Thirunelli Mahavishnu Temple, Kerala where devotees offer Bali Tharpanam for the departed forefathers

Tirunelli Mahavishnu temple,Tirunelli, Kerala,

Thirunelli Vishnu temple,Tirunelli, Kerala, 

Thirunelli Temple (also Tirunelli) dedicated to Maha Vishnu,  32 km away from Mananthavady is a popular one in this part of Kerala on the side of Brahmagiri hill (altitude 3000 ft), in Wayanad; close to the the border with Karnataka state. Built in Kerala style of temple architecture, it is  one among the 108  Divyadesam shrines glorified by the Tamil Vaishnava saints centuries ago. 

With respect its origin, no records are available, however, it is proven that  Thirunelli , name derived from the nelli, the Tamil/Malayalam word for Indian gooseberry of the Amla tree was an important pilgrimage center in the midst of a thick wooded area not that easily accessible.  Some historians argue based on records that Thirunelli was an important town and pilgrim center in South India during the reign of Chera king Bhaskara Ravi Varma I (962–1019 CE). some argue the builder was king Kulasekaran of Chera dynasty. Veda vyasa wrote  as many as 18 Puranas like the Matsya Purana, Skanda Purana, Narasimha Purana, etc and many of them mention about the presence of a Vishnu temple built by god Brahma in a serene forest area in the picturesque Sahya valley.

Thirunelli Vishnu temple,Kerala
Above image: The shrine near Mananthavady surrounded by the Kambamala, Karimala and the Varadiga peaks is built in traditional native architecture. Nestled in the midst of  scenic mountains and wooded area the shrine  is supported  by 30 granite columns and the ground is paved with huge square pieces of granite..............

Brahma while travelling on his  on his hamsa vahana got attracted by the beauty of the place  accidentally found an idol of  Vishnu in  an Amla tree. Brahma recognized the idol as Vishnu himself and the place and the place as Vaikuntha (Vishnuloka).

Devotees coming to this place bathe in the mountain stream called  Papanasini stream about 1 km from this site, It is said the stream has medicinal value as the rivulet flows through dense trees, shrubs and herbs that are known to have medicinal properties. The belief is that those who take a head bath here will be absolved of all sins committed. The temple offers obsequies services (funeral rites) to pilgrims who want to immerse  asthi (ash from cremated bodies)  in the mountain stream. People also do tharpanam on the river bank to honor their pithroos -ancestors. Some politicians perform the 'bali tharpanam' ritual for their ancestors  on the banks of the Papanasini river

The temple gets uninterrupted water supply from the forest through  a stone aqueducts and its channels are supported by pillars with interesting murals carved on them. Even today, cold mountain water gushes out of these channels.