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Situated in the middle of about 10 acres of land, the temple's surroundings are extremely scenic and was once surrounded by banyan and peepal trees. There are a lot of secret paths, and chambers in the temple, that make the place all the more sacred and deep.
The Bhagawati temple houses many peculiar beliefs and customs.
There is no documental proof as to who built the temple or when it was
constructed. But there are many tales associated with this temple. One
of the legends is that Parashurama, an avatar of Lord Vishnu, had a vision
of the Bhagavathy around 1km south of the present temple and he worshipped
her as Durga offering liquor and chicken, and shifted the idol of Kurumba
Amma found there to the present temple site. When he expressed the difficulty
The temple history dates back from the Chera period. It is believed to be erected by Cheran Chenguttuvan the famous Chera king, for Kannaki - the heroine of Ilamkovadigal's Tamil classic, 'Silappathikaram' whose husband was falsely implicated in a theft of royal jewels and then killed by the king's decree. The story goes that Kannaki plucked her left breast in anguish and rage, and reduced the city of Madurai to ashes with her curse. At the end of her wanderings she is resurrected in heaven. She is also considered as a manifestation of Kaali or Kotravai or Durga.
The presiding deity of Bhagavathy or Kali is a six feet high sculpture from wood, carved out of a jack fruit tree. The idol facing north is depicted with eight arms and carries weapons and symbols like sword, spear, discus, pestle, bow etc in each hand as well as the severed head of Darikasura by the hair. Her head is adorned with a crown that resembles the head-piece used by actors in Kathakali (A classical dance from Kerala) and her body is entirely covered with golden attire - chain woven of gold discs, necklace etc. The goddess is shown in her fierce form as the destroyer of evils. A cloth hung on the western wall of the sanctum serves as a symbol of the deity, and is worshipped by the devotees.
The 'mandapam' or the platform for devotees to sit and worship the main deity, is a feature of Kerala temple architecture and is located before the Shiva shrine. In fact there is no such mandapam for Goddess Kali at all.
It is also the practice to offer pooja and 'naivedyam' first to Shiva and then to the Devi. The pallival (sword) and chilanka (ornament) of the goddess are venerated in the Pallimada Shetram in the northern side. There is a separate shrine for the chaste Kannaki, the heroine of 'Silappathikaram', an avatar of Goddess Durga.
Other main deities in the temple are Lord Ganesh, Ksetrapala, Mahameru, Adishankara, Vasurimala, Lord Veerabhadra and the Sapthamatrukas (seven mothers). It is believed that Lord Parasurama established the Mahameru, Adishankara. The western chamber of the inner temple is the seat of Sapthamatrukas who also face north in a sitting posture. The idol of Adhishankara faces to the east without Nandi (Shiva's bull vehicle ) which cannot be seen in any Hindu temple in any part of the world. The idols of Kshetrapala, stands outside in the courtyard on the north-east side. Made of stone, twelve feet high these idols are rare in a Devi temple. On the south-west is a deity called Vasurimala. The idols of Ganapathi and Veerabhadra are found in the chamber, one facing east and the other facing west respectively. Stones (kozhikkallu) one at the eastern gate and two at the northern gate are installed.
Bhagavati temple's most striking feature is its secret underground chamber, which is the 'Sakthi Kendra' (center of power) of the temple. This sealed vault with no doors and windows is located to the east of the Kali image. The only way to enter this granite chamber is through the door from inside the sanctum.
It is yet unexplored and the locals believe that peering
into the vault would bring traumatic effects. The elephant procession
during the 'Thalapoli festival' turns back when it reaches this spot.
Bharani Festival, mostly celebrated by the low-caste Avarnas, is observed in goddess Bhadrakali's honour, to celebrate her victory over the demon Daarika. A large congregation of 'Velichappadu' (oracles), both men and women come to participate in this peculiar festival where in they pollute the temple. Pilgrimages undertaken to the temple during this occasion is believed to safeguard the pilgrims from the perilous attacks of diseases like cholera and small-pox. Read more..