Thursday, October 1, 2015

Kannagi Temple, Theni

Kannagi Temple, Theni
The Kannagi Temple is a 2,000 years old temple at an elevation of around 1,337 m above the sea level. The temple is situated on the borders of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It represents the Pandian style of Kerala architecture.

Believed to be constructed by Cheran Chenguttuvan, the king of Kerala, the shrine is dedicated to Goddess Mangala. Devotees can only pray in the temple on Chitra Pournami day that falls in the months of April and May.
The Mangala Devi Kannagi temple is located on the border of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It is located about 7 km from Pazhiyankudi in Theni district and 15 km from Thekkadi of Idukki District, Kerala. Cheran Chenguttuvan, the king of ancient Tamilakam, had erected the temple for Kannagi around 2000 years back at Vannathiparai and called it Kannagi Kottam or Mangaladevi Kannagi temple and performed regular pujas.

It is at an altitude of about 1337m above the sea level. It is surrounded by lush greenery and is closed throughout the year except during the Chitra Pournami festival. At other times tourists can still view it by getting a special letter from the forest ranger. The view from the temple premises is spectacular and one can see part of Eastern Ghats and some villages from adjacent state of Tamil Nadu.
Deep inside the forest of Periyar Tiger Reserve, you will find a 1000 years old ancient temple of Mangaladevi. This is the place, where, Kannaki, a legendary Tamil woman, betrayed all her grudge and transformed herself to be a divine lady (Mangaladevi) showering blessings upon the people on earth.
Hidden in the dense forest of Periyar Tiger Reserve, between Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the Mangaladevi Temple at Thekkady is not just a place for pilgrimage tourism, but a place where you can find the wildness of the forest and the enchanting beauty of the nature. The temple is located 7 km away from Pazhiyankudi in Theni district and 15 km from Thekkady in Idukki district.

There is a mind boggling legend behind this divine temple of Mangaladevi. Kannagi, the devoted wife of Kovalan, took revenge against killing her innocent husband by accusing him as a thief. It is said that she burnt the whole Madurai city and later she reached the Suruli hills. From here she went to the heaven in Pushpaka Vimana along with Kovalan.
Getting inspired from this story, Chera Chenguttuvan, the ancient Tamilakam King, erected this temple of Mangaladevi here. The story of Kannagi was narrated to the Tamil poet, Ilango Adigal by Chenguttuvan and later Ilango wrote the famous book 'Silappathikaram', the story of Kannagi and Kovalan.
The boundary walls and the steps leading to the temple are made up of huge stones. The location of the temple on the top of the hill itself proves the effort taken to complete the structure there. Apart from Mangala Devi you can also sight some other idols there. Entering the complex you can see the idol of Karuppasamy, on the left side there is Lord Shiva and you can also sight a sanctorum for Ganapathy too.

You can also find an underground passage from this temple. Numerous stories revolve around this passage. According to the local people, the passage leads to the Madurai town and some says that the passage will take you to the Pandya Kingdom.
Like the other temples in Kerala, Mangaladevi temple is not opened all the year round. The devotees can only worship the Devi during the time of Chitrapournami festival which falls on the month of April/May. This festival which occurs on a full moon day is jointly organized by the Kerala and Tamil Nadu governments. The priest from both the states comes to perform rituals during the festival. As the temple is in the edge of ruins, the panchaloham idol used for the festival is bought from Kambam.
Goddess Mangala is decorated with flowers, silks and Poojas are performed. Thali (sacred thread used by married women) and bangles of women is kept for pooja here. This festival is very auspicious for women and the women folk offer Pongal (cooked rice) to the Devi. Adequate measures are taken to avoid the disturbance to the eco system with the overcrowding of the devotees.


To make a trip to Mangaladevi temple, you will have to get prior permission from the wildlife warden of Thekkady. The journey to the temple is an interesting and daring experience. You can reach the temple only with the help of a jeep. The 12 km long way to the temple is covered with dense forests and grasslands. You will also get a chance to experience the delightful sights of Nilgiri Tahr and other varieties of flora and fauna.
As per the survey conducted by the East India Company in 1817 and the notification posted in St. George Gazette of November 15, 1883, the temple belongs to Tamil Nadu. The present road to the temple was laid in 1934 by the Kerala government.  Though the temple is located well within Tamil Nadu state and it can be reached only through Kerala road and hence Kerala government laid restrictions for the people to access the temple only on Chitra Pournami day. There are restrictions to use musical instruments like drum (‘melam’) and to cook Pongal at the premise. Now the restrictions are relaxed for the specific day.  
Regular visitors also argue for the takeover of the temple by the Tamil Nadu government for upkeep, like the Padmanabhapuram Palace in Kanyakumari district, which is maintained by Kerala. The place where Kovalan is believed to have been beheaded is called ‘Kovalan Pottal,’ which is one of the 16 protected monuments of the Archaeological Survey of India in Madurai.

There are representations from various religious organizations to the government for laying new road to the hill temple from Goodalur. Hence Theni district administration plans to make proposal to the government to lay a new road to the temple from Goodalur for the convenience of pilgrims.
The Tamil epic Silappathikaram details the story of Kovalan, a merchant from Chola Portal city Poompuhar, and his wife Kannagi. Kovalan fell in love with Madhavi, a danseuse and incurred heavy loss in his trade. The couple moved to Madurai, with a hope to revive the trade and regain the lost fortune. At Madurai when the merchant offered to sell his wife’s anklet, the local goldsmith brought the anklet before the Pandya king and made the king to believe that it was his queen’s lost anklet. The king immediately passed the orders of beheading Kovalan even without examining the accused.
Angered at the injustice, Kannagi walked into the king’s court and broke her anklet to establish the innocence of her husband. Her anklet included emerald, while the queen’s anklet was filled with pearls. The king was shocked and realized his misjudgment. Immediately he lost his life on the throne itself and his queen also died on the spot.
Kannagi, unable to quench her anger due to her personal tragedy, uttered a curse that the entire city be burnt and set Madurai city on fire. After this she walked for 14 days and entered the Chera kingdom and reached this point and reunited with her husband.
A distraught Kannagi is said to have burnt down Madurai after her husband Kovalan was wrongly accused of being a thief and killed. Kannagi after burning Madurai, to avenge the injustice done to her slain husband Kovalan, reached Suruli hills (Murugavel kundram). She stood under a Vengai tree. Kannagi reached heaven in a Pushpaka Vimana. Chera senguttuvan camping on the banks of Periyar was informed of Kannagi’s story by Koola-vanigan Sattanar.
The younger prince Ilango who had renounced the world was fascinated by the characterization of Kannagi and he authored Silappadikaram, the king as directed by his consort, erected a temple for Kannagi. It is said that the stone for the idol was brought from the Himalayas. Gajabahu Lankan ruler attended the consecration of the temple. Mahavidwan R. Raghava Iyengar in his research monograph Vanjimanagar identifies the original Kannagi temple in the Chera capital Karur.
The consecration by the Chera king Chenguttuvan was attended by representatives of kings of India and Gajabahu of Sri Lanka. There is a relic called Vanjiamman temple in modern Karur. In Silappadikaram, Ilango describes Kannagi's departure from Madurai northwards along the banks of the Vaigai River and meets her "divine" husband Kovalan in the hills of Palani.
Madalan, a character in the epic, narrates the history of Devanthi, friend of Kannagi and hails Kannagi as "Mangala Madanthai". The original place in Palani Hills is still revered as Mangala Madanthai Kottam. Later a Chera king Kulasekara (1699 AD) donated lands for a temple in Cumbum, Gudalur, near Theni (Madurai) (Ref. Madras Epigraphical Reports, 288, 1928-1929). This is the later Mangala Madanthai Kottam.
Kannagi Kottam
The temple for Kannagi was erected by the ancient Chera king Cheran Chenguttuvan. Tamil literary sources recognize this shrine as 'Kannagi Kottam' (Kottam means temple). There is a Shiva temple near to this shrine. As per the epic Silappathikaram Cheran Chenguttuvan, listening to the story of Kannagi built a temple at this valley to commemorate her chaste power. It is learnt that Saint. Ilango Adigal, the younger brother of Chenguttuvan wrote the Tamil epic Silappathikaram. There from entire Chera country adopted the cult of Kannagi worship. Since the Chera could not frequent to Kannagi Kottam in Kambam valley, he raised the temple for Kannagi at Kodungalloor in Kerala and named the deity as Baghavathy. The idol of Kannagi from Mangala Devi temple might have been taken to his capital and placed. The temple at Kambam valley is in a dilapidated condition and in a state of neglect.
The state epigraphy department discovered two inscriptions at this temple and these two are related to 1. King Raja Raja Cholan I (985 and 1014 A.D.) and 2. King Kulasekara Pandian (1268–1308 A.D.). As viewed by the epigraphist, the first inscription is “fragmentary” and points only to King Raja Raja Cholan I. The second inscription relates to the ‘Amman’ in this temple as ‘Pooranagiri Aludaya Nachiar.’ Another reference related to Mangala Devi temple is also discovered in a Perumal temple at Goodalur, Theni district. This is in relation to the reference of Kannagi as ‘Mangala Madanthai’ in the Tamil epic, Silappathikaram. The deity in the Mangaladevi temple is worshiped as Kannagi, the epic’s heroine.
Chitra Pournami Festival
Every year pilgrims in thousands from Tamil Nadu climb the hill through the trek way, laid in 1934 from Pazhiyankudi and assemble at the Mangala Devi temple to celebrate Chitra Pournami festival. The Chitra Pournami festival is observed at this temple on the full moon day in the Tamil month Chithirai (April - May). Both Theni (Tamil Nadu) and Idukki (Kerala) administrations will make arrangements for the festival and the temple trust also transports provisions for distribution of free food and water. The state police from both states used to organize joint patrolling and erect barricades to regulate the crowd.
Since idol is not available, people configure the idol using sandal paste and cover the face shield made from silver. The Tamil Nadu priests perform pooja rituals. They also distribute holy ash and kumkum.
Sri Kannaki Temple, Gudalur, Theni district
+91- 4554 - 231 019, 98425 55575.
From Kerala the temple can be accessed through a Ghat road from Kumuli (Kerala) by four wheeler jeep, which is about 14 km. From Tamil Nadu the temple can also be reached from Cumbum Valley by trekking  steeper but walkable stretch  from Pazhiyankudi, a village in Theni district (distance about  5.6 km). 


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