Kaanana Kannagi [Mangala Devi];;;;;;

A visit to Mangala Devi Temple on the day of Chithra Pournami was a long-cherished dream which finally came true this time.  My friend is working in Kumily Forest Department.  He called me up when he was put on duty at Mangala Devi.  He told me to reach there early morning, but I could reach Kumily only by 11.00 a.m.  When I enquired in the office, I got the information that my friend had already left for Mangala Devi.  I called him on the phone, he told me that he will come back to the office for lunch and when he returns, he would take me with him.  My friend got back to the office in an hour, we had lunch together, and we started for Mangala Devi.

Mangala Devi Hills.

Mangala Devi Temple is situated on top of a beautiful hill around 2800 feet above sea level, in Idukki District in Kerala.  Strict controls have been imposed on the visit to the temple.  Only jeeps having RDO’s permission letter are allowed to enter the top of the hill.  Plastic items and water bottles are banned.  Thousands of officers of Forest, Police, Fire, and Medical Departments of Kerala Government are put on duty at Mangala Devi.  The travel continues off road after the check post.  The drive enjoying the wilderness of the forest and its enchanting beauty is a delightful experience.  Mangala Devi Temple is deep inside the forest of Periyar Tiger Reserve which is 13 km away from Kumily.  Drinking water tanks are kept in several places on the way through the forest.  Strict checking is there on different spots on the way. 

Mangala Devi Temple.

Lot of people from Kumily and Kambam arrive at the temple by foot.  After 8 to 10 km of forest area, there are hummocks.  From here, we can see Mangala Devi Temple far away.  The lush green hill, the road encircling it, jeeps moving like ants through this road, etc. are sights that should not be missed out.  Crowds of people wearing clothes of different colors seem to turn the hummocks into colorful flowers.  At last, our jeep reached Mangala Devi after a daring and venturesome drive.  The queue to enter the temple was so long that it looked like a python.  I too joined the queue.  The festival is jointly organized by the Bhagavathi Group of Kerala and Kannagi Trust of Tamil Nadu.  Kannagi Trust gives free food to the devotees. 

Mangala Devi Temple.

After waiting for an hour or so, I reached in front of the sanctorum.  Inside the narrow sanctorum, I could see the 5-metal-alloy idol or panchaloha idol.  On normal days, there will be only stone images of Siva and Ganapathi in the sanctorum.  On the day of Chithra Pournami, the panchaloha idol of Kannagi is brought here from Kambam.  This temple was built 2000 years ago by Chera Chenguttuvan, the ancient king of Tamilakam.  The temple is constructed in the ancient Pandya architecture wherein large slabs of granite are arranged in square shapes.  On the granite slabs are carved Tamil Slokas (couplet of verses) and dragons. 

Mangala Hills.

The temple is in a dilapidated state at present.  The condition of 2 sanctorums is not too bad, others are fully destroyed and stones and pillars can be seen lying scattered here and there.  Mangala Devi Temple is the only temple in Kerala dedicated to the avenger, Kannagi, who is a legendary Tamil woman who forms the main character of the Tamil Epic Silapathikaram.  Devotees in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and other states worship Kannagi as a goddess; for Keralites, she is a strong female character.  The legend behind the temple is that Kannagi’s innocent husband was beheaded wrongfully accusing him as a thief and Kannagi took revenge on the royal family by plucking out and throwing her breast and cursed that the entire city of Madurai be burnt.  After the city was set ablaze, she attained salvation in the banks of Periyar.  Earlier, this temple was unknown, but when Tamil Nadu started claiming it in 1979-80, it became a subject of territorial dispute.  Permission was given to the priests of Kerala to perform rituals in 1 temple and to the priests of Tamil Nadu to perform rituals in the other one on Chithra Pournami.

Mangala Devi.

I enjoyed the mesmerizing sights of hills kissing the wild blue yonder, clouds tossing around in the vast sky like Kannagi’s violent dance (thandavam), and the ruins of the temple reminding ancient era; all these are views that give pleasure to the eyes and mind.  From the top of the hill, I got a picturesque view of Suruli Waterfalls and the farmlands of Kambam and Theni.  After sometime, thick rain clouds appeared out of nowhere.  In 10 minutes, there was darkness in Mangala Devi.  I could hear the security officers asking the devotees to descent down the hill.  This is a place where heavy thunder and lightning occurs, so everyone was asked to get inside the vehicles and leave the hill.  In 10 to 15 minutes, it started raining, and there was loud thunder.  I ran and got inside a wireless station.  There was a hullabaloo created by the roaring rain clouds resembling waves in the sea, heavy showers, and thunder, but for me, it offered stunning scenery I would never forget.

Mangala Devi Temple.

After sometime, I got into the jeep with my friend and started for the valley.  Because of the wetness and water channels in the road as well as the darkness, the jeep was moving in a slow pace; I felt as if it was walking.  Throughout the way, I could see people walking, all of them drenched in rain.  Nature’s violence matched Kannagi’s violent dance and continued for 1 to 1-1/2 hours.  It took us around 2 hours to reach Kumily.  When I looked back to the hilltop, I saw the sky smiling broadly as if it was all a joke, and under it, the Kannagi Temple......


Ashok S P Jan-01- 2018 211