Monday 3 December 2012

If Sabarimala is for men, this temple is for women

One of  my relatives. Vasudevan, today morning left Bangalore for Sabarimala in Kerala. He had organsied a bhajan and seve in his house in Yelahanka yesterday.
When Vasudevana called me at 11 a.m., in the morning to tell me that he would be leaving along with a group to Sabarimala, my relatives and friends wanted to know why women are barred from entering the Ayyappa shrine in Sabarimala and whether there is any other exclusive shrine for women.
I told them there indeed is an exclusive temple for female devotes in Kerala and that it is as famous as the Ayyappan Temple in that State. However, it is not all that well-known outside Kerala.
This is the temple of Chakkulathukavu. The temple is an ancient one and it has an interesting legend connected with it.
This how the story unfolds.
Two demons-Sumba and Nisumba-meditated for years and acquired supernatural powers from Lord Brahma. The Creator of the world (Brahma) also gave them a boon that they could only be killed by a woman and nobody else.
The two demons soon became vain and went about conquering all the kingdoms. They even defeated the Devas under Indra, leaving the Devas panicky. The Devas fled from Indraloka and tried to hide in jungles.
Narada, the celestial saint, takes pity on the plight on the devas and decided to intercede with Brahma on their behalf. Brahma, however, tells Narada that ups and downs are a part of life and Devas too have experienced it. He said the demons could ne defeated only by  Devi and it was for the Devas to find her.
Narada then told the Devas what Brahma told them. The devas then came to the Himalayas and began a pooje near the Ganga river to appease the Goddess.
Parvathi had come to the spot and she heard the Devas chanting slokas. Parvathi decided to help out the Devas and a new form issued forth from her. This was Durga.   
Durga defeated the demons and the Devas go back to Indraloka. This is the Durga that is present here.
Every year during November- December , the pongal festival takes place. Women come here with rice, jaggery and coconuts. They bring a circular mud pot to cook pongal. The women stand in a queue in front of the temple and the queue stretches upto 20 kms.
An eagle flies overhead as the chief priest lights the main hearth in the temple. He then passes on the fire to the person or woman standing next to him. The fire is thus passed on from one to another till it reaches the woman who is last in the line.   
On the first Friday of every December (Dhanu), a unique ritual is followed in the temple. The male priests wash the feet of female devotees who have fasted for 10 days. This is because of the belief that the female devotees visiting the temple on that day are incarnation of  Chakkulathu Amma (goddess).
These devotees are showered with flowers and perfume is sprinkled on them. Aarti is then conducted.
The temple itself is believed to be over  3,000 years old and the tradition of worshipping women is an ancient one. Every Friday female devotees bring their male relatives who are addicted to alcohol, drugs or gambling. These addicts are made to touch the sword of the  Devi and swear that they would renounce their bad habit.
The temple priest told me that of the 3 lakhs devotees coming here every year, 80 per cent are women. During Pongal, the temple becomes the exclusive preserve of women as men do not participate in making or preparing pongal.
The pongal festival lasts for 12 days.Visit the temple once to make a wish. The priest assures me that any wish made with true devotion and bhakti will be fulfilled.   

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