Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chenganoor Mahadeva and Bhagawathi temples

Chengannur Mahadeva and Bhagawathy Temple
Chengannur is a village which is 40 km away from the town of Kottayam in Kerala. Lord
Maha Deva is consecrated facing east and the Goddess is facing west in this temple.
What is very unique about this temple is that people believe that the Goddess undergoes
periods once in a while at this temple. There is a temple of Vishnu also in Chengannur.
Nammazhawar has visited this temple and sung about the Lord Vishnu there. People
believe that Yudhishtra built the first temple of Lord Vishnu to get rid of his sin of telling
a lie in the battle field,
Outside the main temple of Shiva and Bhagawathy, there are temples for Sastha,
Neelagreeva (blue necked Lord Shiva) and Sthaleesa.
People believe that in the southern part of the temple, several great Manthra books to
get rid of poison are buried. If the devotee stands on the rock cover and sees the tip of the
Sree Kovil, for that entire day, people believe, that he would not be affected by poison
There is also a belief that, if some one puts his hand in the hole in the western wall and
takes a false oath, he would be bitten by a divine snake. It seems a local boy of the poison
doctor family was challenged by a great Azhwar. That night the boy cried to the Goddess.
She told him that in a pipe in her granary a snake was living. The boy took out the pipe
and challenged the Azhwar to make the snake come out of the pipe. Though the Azhwar
tried his best he could not. The boy then commanded the snake to come out. The snake in
the pipe came out and started chasing the Azhwar. He pleaded with the boy to control the
snake and then the boy then requested the snake to go back to the pipe and put the pipe
out through the hole in the western wall. People believe that this divine snake is still there
and would bite the one who takes a false oath.
There are several stories about this temple.
One belief is that when Lord Shiva cut the body of his consort Sathi Devi in to pieces
and threw them all over India, the middle part of her body fell in the place where this
temple is located. (Kamkahya temple in Guahathi believes that this part fell in that place).
Because of this they believe that the Goddess in this temple has monthly periods. People
also believe that because of this the Shiva Linga in this temple is consecrated on a
triangular pedestal.
There is also a belief that the Goddess consecrated here is not Parvathy at all but that of
Kannagi, the Tamil heroine who burnt the city of Madurai for avenging the injustice done
to her husband. It seems she crossed over to Kerala and stood below a Vengai tree. One
huntress saw her and made her statue in mud. Later Cheran Chenguttuvan made an
exactly similar statue and consecrated it here.
Yet another story is there. It seems when Shiva got married to Goddess Parvathi, since
the entire world went to attend the marriage, the earth became unstable. Lord Shiva then
sent Sage Agasthya to go to the south. The sage made, Lord Shiva promise that he would
once more celebrate the marriage in front of the sage in the south. When Lord Shiva
came along with Goddess Parvathi to Chengannur, she came to age. The devas celebrated
this event at Chengannur. Later this place was completely forgotten. This place was
called Sonadhri (Red Mountain) and sage Parasurama established an Agraharam here. At
that time one tribal woman sharpened her sword on a stone and blood started oozing from
the stone. The Brahmins were called and they found that this was a statue of Lord Shiva.
They decided to build a temple. The astrologers also found the presence of Goddess
there. So it was decided o build a temple for the Goddess also. At that time the famous
Perunthachan visited the temple. The people requested him to make a statute of the
Goddess. But he showed them a spot in the north-west of the temple and asked them to
dig there. They did and the present statue was recovered from there. Then they
consecrated both the gods after performing Kumbhabhishekam.
One the mesanthi (the chief priest) opened the temple of the Goddess in the morning to
change the flowers. He was astounded to find that the cloth which the Goddess was
wearing had a stain. This cloth was shown to the ladies of Vanchi Puzhathu Madam as
well as the land lady of the house of Thazhaman pothy. Both of them confirmed that
Goddess was undergoing periods.
Thazhaman pothy advised the Mesanthi to remove the statue to a separate temple and
close the door. The pooja for the next three days was performed in the north eastern
corner of the temple He also asked his wife and the chief lady of Vanchi Puzhathu
Madam to keep company to the Goddess during night. For several generations the ladies
of these houses keep company to the Goddess during the time of her periods. It was
regularly occurring every month for some time but nowadays, it happens three to four
times a year. The cloth which the goddess wears during this time (Thiru poothu) is
considered as a prized possession and is worshipped in many homes.
On the fourth day , the goddess is taken on a she elephant for her ritual bath ,
accompanied with musical instruments to the near by Mithra River. The namboodiri
women give the Goddess an oil bath and bring her back. The statue of the Goddess is
secretly taken out and mounted on the top of the elephant and the temple closed. Ladies
raise Mangala Dwani with their throat (called Kuruvai) . The elephant on which the
goddess rides is received with Nira Para. After the ritual bath given by the ladies , the
priest does ceremonies like Oil Abhishekam, Milk Abhishekam etc and after worshipping
her , the goddess is brought back to the temple.
There is another story which is popular. It seems after consecration of the Goddess,
Perunthachan once again came to the temple along with a Pancha loha idol of the
Goddess. He predicted that the temple will catch fire and then the Devi idol will be
destroyed. He said at that time this new Pancha loha idol should be consecrated.
It happened the same way. During the fire the Shiva Linga was saved by coating it with
mud but the idol of the goddess could not be saved. When they were searching for a
suitable replacement one Neelakandan of Thazaman Pothi’s house saw a dream and was
told about the above story. He was also told that the idol brought by Perumthachan was
preserved below a stone in the river.
Though they tried several times to locate the idol, they were unsuccessful. At that time
some fisher men from Karunagapally came to this place and they were able to locate the
idol. They brought the idol to the temple and handed it over the temple priest. That day
coincided with the festival of Shiva Rathri. Even now on every Shiva Rathri day , the
fisher folk of Karunagapally are honoured at the temple.
This temple was under the control of Travancore kings,. One British resident called
Munro laughed at the belief of the periods to the Goddess and stopped all grants for
observing it, it seems then onwards his wife started to bleed without stop. Though he
tried with several doctors, the bleeding could not be stopped. 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 cured .Apart from a creating the trust , Munro also presented two n golden
bangles to the Goddess.
The temple opens at 3.30 Am and remains open with several functions till 11.30 Am. It
again opens at 5 Pm and remains open up to 8 Pm. The major festival of the temple is in
the month of Dhanu (December-January) and the Arattu (ritual dip in the river) is on
Thiruvadira day.

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