About 7 km from Pazhiyankudi in Theni district and 15 km from Thekkady in Idukki district deep inside the forest of Periyar Tiger Reserve is located a historical temple dedicated to Kannagi, wife of Kovalan. It is called Mangala Devi Kannagi temple. Located on the border of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, every year in the Tamil month of Chithirai (second week of May) thousands of people, in particular, women both from Kerala and Tamil Nadu worship here. As for Tamil Nadu, countless devotees came as far as Tiruchi, Chennai and other places. Commonly people from Madurai, Coimbatore and other neighboring districts participate in this annual festival.
|Dilapidated Kannagi temple VannathiparaiTamilnadu Tourism - blogger|
This temple was first discovered in 1950 and since 1959 Chithira pournami festival has been celebrated here by people from Kerala and Tamil Nadu. This temple was built by Cheran Chenguttuvan, the king of ancient Tamizhagam about 2000 years ago at Vannathiparai (abetting Theni district), a picturesque hilly place at an altitude of 1337 meters (4386 feet) and he called it 'Kannagi Kottam' or 'Mangaladevi Kannagi temple' and performed regular pujas. Almost through out the year this temple is closed except during the Chitra Pournami festival days. Despite its historical significance and antiquity, this temple is a good example of how negligent are the Kerala and Tamil Nadu governments are. As for Kerala, the government has laid proper road up to the temple whereas, the Tamil Nadu government is yet to lay proper road to this place of worship from Pazhiyankudi. On the Tamil Nadu side, there is no proper road and the path leading to the temple has to be cleared of wild growth of trees, bushes, plants etc., every year to help the people attend the annual festival here. This old temple is not in good shape and both Tamil Nadu and Kerala governments together take concrete steps soon to improve the facilities here so that more devotees will come to this place for worship and relaxation without undergoing hardship. This hilly area has enchanting places where the views of the surrounding areas are breath-taking.
|Highly damaged Mangaladevi kannagi temple. thekkady.com|
Chitra Pornami.is the only occasion when people both from Kerala and Tamil Nadu worship here and make Pongal outside the temple and offer it to the Devi. Here, Kannaki, a legendary Tamil woman from Chola Nadu attained divinity (Mangaladevi) and began blessing people who visit this place.
According to the Tamil literary work - Sillapathkaram written by Elangovadikal, Kannagi, wife of a rich merchant Kovalan from Poompuhar of Chola Nadu, was in rage upon knowing that her husband was put to death by the Pandya ruler of Madurai
Nedunchezhian without verifying the facts. Kovalan, after losing his business, came to Madurai to seek fortune and was trying to sell his wife's anklets to a goldsmith.The king mistook Kovalan for a thief because his wife's anklets and the ones Kovalan had with him looked similar. Kannagi went to king’s court and proved her husband’s innocence. Her anklet had emerald, while the queen’s anklet was made with pearls. The king, ashamed of his misjudgement, died on the throne, followed by his wife.
Unable to bear the injustice done by the king and her own fate, Kannagi was in rage to avenge the people in the palace and set the entire city on fire. Later, she wandered around in the wilderness for about 14 days and finally she reached Vengaikanal Nedunkundram, where the present temple is now located. It is believed that here she was reunited with her husband Kovalan.
|Mangaladevi temple map. idukki.nic.in/|
The tribes living here reported to the Chera king, Chenkuttuvan, during his visit to the hilly region about the reunification of Kannagi with her husband Kovalan here. The Chera ruler built a temple dedicated to Kannagi with stones brought from the Himalayas. Though this place once belonged to Tamizhagam, now it is in the bordering state of Kerala (vide St. George Gazette of November 15, 1883). The temple has inscriptions related to Rajaraja Chola of 11th century and Kulasekara Pandian of 13th century.
The Tamil epic heroine Kannagi became ‘Mangala Madanthai’ as mentioned in the literary work. This year Chithira Pournami Thiruvizha was held at the temple on 10 May 2017. The temple was decorated with flowers, banana, mango coconut leaves, etc.
Special pujas and aradhanas marked the beginning of the festival. A special Homam was performed in the beginning and devotees showered flowers on the main deity. Hundreds of people took out a ‘milk pot’ procession and performed abishekam to the main deity.
Earlier, holy water drawn from a temple well was taken in a procession for abishekam. Mangala naan’ (holy thread) offering ceremony was performed with devotion and women formed a long line to receive mangal sutra and glass bangles. These rituals are done by women for the prosperity of the family and longevity of their husband. Such rituals are common in the Mariamman temples of Tamil Nadu. The media reported that around 17000 devotees attended this one day annual festival this year.
The devotees began to arrive in the early morning and on the Kerala side, hundreds of jeeps were operated to transport the devotees from Kumuli. Despite the tough terrain, large number of devotees numbering more than 4000 hiked on the Western Ghat area from Paliyan Kudisai near Lower Camp to reach the temple, a distance of 6.5 km. It is reported more than 12000 people from both states either trekked or traveled by vehicles from Kokakarakandan Forest camp, a distance of 12, 5 km The arrangements were made by the Revenue officials of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, in coordination with Kerala forest officials to make the festival here a success.
As for basic facilities for the devotees, particularly women, they are not good enough. The government should give much importance to Toilet facilities and a separate hall for the women as they do not enjoy privacy here to change their dress, etc. More toilets need to be set up to meet arrival of more devotees. The temple can be accessed only through Kerala and reserved forests of Tamil Nadu. The monument is being managed by Kerala’s Department of Archaeology. This temple needs immediate restoration and reconstruction so that more people can come to the temple for worship and, further, it will give a flip to tourism in this part.This old temple is the legacy of Chera, Chola and Pandya rulers of bygone era and we must pass on this heritage site to the next generation.
The Kerala state Archaeology Department recently announced that that it would start the restoration work on the temple soon and the government had allotted Rs. 2 crores initially for this purpose. .
01. ‘Kovalan Pottal,’ is the place where Kovalan, husband of Kannagi was beheaded and it is one of the 16 protected monuments of the Archaeological Survey of India in Madurai.
02. This year the authorities from Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) allowed the people to be present at the temple for this annual function from 6 am to 3 pm only, after which they are not allowed to stay at the temple.
03. More than 500 police, forest officials, including 200 from Tamil Nadu were on duty this year to make this festival success.
04. There were three medical teams and a fire and rescue team to handle emergency situation in this isolated area.The credit goes to Idukki district administration for their precautionary measures.
05. One amazing thing is the forest officials of both states never allowed the people to carry plastic bags and water bottles.
06. Until 1981 since 1950s it had been a three-day celebration. From 1982 onward, it has become a single day festival.