Several myths, legends and stories are associated with the origin and history of the temple. Most popular among them is the story related to Lord Brahma and Sage Narada. Once lord Brahma descended to earth to perform a Yaga (fire sacrifice). He chose the present Varkala as the Yaga bhoomi (place to perform the sacrifice). The striate of lignite and mineral waters found in Varkala are attributed to this sacrifice. Engrossed with the ritual Brahma forgot his divine job of creation. Lord Vishnu became aware of this situation and came to Varkala to remind Lord Brahma about his duty. Lord Vishnu entered the Yagashala in the disguise of an old man. The Brahmins assisting Lord Brahma received the old man and gave him food. But whatever he ate, his hunger was not satiated. Lord Brahma’s assistants went and told him about it. Realising that the old man is none other than Lord Vishnu Brahma came immediately to see him but was shocked to see Vishnu eating aabhojanam.
Lord Brahma then prevented Lord Vishnu from eating it and told him, “Lord, if you eat it, then the final deluge will swallow this world. “ Lord Vishnu then requested Lord Brahma to stop the Yaga and recommence his job of creation.
One day Sage Narada followed by Lord Vishnu was walking in the sky over Varkala. Lord Brahma who came there saluted Lord Vishnu. The nine prajapathis (Marichi, Atri, Angiras, Pulastya, Pulaha, Kratu, Vasishtha, Prachetas or Daksha, Bhrigu (Narada is the tenth prajapathi, they are the ten lords first created by Brahma) were watching this. who were watching this started laughing for they couldn’t see Lord Vishnu. They thought that Lord Brahma was saluting his own son Sage Narada. Then Lord Brahma corrected them. They felt sorry at having committed a sinful deed. Lord Brahma told them that the proper place to pray for their redemption would be shown to them by sage Narada. Sage Narada threw his Valkalam (cloth made of deer’s skin) that he was wearing towards the earth. The Valkalam landed in a place which was later called by the name Varkala. Later Lord Vishnu made a pond there using his Chakra (wheel) at the request of Narada for the Prajapathis who wanted it to do the atonement. The Prajapathis did thapas ther
e and were pardoned for their sins.
The janardhana (Janardhana is another name of Lord Vishnu) temple is believed to have been built by the devas. But this temple became dilapidated and was later reconstructed by a Pandya king. The king was once affected by a ghost. He went on a pilgrimage but couldn’t cure himself from the sway of the evil spirit. When he came to the present day Varkala, he saw the remnants of a dilapidated temple by the side the sea. He prayed to God promising he would rebuild the temple there. Next day he had a dream in which he was told to go to the sea and stand near the dilapidated temple. Nearby he would see huge amount of flowers floating in the sea, if he searches there he would get an idol. The present Janardhana idol was recovered from the sea by him. He built the temple and laid down the rules for maintenance of the temple.
The idol of Janardhana has Aabhojana in its right hand. People believe that this hand is rising slowly toward his mouth. The day that the idol Janardhanaswami eats the aabhojana the kaliyuga will be over and the world will face the great deluge.
The Dutch Bell
There is a huge bell placed in this temple on which it is marked as 1757 (probably the year in which it was cast). The story behind this bell goes like his. It is said that the bell was offered to the temple as an oblation. While sailing to Europe a Dutch ship refused to move as it passed by the temple. Hearing the chiming of the bell from the temple the captain of the ship promised to offer the bell in his ship as an oblation to Janardhana swamy if he allows the ship to continue its journey. Soon a wind came and moved the ship and the crew safely to the next port. The captain returned and kept his promise.