India, the land that birthed Hinduism is teeming with temples, rituals and architectures that speak volumes of the spiritual and vibrant nature of this religion.
The state of Kerala houses some of the magnificent embodiments of the same. One such famous temple is the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple; home to the revered Goddess Attukal Bhagavathy, the Supreme Mother.
The Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, is one of the ancient temples of South India and is fondly known as theSabarimala of the Women folk as the women from all walks of life come here to worship the supreme goddess who is known to have taken form to annihilate the evil and protect the good in the world in the present Era namely Kaliyuga.
Origin and History
The story has it that the Goddess Bhagavathy revealed herself to a fervent devotee of a notable family namely the Mulluveettil family.
One day as thehead of the family was carrying out oblations in the Killi river, she is said to have appeared in front of him and asked him to assist her in crossing the river. The old man awed by her aura of divinity assister her in crossing the river as well as offering her the hospitality of his household. The young girl disappeared as she had appeared before whilst the members of the family were preparing to serve their guest.
That very night the Goddess Bhagavathy appeared in the dreams of the old man and demanded that he establish an abode for her in the nearby sacred ground at a consecrated spot marked by three lines. The next morning came across the very three marks that the goddess had spoken of in his dream. It was on this spot that the initial idol of the goddess was established. Several years later, the structure was renovated by the local devotees. A beautiful and majestic idol of the Deity with four arms, bearing weapons of destruction in each, like spear, sword, skull, shield etc was also installed.The consecration ceremony was carried out by the revered high priest of the Badarinath Temple.
In keeping with the mythology, Attukal Bhagavathy is the divine form of Kannaki, the famous heroine of Chilapathikaram, written by Elenkovadikal, the Tamil Poet. The story narrates the destruction of ancient city of Madurai, following with, 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 Goddess Parvathy, the consort of Parama siva. The all powerful and benign Attukal Bhagavathy reigns eternally supreme at Attukal. Thousands of devotees from far and near flock to the Temple to bow before the Goddess with awe and reverence to prostrate and redress their affliction and agony.
The Attukal Pongala Festival
The Pongala Mahotsavam (festival) 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 Attukkal temple edifice is a harmonious conglomeration of both the Kerala and Tamil styles. 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 nothing less that the glorification of artistic genius .
The corridors surrounding the temple are flaunted by 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 idolss 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 Ganesa, 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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