AshtaNaageshwara Kaavu

There prevails a legend, that the land of Kerala was once a thick jungle and a habitat to Serpents. The fear evoking groves or ‘Kaavu’s of Kerala, which are abode to numerous living beings including snakes and serpents, are not just a place of worship of a particular religious sect but play a critical role in maintaining the ecological balance.  The misconception that the environment is a commodity meant exclusively for human consumption, has led to the exploitation of natural resources and in turn disturbed the ecological equilibrium. The realization of the fact that every living being in our ecosystem has its own importance and needs its space to thrive has led our wise men or ‘Munis / Rishi’ to envision the existence of these Groves (Kavu) for the welfare of humanity. This perspective about these groves gains a lot of significance in the present day. According to the Tantric point of view, the "Nagam" or divine serpent is the symbol of dormant power that lies in the subtle body or ‘Sukhmasharira’ in the form of the "Kundalini". This dormant energy, when active rises up to the "Sahasrara" which is the symbolic representation of unitary consciousness. The union of the Kundalini with the Shiva of Sahasrara causes an individual soul to come to realize that he is none other than the supreme lord "Shiva" himself, which leads him to experience eternal bliss. Hence, the tantric conception of Kundalini also reinforces that the serpent represents the infinite, cosmic energy that is dormant within all of us.

Installation (Prsthishta)

The main deity here is Shiva, who is installed in the middle of a circular shaped Naagathara amidst the galaxy of "AshtaNaagas". Each idol of the Ashtanaga deities is perfectly carved with its own armaments, symbols and ornaments. They are all sculpted so delicately and aesthetically on black granite stone. The Shiva, adorned with serpents, is installed in the middle with four Nagas on each side, left and right, arranged in a circle facing west on a seat. The "Naagathara" is constructed using all conventional materials and regional methods of construction. This is one of the major structural hallmark of this Kaavu.

Ideology

This Prathishta is done with great a vision and social concept. This premise is envisioned to represent the Serpents of Kerala as a whole. By worshipping "nagas" here the entire population of serpents in Kerala will be pleased and shower graces on all alike. It will nullify the bad impacts of "Nagadosham" (consequences of human ill behavior to the serpents over time) of the inhabitants of entire state. The rituals here are performed based on this perspective.

Rituals

According to the annual rites, Pujas are performed for two days on the event of "Nagarajotsavam". On the first day, the deities are anointed with "Nageshwarakalasham" which is made powerful and spiritually vibrating with the chants of "Nagasahasranamam". Followed by this empowering ritual Sarpabali is done in order to propitiate all the serpents with several kinds of offerings. On second day the rare unique Nagabali is performed with all the religious fervor. With the performance of Nagabali which lasts for 18 hours, the Nagarajotsavam comes to an end.

NaagaBali

It is assumed that this extremely rare and unique sacrificial ritual has not been carried out for the past two centuries. In accordance with our aim of reviving extinct ritual practices, this special Nagabali will be performed. This ritual is an act of atonement for all misdeeds to serpents. The serpents of all three realms, the Heaven, Earth and Hell are invoked and different rare rites are performed in their presence to please them. The main specialty is that, Rice flour which is the offering to the serpents, is ground by the people who are present in the ‘Kaavu’ to witness the rituals. Everyone is an active participant and there is no racial/gender discrimination in this practice. Following this, all the "Nagadosham" is devolved into the sacrificial object or "Guruthi" and is offered to Nagakali during midnight with accompaniment of traditional percussion instruments of Kerala. The ‘Bali’ ritual is then concluded with generous prayers to the serpents for the well being and happiness of the residents of the state. This is a result of serious studies and research over the years. The ideologies of the Puja and foundation of idols of this Kaavu is purely based on Tantric Science.

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(An apt quote for the present day when atheism is seemingly in rise from B. Pascal - A scientist from the past.)
- The Difficulty of Being Good by Guru Charan Das.

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