Ambalappuzha Krishnan Temple
Ambalappuzha literally means 'Temple on the River'. This village is very near a major town in Kerala called Alappuzha (a.k.a Alleppey town) and is about 75 km from present day Cochin, now officially known as Kochi. In this village is located a very famous temple of Krishna.
The temple 'uthpatthy' or temple origin is connected with Vilwamangalam Swamiyar, who was a great Brahmin saint that lived during the middle of seventeenth century in Kerala. He was such an ardent devotee of Lord Guruvayoorappan that he is said to have had the ability to actually see the Lord whenever he wanted. According to legends, when he and the king of Chempagassery, a small kingdom of that region, were traveling in a boat, they heard the melodious sound of a flute being played on the shores of the back waters. Vilwamangalam saw Lord Krishna sitting on a branch of a banyan tree and playing the flute. This tree was surrounded by water, so the king arranged to buy this piece of land where the Banyan tree stood, and had it filled up and ordered a temple to be built there. This banyan tree still exists at the back of the temple and is called 'Ganapathi aal' meaning Ganapathi's Banyan tree. The king wanted to consecrate Lord Krishna in the shape of a cowherd in the temple. But once the idol was completed, it was found to be defective by a famous Namboodiri, who proved it by tapping the hand of the idol and causing it to break. To replace the defective idol, they brought another idol from a place called Kurichi. Since the king of Kurichi had enmity with the king of Chempagassery, this idol was smuggled from there with the help of a Panikkar (or astrologer). The descendants of this Panikker holds the post of the chief of the temple (designated as 'koyma'). While bringing the vigraham from Kurichi, it was hidden during the daytime in the house of a Christian called 'Itty thoman' for a day. Even today the room in which the idol was kept is considered a holy place and a lamp is lit there.
The story goes that while consecrating the idol, it was found to be unstable, causing it to shake in its position. Then a sage came by and suggested that the idol be mounted on a betel leaf. Thereafter, it is said to have stood firm. On this basis, the place was named Thamboola Puzha, which as time went by, atrophied to Ambala puzha - the present name of the town. It is believed that this idol was one of the three idols given by Lord Krishna to Arjuna.
Once, when sage Vilwamangalam visited this temple, the king expressed a desire to see Lord Krishna in person. Sage Vilwamangalam asked the King to touch him to attain the ability to see Lord Krishna. After this incident, the king dedicated his country to the temple and adopted the name 'Deva Narayanan'. Even today, the eldest member of the king’s posterity is called Deva Narayanan.
The famous Pal-payasam, which is a preparation made of rice, boiled in milk and sugar, is the 'prasadam' or offering given to pilgrims from the temple. About 100 liters of this prasadam is prepared daily in this temple. It is believed that Lord Guruvayurappan and the Thiruvarpu Krishna come here daily to partake of this Payasam. This Ambalapuzha pal-payasam is so divinely tasty that anyone fortunate enough to taste it will remember its taste for life. The required milk, along with four times the amount of water, is boiled for five hours. Then the required quantity of rice is added and boiled for another forty five minutes. Then for the next six hours, the payasam is constantly stirred. After six hours, Khandasari sugar is added and the payasam is boiled till it dissolves. Before putting the sugar, the cook shouts, “Vasudeva”. According to the locals, some modern day researchers tried to scientifically replicate this in their laboratory to find out what caused this payasam to have such a unique and delicious taste. They concluded that the taste was special on account of the type of firewood used in the kitchen hearth, and also the sooty atmosphere of the kitchen, where this has been prepared for ages, which gave it a special smoky flavor.
Though the idol of Kirshna in the temple is in the form of a charioteer, he is worshipped in the form of the divine cowherd - 'Go-pala-Krishna'. It is believed that during the conquest of Tipu Sultan, to avoid plunder and destruction, the idol of Guruvayurappan was brought to this temple for safe keeping and was worshiped till the danger subsided.