Thursday, February 18, 2010

Attukkal Bhagawathy temple, Trivandrum

Attukkal BHagawathy Kshethram, Trivandrum
(From the web site of the temple : www.attukal.org/)
Mythological Background
The story goes that the Goddess
Bhagavathy revealed herself to a
fervent devotee of a notable
family viz. Mulluveettil family. It is said that one evening a young girl appeared before the head of
the family while he was performing his oblations in the Killi river and requested him to help her
cross the river. Impressed by her charismatic demeanor, the- old man bent before her with awe
and reverence and not only helped her cross the river but took her to his house nearby. Strangely
enough, while the household members were amidst preparations for intending a warm welcome
to the young girl, she vanished. That very night the Goddess Bhagavathy appeared as an icon
before the old man in his dream and demanded that he should establish an abode for her in the
nearby sacred ground of shrubs and herbs (kavu), at a consecrated spot marked by three lines.
The next morning the old man went to the spot revealed to him in the dream and to his great
surprise he did find three marks indented on the ground. He lost no time in erecting a temple on
this consecrated spot to house the Goddess. Many years later, the building was renovated by the
local devotees. They also installed a beautiful and majestic icon of the Deity with four arms,
bearing weapons of destruction in each, like spear, sword, skull, shield etc. The consecration
ceremony of this Exalted Being was performed by no less a person than the high priest of the
Badarinath Temple.
The Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, one of the ancient temples of South India, is popularly
described as Sabarimala of the Women, as women form the major portion of devotees. The
Goddess in the temple of Attukal is worshipped as the Supreme Mother, creator of all living
beings and the mighty preserver as well as destroyer of them all. The pilgrims from all over the
country, who visit Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple and worship the Lord, do not consider their
visits complete without the visit to the shrine of the supreme Mother Attukalamma. Vishnumaya
took the incarnation of Bhagavathy to annihilate the evil and protect the good in the world in the
present Era namely Kaliyuga.
According to mythology, Attukal Bhagavathy is supposed to be the divinised form of Kannaki, the
famous heroine of Chilapathikaram, written by Elenkovadikal, the Tamil Poet. The story goes that
after the destruction of ancient city of Madurai, Kannaki left the city and reached Kerala via
Kanyakumari and on the way to Kodungalloor took a sojourn at Attukal. Kannaki is supposed to
be the incarnation of Parvathy, the consort of Paramasiva. The all powerful and benign Attukal
Bhagavathy reigns eternally supreme at Attukal and nurses devotees as a mother does her
children. Thousands of devotees from far and near flock to the Temple to bend before the
Goddess with awe and reverence to prostrate and redress their affliction and agony.
The Pongala Mahotsavam is the most important festival of Attukal Bhagavathy Temple. The
offering of Pongala is a special temple practice prevalent in the southern part of Kerala and some
parts of Tamilnadu. It is a ten-day programme commencing on the Karthika star of the Malayalam
month of Makaram-Kumbham (February-March) and closing with the sacrificial offering known as
Kuruthitharpanam at night. On the ninth day of the festival the world famous Attukal Pongala
Mahotsavam takes place. The entire area of about 5 kilometre radius around temple with
premises of houses of people of all caste, creed and religion, open fields, roads, commercial
institutions, premises of Government offices etc. emerges as a consecrated ground for observing
Pongala rituals for lakhs of women devotees assembling from different parts of Kerala and
outside. The ceremony is exclusively confined to women folk and the enormous crowd, which
gathers in Thiruvananthapuram on this auspicious day is reminiscent of the Kumbhamela Festival
of North India.
The other festivals in this temple are:
1. Mandala Vratham - Festival in connection with the annual Utsavam of Sabarimala
2. Vinayaka Chathurthi - Pooja to the Lord Ganapathy
3. Pooja Vaypu - Identical to Dussera festival (Saraswathy Pooja and
Vidyarambham)
4. Sivarathri - Siva Pooja
5. Karthika - Karthika Deepa
6. Ayilya Pooja - Milk, flowers etc. offered to serpent God and special rites
7. Aiswarya Pooia - On all full moon (Pournami) days
8. Nirayum Puthariyum (Ramayana Parayanam) - During the month of Karkadakam
9. Akhandanama Japam - 4th Sunday of every month
Incarnation of Goddess
India has ever been the holy land of gods and goddesses. Since ages past, men and women
kings and emperors, saints and sages here were worshipping the Lord not only as the omnipotent
and absolute 'one' but also as the 'one' whose manifestations are varied and manifold and who
possesses different names, forms and divine attributes. Thus Almighty the Eternal God was
worshipped in different forms such as Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, and their consorts; representing
specific divine attributes of the Lord. Ancient puranas have described that Siva and Sakthi were
simultaneously worshipped from the period of Aryans and Dravidians. Vishnumaya took the
incarnation of Bhagavathy to annihilate evil and protect the good in this world. She grants every
wish of Her devotees and resides in their hearts in multifarious forms.
Story of Kannaki
According to mythology, Attukal Bhagavathy is supposed to be the divinised form of "Kannaki",
the famous heroine of Chilappatikaram, the sangham work of Tamil Literature written by
ilamkovadikal. After the destruction of the ancient city of Madurai, Kannaki left that city and
reached Kerala via Kanyakumari and on her way to Kodungalloor took a sojourn at Attukal. The
hymns of the "Thottampattu ) sung during the annual temple festival, are based on the story of
Kannaki. Moreover, architectural depictions of Goddess Kannaki seen on the Gopuram temple
substantiate this mythology. Small wonder then. that, Sri. Vidyadhiraja Chattambi Swamy, the
well known saint of Kerala, found this temple premises ideal for his meditations. And there are so
many stories which prove the greatness of the Goddess and which attract thousands of devotees
to the temple.
Aesthetics of Architecture
Anyone visiting the Attukal temple is first struck by the beauty and charm of the temple
architecture. The temple structure is a harmonious conglomeration of both Kerala and Tamil
styles of architecture. The beautifully carved figures of Mahishasuramarddini, Goddess Kali,
Rajarajeswari, Sree Parvathy with Lord Paramasiva and various other depictions of the Goddess
in and around the temple are undoubtedly the work of a gifted artist. Equally well presented
around the corridors surrounding the temple, are the depiction of various other Gods and the epic
stories of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu viz., the "Desavathara". On either side of the
elegant front gopura - are the icons based on the story of Goddess Kannaki. On the southern
Gopura, the puranic story of "Dakshayaga" is depicted in sculptures. The decorated gate at the
entrance of the temple is by itself an excellent example of architectural beauty.
There are two idols of the Goddess in the sanctum sanctorum. The original idol is preserved in all
its pristine beauty covered in ornamental gold embedded with installed stones.
The second idol of the Goddess is installed besides the original one. Within the temple corridors
are also installed carvings and sculptures of Lord Ganesan, the serpent God and Lord Shiva. At
the centre of the Sanctum within the Sreekovil, at a consecrated spot is installed the idol of the
Goddess Attukal Bhagavathy emanating light and lustre to all.

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