Wednesday, 10 June 2015

1200 years old Chettikulangara Bhagavathy Temple, Kerala,

The south Indian state of Kerala has lots of Hindu temples steeped in tradition and still they carry on the age old principles of temple Agama Sastraa - methods of worship, etc. Unlike temples of other southern states, the Kerala temples  have a  unique temple architecture with high and slanting roof extending over the walls on all  side so that rain water won't affect the building walls. Lots of wood, particularly teak wood,  are used in the temple construction work. Most of the Kerala temples have an elephant or two. The temple priests are Namboodri Brahmins who have their unique way of conducting pujas - prayers here. The chief priest is Tantric and his assistant is Melshanti. Only two priests are allowed into the Sri Kovil (sanctum or garbagraha)

Another long-held tradition has been that all males irrespective of age should remove the shirt and undershirt (Banion in local parlance)  before entering  the temple. In other temples, people wearing  dothi (in Tamil Vashti ) with Anga Vastharam (a piece of cloth above the waist) are allowed to enter the temple. The philosophy behind it is before the Almighty God both the rich and the poor are the same. 
 
Chettikulangara Bhagavathy Temple,Kerala.www.keralatourism.org
Chettikulangara Bhagavathy Temple,Kerala.tourmet.com

Chettikulangara Bhagavathy Temple is one of the most revered as well as one of the most visited temples in Kerala. Located at Chettikulangara in Mavelikkara  taluk (4 km west of Mavelikkara, 7 km north of Kayamkulam on SH6) of Alappuzha district in the south Indian state of Kerala, it is the second largest temple in terms of income under the control of  Travancore Devaswom Board,  second only next to  Sabarimala. The income from the temple runs into  crores of  rupees every year. It is believed that there is a link between some Chettiar families of Tamil Nadu ( Nagarathars  of  Ramannad?)  and Chettikulangara.

This 1200 years old temple has a unique feature attributed to it. The presiding deity of this temple changes Her form to accommodate three major incarnations of Goddess Bhagwathy – She is Maha Sarawathi by day,  Maha Lakshmi by noon and  Sri Durga in the evening. Such a tradition of worship never exists in any other temples of south India that I know of or visited.

According to the legend, once  some chieftains on their visit to a near- by  Koypallikarazhma Bhagavathi temple to witness a temple festival were horribly humiliated by the temple officials. Terribly upset and mentally disturbed by the event,  they took a challenge to build a temple for the  Bhagavathi  at Chettikulangara.
 

The people and the family heads - Karanavars decided to go on a pilgrimage to some temple  before seeking the blessings of Kodungallur Bhagavathi  Amman or Thayyar.  At Kodungallur Bhagavathi Amman kovil, they  conducted  Bhajans - long prayers  for 12 days  to propitiate the goddess to get Her blessings. Appearing in their dream,  the Devi accepted their request and would come to their place  Chettikulangara. Following day, they received a sacred sword from the Velichappadu of Kodungallur temple and upon reaching their place, they had begun the temple construction work

Deepardhana at Chettikulangara Bhagavathy Temple
 www.joychenputhukulam.com

A  few  days  days  later  a  local  boatman (kadathukaran; in Tamil Oodakaran) of the near-by Karippuzha  rivulet took a lonely woman across the shore in the late evening and decided to accompany her  to her destination - Chettikulangara. As it was late,  he decided to take rest for the night on the wayside  and  brought  some food for the woman. Soon he fell asleep. Following morning when he woke  up, the woman vanished. The strange woman, it was believed, was none other than the goddess in human form.The fascinating fact is that since the helpful boatman happened to be a Christian, his descendants even today  are entrusted with the job of fire works at temple festivals there.

Following day when the workers and others were partaking of food -  Kanji (Rice porridge) Muthirapuzhukku (a local special dish with ingredients of baked horse gram cereal and kneaded coconut) and asthram (another side dish, a paste of different locally procured vegetables),  an old  lady joined  them to have lunch. Later she moved over to the other side of the house and vanished with a bright light.  Local Astrologers  confirmed that the old woman was Devi Bagavathy Amman, 

It is  believed  that this temple was consecrated by  Padmapa - Dacharyar (a leading disciple of Adi Shankara, one of the greatest saints ever lived in India) on the Uthrittathi (Uttara Bhadrapada) day of Makara month in A.D. 823. The present Sreekovil of this temple is only 450–480 years old  and was  strengthened during A.D.1540. The Chuttambalam is not more than two centuries old but was modified during the Malayalam year 1002. 

There are a number of folk, traditional and historical stories about this  famous temple and all of them  confirm our belief, power and charm of the presiding deity - Bhagavathy Amman and the many sub-deities in the temple complex. 

The temple is  known for its many festivals  which have been around us for several centuries  involving  true bakthi and devotion to the accompaniment of vibrant colors, music of the drums, traditional dance and the unmistakable spiritual elation.

A well known  attraction of this temple is the oil lamp called as Kathuvilakku in local parlance that can light up more than 1000 wicks which is the largest of its kind in India.
http://chettikulangara.webs.com

                (minor corrections made December21, 2015)