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One legend has it it was Adi Sankara who was instrumental in establishing a temple dedicated to Saraswati in Kerala. He, upon meditation, persuaded the Devi in the Chamundi Hills in Karnataka to come to Kerala for the benefit of the people. The Devi agreed with him on condition that, while she was following him, he should not turn back at any cost. Accordingly, Adi Sankara leading the way covered pretty long distance and when he was passing through the Kodachadri hills for a while he did not hear the sound of anklets worn by the deity. His curiosity forced him to turn back. Devi, stopped right there, as Adi Sankara broke the promise. Devi refused to follow him to Kerala and after long persuasion, she agreed that in the morning hours she would come to Chottanikara temple and at afternoon she would return to the present spot which later became the popular Mookambikai temple. Hence, Devi is worshiped as Saraswati in the morning in Chottanikara and the doors of Srikovil are opened in the very early morning.
Here the Devi is Vana Duraga and one will find two deities springing out of a pedestal; one is narayna Murthy made of granite and the other being that of Devi, made of Laterite stone.
The place where the temple is present was a thick wooded area in the by-gone era. An untouchable woman used to collect grass, etc in the near-by forest and one day when she was hardly sharpening her scythe on rock, when, to her bewilderment, blood oozed out of the stone. Caught unawares and frightened, she shrieked aloud and people nearby area immediately came to the spot and the poor woman told them what had happened. After deliberations, the villagers concluded the presence of divinity there and wanted to have a temple built there. After the temple was built, one Edattu Namboodri became the priest and he conducted the Nivedhya in a coconut shell as he could not get the bronze vessel.
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According to one legend a gang of thieves broke into the temple to steal the valuable jewels owned by the temple. The moment they entered the inner temple, to their dismay, they saw a herd of caparisoned elephants and a big gathering of people as if an important festival was on. The thieves, having realized their folly and foolishness, presented their jewels to the temples and fled the place.
Another legend tells: A Namboodri (Brahmin priest of Kerala) of Kandarath Tekkekara Mana of Chengamanad left for Thirparayar for the poorum festival. After doing the regular evening religious duties on the river bank, he resumed his journey and near the paddy field he ran into a beautiful woman with a child and she requested him to take her to his place. Upon further inquiry, the Namboodri found out she had been abandoned by her husband. Little did he realize the beautiful damsel accompanying him was actually a Yakshi - a treacherous, horrible-looking demi goddess. With her child in his hand, at last they reached the temple at Thirparayar where the poorum festival was on with fanfare, caparisoned elephants, etc. It so happened one Kallor Namboodri, a well known Trantrik, accidentally saw Kadarath Namboodri with a kid and a good-looking woman by his side. Realizing the awaiting calamity that might befall the Namboodri, he approached him and asked him to touch his arm. Namboodri Kandarath did accordingly and could not believe his eyes. Seconds later the woman grew in size with fierce eyes, long teeth and disheveled hair. It was terrifying sight and the poor Brahmin fainted on the ground. Kallor Tantrik sprinkled water on him while chanting mantra and advised him to get into the Chottanikara temple. He gave him some pebbles and asked him to throw them backward without turning back till he reached the temple. Upon reaching the temple, the temple priest who was bathing in the pond gave him the wet cloth and asked him to go near the main shrine and throw the wet cloth behind. Kadarath Namboodri did exactly what had been instructed. Before he could reach the main shrine, the Yakshi caught his leg firmly. He fell down and yelled at the Devi to save him from the devil. The God, a picture of compassion, rushed with her sword and cut the head of the Yakshi and saved the Namboodri from death. Since then till his final days Kadarath Namboodri had lived there, enjoyed serving the deity.
People suffering from mental illnesses commonly visit the temple, as Bhagawati has mystic powers to cure her devotees. Lots of possessed women come here for Bhajan and prayer to relieve them from their agony. Guruthi offering is famous here. It is nothing but a mix of turmeric and lime water and the resultant solution looks very much similar to blood. The belief has been that such a solution is an antidote to ward off evil-eyes, ghost attack, etc. It is part of exorcising the evil spirits that possess people. One should not miss the 'Guruthi Pooja' in the 'Keezhkkaavu'temple at Chottanikara. It is done in the evening to invoke the goddess to cure the devotees from various afflictions, including mental illness.
The famous nine day festival comes in the month of Kumbham (Feb. 15 to March 15). On all nine days what is called Arattu ceremony is conducted by the chief Pundit. It is a process of ablution of the deity. Numerous devotees who come to the temple with intense devotion, without their knowledge, it is said, experience the ecstasy - a unique blissful experience and go into a hypnotic state of mind.
Lots of people told me about this temple and its magical power and the presiding deity is known to save her devotees from horrible calamities that had befallen them. The Chottanikara Amman is always compassionate and if you surrender before her without ego arrogance and all the dark side of the human mind, she will, like a child, rush to you and give you solace and, if need be, save you from problems that strangle your neck.