Chottanikkara Temple – A holy abode of pilgrims
Chottanikkara Bhagavathy Temple is a congregation point of devotees from all walks of life. The temple houses the Goddess in all splendor and glory. The Goddess has three forms in the temple premises, with the form changing by the time of the day. The people visiting the temple strongly believe that something unusual pulls the back again and again to its premises, which, according to some, is the fulfillment of their prayers and long-cherished desires.
Chottanikkara Temple is a holy shrine in Ernakulam district of Kerala. This the most important temple amongst the 393 shrines spread over the three districts of Ernakulam, Thrissur and Palghat. The presiding deity in the holy shrine is Rajarajeswari. She is considered as an incarnation of Adhiparashakthi, the Supreme Being according to Devi Puranam. In the holy abode, the mother is worshipped as Saraswati in the morning, Lakshmi at noon and Parvathi or Durga in the evening. Since there is an idol of Mahavishnu on the same pedestal, the holy mother is fondly called as "Amme Narayana". In terms of temple architecture, this holy shrine and Shabarimala temple stand out as the ultimate examples of Vishwakarma Sthapathis, an ancient way of temple sculpting prevalent in the older or medieval times. The people suffering mental illness visit this temple seeking the cure from the mother goddess. The Chottanikkara Makam Thozhal is the famous religious festival in the temple.
Mythology and History
According to the popular legends, this magnificent temple is shrouded in mystery and mind-blowing truth. The legend says that this holy abode was worshipped by none other than Bhogacharya himself. The deity is consecrated in a 'Rudraksha Shila'. Other great souls who worshipped the Goddess of the temple in the past were Adhisankaracharya, Vilwamangalam Swamiyaar, and Chemmangattu Bhattathiri. The legends further say that the deity decked in flowers, garlands, jewels, and lit with lights became the cynosure of the devotees from different regions of the country, right from the olden times. The people who have been regularly visiting the shrine have been saying that the mere sight of the Goddess makes them peaceful, relaxed, happy and contented.
The area around the temple was once a dense jungle. The forest was notoriously known as the place for yakshis and rakshasas. A tribal man by the name Kannappan used to stay in the same jungle. He was the ardent worshipper of Kali, and he used to sacrifice a cow on every Friday to appease the Goddess. Once he was moving in the forest, he saw a beautiful calf standing nearby. He kidnapped the calf for sacrificing it to the Goddess on next Friday. Due to the pleading of her daughter Manimanga, who was loved by her father, he allowed her to keep the calf. Strangely, on the next day, Manimanga died and the calf disappeared. Instead, two divine stones surfaced at the very place where the calf was standing. One stone represented the Lord Vishnu and the other represented Goddess Lakshmi. Many years later, a woodcutter happened to pass by that place. He was looking for a stone to sharpen his axe. He chose one of the stones found there to sharpen the axe. When he started to sharpen his axe, that stone started to bleed, as if it was made of flesh and blood. After performing the devaprashnam, it was found that the stone chosen by him and yet another stone were indeed divine. Hence, the temple was built at the very same location where the two divine stones were found.
Another legend says a different story. On one moonlit night, a Brahmin was passing through the jungle. Suddenly, he saw one beautiful lady standing on the way ahead of him. He talked towards her and befriended with her. Hearing her plight, he offered to escort her to her house safely. En route to her house, he happened to visit the temple priest of Chottanikkara and told him about the company he had got. After a look at the lady, the priest warned him saying that he was accompanying a yakshi. The priest advised him to go to the Chottanikkara temple to plead with the Goddess to help him out of this situation. After having heard about the identity of the lady accompanying him, he ran to the temple pleading the Goddess for her help. When he was about to enter the premises of the temple, yakshi revealed her true identity and caught hold of him by his leg. Suddenly, the Goddess appeared there and killed the demon to save the Brahmin from the clutches of it.
By the side of the temple tank on the eastern side of the temple complex is another small temple. It is called Kizhukkavu temple. The westward-facing temple present in the temple was thought to be installed by Vilwamangalam Swamiyaar. On the eastern side of this temple, there is an ancient Pala tree that is covered with nails hammered by believers to ward off the evil spirits. These nails were hammered on the trunk of the tree by haunted victims using their heads. Apart from the main Sanctum Sanctorum and Kizhukkavu temple, the complex also houses the temples for Shiva, Shastha, Snake Gods, Ganapathi and other Upa-devadas. In the main temple, apart from Lord Mahavishnu and Bhagavathy, there are idols of Brahma, Shiva, Ganapathi, Subramanya and Shastha on the same pedestal. Hence, the deity in the main temple is all powerful.
The main festival of the temple is Makam Thozhal maholsavam. The starting of the day is marked by the ritualistic morning bath of the deity in the sacred pond at Onakoor. After this morning ritual, the Goddess is brought along with Lord Shastha in accompaniment of eleven caparisoned elephants to a traditional vintage point called "Pooraparambu". After midday pooja or ritual, the temple closes. The temple reopens at 2.00 pm to offer Makaram Darshanam" to the devotees. While offering "Makaram Darshanam", the Goddess is decked in sacred gold ornaments, precious jewelry, and flower garlands. It is believed that Vilwamangalam Swamiyaar happened to see the Goddess in the very same form when he turned towards the west after installing the idol at Kizhukkavu. Hence, the devotees believe that worshipping Goddess during "Markaram Darshanam" helps them to fulfill their prayers and long-cherished desire.
Other auspicious months in this holy abode of Goddess are Chingam, Kanni and Vrishchikam. They are listed below.
The holy shrine at Chottanikkara is known from the time immemorial. Many spiritual gurus offered their respect by lowering their heads before the presiding deity at different points in time. The believers of the deity say that the visit to the temple offers them much needed peace of mind, happiness and contentment. During famous "Makam Thozhal", people assemble at the Sanctum Sanctorum of the temple to catch the glimpse of the Goddess in her true attire. It is believed that the worship of the Goddess during "Makam Thozhal" cleanse them off all their material sufferings.