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Chottanikkara Bhagawathy Temple

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By P.R.Ramachander


This is one among the most famous temples of Kerala where mentally disturbed people, come in thousands to get cured. This temple is 8 KM away from present-day Thripoonithura (which is a suburb of Kochy).

There are two main temples here. The first one we see as soon as we enter is the temple of Rajarajeswari. The one behind it in a slightly lower elevation is called Keezhekavu, which has Bhadra Kali consecrated there. The Rajarajeswari is worshipped as Goddess Saraswathi in the morning, as Bhadra kali at noon and Durga in the night. This temple opens its doors every day at 4 AM. People believe that Goddess Mookambika of Kollur attends the first worship here before going to her temple. Another peculiarity of this temple is that the Goddess is not fixed to the ground but rests on a bed of sand. Nearby her, is the idol of Lord Vishnu. Hence the devotees always pray to her along with her brother Lord Narayana and chant 'Amme Narayana'.

The 'sthala purana' of this temple tells that once the place this temple is located was a dense forest. There lived a tribal called Kannappan, whose wife had died. Kannappan was a great devotee of Goddess Parvathy. Since he was a hunter, he used to daily sacrifice an animal to his favourite Goddess. He had a cute little daughter who was very fond of her pet, which was a cow. Since her father used to sacrifice cows also, she kept her pet cow very near to her and looked after her well. One day Kannappan could not get any other animal to sacrifice to her Goddess, and hence he ordered his daughter to give her pet cow for that day's sacrifice. His daughter requested Kannappan that she be sacrificed instead of her cow.Kannappan's heart melted and he was a changed man. He realized that he was doing a wrong thing by practicing animal sacrifice. He and the pet cow stayed near the temple's Bali stone the entire night. In the morning, the cow herself had turned in to a stone. That place is called 'Pavizha malli thara' (Place of the coral jasmine flower). People believe that the pet cow of Kannappan's daughter was indeed Goddess Mahalakshmi. That day Lord Vishnu appeared before Kannappan and pardoned his sins and decided to be present in the temple along with the Goddess. That is how the concept of Lakshmi Narayana came to this temple. The place where Kannappan used to sacrifice his cows is the location of the Keezhe kavil Bhagawathi.

It seems that the location of this temple was rediscovered accidentally by a low caste grass cutter, who found that blood was oozing out of a stone which she had accidentally cut. That day, the elder Brahmin of the Yedattu house came along with some puffed rice in a coconut shell and this was offered to the Goddess for the first time. Even today this system of offering puffed rice in a coconut shell continues. The Brahmins of Yedattu house became the hereditary priests at this temple since those days. It was Adi Sankara who visited the temple, and brought in to the idol the presence and power of Mookambika. The legend goes that after doing tapas in the Himalayas, Sankara was blessed with the 'darshan' of Goddess Saraswathy whom he requested to accompany back to Kerala. The Goddess agreed to do so on the condition that Sankara was not to look back while she accompanied him. After a long travel when Sankara felt he was not able to hear the tinkle of the Goddess's anklets, with doubt, he looked back but alas the Goddess had by then turned into a golden statue since he had broken his promise. This place where this incident took place was in Kollur, near Mangalore, Karnataka. There the famous Mookambiga temple was built and Sankara consecrated the idol. Sankara was saddened by the turn of events and begged the forgiveness of Saraswathy whose heart melted for her devotee and promised that she would present herself at Chottanikkara in the mornings and he could meet her there. It seems when Vilwamangalam Swamiyar visited this temple he saw a powerful halo of light over the temple pond. He instituted a search and the present statue of Keezhe kavu was found in the tank. There is also a story of a certain Gupthan Namboodiri who was pursued by a Yakshi while on a visit to meet his friend Kosapilli Namboodiri who practiced occult sciences. It seems, the Yakshi took the form of a pretty maiden and tried to entice Gupthan. Since he was carrying a palm leaf copy of Devi Mahatmyam , she was not able to do him any harm. However Gupthan was attracted to her. Later when he reached his friend Kosapilli Namboodiri's house, Gupthan narrated the incident and Kosapill deduced that the lady was a Yakshi. He then gave Gupthan Namboodiri an enchanted towel to carry along on his return journey to protect himself from the Yakshi. When Gupthan saw the Yakshi following him he ran towards the Chottanikkara temple where he threw the towel outside and jumped into the compound of the temple. The Yakshi who was pursuing him could only catch hold of his feet. When Gupthan cried out for help from the mother Goddess, she came out and cut the Yakshi to pieces and threw her in to the temple tank. That tank is known today as Yakshikkulam or Rakthakulam. It is to Keezhe Kavu Bhagawathi that the mentally disturbed persons turn to for cure. They are brought and are tied to special posts inside the temple. As soon as they feel the presence of the goddess, especially during the 'Guruthi' time, (anointing with a liquid made of lime and turmeric which turns into a deep blood red color), they go into trance. At night, after 8.30 PM, there is a 'valiya Guruthi' or a big guruthy during which Guruthi from 12 huge vessels are poured over the Goddess. It is felt that if a mentally disturbed person participates and witnesses this Guruthi daily, the evil spirit which has affected them would leave them and run away. There is also a huge 'pala' tree, in which these people as part of a traditional ritual drive huge nails by knocking them with their foreheads. The weak hearted are advised to keep away from the Keezhe Kavu Bhagawathi temple lest they are scared for life. There are also temples of Lord Shiva, Ganapathi and Nagar (snake god)in this temple.

The major festival of this temple is in the month of Kumbam (February –march). The goddess is supposed to come out of the temple and bless all and after her ritual bath (aarattu) return to the temple.

In the same month, on the Makham star day, between 2 PM to 5 PM, there is an observance of 'Makham thozhal' It is believed that if unmarried people do that ritual, they would get married soon and if married people does that their marital harmony would improve.