Thursday, April 23, 2015

Chengannur- Vadasserikavu Bhagavathy Temple

Vadasserikavu Bhagavathy Temple is a Perennial Hindu temple dedicated to Goddess Bhadrakali which is situated at Mundankavu Junction in Chengannur Municipal Town of Alapuzha District.
This temple is famous as one of the ancient Bhadrakali temple which is a prime venue of 'Padayani' festival, performed annually maintaining all its ritualistic traditions.
Padayani is seen  in Bhagavathy temples mainly in Central Travancore areas in the Districts of 'Alapuzha,Pathanamthitta and Kottayam'.This Dravidian ancient folk art form is celebrated for eight days annually in this temple.
The holy river 'Pampa' flows closely to this temple and two days prior to the world renowned 'Aranmula Snake boat race' , there is the famous 'Mundankavu (Erapuzha) snake boat race on 'Chathayam' star day which is a grand event in which several snake boats participates.The zonal area 'Mundankavu' of Chengannur is known as 'Mundankavu Kara'  which  owns a Snake Boat and a province of Mundankavu known as 'Kodiyattu Kara' also owns a Snake boat  which   participates in all these events every year during Onam days.(Aug-Sept).

The legend of the art form 'Padayani' is as follows.When 'Daksha Prajapathi' performed a gigantic 'Yagna'(Offering holy materials like ghee, sweet porridge etc in sacred fire chanting mantras), he invited everyone for that ceremony except Lord Shiva and Devi Sathi who was Lord Shiva's consort as well as  'Daksha's' daughter.Daksha was not in good terms with Lord Shiva.Sathi Devi participated in this event without  the consent from Lord Shiva but Daksha harassed her in front of other invitees.Sathi Devi could not withstand the insult and  she jumped into the sacred fire.
Hearing about this news Lord Shiva with his  powers created 'Bhadrakali Devi and Veerabhadra Swamy and sent to Daksha's palace for revenging Sathi Devi's death.Both of them created mass destruction there.
It is said that the nature of Bhadrakali Devi is that  she is fierce if gets angry or otherwise she is very pleasant and blesses her devotees to fulfill their desires.
Bhadrakali Devi Killed a demon by name 'Darika' who had tremendous powers and used to  cause harm to the  'Devas'(celestial beings) and humanity.The fight with the mighty Darika extended for three days and Darika who had magical powers fought with her on ground and in the sky.At last she was victorious by killing him but her anger and fury  persisted.To make her calm the 'Bhoothagana'(militants) of Lord Shiva danced before her wearing   face  masks of different divine and semi divine characters which amused her and her anger subsided.
The belief  that Bhadrakali Devi could also  be propitiated by this impersonations   dance  by using masks is therefore  performed  during the annual festival period  is mainly  known as 'Padayani or Padeni.Other than that there will be many more skillful display of physical activities and amusements,folklore drama like 'Kakkarissi Natakam' and many more but the performance of Kolam is rather much more important.
The impersonations and  apparitions are called as 'Kolams' and many varieties are there such as'Pakshi,Yakshi,Madan,Marutha,Pisachu,Kalan Kolam,Bhairavi,Ambara Yakshi,
Kanjiramala,Dhoomavathi,Bhadrakali kolam' etc.These Kolams are made by painting on  the spathe of the areca palm.All varieties of Kolam are manifested at Vadasserikavu Bhagavathy Temple every year and the special kolam  here is 'Bhadrakali Kolam' which is not usually performed in other Devi temples.
The performer of the Kolams  will be skillful persons  trained in this dance form  for all  the variety of Kolams  and dance to the tune of traditional songs meant for each variety and the only percussion instrument used is 'Thappu'.

The song sung by the 'Guru' which are ancient songs made by unknown poets  describes the divine, semi divine or evil characters of the Kolam in an eager to please them.In those songs to the evil characters they are requested not to do any harm to the natives of that  place and beg them to keep away from there  while to the divine characters they are requested to bless the natives and to make them wealthy,healthy and wise.
The Padayani at Mundankavu Bhagavathy temple is for eight days prior to Meena Bharani festival day during the Malayalam month of Meenam.(Mar-April).The last four days of the Padayani which are on 'Pooruruttathi,Uthrittathi,Revathy and Aswathi star days' are  celebrated in a spectacular grand scale by four kara (zonal areas) of Mumdankavu. These zones  are 'Vadasseri kara,Mundankavu Kara,Uliyanattuseri kara and Kodiyattu kara'.
Other festivals such as Shiva Rathri,Kumbha Bharani,Meena Bharani,Navarathri' etc are all celebrated at Vadasserikavu temple.Mandala Makaravilakku season is auspicious,Sundays,Tuesdays and Fridays are important.
In this temple the 'Pongala festival' is known as '101 Kalam'.In many temples the devotees (usually females) prepare the 'nivedyam' (sweetened rice usually)
themselves in the temple premises for 'Pongala' while in this temple the nivedyam is prepared by the temple priests.The devotees gather at 'Thrichittattu Maha Vishnu temple' which is also situated  at Mundankavu and proceed to Vadasserikavu temple in a procession holding new earthen pots containing ingredients for sweet porridge (Payasam) and present it at the temple. After preparing the 'Payasam' and performing  the rituals by the temple priests  the pots containing 'payasam' will be distributed to the devotees in their own earthen pots.

Usual offerings common  in Devi temples are done by devotees here also.'Kolam Thullal' is also an offering during Padayani festival days  by which the devotee has to give the expenses for their selected 'Kolam' which has to be manifested.
The main deity is Bhadrakali Devi and sub deities includes 'Ganapathi,Subramanya Swamy,Nagas and Yakshi Amma'.

The temple is situated beside Main Central Road (M.C.Road) and 2 km from Chengannur Railway Station and Bus Stand. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Thrichittatt Mahavishnu Temple

Thrichittatt Mahavishnu Temple is situated in the Mundancavu ward of Chengannur Municipality of Alleppey District.
It is an ancient temple believed to be established by the eldest of the 'Pandavas' Yudhishtira (Dharmaputra).All the Pandava brothers established Mahavishnu temples in and around Chengannur and the second brother Bheema established a temple at Puliyoor in Chengannur Taluk, while Arjuna originally established his temple at Nilakkal which was shifted to Aranmula later and well famed as the 'Parthasarathy temple at Aranmula'.Nakula consecrated Mahavishnu temple at Thiruvanvandoor in Chengannur Taluk and Sahadeva at Thrikkodithanam near Changanacherry.
These five temples along with six other temples including Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple of Thiruvananthapuram are among the most important 108 Mahavishnu temples in India which are known as the abodes of Lord Vishnu.
All the five Pandava Mahavishnu temples have five feet tall idols which has four hands holding 'Conch(Sanghu),Disc (Chakra),Mace (Gada) and Lotus  Flower(padmam).At Puliyoor temple the deity is not holding mace,but since Bheema who established that temple was an expert in 'Gada fight' a big mace is displayed in the temple compound there.
The deity at Thrichittattu Mahavishnu temple is mentioned in the ancient  texts of Tamil Poets 'Alvars' (Azhvars) and they have praised all these five Mahavishnu temples in their poems.The deity at this temple is called as 'Imayavarayappan' in the old Tamil texts.
Even though Mahalakshmi shrine is not there, the concept is that Lakshmi Devi is also residing at these abodes with Mahavishnu.The Mahavishnu of this temple is also called as 'Devathi Deva Perumal'  and Mahalakshmi is existing here as 'Raktapankaja Vally'.
The temple pond at this temple is very large and known as 'Sanghu Theertham'.
After the Kurukshetra war Yudhishtira visited this temple, washed his sword in the temple pond and prayed before the deity of Thrichittatt  Mahavishnu for relieving him from the sins of Killing innocent people and relatives in the war.Yudhishtira who moved along the path of peace,justice,truth and loyalty was sad about all that what had happened and he repented a lot.

The belief about the deity of Thrichittatt  Mahavishnu is that one who repents about his past mistakes and actions which were happened not intentionally would be excused by the Mahavishnu of Thrichittatt temple.Every one has to suffer punishments for their bad actions(Karma) and if prayed at Thrichittatt Mahavishnu temple if those  were not done deliberately,  the punishments would be relaxed or relieved is the belief.It is said that the deity at this temple like his devotees to stick to the qualities like  'Peace,Loyalty,Justice  Truth' etc.

Thursdays and Sundays are very auspicious in this temple.'Palpayasam' is an important offering and the other usual offerings are also there.
There is sub deities of 'Gosala Krishna' and 'Dharma Sastha' in this temple.
The annual festival is for ten days and starts on Atham star day by flag hoisting and finishes on 'Thiruvonam' star day by 'Aarattu' in the Malayalam month of Meenam.(March 15-April 15).

'Dasavathara Charthu Maholsavam' is also another celebration for  ten days during which the deity is everyday decorated as the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu such as 'Matsya,Koorma.Varaha' etc with sandalwood paste.There would be special 'Poojas' and rituals on these days.This event starts on the 'Ashtami Rohini' day in the month of 'Chingam' (Aug-Sept) and performed as offering by the devotees.
'Bhagavatha Sapthaha Yanjam' is also held auspiciously every year in this temple which lasts for seven days.
Mandala-Makaravilakku season from November 15 to mid January is also very important at Thrichittattu Mahavishnu temple.
The temple administration is by Travancore Devaswom Board.
The distance from Chengannur Bus Stand and Railway Station to this temple is only 1.5 km.From Thiruvananthapuram,

Chengannur is 125 km and Main Central Road (M.C.Road)  passes through  Chengannur.The other nearby towns are Thiruvalla,Pandalam,Mavelikkara and Aranmula.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Malayattoor Church

Malayattoor is a serene beautiful village town in Ernakulam district and is 52 km from Kochi on the banks of the holy river 'Periyar'.It is on the slopes of the Western Ghats and the name 'Malayattoor' itself is an amalgamation of three words 'Mala' 'Aaru' and 'Ooru' indicating a meeting place of Mountain,River and Land.Malayattoor is an International Pilgrimage center because of the 'Malayattoor Church' which is dedicated to St.Thomas Apostle.
Malayattoor is near to Cochin International Airport.'Kalady' the birth place of 'Aadi Shankaracharya' a Hindu Saint is very close to Malayattoor and Aluva Town famous for the Hindu Festival 'Shivratri' is nearby.
There are two Churches here one at the foothill and the other atop the hill which is  609 m high.The Churches are very ancient and made after St.Thomas visited this place.St.Thomas landed at Kodungallur in Kerala in the year AD 52 and for 20 years he was involved in spiritual services in South India.St.Thomas meditated on the rocks at the hill top for several days.When he felt thirsty he struck on the rock and fresh water gushed  out.There is  a well at present in this spot and devotees believe that the water cures many ailments.
St.Thomas is  called as 'Ponnin Kurisu Muthappan'  at Malayattoor and the hill is known as 'Kurisu Mudi'.Kurisu is the word for 'Cross' in Malayalam and 'Mudi' has the meaning 'Mountain' or Hill'.
'Ponnin Kurisu' means 'Golden Cross' and 'Muthappan' means the 'Great Grandfather'.
When St.Thomas Apostle prayed at the top of the hill he made a sign of the Cross on the rock and after awhile a golden cross appeared there.The natives who witnessed this act informed the villagers about this miracle and some of them because of their  curiosity struck on the Cross.For their amazement blood oozed out.This miracle was also wide spread and people started pilgrimage to the place.Still people climb the hill as a pilgrimage to worship these spots and also worship a  'foot print' of the Apostle seen  on the rock.
Some of the pilgrims carry heavy wooden Cross on their shoulders while trekking the hill with devotion remembering the sufferings of Jesus Christ at Calvary.
The holy Shrine was constructed at Malayattoor after the visit of St.Thomas and  is one of the ancient Churches in India.Large number of devotees from all parts of the State and from other parts of India and abroad visits this Church.
The relics of St.Thomas is preserved here in the 'Marthoma Mandapam' and people worship there too.A statue of St.Thomas is installed at the highest point of the hill and twenty steps are made there to indicate his 20 years of service in South India.Many of the devotees call the 'Kurisumudi' hill also as 'Ponmala' which means 'golden hill'.
The annual celebration (Feast) of Malayattoor Church  which is known as 'Perunnal' in Kerala is celebrated on the next Sunday after Easter.This year 'Malayattoor Perunnal' will be

celebrated on Sunday, 12th April 2015.Devotees irrespective of Cast and creed from far and near participates in this grand event.