Tirunelli Temple is an ancient temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu on the side of Brahmagiri hill in Kerala. The temple is at an altitude of about 900m in north Wayanad in a valley surrounded by mountains and beautiful forests. It is 32 km away from Manathavady.
The name Thirunelli derives from the nelli, the Tamil/Malayalam word for Indian gooseberry of the Amla tree. Veda vyasa wrote the 18 existing Puranas. The Matsya Purana, Skanda Purana, Narasimha Purana, Padma Purana, and many other Puranas and Hindu texts mention the beautiful Vishnu temple as being built by Lord Brahma, located in the picturesque Sahya valley, deep in the middle of forest of unmatchable beauty, and in these texts, it is referred to as "Sahyamalaka Kshetra." According to tradition, Lord Brahma was traveling round the Earth upon the Hamsa, when he became attracted by the beauty of the area now known as Brahmagiri Hill. Descending on that spot, Brahma noticed an idol set in an Amla tree. Brahma recognized the idol as Lord Vishnu Himself and the place as Vaikuntha (Vishnuloka) itself. With the help of the Devas, Brahma installed the idol and called it Sahyamalak Kshetra. At Brahma's request Vishnu promised that the waters of the area would wash away all sins.
Even today the head priest of the temple leaves a portion of the worship materials in the belief that Lord Brahma Himself will come and perform pooja rites deep in the holy hours of morning.
The famous incarnation of Lord Vishnu Parasurama is reputed to have visited Thirunelli and performed last rites at the death of his father sage Jamadagni. He also took immersion in the Papanasini to wipe away sins committed in killing Kshatriyas.
Papanasini emanating from the heart of Brahmagiri is a holy mountain stream accessible north west of the temple premises. One dip in the cold Papanasini waters is reputed to wash away all sins committed in a lifetime. The way of sins and virtues ends there, but the path of travelers never ends there. It is extended to the Brahmagiri mountain ranges with various green hillocks inter spread with small forest where streams flows.
Panchatheertham is the holy temple pond. One notable feature of the temple is the lack of a temple well. Hence water is transported from a perennial mountain stream deep in the valley by impressive stone aqueducts right into the priests' room. Thirunelli is famous as the destination to perform last rites of the deceased at the rock close to Papa nasini stream.