Devotees have been thronging the middle-of-the-forest Thirunelli temple in the Wayanad district for many years to attain salvation and wash away the sins, if any, by taking a dip in the nearby Papanasini stream. Besides the spiritual aura that surrounds the temple, it is located in a picturesque place that is brushed by the cool breeze that caresses the lush green beauty of the Brahmagiri Hills and encircled by verdant forest that is embraced by floating mist. Thirunelli has different facets and it is an enigma, a wonder and an excitement for the tourists. The journey through the heart of the thick jungle to Thirunelli would leave a lasting impression on the travellers.
The famous Thirunelli temple is situated in the middle of the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. People can get a feel of the wilderness as they drive from Tholpetty to Thirunelli through the forest. The sight of bamboos on both sides of the pathway creating a perfect canopy is eye-catching. Many monkeys and sambar deer would greet you at various points as they travel on the forest road. The chances of spotting the menacing bison are also pretty high. While travelling to Thirunelli, make sure to follow the instructions of the forest department as the region is frequented by wild elephants.
Do avoid littering in forest area and deposit plastic bottles and other waste in dustbins.
Undoubtedly, the main attraction of Thirunelli is the decked-up Thirunelli Temple, which looks stunning against the backdrop of the Brahmagiri Hills. It is a treat for the eyes to see the temple standing tall amidst the milky mist. It is believed that the Vishnu temple, which is around 3,000 years old and rests on 30 granite pillars, was built by Brahma. The temple is also known as ‘Kashi of South’ and ‘Sahyamala Kshetram’.
Besides the fables and interesting tales that surrounds the temple, it is also rich in history. The temple had close links with the Kumbla dynasty of the Kasaragod district, the Kurumbranad kingdom and the kings of Wayanad. The Thirunelli temple also finds mention in centuries-old historical records and there are many archaeological sites around the temple. It is noteworthy that 9th and 10th century coins were found during excavation work at the archaeological sites near the temple.
The temple pond known as ‘panchatheertham’ is on the south side of the Thirunelli temple and the flight of steps behind the place of worship would lead devotees to the water body. It is believed that water from five rivers flows into the holy pond, which has many art carvings and sculptures in its vicinity. In the middle of the pond, image of two footprints, believed to be that of Lord Vishnu, is sculpted on a rock. Besides the footprints, one could also find images of ‘shanku’ (conch shell), ‘chakram’ (wheel), ‘gada’ (mace) and ‘padmam’ (lotus) carved on the rock. It is also believed that Lord Vishnu advised Brahma while standing on this rock.
The Papanasini stream is near the temple complex and one has to walk through a bed of round pebbles to reach the serene brook. The ‘panchatheertha’ pond and the Gundika Shiv Temple are on the way to the stream. It is believed that the stream can wash away the sins and devotees from far and wide come to the holy water body to offer prayers to their ancestors. The devotees visiting the Thirunelli temple would not return without taking a dip in the Papanasini stream.
After paying obeisance at the temple, you can savour the pristine beauty of Wayanad by staying in one of the many hotels and resorts of your choice. As Wayanad is a popular tourist destination, there is a whole array of accommodation spaces from pocket-friendly budget hotels to swanky resorts. Before heading home, make sure to watch the fantasy spectacle called sunrise and sunset against the backdrop of the dreamy Brahmagiri hills.
The other places of interest during the Thirunelli tour are Pakshipathalam, which is the favourite spot of bird watchers, and the Tholpetty Wildlife Sanctuary, among others. The rock caves of Pakshipathalam on the Kerala-Karnataka border house many animals and birds. The Tholpetty Wildlife Sanctuary is situated 13km away from Thirunelli on the Thirunelli-Kodagu route. You can also offer prayers at the Thrissilery Shiv temple, which is on the way to Mananthavady from Thirunelli.