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Chettikulangara Devi Temple


Chettikulangara Devi TempleChettikulangara Sree Bhagavathi temple is one of the most renowned temples in Kerala. The temple is located at Chettikulangara in Mavelikkara taluk of Alappuzha district in the south Indian state of Kerala. The temple is situated about 4 km west of Mavelikkara, 7 km north of Kayamkulam on SH6 (Kayamkulam – Thiruvalla Highway)

One important aspect of the Chettikulangara Sree Bhagavathi temple is that the deity appears as Maha Saraswathi in the morning, as Maha Lakshmi at noon and Sri Durga or Bhadrakali in the evening. Recently UNESCO collected details about temple and its  customs (Kuthiyottam, Kumbhabharani) for examining whether this temple is eligible for include in World Heritage list.The results will come soon. This entry has the most chance for include in the world heritage list(In entries from india).

The 1200-year-old temple has 13 Karas (territories). The temple is at the centre of the oldest four Karas–Erezha South, Erezha North, Kaitha South and Kaitha North and the rest of the Karas Kannamangalam South, Kannamangalam North, Pela, Kadavoor, Anjilipra, Mattam North, Mattam South, Menampally and Nadakkavu surround this temple.

This is the second largest temple in terms of income under the control of Travancore Devaswom Board, second only next to Sabarimala. It is estimated that the temple has earnings worth many crores per year. In 2009 it earned around 1.7 crore Rupees from a single type of offering called Chanthattam. A major part of the Nellu offered to the Bhagavathi is also used to make Appam and Aravana prasadams at Sabarimala. The income from the temple is also helpful to run the daily rituals and Poojas at various temples under the Travancore Devaswom Board. It is so unfortunate to know that , ‘Unnuneelisandesham‘ which include details about places in kerala(also includes details about Bhagavathypady and Thattarambalam,the places preceeding and following chettikulangara)lack informations about this temple. So some historians also argued that temple is not at all older as we expected.

There are many popular beliefs related to the origin of Chettikulangara temple. The most popular one is as follows. Many centuries ago, some local chieftains went to witness the annual festivities at the Koypallikarazhma Bhagavathi temple situated a few kilometers from Chettikulangara. The visitors were humiliated and ridiculed by the Koypallikarazhma temple authorities and the village chieftains there. Perturbed by the humiliation, and out of retribution, they decided to construct a Bhagavathi temple at Chettikulangara. People of Chettikulangara united for this cause, and headed by the Karanavars (Family Heads) of the four to five then leading families of the region decided to seek the blessings of Kodungallur Bhagavathi in this mission. They embarked on a pilgrimage visiting various temples en route and reached Kodungallur, and performed 12 days long Bhajanam to please the Goddeess. It is said that the Devi came in their dreams to say that she would soon come to Chettikulangara. Next day, they happily returned to Chettikulangara with a sacred sword given by the Velichappadu of Kodungallur temple, and started civil works of the temple.

A few days later, while the kadathukaran (local boatman) of the nearby Karippuzha rivulet was winding up his work on a late evening, he heard an old woman requesting his help to ferry her to the other shore. He felt it was his duty to help this lonely lady, and decided to accompany her to Chettikulangara, the destination she was said to be heading for. On the way, they took rest beneath a wayside tree (the place now houses the Puthusseriambalam temple), and the Kadathukaran brought food for them from a nearby [mannan /washer man] house. Soon he fell asleep, and when he woke up by early daybreak, the lady had vanished. (It is said that this boatman was a Christian, and for helping Devi to ferry across the Karippuzha thodu, the descendents of his family were entrusted with the job of Vedi(ritual fireworks at the temple). He elaborated about this mysterious incident to the people of Chettikulangara, and they felt the Devi has reached Chettikulangara.

The next day, annual maintenance works on thatched roof was going on at the Illam (the traditional house where a community of Brahmins in central Kerala reside) adjacent to the present temple. While the Antharjanam of the house was serving the dishe of Kanji (Rice porridge) Muthirapuzhukku (a local special dish with ingredients of baked Horse Gram cereal and kneaded coconut) and Asthram (another side dish, a paste of different locally procured vegetables) for the workers, a strange old woman joined them for lunch. Soon after the food, the old lady moved to the western side of the house, and vanished in thin air with a bright glow. Antharjanam witnessed this, and she fell unconscious. Later she elaborated her experience to the people.

The same day, Devi showed her presence to the village chieftains. They approached famous astrologers, it was confirmed that the Bhagavathi had reached Chettikulangara.
According to one version, this temple was consecrated by Padmapadacharyar (a leading disciple of Adi Shankara) on the Uthrittathi (Uttara Bhadrapada) day of Makara month in A.D. 823. There is a firm argument that the goddess here was a family deity, and later emerged as the village and regional deity. Local historians oppose the argument that the temple is not as ancient as the nearby Kandiyoor Mahadeva temple or Mavelikara Krishna Swamy temple as it had not been mentioned in Unnuneeli Sandesam written in the 14th century. According to late Kandiyoor Mahadeva Shasthri, Samudra Bandhan–a leading courtier of Ravi Varman, an ancient King of Venad had visited this temple and wrote poems on Bhagavathi.Similarly Aadithya Kulasekharan, the King of Venad (1374 A.D. to 1389 A.D.) also had visited the Chettkulangara temple, argues them. There is also an argument favoring that this Devi temple was an old kavu where Kadmattathachan Nambuthiri on his way to nearby panayanarkavu at parumala from Thevalakara tried to control a Yakshi (demon) and found no place to give her a stay. He came and prayed to the God and was able to control her. ( she’s still there in the temple compound). However, it is to be said that the present Sreekovil of the temple is only 450–480 years old, and the Chuttambalam is not more than two centuries old. Local historians say that the temple infrastructure and the surroundings were developed by various local chieftains from time to time. The present Sreekoil was revamped during A.D.1540. Because of a small fire at this temple, the Chuttambalam was slightly modified during the Malayalam year 1002.

It is also believed that Chettikulangara Amma (the main deity) is the daughter of Kodungallur Amma, brought to that place for the well being of all people at Onattukara(Mavelikara).And it also says that some Chettyar families from Tamil Nadu was related to the name Chettikulangara.


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