The Bhagavathy Temple is dedicated to Goddess Shakti and is located in Chettikulangar, Kerala, India. The deity here is in the form of Goddess Maha Saraswathi in the morning, as Goddess Maha Lakshmi in noon and Goddess Durga or Bhadrakali in the evening.
About the temple
The temple has 13 karas or territories and is at the centre of the oldest four Karas namely ; “Erezha South, Erezha North, Kaitha South and Kaitha North and the rest of the Kadavoor, Karas Kannamangalam South, Anjilipra, Kannamangalam North, Pela, Mattam South, Mattam North, Nadakkavu and Menampally surround the temple. The temple is believed to be 1200 years old. Recently UNESCO collected details about the temple and its customs ( Kuthiyottam, Kumbhabharani ) for examining whether the temple is eligible for inclusion in World Heritage list This is the second largest temple in terms of income under the control of Travancore Devaswom Board, only next to Sabarimala. It is estimated that the temple has earnings worth many crores per year. In 2009 it earned around 1.7 crore Rupees from a single type of offering called Chanthattam. A major part of the Nellu offered to the Bhagavathi is also used to make Appam and Aravana prasadams at Sabarimala. The income from the temple is also helpful to run the daily rituals and Poojas at various temples under the Travancore Devaswom Board.
Legend and stories
There are many other popular beliefs related to the construction of Chettikulangara temple. The most popular one is as follows. Many centuries ago, some local chieftains went to see the annual festivities at the Koypallikarazhma Bhagavathi temple situated a few kilometers from Chettikulangara. The visitors were humiliated and ridiculed by the Koypallikarazhma temple authorities and the village chieftains there. Disturbed by the humiliation, and out of retribution, they decided to construct a Bhagavathi temple at Chettikulangara. People of Chettikulangara united for this cause, and headed by the Karanavars (Family Heads) of the four to five then leading families of the region decided to seek the blessings of Kodungallur Bhagavathi in this task. They embarked on a pilgrimage visiting various temples en route and reached Kodungallur, and performed 12 days long Bhajanam to please the Goddess. It is said that the Goddess came in their dreams to say that she would soon come to Chettikulangara. Next day, they happily returned to Chettikulangara with a sacred sword given by the Velichappadu of Kodungallur temple, and started working on the construction of the temple. A few days later, while the kadathukaran (local boatman) of the nearby Karippuzha River was winding up his work on a late evening, he heard an old woman requesting his help to ferry her to the other shore. He felt it was his duty to help the lonely lady, and decided to accompany her to Chettikulangara, the destination she was said to be heading for. On the way, they took rest beneath a wayside tree (the place now houses the Puthusseriambalam temple), and the Kadathukaran brought food for them from a nearby [mannan or washer man] house. Soon he fell asleep, and when he woke up by early daybreak, the lady had vanished. It is said that this boatman was a Christian, and for helping Goddess to ferry across the Karippuzha river, the descendants of his family were entrusted with the job of Vedi(ritual fireworks at the temple. He elaborated about this mysterious incident to the people of Chettikulangara, and they felt the Goddess has come to Chettikulangara. The next day, annual maintenance works on thatched roof was going on at the Illam (the traditional house where a community of Brahmins in central Kerala reside) adjacent to the present temple. While the Antharjanam of the house was serving the dish of 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) to the workers, a strange old woman joined them for lunch. Soon after the food, the old lady moved to the west side of the house, and vanished in thin air with a bright glow. Antharjanam witnessed this, and she fell unconscious. Later she explained her experience to the people. The same day, Goddess showed her presence to the village chieftains. They approached famous astrologers, and it was confirmed that the Goddess Bhagavathi had come to Chettikulangara. According to one version, this temple was consecrated by Padmapadacharyar (a leading disciple of Adi Shankara) on the Uthrittathi(Uttara Bhadrapada) 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. There is also an argument favoring that this temple was an oldkavu where Kadmattathachan Nambuthiri on his way to nearby panayanarkavu at parumala from Thevalakara tried to control a Yakshi (demon) and found no place to keep her. He came and prayed to the Lord and was able to control her. ( she's still there in the temple compound). However, it is to be said that the present Sreekovil of the temple is only 450 to 480 years old, and the Chuttambalam is not more than two centuries old. Local historians say that the temple structure 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 presiding deity) is the daughter of Kodungallur Amma, brought to that place for the wellbeing of all people of Onattukara (Mavelikara). It is also said that some Chettyar families from Tamil Nadu were related to the name Chettikulangara. There are many Upadevathas (sub deities) besides the temple, and a few Prathishtas were either revamped or added according to the Deva Prashnam by expert astrologers recently. The main Upadevathas in the temple premises are Ganapathi, Yakshini,Balakan, Kannamballi bhagavathi, Nagarajav,, Muhurthi, Naga Yakshi, Thevara Moorthy, Vallyachan (Central Travancore parlance for family chieftains, they are worshiped by his descendants after death) and Rekshas (a fierce supernatural creature who feeds on humans).
There is a small temple for Moolasthanam (primary abode). A Kavu (a patch of small forest which houses the serpent Gods, and is common in central Travancore). Karimbana and Chembakam trees in the premises are places of worship with the belief that they house Gandharvas and Yakshis, the supernatural elements who accompany Bhagavathy, their master, during her trips, termed Varutthu Pokku in local parlance. As followed for many centuries, elephants are not taken to the west side of the Nalambalam, fearing that the fairy creatures residing at the Chembakam may kill them.
Kuthiyottam is performed as an important offering to the chief deity. This is a ritual dance practiced and perfected through several centuries. It used to be done only in houses of the 13 Karas of the Chettikulangara Temple but after a recent Deva Prashnam it was allowed to conduct Kuthiyottam in the houses outside the 13 Karas . The houses are decorated, and the portrait of the deity is hung 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 dance ritual 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 decorated umbrellas, beating of drums, music, and other classical folk art forms, and richly caped 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 , inner Sanctum and start dancing. This ceremony ends with dragging the coil pierced to the skin whereby a few drop of blood comes out.
Devotees visit this temple to seek fulfillment of the following:-
- Relief from suffering
Sarva Mangala Maangalye Sive Sarvaardha Saadhike, Saranye Tryambake Gauri Naarayani Namosthuthe
Meaning -We offer you our salutations, Oh auspicious Naraayani, who is the good of all good, who can achieve everything and can offer refuge, Oh three-eyed Gowri.
Saranaangatha Dheenaartha Parithraana Paraayane Sarvasyaarthi Hare Devi Naaraayani Namosthuthe
Meaning -We offer salutations to you, Oh Narayani, who has the infinite power of creating, preserving and destroying. You are the basis and epitome of the 3 gunas.
Sarvaroope Sarvese Sarvasakthi Samanvithe, Bhayebhyastrahi No Devi Durge Devi Namosthuthe
Meaning -I offer my salutations to you mother Durga, who is present in all beings and has all power, save us from all our wrongdoings O mother of the universe.
Yaa Devi Sarva Bhooteshu Shakthi Roopena Samsthita Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namaha
Meaning -Salutations to the Goddess who resides as Shakti in all beings.