Chengannur on the
Ernakulam-Kottayam-Kollam railway line is home to the Chengannur Mahadeva also
known as the Chengannur Bhagawati temple.
This temple is regarded as the Shakti
peetham related to the legend of Daksha's
sacrifice and Sati's self immolation. Legend has it that the reproductive
organ from Sati's body fell here, after her corpse was cut into several pieces by Vishnu's
discus. The Kamakhya temple in Assam
holds the same legend and is also regarded as a Shakti Peetham.
Yet another legend
has it that Agastya had a vision of the divine marriage of Shiva
and Shakti here at this shrine, known as Sonadri or the red hill (Chenkunnu). The
legend of Agastya's vision of the divine marriage is associated with several temples in
Tamilnadu such as Kutralam near Tirunelveli and Vedaranyam on the east coast.
Yet another legend has it that Bhagawati
is none other than Kannagi of Silappadikaram and that Chenkunnu
marks the site in Chera Nadu where she observed penances under a tree after having
incinerated the city of Madurai. The Chera monarch Senkuttuvan is
believed to have brought a piece of stone from the Himalayas, carved her image and
consecrated it here as Chenkamalavalli. The same legend holds at the Kodungallur Bhagawati temple.
The temple: This is a
sprawling temple complex with a circular sanctum typical of Shiva temples in Kerala, with
a copper plated conical roof.
The western side of the sanctum
enshrines Shiva - Chengannur Mahadevar while the eastern side enshrines Bhagawati
- Parvati. The Shivalingam, is covered with a gold plate bearing an image of Ardhanareeswara
- or the Shiva-Shakti manifestation of Shiva.
Images of Saasta, Ganesha
and Chandikeswara are also enshrined in the temple. There is also a
shrine to Krishna nearby.
The mukhamandapam in
front of the temple and other mandapams in this temple are full of exquisite woodwork. The
performance hall or the kuttambalam in the temple complex is an unfinished structure
conceived in a manner such that if lamps were lit on each of the posts, the performer's
shadow would not fall on the stage.
A three tiered gopuram marks the
entrance to the temple.
The temple complex was damaged by fire
in the 18th century and later restored.
An interesting belief
with respect to the Bhagawati shrine prevails in this temple. Celebrated
as a symbol of fertility, a menstruation ceremony has been observed periodically in the
temple, corresponding to certain physical observations on the image of Bhagawati; per
tradition during this period, the Bhagawati shrine is closed and worship is offered
to a processional image elsewhere in the temple. At the end of a three day period, the
processional image of the deity is taken to the nearby Pampa river on a
female elephant; the returning procession is received ceremoniously at the temple, after
which worship commences as usual at the Bhagawati shrine.
Festivals: The 28 day long
Varshikotsavam begins on the Ardra asterism in the malayala month of Dhanus. Shivaratri
and Chitra Pournami are also celebrated here.