Thiruvilwamala: What would you do to attain salvation? If someone told you that crawling half an hour through a cave would wash absolve you of all your sins, would you believe that? Many do. The increasing number of people doing the ritualistic 'noozal' at Punarjani, a natural cave near Thiruvilwamala in Thrissur district is proof of this faith.
Once a year, on Guruvayoor Ekadasi day, which normally falls in the malayalam month of 'Vrishchikam' (December-January), thousands of devotees gather at Punarjani. The cave is about 150 meters long and slopping upwards as it goes. The cave is narrow and only men are allowed to perform the 'noozal'. Women can just worship near the cave.
The Punarjani Guha is believed to have been made by Parasurama, the legendary creator or Kerala. 'According to the legend, Punarjani Guha was made so that lord Vishnu could get reparation for having destroyed the Kshathriyas' says K Venugopalan, Retd. Manager of Thiruvilwamala Devaswam.
Before the ritualistic 'noozal', one has to touch the 'Ganapathi Theertham' which is nearly a mile east from the temple. The devotees then take a bath in ‘papanashini theertham’. 'This was believed to be made by Parasurama and he brought the presence of river Ganga to this theertha. “Railings have been provided here for the devotees to walk easily without fear of falling down from the narrow projection of the rock”, Venugopalan says.
It is a difficult trek, at places the cave is too low, too narrow and hence one has to crawl through it to reach the other entrance. It is dark too; only streaks of light waft through the crevices. One has to continue his movement upwards with the help of another person moving in front. “It is a chain service. The volunteers of Devaswam will show the way to other devotees”, Venugopalan adds.
People believe that one ‘janma’ (a lifespan) is reduced from cycle of births and deaths if the devotees go through the Punarjani cave once. “Every year about 900 devotees come here to attain a new life. ‘Noozhal’ should be done ideally between 6 am and 6 pm; but there are too many people who come and it extends beyond six, to the wee hours of the next day. Preference is given on the basis of token taken. We provide all facilities to the devotees. Water, food and first aid facilities are there. So far no accidents have happened”, says Ramadevi, Manager of Thiruvilwamala Devaswam Board.
The fame of Punarjani cave is on the rise every year. The exposure it got through a Malayalam film ‘Thooval Kottaram’ helped spread word about this cave. “Since then there is huge rush of devotees to this place”, says Ramadevi.
Punarjani cave is located 2 km away from Thiruvilwamala Sri Vilwadrinatha Swamy temple in Thrissur district.