not known as a place of worship. The ‘mana’ is thousands of years old and the ‘padipura maalika’ itself is 250 years old.
As the ‘mana’ is not a house of worship, the devotees are not allowed to enter the building on all days. The devotees are allowed entry on the ‘ayilyam’ day in the Malayalam month of ‘Kanni’ (September-October), the 10th day of the Malayalam month of ‘Medam’ (April-May), the first day of all Malayalam months except ‘Midhunam’ and ‘Karkidakam’, the last day of ‘Karkidakam’ (July-August) and the days between ‘Thiruvonam’ and ‘Bharani’ in the month of ‘Meenam’ (March-April).
An interesting tale, which surrounds the ‘mana’, happened thousands of years ago. When it comes to ‘manthravadam’ (conjuration or sorcery), people belonging to the Mekkattu ‘mana’ were top-notch. But the family’s finances were in dire straits and the members of the family found it difficult to make ends meet. The distressed eldest ‘namboothiri’ thought long and hard to tide over the precarious situation and finally decided to meditate for 12 years at the Thiruvanchikulam temple. As the meditation got longer, Vasuki, the naga king, appeared before him one day and the serpent had the precious and invaluable gem ‘Nagamani’. The patriarch of the family requested Vasuki to advice on how to wipe out poverty from the family. Vasuki listed out ways and means to lead a prosperous life. From that day onwards, serpents became the presiding deity of the Mekkattu ‘mana’ and later came to be known as Pambummekkattu’mana’. It is believed that the Namboothiri homestead still houses the precious gem the patriarch received from Vasuki.
Nagaraja and Nagayakshi
Mullackal Bhagavathy, whose idol is installed at the central courtyard, is the main deity of the ‘mana’. The idols of Vasuki and Nagayakshi are installed at ‘kizhakini’ (the eastern block) of the building with a ‘kedavilakku’ (undying lamp) in front of them. Though only the members of the family are allowed to enter the eastern block, the devotees can offer oil for the ever-burning lamp.
It is worth noting that the ‘mana’ is surrounded by five sacred groves. The ‘kavu’ on the south side is considered to be the holiest as the serpent gods invoked from various sacred groves are brought to the southern ‘kavu’ of the ‘mana’.
The lifestyle of the family members is such that it doesn’t affect the ‘nagas’. There are standing instructions that the land surrounding the ‘mana’ should not be ploughed or dug up and fire could be lit only at the kitchen of the ‘ettukettu’. The snakes coming to the ‘mana’ should not be harmed in any way.
Birth, death and the nagas
The family members of the Pambummekkattu ‘mana’ term the snakes ‘parambaryangal’ (loosely translated to traditions). It is believed that when a baby is born at the ‘mana’, the ‘parambaryangal’ come to receive the new born. And when someone dies, a ‘parambarya’ also passes away. As fire is not allowed to be lit on the ‘mana’ premises, the funeral pyres for the ‘parambarya’ and the Namboothiri are prepared at the ‘thekkekavu’ (sacred grove on the south side), which is known as ‘thekkeparambu’. This portrays the spiritual bonding between the family members and the serpents.
How to reach
You can reach the ‘mana’ by road from any direction. The ‘mana’ is 2.5km from Mala and the bus stop is known as Mekkattu Junction. Vadama is 1.5km from Mala and the ‘mana’ is a one km drive from Vadama.