Sree Venu Gopala Temple, Purakkad
The Sree Venu Gopala
Devaswom Temple, located at Puarakkad junction on the east side of NH47, about 16 kms off
Alleppey towards Quilon, was built nearly 400 years back. This is one of the oldest
temples worshipped by the Gowda Saraswat Brahmins of Kerala. Devotees in large number
throng to the temple bringing their children for the performance of a special function
called "Devaku Deevop" (surrendering the child to the Lord) and later reclaimed
by performance of the function called "Sodovop" (releasing) at the time of
Upanayanam, marriage etc.
Main deity in Sreekovil
The main deity is on a throne inside the Sreekovil. On the first step at top is the Venugopala with Lekshmi devi on the left and Bhoomi devi on the right side. On the second step is a pair of sandals used by Ananda who installed the deity at Purakkad with his name inscribed thereon in Kannada. On the third step are the Utsava moorties and the Madanagopala idol donated by Swamiji of Sri Kashi Mutt Samsthan.
In 1560 A.D. about hundred and fifty one Gowda Saraswat Brahmin families (mostly traders) from Salcettee of Goa escaping the persecution by Portugese landed at Purakkad whose Raja gave them permission to build "pandikasalas" (wholesale business houses) to carry on trade. There upon under one Janardhana Pai, who is said to have owned a fleet of seven merchant vessels plying in the Indian ocean, the Gowda Saraswats carried on extensive trade with the countries of Europe.
Quite in keeping with their tradition of building temples wherever they settled, the Gowda Saraswats of Purakkad also built a temple and had the image of Venu gopala installed there.
The story about the idol is:
A Gowda Saraswat Brahmin, Baruda Bhatta had left Goa at a time of some political upheaval, for Moodibidri, a strong hold of the Jains in Dakshina Kannada district with an image of Venugopala which he had secured from Kelosi-Kusasthali in Goa. After a short sojourn there, Baruda Bhatta set on a pilgrimage to Manjeswar with this image. One day, while bathing in the sacred 'Seshatirtha' he saw the resplendent figure of godess, 'Naga Kanya' who after expressing her desire that she should be worshipped along with his Venugopala image, suddenly vanished. Soon after, he saw an idol of Naga Kanya on the bank of sacred tank, which he picked up. Since then, he began to worship both the deities. At the request of one Krishna Kudua, a grain dealer of Manjeswar, Baruda Bhatta settled in Manjeswar with his two images. With his death, the images passed down through two generations in to the possession of Ananda, a scion of the family.
Once Ananda set on a pilgrimage to South. On his way to Rameswaram with the two images, he happened to halt at Purakkad. As if the two images were destined to have their permanent abode at Purakkad, the Adhikari or the headman of the Gowda Saraswats had in his sleep a vision of the Lord, who told him of the impending arrival of the two images and his desire to stay at Purakkad. With this prospect in view, the Gowda saraswats had a temple built and kept ready for the installation of the images. When it turned out as pre-sensed, the Gowda Saraswats of the place told Ananda, on his arrival, of the Lord's revelation and requested him to install the images in the temple built for the purpose.
Ananda agreed, and on his return journey from Rameswaram, installed the image of Venugopala in the temple and that of Naga Kanya in another temple nearby. This was in 1654 AD. As a mark of respect to the memory of Ananda, a pair of sandals used by him with his name inscribed thereon in Kannada, is preserved in the temple. This deity has brought properity to Purakkad and it became a major sea trade centre. Convinced by the spell of the deity, the Raja of Chempakassery, became an ardent devotee of Venugopala and granted a rent free plot of land for the perpectual use of Ananda and his successors. He built a palace near the temple for his stay during his visits to the temple which were very frequent. He also gave liberal donations for the renovation of the temple in 1705 AD and a Gopuram was built on the western gate.
Subsequently, in an astrological prediction, the lord revealed that the western Gopuram of the temple built in 1705 AD which remained in a dilapidated condition due to revage of time should be renovated. Foundation stone for the Gopuram to be renovated was laid by Padmasree Dr. K N Pai of Trivandrum on 17th January 1990 with the blessings of H.H. Srimad Sudheendra Theertha Swamy of Kashi Mutt Samsthan. The renovation work is completed and the beautiful West Gopuram facing the NH47 highway, Vyasa mandir and rest rooms (seen at the backside of Naga Kanya temple in the picture below) and an Agrasala has been opened by H. H. Srimad Raghavendra Theertha Swamy of Kashi Mutt Samsthan in 1997.
There are many legends and stories about the deity. One story goes that all the seven members of a family known as the Nelpurakal Veedu died of the terrible tragedy, but with full faith in Sri Venugopal, the neighbours laid all the bodies within the precincts of the temple shut the doors and invoked the Lord's mercy. The prayer had its effect, for the life was restored to all the seven. But on finding that the Lord's image turned blue, evidently by absorbing the poison, the people performed an abhishekam with the milk meant for their days consumption; with the result that the image regained its former complexion, while the milk turned blue.
Yet another anecdote relates to the penalty inflicted on a worshiper for refusing to oblige a child which cried for one of the plantains which the worshipper had been taking for offering to the deity. It is said that he had an attack of excruciating stomach ache and that the Lord appeared before him in a dream and demanded that to forgive his lapses, he may distribute plantains among children even before they were offered to Him. The worshipper having complied, got immediate relief. Whatever be the truth or otherwise of this legend, the practice of distributing plantains among children prevails in the temple even today.