|One of the places in Malabar referred to many times in ancient texts like the Keralolpathy is Thirunavaya. It is located about eight km south of Tirur.
The serene village, with the picturesque Nila passing through, attracts many for religious, historic and cultural reasons.
Thirunavaya is known as the land where the Mamankam, the cultural mega event of ancient times had been conducted.
The mamankam, conducted once in 12 years, was attended by rulers from various parts of Kerala. The event was also a grand trade fair celebrated with pomp for 28 days. It is said that traders from outside India used to come by ships to Ponnani, and then proceed from there to Thirunavaya for the trade fair.
In this congregation, the local rulers selected one among them as the supreme ruler. Some historians say that it was during a mamankam at Thirunavaya that Kerala Perumal, one of the early rulers of Kerala, was anointed the supreme ruler. Later, there emerged a dispute between the Valluvakonathiris and the Zamorins over the right to conduct the event. The dispute led to long-term rivalry between the two and at the time of the mamankam, the Valluvanad King used to send Chaver (suicide) Nairs to fight with the soldiers of Zamorin, at Thirunavaya. For the Chaver army, it was a fight to the death and so they were famed as warriors on a suicide mission.
The Zamorin used to stand on a stage called the Nilapadu thara surrounded by soldiers. These were the soldiers that the Chaver Nairs had to fight with. The bodies of the warriors who died during the fight were thrown into a nearby well. The well is now called the Manikinar.
It is said that in 1766, during the last mamankam, the Zamorin had a narrow escape from an extraordinarily skilled and valorous 16-year-old Chaver.
Today, the Nilapaduthara, protected by the State Department of Archaeology, is nothing but a slab of stone.
Thirunavaya is an important place for Hindus due to the presence of the 6000-year-old Navamukunda temple here, on the banks of River Bharatapuzha. The main deity of the temple is Lord Vishnu. Thousands come here to perform rituals to propitiate the souls of their deceased near and dear.
The place derived its name from the temple which is believed to have been founded by nine famous saints. Thirunavaya is also known as Thekkan Kashi or Southern Kashi. Kashi refers to Benares, the famous pilgrimage centre. The rites for the departed are conducted by relatives who sit on the steps that lead down to the river.
Exquisite sculptures can be seen around the sanctum sanctorum. These include sculptures of the ten avatars (incarnations) of Lord Vishnu. One of the only two temples in the country dedicated to Brahma, the Creator, is at Thavanur, close to Thirunavaya.
Othanmar madom, the Vedic Mutt for Namboothiri boys, is also situated in Thavanur, near Thirunavaya. The palace of the Azhvanchery Thamprakkal, who is referred to in the Puranas and legends, is five kilometres north of Thirunavaya. The place is the venue for the annual Sarvodaya Mela, attended by the Gandhians in Kerala.