Sri Selva Maha Kali Amman Temple, Udayalur
Sri Selva Maha Kali Amman Temple is located at Udayalur, a village in the Kumbakonam taluk of Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu, India. Udayalur is a few kilometers away from the historic Chola dynasty stronghold town of Kizha Pazhayarai. The village was historically called "Sri Kangeyapuram". Sri Selva Maha Kali Amman, also called Thillai Kali is one of the Ashta Kalis of Chola Kingdom. She is the Kaval Deivam (Protecting Deity) of Udayalur.
As per the Puranas, the consort of Sri Chidambaram, the Lord of Thillai, got angry with the Lord and came to Udayalur. She entered the village from North. On Thillai Kali’s request, the original village deity granted some space to stay. However, as Thillai Kali would not leave the place, the original deity moved to the other bank of Palkulam opposite Sri Kailasanathar temple. She thus, came to be known as Sri Paalkulathu Amman. The famous proverb "Ondavantha Pidari oor pidariyai virattiyatham" – meaning the deity seeking shelter drove away the original resident, finds its origin in this story.
Sri Sri Mahaswamihal once explained that Bhattarika became Pidari over the years much like Kathayi for Karthyayini. Thus Sri Selva Maha Kali Amman became the prime deity of the village. Even though Sri Paalkulathu Amman and Ayyanar are worshipped, the village people worship Thillai Kali as main deity during the annual Thirunal (Thiruvizha) celebrated in Panguni (March – April).
The Thiruvizha is a month long festival, celebrated jointly by all communities in a sincere and grand manner. People come from nearby villages, towns and even from far off places on important days. Panguni is the time when harvesting is over and people have money. Thus, the Thiruvizha is a thanksgiving festival. It begins on the first Wednesday of Panguni, with “kappu” or “pratisara bandhanam”.
A thread is tied around the right hand of Sri Selva Maha Kali Amman and also the temple Poojari. Once this is done, all those present on the kappu day necessarily return to the village for the night till the "kappu" is removed as mark of closure of festival. The strong belief is that Amman grants all prayers. During the first fortnight, Sri Ayyanar visits the village on different vahanams (vehicles), carried by youngsters. The village residents welcome him with coconut, fruits and flowers, at their door. Sri Ayyanar represents all the deities of village during these days. On the third Wednesday, Sri Ayyanar goes to Sri Paalkulathu Amman to invite her for the function and along with her goes to invite Selva Maha Kali Amman Temple present in the Siva temple.
The Utsavar of Sri Selva Maha Kali Amman is taken out of the temple only during the festival. With all the three deities in attendance, in front of Siva temple, a traditional song in praise of the Goddess takes place, which is called "Pallu Paduthal". The family entitled to do so, recollect the miracles performed by the deities. Then Selva Maha Kali Amman riding on Yali vahanam and Sri Paalkulathu Amman on horse vahanam is taken on a grand procession in a beautifully decorated chariot with Melam, Nadaswaram, band and musicians proceeding ahead of them.
All the villagers irrespective of caste and creed pull the chariot. The procession reaches the starting point almost at midnight. Among the various offerings, the most important is Kanmalar (a silver eye) and a silk pavadai. The people pulling the chariot are offered Panagam (spiced jaggery water), Neermor (butter milk), Kozhukkattai (modak), and Appam etc. Plenty of garlands adorn the deities.
On reaching the starting point, a special Abhishekam is performed and each deity is taken on a procession on separate chariots. On reaching the place called mannadi, "Munnottam – Pinnottam", which literally means, running forward and backward takes place, to the thrill of everyone present there. 50-60 people carry each Deity.
Madurai Veeran who is a great devotee of Sri Ambal also participates. During this time 10 to 15 "Parais", a percussion instrument, are played. One has to be physically present to actually experience the inexplicable joy produced by the resonance and rhythmic sound of these parais. People who prayed for their health, offer salt and pepper on the deities.
Silambattam, a war like game is a part of the festival. It is played using thick 7 ft. long canes. Skilled combatants fight several opponents simultaneously. Other functions like Abhishekam, Koothu (a puranic musical drama) follow on Thursday. These days music recitals also take place. The deities are then brought to Sri Laksmi Narasimhar Temple on Friday and again "Pallu Paduthal" goes on.
The performers indicate the next year’s prospects to the villagers. Ladies flock the temple from Friday through Sunday and follow the old tradition of lighting "Maavilakku Deepam". A cup is made out of rice flour and jaggery, by pounding them together, along with little ghee, and then ghee is poured in it and as usual is lighted using a wick. On Sunday, the uthsavars are moved to Sri Kailasanathar temple for regular pooja, till next festival.
People who fall ill or suffer from diseases of a particular part of the body pray to her that they will keep clay idols of the full body, or the body parts during the festival. They are cured by her. People desirous of off spring keep a horse idol. This way the potters are also benefited.