In the laps of the great Sahyadri, on the banks of a holy mountain stream lays the ancient temple of Thirunelli. Located in the valley of the Brahmagiri hills, Thirunelli temple is one of the most visited shrines in the entire Southern Sahyadri (Western Ghats). This ancient temple, also known as Sahyamala Kshethram and Kashi of the south, is dedicated to the Lord Maha Vishnu.
The legend behind the temple goes like this – While travelling, Lord Brahma came across a beautiful place now known as Brahmagiri hills. Attracted to the beauty of the hills, he descended there and noticed an idol of Lord Vishnu resting on an Amla tree (Gooseberry). Lord Brahma with the help of the other Devas, installed the idol there. On Brahma’s request, Lord Vishnu blessed the temple with a stream that will wash away all sins. And thus the stream Papanasini originated. The temple got its name from Nelli (the gooseberry tree where Brahma found the Vishnu idol) and came to be known as Thirunelli.
The temple is situated near the mountain stream called Papanasini. The name Papanasini literally translates to, the one who destroy the sins. Every major ritual in this temple is performed on the bank of this stream. The stream originates from the Brahmagiri hills and is considered to have medicinal powers. On the western side of the temple, you can sight cave temple called Gunnika dedicated to Lord Shiva. Thus the Thirunelli temple is blessed with the presence of the trinities – Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. Near the Papanasini stream, there is a sacred pond called Panchatheertham. It is believed that five streams used to meet here in ancient times. The pond has a stone slab at its centre, which is believed to have foot imprint of Lord Vishnu.
The temple lies at an altitude of 3000 feet (914 meters) near the Karnataka – Kerala border. Thirunelli Temple can be accessed from Mananthavady (31.3 km), Kalpetta (54.5 km) or Kutta, Karnataka (19.5 km). There are several KSRTC Bus services to the Thirunelli Temple. One important service is between Vaikom Temple and Thirunelli Temple. A Limited Stop Fast Passenger connects Piravom, Kolenchery, Perumbavoor, Thrissur, Kozhikode, Mananthavady and Kalpetta. The temple is open between 5.30 AM and 12 PM in the forenoon and 5.30 PM and 8 PM in the afternoon. You can also plan a trekking trip to Pakshipathalam (10 km away from Thirunelli Temple).
The nearest railway station is at Mysore and the nearest airports are Kozhikode International Airport (120 km), Bangalore International Airport (290 km), and Kannur International Airport (58 km).