Alappuzha: Uma Devi Antharjanam, the supreme priestess of Kerala’s well-known Nagaraja temple in Mannarasala here, died following age-related ailments on Wednesday, family sources said.
She was 94.
Antharjanam was the seniormost among the few priestesses in the southern state who performed poojas and rituals in Hindu shrines.
She had been heading the poojas and rituals of the ancient Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple, located about three kms away from Haripad town in this coastal district, for the last several decades.
This temple is one of the rare shrines in Kerala where the pooja pattern is headed by a Brahmin woman.
As per the customs of the ancient shrine, the seniormost woman of the traditional Brahmin family, which inherits and manages the temple, would be it’s supreme priestess.
The woman priestess is known as “Mannarasala Amma” or ‘Valiya Amma’ among devotees.
As per the beliefs, she is the ‘mother of Sree Nagaraja’ (Serpent God) and she performs all the major poojas at the shrine on the auspicious days of Ayilyam and Maha Sivarathri.
She also lives the life of a Brahmacharini and observes penance after she assumes the position.
Uma Devi Antharjanam was consecrated as the ‘Valiya Amma’ on 24 October, 1993 at the age of 64, according to temple sources.
She was the wife of late M G Narayanan Namboothiri of the family, they said.
Uma Devi attained the supreme position at the shrine after former ‘valiya amma’ Savitri Antharjanam passed away at the age of 91 after completing nearly eight decades of service as the priestess of the ancient shrine.
Devotees used to wait patiently for hours to catch a glimpse of Antharjanam and to seek her blessings and advice.
Mannarasala has over thousands of idols and replicas of snakes on its acres of sprawling campus.