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Temples of Kerala

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.