The Thirunelli Maha Vishnu temple is located at an altitude of 900 metres above sea level. This temple is located at a distance of thirty two kilometers from Manthavady. The Thirunelli Mahavishnu temple is also known as Amalaka temple or Sidha temple. The uniqueness of this temple is that it is the only temple where all rituals for a human-being from birth to death and life after death is performed. This temple is primarily visited for ancestral rites, the rituals of which are performed on the banks of the river Papanasini. The source of the Papanasini river is from Mount Brahmagiri. This temple is surrounded by dense forests on all sides and intills in us a sense of tranquility. The western side of the temple has a cave temple inside which is the idol of Lord Shiva. Those who perform the ancestral rites also pray to Lord Shiva at the end of the ritual. The Thirunelli temple has a very rare uniqueness of having the trinity –Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma together.
The name “Thirunelli” comes from the Malayalam or tamil word “nelli” which means gooseberry. It is said that Lord Brahma saw the idol of Lord Vishnu on a gooseberry tree and hence decided to build a temple for Lord Vishnu there. Lord Brahma requested Lord Vishnu to absolve the sins of human beings who come and worship him. Thus, Lord Vishnu promised Lord Brahma that the surrounding river will absolve the sins of human beings who come to him. The Papanasini gets its name from this, which means “absolution of sins”. Hence, this temple is also called the “Kashi of the South”.
As in other temple, five pujas are conducted in this temple every day, however, the priest also prepares puja materials for a sixth puja before he leaves for the day. It is believed that Lord Brahma comes and performs the rituals for Lord Vishnu every day in the wee hours of morning. The temple priest swears thrice that he would not reveal what he sees in the sanctum sanctorum before he enters the temple. It is believed that Lord Parashurama performed the last rites for his father, sage Jamadagini and also took a dip the holy rivers of Papanasini.
It is in Thirunelli temple that the largest number of Bali Tharpana happen every day. It is performed by the senior most male member of the Tharavaad for all his ancestors both known and unknown,
This temple has a typical Kerala style of architecture. The outer wall has cubical granite pillars, however, they remain incomplete as the then “Vellatiri “ king objected to have the pillars added on to the temple by the king of Coorg. The pillars can still be seen incomplete here. The temple is supplied water through aqueducts that were constructed several years ago by the wife of Chirackal Raja. The source of this water supply is from the stream Varaham. Till date, cold water streams in through the aqueduct.
Records shows that the Thirunelli was once an urban settlement during the time of the Chera king Bhaskara Ravi Varma. Ruins of two villages have been found here. In addition to this, while laying roads to this temple, period coins dating back to the ninth and tenth centuries were excavated. The Thirunelli temple is mentioned in the copper plates belonging to the tenth century and also in the Puranas.
The important festivals that are celebrated in the temple include Puthari, Chuttuvilakku, Navarathri, Shivarathri and Sreekrishnajayanthi. The temple is open from five thirty in the morning to twelve noon and re-opens at five thirty in the evening and is open till eight in the night.
The nearest railway station is the Calicut railway station or Mysore railway station which is at a distance of one hundred and thirty seven kilometres and one hundred and twenty one respectively. The nearest airport is the Karipur international airport at a distance of two hundred and eighty kilometers.