Attukal Bhagavathi

Attukal Bhagavathi

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pallikal Bhagavathi

Situated just two kilometers along the Mannady road, north of the famous kottarakkara Ganapathy temple, Pallikkal Maha Devi temple has a rich history of more than thousand years. This temple is one among the Pathinettu pattupura kshethram of the erstwhile Mannady temple which is closely associated with the history of Travancore. For the numerous devotees around the globe Pallikkalamma is the mother goddess, who saves them from all the trials and tribulations in their lives. Contrary to Devi’s usual posture of anger, Pallikkalamma is a symbol of love and passion for her devotees. Pallikkalamma is a mother goddess with sathvika bhavam. There are a number of incidents to illustrate her kindness.

One among the legend is the visit of Kaambithan to the temple. Kaambithan was a renowned Sidha of the region. He was undertaking a pilgrimage to Devi temples. Thus he came to the world of Pallikkalamma. But at that time the temple and sanctum sanctorum was locked. Pallikkalamma felt the visit of her true devotee Kaambithan. Thus he heard the conch-shell voice from the locked sanctum sanctorum. The bells in the temple rang. Thus Amma proved her divine presence there.

Historical evidence about the importance of this temple is linked with Veluthampy Dhalava who sacrificed his life for the freedom of his motherland. After the very renowned Kundara Proclamation Veluthampy and his younger brother fled to the Mannady temple.It is sure that on the way to the Mannady Temple the duo visited the Pallikkal Mahadevi temple.
 To the North side of the temple near by the Kavu(grove), there is  a huge Cotton  tree (Elavu maram). It is more than thousand years old. The tree can be seen from every part of the region. It looks like an umbrella to the temple. The devotees also bow before the natural wonder.


This is a very old thanthrik family in Kollam district in Kerala. It still holds the Thanthrasasthra, which was instituted by Parasurama. It is also believed that Parasurama brought this family from the North in order to systematize the ritualistic procedures in this holy book. With continuous and rigorous commitment the members of this family completed this work commendably well. These systems and procedures are being performed without fail.
The family got the unique distinction in worshiping the very rare moorthy’s such as Vallabha Ganapathy, Aavahanthy, Sreechakram, Bhadrakaly, Durgayakshy and Sooryan(Sun).These moorthy’s were consecrated in the sanctum sanctorum of the temple in the nalukett of the family decades back.Being the devotees of soorya, the male members of this family are known as Bhanu, which is a synonym of Sun. One among the Acharya of this family Bhanu Pandarathil, who lived from 1102 to 1184 of the Malayalam year, consecrated Swayamvara Parvathy and systematized the rituals for her.

This great family is the thanthry of more than 400 temples all over Kerala. There are historical evidences which suggest that one of the heads of this family consecrated the so called 18 pattupura temples of the Mannady temple in the first year of the Malayalam era (A.D. 825).


The Thiru ultsavam of the temple falls on the swathy (chothy) star of Kumbha masam. The functions start with Ashtadravya Ganapathy homam performed under the leadership of Thanthry Brahmasree Bhanu Bhanu Pandarathil. Then follows the 25 kalasam kalabhabhishekam, marappani pani sopana sangeetham and kalamezhuthyppattu. After these the famous kettukazhcha takes place. This is believed to be one the best kettukazhchas in the whole Kottarakkara thaluk.

Shortly after the Deeparadhana and kalamezhuthumpattu, Amma’s ezhunnallathu (Divine Visit) begins. Girls with thalappoli(floral plates) and men with vadyamelam accompany Amma to the temple of her main upadeva, Udayan thampuran.

The Ponkala of the temple is performed on the Sunday prior to Amma’s thirunal and parakkezhunnallathu. Four days prior to the thirunal, parayeduppu begins. This is the much awaited tour of Amma to visit her  people. The devotees worship Amma by dedicating para before the deity. 

Navarathry is celebrated with traditional gaiety and enthusiasm. Recitals by famous artists is a usual feature. Poojavayppu and Ezhuthiniruthal(initiation to the world of knowledge) will also be performed. Sapthaham and Navaham are performed on an alternative basis every year. Ramayana masam is also observed. Mandala festival is observed with chirappu and kalamezhuthumpattu for 41 days.


The main vazhipadukal include Panthirunazhi payasam, Kadumpayasam, Kudumbarchana, Swayamvarchana, Bhagavathyseva, Chuttuvilakku, Ankicharthi deeparathana, Swarna kireedam charthy deeparathana, Unniyappam, Idichupizhinja payasam and Aravana payasam(offered once in a year).The swayamvararchana here is very famous. It is believed that the obstacles in marriage will be overcome by praying before Pallikkalamma after performing swayamvararchana.


The most important and original Upadevan of Pallikkalamma is Udayan Thampuran. This is a Kiratha moorthy with a savage costume. The deity faces the south. This temple is maintained and supervised by the Devi vilasom Haindava Sangatana. Udayan thampuran the upadevalayam of pallickal devi temple.The main offerings here are idichupizhinja payasam, Udayanoottu jaladhara, nirajanam, mrityujnjaya homam, Thrimadhuram, Ankicharthi Deeparadhana etc.
To the North West direction of the main temple there is a Sarppakkavu. In this piece of land exists Nagaraja,Nagayakshy and the Chithrakudam. Noorum Paalum is performed on the Ayilyam star of every month. Ayilyam of the Kanni month is very famous here. Special pujas are performed on the same day. On the Ponkala day Naga puja also takes place.

Interior to the nadavazhy of the main temple,to the south of the sanctum sanctorum is the temple of Bhoothathan. This structure is a roofless one. The main offerings are plantain (pazham) and breaking of tender coconuts( karikkudakkal).

Exterior to the nalambalam and outside the pradakshinavazhy in the North West corner is the temple of Yakshiyamma. As per the devotees, the presence of Yakshiyamma is a reality. During the Padayany, at the time of the entrance of yakshikkolam this feeling of divine presence looms large there.The main offering is Ada.

The other Upadevas include Rakshas, Yogeeswaran and Maadan. The main offerings for Rakshas is Palppayasam , for Yogeeswaran pazham and malar and for Madan it is nivedyam.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kadampuzha Devi

Sree Parvathy reigns supreme as Goddess Vana Durga at Kadambuzha and is considered as one of the most prominent Devi temples in Kerala. The term 'puzha' which means 'river' is a misnomer here since the otherwise sylvan surroundings and verdant greenery around the glade has no river skirting it. The idol in the Sanctum Sanctorum is abstract in shape but it is 'Swayambhoo' or natural in manifestation. The temple is very simple in architecture without any imposing edifices or a gold-plated flag-mast. There are no festival processions or drum concerts. But the multitude of birds nestling on the verge of the green belt provide a natural ambience with their continous chirping and it is fully in tune with Kerala's temple culture as an epitome of preservation of ecological balance.

Legend about the origin of the temple is associated with the popular episode in the Mahabharatha where Arjuna does penance to appease Lord Siva to obtain the divine weapon Pashupathasthra(The divine arrow of shiva/pashupathi). Lord Siva approaches Arjuna as a hunter (Kiratha) with his consort Sree parvathi escorting him as a huntress. When Arjuna tried to hunt down a wild boar with his arrows, Shiva also aimed his mighty arrows at the animal. A squabble started for the better part of the hunt and within no time got accentuated into a fearsome battle. Parvathi turned the arrows which Arjuna showered on Lord Siva into flowers. Arjuna stood awe-struck as he couldn't believe his eyes. He understood that the person whom he has been fighting to is not a silly hunter and the lady who is seen by the hunter's side is not a mere jungle-woman and prostrates before them. Pleased by this, both Shiva and Parvathy revealed their true form. Having found Arjuna worthy of the deadly weapon, Shiva gave him the same as well as the hymn to empower it.

The shower of arrows turned into flowers quite miraculously is symbolised here by a unique offering to the Goddess, the Poomoodal. The Swayambhoo Sthanam being covered completely by flowers or petals of Thechi(Jungle flame) flowers as they resemble arrowheads. The quantity required is 12 Kutanna, one Kutanna being the capacity when two cupped palms are held together. During the divine couple's wandering in this forest, Sreeparvathi once felt thirsty and the Lord brought forth holy water from river Ganga through a well directed arrow ino the earth. This event is immortalised as Kaadan Ambu-eitha-ala where kaadan is hunter, ambu is arrow, eitha is shot and ala is hole. This became Katanambueithaala which was later colloquialised as Kadampuzha. Devotees thus worship the hole through which river Ganga sprouted and this is the idol sankalpa.
Shankaracharya during once of his frequent pilgrimages while traversing this forest area was attracted by an all pervading aura emanating from the dense undergrowth. Finding it difficult to approach the spot due to the immense heat generated by the radiation, he prayed Lord Vishnu as Narasimha and the Lord appeared. With the help of Sudarshana chakra of Lord Vishnu the great saint moved closer only to fmd the radiance shrinking and fmally vanishing into a hole on the earth's surface. Through deep meditation using the 'Divyachakshussu'(supernatural gift to know the unknowns), the Acharya discerned the nature of the phenomenon nothing other than
the divine presence of Sree parvathi in the forest. A temple was built at the place and in commemoration of 'shower of flowers' , Poomoodal gained prominence due to the inherent quality and power of flower petals to absorb heat. Lord Narasimha and Sudarshanachakra are honoured through depictions in front of the Sanctum Sanctorum. There are enclosures for Sree Dharma Sastha and Nagakanyaka as upadevaas or subsidiary deities. Modalities of worship are as prescribed by Shankaracharya.

Goddess here is worshipped in three forms, Vidya Durga (Saraswathi), Vanadurga(Durga/parvathy) and Aadi Durga (Moola Durga Lakshmi). As Durga, She blesses the devotees with health, early marriage and domestic harmony. Saraswathi is invoked for education and career. Lakshmi is of course Goddess of wealth and prosperity. Another unique offering here is 'Muttarukkal' where coconuts brought by devotees are broken by the priest in front of Devi's idol in the presence of the devotees themselves and this is to ward off hostile influences plaguing them. One coconut for every obstacle is the system followed. The popularity of this ritual can be gauged from the figure of more than thirty lakhs of coconuts that are brought to the temple every year by the stream of devotees. The other important sevas are Kadinapayasam, Rakthapushpanjali, Choroonu (Annaprasam), Dehapushpanjali, Thrimadhuram, Thrikalapooja, Kettu-nira,Vilakkumala,Malapooja, Neyyu-vilakku, Ganapathi Homam, Niramala etc.

The temple is far from the bustle of city life, just about two kilometres east of Vettichira between Valanchery and Kottakkal on NH 17. Those who prefer train journey can alight at Kuttipuram or Tirur Railway Station from where there are buses to the temple which is 19Kms away.

Kodungalloor Bhagavathi

Kodungalloor Bhagavathi

Daylight dawns over the banyan trees of Kodungalloor. The place which is considered as the pinnacle of Kali worship in Kerala is all set for another Bharani festival. Within the temple grounds, the atmosphere is electric. The blades of a hundred sabres carve the air, etching frenzied syllables of adulation to Kali. This is the hour of the velichappadu(also called as ' The revealer of light ' who acts as a mediator between deity and the devotee and dresses himself in red), the resplendent oracle, embodying the mystic tradition of centuries, smiting his forehead with the sword of his faith, bleeding profusely and proclaiming his communion with the goddess in a weird act of self-flagellation.

Blood and belief blend in symbiosis during the festival at the Kodungallur which falls in the Malayalam month of Meenam each year. From the symbolism of the cock-stone ceremony with which the festival opens that soon give way to the tremors and shivers of the Komarams and in the end, blood is an extended metaphor that encapsulates a whole range of moods, from the spirit of battle and bloodlust of the conqueror, to the joy of liberation and the ecstasy of a sacrament. A background chorus to this ritual tapestry, strident as a discordant note in a symphony, is the coarse convention of 'Therippattu', the singing of scurrilous songs addressed to the temple deity.

Each year, bus loads of pilgrims throng the temple to attend the seven-day festivities . Once in the temple premises, the pilgrims break up into small clusters and sing; some in low tones, some with gusto.

The custom of singing profane songs is the practice of Kavu Theendal, or 'polluting' the temple, the climax of the festival, after which the shrine is closed for a week. Kavu Theendal, the pollution ceremony, is overseen by the Kodungallur king. Hordes of Komarams who have arrived from other parts of the state assemble at various spots in the temple compound.

A red ceremonial umbrella is unfurled over the king's head. This is the signal. The vellichappads charge around the temple in a daunting human stampede, waving their sabres in the air, while members of their retinue strike the temple rafters with sticks and hurl objects over the roof and on to the inner quadrangle. They circle the temple three times in a frenzy and then fall before the king for his benediction. The temple is then closed to the public for a week. Its doors reopen after 'purificatory' rituals are conducted to cleanse the shrine of the 'stain' of Kavu Theendal.

A widely accepted notion connects the Kodungallur shrine with Ilamkovadigal's Tamil classic, Silapathikaram, whose date of composition is uncertain but is placed roughly between the second and ninth centuries AD. The temple is believed to be a memorial to Kannaki, the protagonist of the Tamil classic, whose husband was falsely condemned in a theft of royal ornament(Queen's chilambu) and then killed by the King's decree. Kannaki plucked her left breast in anguish and rage, and reduced the city of Madurai to ashes with her curse. At the end of her wanderings she is resurrected in heaven. The Chera king erected a memorial to Kannaki in the capital Vanji, which is now believed to be present-day Kodungallur.

The idol in the temple itself is shocking which is having eight hands and in them carries a severed head, a multi-headed serpant,a blood dripping sword,a trident,a bell,a cup and a shield.

Scholars speculate that Ilamkovadigal has based his characterisation on a contemporary heroine in whose honour a memorial was later established. An intriguing architectural feature of the Kodungallur temple is the existence of a sealed underground vault and it could be a megalith or a burial chamber, possibly containing the mortal remains of Kannaki.

The riddle may never really be solved. Temple authorities do not permit any exploration of the crypt or the breaking of its sealed walls for purposes of research. The popular imagination is infested with taboos. The local community fears that those who attempt to peer into the vault invite the most harrowing consequences.

The Kodungallur deity has some esoteric rituals that deviate from laid down procedures. For instance, in the run-up to the temple desecration ceremony, non-brahmins perform a three-hour puja which is said to be a departure from the norm. The ingredients used are said to be substitute items for meat, fish and alcohol. The Kodungallur temple has an age-old image as a great social leveller. Its doors were open to those at the bottom of the caste hierarchy long before the temple entry legislation came into force. Where other temples barred their entry round the year, the Kodungallur temple allowed them access for 27 days.

The wellsprings of faith lie deep in the psyche of the devotees. They are farmers who flock to Kodungallur in the aftermath of the harvest season. The festival acquires for them the significance of a fertility rite. The obscene songs perhaps have a cathartic dimension in the lives of these simple rustic folk.

To the poor pilgrim, the Kodungallur festival represents more than just an occasion for irreverent songs or a perverse infatuation with obscurantist rites. It is a quest for solace, a plea for redemption, a time for unburdening. And it is a time for renewal under the scathing stare of Kali, the mother goddess.

Chettikulangara Bhagavathi

Chettikulangara Bhagawathy

Chettikulangara, Bhagawathy temple is one of the very renowned temples of Kerala. It is about 5 km from Mavelikkara and 6 km from Kayangulam. In this temple the Goddess appears like Goddess Saraswathy in the morning, Goddess Lakshmi in the noon and Goddess Durga at night. The temple is believed to be 1200 years old and is in the middle of 13 Karas (Residential areas of Nairs). It is one of the temples with very high income running to several crores in Kerala. Nairs and Ezhavas play a major role in the worship and conduct of festivals in this temple. The idol of the temple is made using Jack wood. It seems once the idol got slightly dilapidated and the people decided to have a new idol. They after arduous search located a suitable Jack wood tree in a private compound in Aranmula. But the owner of the tree refused to give the tree for making of the idol. That day it seems the owner of the tree dreamt that he was being beaten by The Bhadrakali. When he woke up next day all over his body were the mark of the beating. Immediately he offered the tree and the present idol was made from that tree.
There are several stories about the origin of this temple. It seems the people of this area used to attend the festival in the Koypallikarazhma Bhagavathi temple before this temple was built. That chieftain of that village humiliated the people of this area. Because of this they prayed Goddess Bhagawathi to come to their country. In the dream of one of them, the Goddess appeared and told that she will come to their country. After a few days an old woman was seen walking towards the temple. She needed to cross a river to reach this place. A Christian boat man helped her to cross the river and also started helping her to reach her destination. On the way that old lady became very tired and sat down below a tree. The boatman went to a nearby house, where some work was going on and brought some Kanji (rice gruel) and chutney made using horse gram. The old lady took them and went to a near by tank to wash her hands. There was a Brahmin lady in steps of the tank. She saw the old lady getting in to the tank and vanishing there. She also saw a very bright light there.

The people of the village called the astrologers who found out that that lady was Bhagawathy herself. So they built a temple for her there. The family of the Christian boatman were entrusted the job of the Fire cracker worship in the temple. They also offer daily to the Goddess the rice gruel and Horse Gram Chutney. Below the tree where the goddess took rest, they also built a temple for her called Puducherry temple. According to another version, this temple was consecrated by Padmapadacharyar (a leading disciple of Adi Shankara) on the Uthrittathi day of Makara month in A.D. 823. There is a firm argument that the goddess here was a family deity, and later emerged as the village and regional deity. Local historians oppose the argument that the temple is not as ancient as the nearby Kandiyoor Mahadeva temple or Mavelikara Krishna Swamy temple as it had not been mentioned in Unnuneeli Sandesam written in the 14th century. According to late Kandiyoor Mahadeva Shasthri, Samudra Bandhan–a leading courtier of Ravi Varman, an ancient King of Venad had visited this temple and wrote poems on Bhagavathi.Similarly Aadithya Kulasekharan, the King of Venad (1374 A.D. to 1389 A.D.) also had visited the Chettkulangara temple, argues them. However, it is to be said that the present Sreekovil of the temple is only 450-480 years old, and the Chuttambalam is not more than two centuries old. Local historians say that the temple infrastructure and the surroundings were developed by various local chieftains from time to time. The present Sreekoil was revamped during A.D.1540. Because of a small fire at this temple, the Chuttambalam was slightly modified during the Malayalam year 1002. It is also believed that Chettikulangara Amma (the main deity) is the daughter of Kodungallur Amma, brought to that place for the well being of all people at Onattukara(Mavelikara). In front of the temple there is a huge lamp in which you can put thousand wicks. One of the major offering at the temple is lighting the lamp. Since the statue of the Goddess is made of Jack tree wood, it is coated with red paste of Kumkum(called Chandadal often.Besides the main deity there are also temples for Yakshi, mukoorthi, Rakthakshi, Thevara Murthy, Kannampalli Bhagawathy, Ganapathy , Naga raja, Naga Yakshi, Brahma Rakshas, Valia Achan and Balakan in this temple.

Festivals of the temple
The Temple has a number of festivals. The important ones are Parayeduppu In the numerous temples of Onattukara, the "Parayeduppu" period is the festival season. It all begins when the deity ("Devi") of Chettikulangara temple is taken out in procession for Parayeduppu on the Makayriam star of the Malayalam month Makaram(January-February). The festivals continue to the end of Medam(April-May). The main part of Parayeduppu is the Jeevatha constructed in the model of the temple structure itself. This box-like carriage for the deity rests on two teakwood poles about two meters long, and is in the form of a palanquin . The front resembles "Thidambu" behind which is a kind of pettakam (small chest ) built as per Thachusaasthra calculations. Up front is a woollen cloth embroidered with shining, colourful pictures and gold trinkets. Behind that is kept the deity's holy dress, starched and pleated, and decorated with small mirror pieces. More than 100 families form the entourage of Parayeduppu Bhagavathy’s - five month long visit to the homes of people who lives in her Karas The rhythms used during Jeevatha Ezunnallathu (procession) are quite noteworthy. Starting with very slow beats, it builds up a crescendo and ends in fast beats. The ensemble consists of Veekkan chenda, Uruttu chenda (both drums), Elathaalam (cymbals), Kombu and Kuzhal (both, wind instruments). Although Jeevatha Ezunnallathu and Parayeduppu are centuries old customs, the "Chuvadu Vechu Kali" (a peculiar dance with unique steps) is relatively recent. Kumbha Bharani The major festival at Chettikulangara is Kumbha Bharani Festival. This is in the month of march or April. The date is determined according to the Malayalam Calendar KollaVarsham. In that this day comes in the month of Kumbha and the day which has the star Bharani and hence the name Kumbha Bharani. The highlight of the festival is [Kuthiyottam] and [Kettukazha]. The preparation for Kumbha Bharani starts 7 days before the actual day and incidentally that day will be the Shivarathi. People who had pledged for Kuthiyottam will start training their children for the offering on that day. All these 7 days these people will host public get-togethers and arrange food for them. The children will be taught a special dance steps called Kuthiyoota chuvadukal etc.Meanwhile the people from 13 karas of chettikulangara will arrange for the construction of [Kettukazhcha] to the temple.

The Kuthiyottam processions starts early morning on that day and will last until afternoon. Those who had offered Kuthiyottam to Devi will bring their children to the temple as a procession and will offer the children before Devi as sacrifice. The boys will be playing the Kuthiyootam dance before the Devi. During the evening hours it will be turn of the Kettukazhcha. People from each area will pull the Kettukazhcha from the construction sites (usually in their respective karas itself) to the temple to preset them before the Devi and after having darshan the parties take up their respective position in the paddy fields lying east of the temple During the night, the image of Devi will be carried in procession to the Kettukazhcha stationed in the paddy fields. On the next day these structures will be taken back. A big bazaar is also held at Chetikulangara as part of this festival. Ethirelpu Ulasvam This is the annual temple festival. On the tenth day following the Kumbha Bharani the annual festival is celebrated in the temple for 13 days. Each day of the festival is organized by residents of each Kara numbering 13. special rituals are held in the temple premises. Every afternoon, cultural processions start form each Kara to the temple premises, with the accompaniment of drums, ornamented umbrellas, kuthiyottam songs,display of events from the Mahabharatha and the Ramayana, classical art forms, folk art form, different type of music, decorated structures and caparisoned elephants. During the rituals at the temple Thottampattu is sung. Thottampattu is a devotional song sung by a certain section of the community residing in the far off Trivandrum. This song is sung in the temple only during the Etheralpu festival. Performance of classical arts and other temple arts are conducted in the evening in the temple premises Aswathy Ulasvam The unique rituals during the Aswathy festival clearly convey the firm bondage and human pathos at the time of separation between the people and their beloved Bhagavathy. Held in the Aswathy day in the month of Meenom (March-April), this festival is attracting a large number of visitors. This festival is imagined as a send off to the deity on her journey to visit her mother at Kodungallur. In the evening, 100 odd decorated [Kettukazhcha] and different effigies are brought to the temple mainly made by the children. Though the size of these Kettukazhcha are comparatively smaller than the ones made for Bharani festival, the number of Kettukazhcha provide a visual impact even challenging the aesthetic effect of Bharani. During the day, Bhagavathy visits the four karas surrounding the temple for Parayeduppu and official Anpolis are given by Kara leaders at Kuthirachevudu, the place where Kuthiras are made. After that she visits and blesses the offerings displayed at the temple premises. By dawn, she decides to leave, and seeks their permission to leave for Kodungallur. The people of the first four karas make Polavilakku ( a large structure drawn on wheels decorated with tender banana stem and lighted with numerous traditional lamps) during her farewell procession. They offer her a grand farewell procession with Aappindi [a unique slow paced dance carrying a pyramid shape box on head). Aappindi will be embellished with crackers, pookkula ( cluster of coconut flowers - inflorescence ), and will be covered with tender banana stems and Thalapppoli (traditional sacred lamps carried by ladies). People from Kaitha North and Kaitha South participate in the function with Thiruvantham. It is said that Thiruvantham, a palanquin type structure with fireballs and carried by four people, is the light of Darika , which incenses the Bhagavathy. She scares them away. After the procession, she again visits the Upaprathishtas and asks the people and other gods to let her visit her mother at Kodungallur. By dawn, she proceeds with lightning sped towards west. Normally, within the 100 meters, the Poojaris carrying the Jeevatha will fall down unconsciously, and the Jeevatha will be taken back to the temple. The temple will remain closed for the day, and will be opened only the day after. The Aswathy festival concludes the five month long festivities at this temple. Kettukazhcha Kettukazhcha is an offering of the people of Chettikulangara to their beloved deity known for her spontaneous blessings on true devotees as a mark of gratitude, devotion, unflinching faith, and for showering prosperity and protection to their lives. Kettukazhcha displays deftly sculpted and decorated forms of six temple cars known as ‘Kuthiras’, five Therus’ (Chariots ) and icons of Bhima and Hanuman . All the temple cars, chariots and the icons are all incredibly gigantic in size and are many times larger than any other similar Kuthiras and Therus built during the festivities at other temples in the Central Travancore region. On the move, these out of the world sky scrapping colourful decorations are electrifying, and will create an unforgettable artistic impression in union, especially during the night in the back drop of illuminated lights. Chettikulangara Kettukazhcha heralds the architectural and aesthetic acumen of the ancient people of Chettikulangara, who could convert an improbable out of the world concept to an enormous artistic reality, achieved by collective hardships and will power. Lineage according to historians Historians attribute the concept of ‘Kettukazhchas’ - similar to the architecture of the ‘Buddha tradition in square, rectangular and pyramid shapes, to the remnants of the Buddha culture which was widely prevalent in the Central Travancore region a few centuries ago.Many historians cite that the famous Chettikulangara Kettukazhcha in the present form is not more than 180 to 200 years old, and was started during the early part of the 19thcentury. According to a popular legend, a group of village chieftains and their workers went for civil works to construct the Kollam–Chavara Thodu (canal), about 50 km away from Chettikulangara, in accordance to the decision from the then ruler of the region. But they could not return to their native place due to the unforeseen inordinate delay in completionof the canal. They pleaded with the authorities, but their request was turned down. During the period, they got an opportunity to visit the temple festivities at Kollam Mulankagakam temple, and were attracted by the Kettukazhcha there. They vowed to their local deity Chettikulangara Bhagavathy, that they would construct Kettukazhchas for her every year, if they were allowed to leave for Chettkulangara immediately. To their surprise, they were allowed to return to Chettikulangara the very next day, and as promised, they made huge Kettukazhchas and took them to their Bhagavathy’s premises. Kuthiras Kuthiras have a height of about 70 to 75 feets, and are a union of four parts– Adikkoottu, Kathirakal, Edakkodaram, Prabhada and Melkkoodaram, one above the other respectively. Adikkottu the basic structure also known as Vandikkoottu, form the basic foundation which consists of four big wooden wheels interconnected with four other beams above it. Kuthiras have Thandu, two long huge wooden poles helpful to control the direction while on the move. Thandu and the basic structure are interconnected and have reinforced wooden bearings similar to the modern shock absorbers. Kathirukal with about 35 feet height, consists of four long poles interconnected with Arecanut poles known as ‘Alaku’ and reinforced with coir and Panavalli knots. These are again strengthened with ‘Kuthukathrika’ or criss cross formation of Alakus.

Kathirakal is again bifurcated to two parts–the lower portion consisting of four to five extended layers of Thattu and Charippu (slanting pyramid shaped boxes, made of interconnected Alakus and coir formation, then decorated with white cloth known as Vella, colourful glittering clothes and embellishments called ‘Thookku’. Prabhada consists of exquisite wooden carved sculptors narrating stories from the Puranas, elephant caparisons called Nettipattoms, Thalekkettu and Aalavattom displayed in the backdrop of colourful clothes and sculptors. Many of the Prabhadas have stories like Gajendramoksham, Vasthrapaharanam,Krishnavatharm. Edakkoodaram almost half the size of Kathirakal with four to five Charippu made as in the lower portion, comes above the Kathirakal. It also has glittering different clothes and Vella, interlaced with colourful Thookku embellishments. Melkkoodaramthe top structure is exactly having a pyramid shape, and pivotal to it is an extended long sculpted wooden pole in white colour known as ‘Nambu’. All the separate units are pulled up and placed one above the other with the help of wooden pulleys, giant coir ropes called Vadams with a length of over 100 fts.and with huge iron structures, drawn by hundreds of people. Theru Theru does not have the Prabhadas and Edakkoodarams. Their illithattu and charippu are larger than that of the Kuthiras and diminishes in size upwards. Therus are also relatively smaller in comparison to the Kuthiras height Bhima and Hanuman The wooden icons of Bhima made by Mattom North and Hanuman brought by Mattom south are probably the largest of its kind in the world, and are sure to be the largest in Kerala. Bhima’s icon is postured as the Pandava en route to kill Baka on Pothu Vandi (vehicle drawn by buffalos) with food for the Rakshasa King. Mattom south kara also brings the icon of Panjali along with Hanuman Preparations for constructing the Kettukazhchas start from Shivarathri, about six to ten days prior to Kumbhabharani. On the evening of Kumbhabharani, the Kettukazhchas are dragged to the temple by hundreds of people, and are paraded at the paddy field in front of the temple. After Bhagavathi’s Ezhunnellippu to bless the Kettukazhchas and people, the Kettukazhchas are taken back to the respective Karas by next morning. The dismantled parts of Kettukazhchas are kept at the ‘Kuthirappura’ of each Karas. Kuthiyottam Kuthiyottam is performed as an important offering to the deity. Some people believe that this is the modified form of Nara Bali in which men were killed and their blood was allowed to fall on the Goddess. This is a ritual dance practiced and perfected through several centuries. It used to be done only in houses in the 13 Karas of the Chettikulangara
Temple but after a recent Deva Prashnam it was allowed to conduct Kuthiyottam in the houses outside of the 13 Karas . The houses are decorated, and the portrait of the deity is installed in temporary structures. Kuthiyottam starts a week before Bharani day. It is a type of folk dance performed by youths with the accompaniment of folk music and other musical instruments. Young boys between 8 to 14 years are taught this ritual dance in the house amidst a big social gathering before the portrait of the deity. Feasts are also provided for all the people. Early in the morning on Bharani, after the feast and other rituals, the boys whose bodies are coiled with silver wires, one end of which is tied around his neck and an arecanut fixed on the tip of a knife held high over his head are taken in procession to the temple with the accompaniment of beating of drums, music, ornamental umbrellas, and other classical folk art forms, and richly caparisoned elephants. All through the way to the temple tender coconut water will be continually poured on his body. After the circumambulation the boys stands at a position facing the Sreekovil (Sanctum Sanctorum) and begins to dance. This ceremony ends with dragging the coil pierced to the skin whereby a few drop of blood comes out.

Chakkulathukavu Bhagavathi

Chakulathu kavu temple, famous for the ceremonial Nari-pooja(worshipping the womanhood), is situated in between the rivers pamba and manimala.From the town of Thiruvalla it only takes a 15 min drive to reach here.

The ancient history of the temple has some divine connections with the story of Sumbha and Nishumbha referred to in the Devi Mahatmyam. The story goes that two demonic characters called Sumbha and Nishumbha derived super human powers through rigorous meditation of Lord Brahma. They received a boon that they could be killed only through a battle with a woman. Such a condition being almost impossible, Sumbha and Nishumbha conquered Indra and other Devas. They became the unquestioned monarchs of the three worlds. The helpless Devas had to flee and take shelter in remote jungles.

Saint Narada feeling pity at the misery of the Gods approaches his father Lord Brahma. Brahma reminds Narada that ups and downs are part of the life and that was what the Demi-Gods were experiencing. There was only one way out for this despicable state of affair. Only one power could restore power and prosperity to Gods and that power was none other than the very Goddess. Devas accordingly moved in search of Goddess. Reaching near Himavan, the epic King of the mountains, they started chanting powerful mantras to appease the Goddess. They plunged into a heartful eulogy of the Goddess who in herself was power, knowledge and creativity.Goddess Parvathy had just arrived on the banks of river Ganga and in the mean time echoes of the mantras reached her ear. Goddess Parvathy grasped the pitiable plight of Devas. There emerged another Goddess from within her. This was the incarnation of Goddess Durga, having taken a divine form to rescue the Devas from the hardships caused by the asuras. The story culminates in a terrible fight between the Goddess and Asuras under the leadership of Sumba and Nishumbha. It was an encounter unheard of ever before. Needless to specify, all the auras were annihilated by the Goddess. The Devas got back the early powers and prosperities. Sage Narada appears in front of them and exhaults them about the invincibility of goddess Durga. She was the cause as well as the witness for the creation, maintenance and destruction the universe as told by Narada.It is believed that the Goddess residing in Chakkulathukavu is the wholesome manifestation of this all-pervading Goddess namely Durga.

Before 3000 years, this area where the temple stands now has been a fearful forest full of trees which are touching the skies, serpents and reptiles with hissing noises and wild animals in barbaric freedom, together created an atmosphere one would shudder to think. Rays of the sun failed to look down through the trees. Afternoons were like midnights.

Into this forest came a hunter along with his wife and children, with an idea of collecting firewood. The hunter saw a serpent moving towards him. Its hood was erect and its noise was fearful. The hunter to ensure their safety attacked the snake with his axe. Without getting hurt, the snake managed to slip into the forest. An expert in the wild habits of animals, the hunter knew too well that an attacked snake is dangerous if spared. So he followed it. He searched through the forest frantically, still he couldn’t spot out the snake. Finally he reached by the side of a lake and near it an age-old 'Chithalputtu'(A structure of sand made by insects) could also be distinctly seen. Upon it hunter saw the very snake that he was in search of. Without thinking much, the hunter thrust his axe again and again upon the serpent. But it was like cutting in the air. Surprisingly, the serpent vanished into thin air.The hunter had a touch of horror. The next second he saw that the shell upon which the snake coiled was broken. Water was oozing out of it. The hunter watched with much awe and wonder. Now there was ‘Akshatham’ (paddy and rice) and ‘Darbha’ (a peculiar type of grass used for pujas). Meanwhile the wife and kids of the hunter joined him. All were spell-bound at the unbelievable sight in front of them.

There appeared a hermit from nowhere with an inexpressible glow of holiness. The hermit informed them that the very Goddess who is the Mother of the Universe has been residing with full powers inside the shell of sand. He advised the hunter to respectfully break the shell. The idol of Goddess as Vanadurga was within it. Narada himself broke the shell and took out the idol. The hunter and his family bowed before it. Meanwhile the hermit had disappeared. The hunter brought flowers from the forest, offered garlands and prayed. That night he had a dream and it’s was in this dream that the hunter understood that the hermit was Narada.

As the sun sent down its gentle golden rays in the next morning, many had gathered near the hut of the hunter. They submitted many offerings to the Goddess. Henceforth that place turned out to be a spiritually exceptional one.Poojas of the temple were structured systematically and members of Pattamana Illam constructed a temple in that spot. The idol similar to that of Sivalainga, taken out by Narada was installed in the Sanctum sanctorum.

The water in the historical pond of the temple had the sweetness of jaggery. ‘Chakkarkulam’ became shortened in the long run and came to be known as Chakkulam. The temple was renovated in 1981. The resplendent idol of Vana Durga with eight hands was installed near the original idol. Lord Shiva, Sastha, Vishnu, Vinayaka, Muruka, Yakshi, Serpent Gods and Navagrahas are installed as ‘Upa Devas’.

Attukal Bhagavathi

The Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, one of the ancient temples of South India, located at the heart of the city of Trivandrum, is popularly described as Sabarimala of the Women, as women form the major portion of devotees. The Goddess in the temple of Attukal is worshipped as the Supreme Mother.

According to mythology, Attukal Bhagavathy is supposed to be the divinised form of Kannaki, the famous heroine of Chilappathikaram, written by Elenkovadikal, the renowned Tamil Poet. The story goes that after the destruction of ancient city of Madurai, Kannaki left the city and reached Kerala and on the way to Kodungalloor took a sojourn at Attukal. Kannaki is supposed to be the incarnation of Lord Parvathy, the consort of Lord Shiva. The all powerful and benign Attukal Bhagavathy reigns eternally supreme at Attukal and nurses devotees as a mother does her children. Thousands of devotees from far and near flock to the Temple to bend before the Goddess with awe and reverence to prostrate and redress their affliction and agony.

The story goes that the Goddess Bhagavathy revealed herself to a fervent devotee of a notable family (Mulluveettil family). It is said that one evening a young girl appeared before the head of the family while he was performing his oblations in the Killi river and requested him to help her cross the river. Impressed by her charismatic demeanor, the old man bent before her with awe and reverence and not only helped her cross the river but took her to his house nearby. Strangely enough, while the household members were amidst preparations for intending a warm welcome to the young girl, she vanished. That very night the Goddess Bhagavathy appeared as an icon before the old man in his dream and demanded that he should establish an abode for her in the nearby sacred ground of shrubs and herbs (kavu), at a consecrated spot marked by three lines. The next morning the old man went to the spot revealed to him in the dream and to his great surprise he did find three marks indented on the ground. He lost no time in erecting a temple on this consecrated spot to house the Goddess. Many years later, the building was renovated by the local devotees. They also installed a beautiful and majestic icon of the Deity with four arms, bearing weapons of destruction in each, like, spear, sword, skull, shield etc. The consecration ceremony of this Exalted Being was performed by no less a person than the high priest of the Badarinath Temple. 

The Pongala Mahotsavam is the most important festival of Attukal Bhagavathy Temple. The offering of Pongala is a special temple practice prevalent in the southern part of Kerala and some parts of Tamilnadu. It is a ten-day programme commencing on the Karthika star of the Malayalam month of Makaram-Kumbham (February-March) and closing with the sacrificial offering known as Kuruthi-tharpanam at night. On the ninth day of the festival the world famous Attukal Pongala Mahotsavam takes place. The entire area of about 5 kilometre radius around temple with premises of houses of people of all caste, creed and religion, open fields, roads, commercial institutions, premises of Government offices etc. emerges as a consecrated ground for observing Pongala rituals for lakhs of women devotees assembling from different parts of Kerala and outside. The ceremony is exclusively confined to women folk and the enormous crowd, which gathers in Thiruvananthapuram on this auspicious day is reminiscent of the Kumbhamela Festival of North India. 

According to mythology of Kannaki, after the destruction of the ancient city of Madurai, she left that city and reached Kerala and on her way to Kodungalloor took rest at Attukal. The hymns of the Thottampattu sung during the annual temple festival, are based on the story of Kannaki. Moreover, architectural depictions of Goddess Kannaki seen on the Gopuram temple substantiate this mythology. Small wonder then that, Sri. Vidyadhiraja Chattambi Swamy, the well known saint of Kerala, found this temple premises ideal for his meditations. There are so many stories that prove the supremeness of the Goddess which attract thousands of devotees to the temple. 

Anyone visiting the Attukal temple is first struck by the beauty and charm of the temple architecture. The temple structure is a harmonious conglomeration of both Kerala and Tamil styles of architecture. The beautifully carved figures of Mahishasuramardhini, Goddess Kali, Rajarajeswari, Sree Parvathy with Lord Paramasiva and various other depictions of the Goddess in and around the temple are undoubtedly the work of a gifted artist. Equally well presented around the corridors surrounding the temple, are the depiction of various other Gods and the epic stories of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu(the Desavathara). On either side of the elegant front gopura - are the icons based on the story of Goddess Kannaki. On the southern Gopura, the puranic story of "Dakshayaga" is depicted in sculptures. The decorated gate at the entrance of the temple is by itself an excellent example of architectural beauty.

There are two idols of the Goddess in the sanctum sanctorum. The original idol is preserved in all its pristine beauty covered in ornamental gold embedded with installed stones. 

The second idol of the Goddess is installed besides the original one. Within the temple corridors are also installed carvings and sculptures of Lord Ganesa, the serpent God(Nagaraja) and Lord Shiva. At the centre of the Sanctum within the Sreekovil, at a consecrated spot is installed the idol of the Goddess Attukal Bhagavathy emanating light and lustre to all.