6. Chengannur Sri Mahadevar Temple
Our next temple should have been the Mahadevar temple at Chengannur, the most popular and a grand temple. Since we visited the temple many times during our earlier Sabarimala trips and we had plenty of other temples on hand this time, we skipped it for this trip.
Normally when we go with Mr.Menon Guruswamy, we land at Chengannur railway station, arrive at a Choultry just opposite this temple, take bath at Pamba river nearby, have (arranged) breakfast and visit this temple.
Report and photos from our earlier visit.
People believe that the Goddess has menstruation periods once in a while at this temple and the Udayada (Devi’s garment) is made available for the public to buy and worship at their homes.
After the marriage Lord Shiva and Devi went to meet Agasthya muni at shronadri. There Devi became Hrithu (menstruate) and she could not go back. Devi remained there till the period of menstruation was over. The place were sage Agasthya meditated, is known as shronadri in Sanskrit and in Malayalam it is chen kunnu (Red hill). Later it is called as Chen Kunnu Urru (Urru means place) and it has been abbreviated and called as Chengannur.
What is very unique about this temple is that the people believe that the Goddess has menstruation periods once in a while even now at this temple.
‘Thriputharattu’ is an extraordinary and significant festival that takes place in the Chengannur Mahadeva temple during the menstruation cycle of Chengannur Bhagavati. On finding the signs of menstruation on the garment of Devi, the apparel is sent to the Thazhaman and Vanghipuzha Maddam (the traditional residence of the temple tantri) to be confirmed by the senior women. On confirmation of menstruation, the Devi’s shrine is closed and worship is offered to the image used during processions. On the fourth day, the idol of Devi is taken to a nearby river where ‘arrattu’ (washing of the idol) is conducted. The idol is then taken in procession to the temple on an elephant. On reaching the main entrance, Lord Shiva waits there in a procession and the deities then circumambulate the temple thrice. The Udayada (Devi’s garment) is then made available for the public to buy and worship at their homes.
During our 2009 trip, Devi was in Her menstruation cycle and Her shrine was closed. The garment was at display at the office.
Once, a British resident called Munro laughed at the belief of the periods to the Goddess and stopped all grants for observing it. From then on, his wife started to bleed without stopping and no doctor could cure her. One well wisher of Munro told him that it may be due to his action in stopping the grants to Chengannur temple. Then Munro said that if his wife is cured, he will create a trust whose interest would be sufficient to observe the celebration of the Thirupoothu (periods) of the Goddess. His wife was then soon got cured. Apart from a creating the trust, Munro also presented two golden bangles to the Goddess.
History of the temple:
This place was leased to one Nayanaru Pillai. One day while the maid servant (Kurathi) of Nayanaru Pillai, was working in this place, she saw blood coming from a stone on which she was sharpening her weapon. This fact was reported to Nayanaru Pillai and Vanghipuzha Thampuran. Vanghipuzha Thampuran on the advice of Thazhaman Potty showered 36 para (measurement in Malayalam) of ghee on that stone in order to stop the blood. The Thampuran then constructed the temple except the Kuthambalam based on the plan of Perunthachan, a famous and respected Thachan (carpenter). The Kuthambalam alone could not be constructed by any of them. Then the whole Kuthambalam was constructed under the direct guidance of Perunthachan. The original structure of the Kuthambalam was in such a manner that the shadow of the performer would not fall on the stage if all the lamps were lit on each of the post of the kuthambalam. When Perunthachan was asked to make an idol of Devi, he pointed out a place to dig. On digging, an idol of Parvathi Devi was found and it was installed.
After some years Perunthachan visited the place again and informed Thazhaman Potty that the temple would be destroyed in fire along with the Idol of Devi. He also gave an Idol of Devi made up of an alloy of five metals (Panchaloham) and asked him to keep it. After some years the prediction became true.
The temple was renovated after the fire and Devi’s Idol had been taken from the river with the help of some fishermen (Arayas) of Karunagappalli, as recorded in the Grandha written by Thazhaman Potty. As a mark of joy Thampuran gave fruits and tender coconuts to those arayas at the temple. This happened on a Shivarathri and now also this day is celebrated with the same tradition.
Lord Shiva and Parvathi Devi are the main investitures of this temple. Differing from other temples, there are two main Shrines in this temple. Lord Shiva facing East and Devi facing West. The main shrine is a conical copper plated one. Devi’s main Idol is made with an alloy of five metals (PANCHALOHAM). The Shivalingam, is covered with a gold plate bearing an image of Ardhanareeswara – or the Shiva-Shakti manifestation of Shiva.
The other sub-investitures of the temple are Ganapathi, Shasta (Lord Ayyappan), Chandikeswaran, Neelagrivan, Ganga, and Naagar. There is also a shrine of SreeKrishna nearby.
The mukhamandapam in front of the temple and other mandapams in this temple are full of exquisite woodwork.
People believe that in the southern part of the temple, several great Manthra books used to get rid of poison are buried. If a devotee stands on the rock cover and sees the tip of the Sree Kovil, for the entire day, people believe that he/she would not be affected by poison.
The Oath At The Western Entrance:
There is an interesting account relating to a custom at the Western entrance of the temple. There was a famous Muringoor Brahmin family who were great devotees of Chengannur Dev. Once an Alwar came to Chengannur to challenge the Muringoor family at a time when a boy of twelve years was the only male in the Muringoor family. The boy who was not equipped to meet the challenge of the Alwar sought refuge at the feet of Devi. The Goddess moved by the prayer appeared to the boy in a dream and instructed the boy to make use of the brass pipe in the ‘Araa’ which had a snake in it and which will be under the control of the boy. The next day the boy challenged his opponent to release the snake with his magical powers. The Alwar’s efforts failed and the snake in turn tried to bite the intruder. On the pleading of the Alwar, the boy controlled the snake with his prayers and sealed it into the pipe. He then made a hole in the wall of the Western Gopuram and put the snake into it. He informed the people around that if anybody puts their hand inside the hole and utters a lie, they will be bitten by the snake.
Skipping the Chengannur Mahadevar temple, from Puliyur Divya desam, we then proceeded towards Aranmula.
7. Sri Parthasarathy Temple in Aranmula (Thiruvaaranvilai)
Aranmula is located 10 kms East of Chengannur on the Southern banks of the Pamba river. Almost the entire stretch from Chengannur to Aranmula runs alongside the Pamba river.
- One of the 108 Divya desams
- One of the five Pancha Pandava temples (Anjambalams) created by Arjuna
Moolavar : Thiru Kural Appan East Facing Standing Posture
Goddess : Padmasini Thaayar
Azhvaar : NamAzhvaar- 11
Time : 5am-11am and 5pm-8pm
Priest : Krishna Kumar Namboodari @ 94471 16689 or 0468 2212170
- This Divya Desam is referred to as Thiru Vaaran Vilai and symbolises Arjuna’s thanks giving gesture to his sarathy (charioteer) Krishna who guided him through the Mahabaratha war. Arjuna came here at the end of the Mahabaratha war to undertake penance repenting for the killings of his relatives, especially his brother Karna, who he unceremoniously killed when his chariot was grounded to the earth.
- Brahmma is also said to have undertaken penance at this place wanting to have darshan of Lord Vishnu in his Vamana Avataram and as a thanking gesture for having secured back the Vedic Scriptures from the asuras.
- Nammazhvaar says that the place where Thiru Kuralappan resides is Thiru Vaarinvilai
Tulabharam, an age old practice, continues to take place at this temple and one can see the big Tulabharam hanging as one enters the temple from the eastern side.
The shrine of Balaramar is below the ground level.
Ornaments for Sabarimala Lord:
Lord Ayyappa’s ornaments are kept here through the year and are taken from here to Sabarimala 2 days prior to the Mandala Vilakku during the Makara Jyothi period.
Aranmula Boat Race:
An annual boat race takes place at the Pamba River which runs right next to the Aranmula Divya Desam.
When we went, it was the day of boat race and the town wore a festive look. Our car was stopped at quite some distance and we had to walk down.
Out of all the Divya desams we visited in this trip, only this temple had crowd and that too because of the festival; and all other temples, in spite of being Divya desams, were deserted completely – even Ayyappa bakthas were not seen.
Then we proceeded to Bhagavathy temple at Malayalappuzha which we visit regularly during every Sabarimala trip.
To be continued….