Chottanikkara Devi Temple Location, Origin and Development
The famous Chottanikara temple is situated in a picturesque undulating rural hilly temperate terrain,about 10 kilometers from Cochin,hailed as the queen of the Arabian sea in Kerala,considered God's own country.Long long ago the terrrain where the temples stands today consists of thick forests and hills where malayarayanmars were staying singly or in groups.In the then prevailing language this area was also known as Chincharanyam (forest filled with tamarind trees)which over the years might have become Chottanikara.
According to a version,the name of Chottanikara is also considered another proof showing the greatness of the Devi here.Jagadguru Adi Sankaracharaya was believed to have brought the Jyotis of Mookambika Devi from Mookambika to this village and hence this place becme famous as jyothiyanikkara,which subsequently came to be pronounced as Chottanikara.
Chottanikara's antiquity is shrouded in magnificent mythology.Its greatness and glory is all the more enchanced and felt by the perceptible and awe-inspiring living truths like the nail driven Paalai tree-the nails are driven down the evil spirits that are hesitate to leave the body of the vicitims-a telling evidence of the sakthi of the Parasakthi.Many stories are told about the orgin of the tenple.All of them appear to be relating to deities as being workshipped hundreds of years ago.Whether ancient or modern.devotees have such a firm faith in the Devi who acts as a loving mother and is affectionately called as Chottanikara Amma because she treats her devotees like a mother and is anxious to ensure their protection with the help of Dharmasaata and Keezhukkavu Bhagavathy.
Legend has it that a dacoit named Kannappan,because of his daring and strength,became the chief of a tribe of this area.His wife was no more.he was staying with his only daughter,Thevi whom he loved very much.he used to bring home a cow with the intention of slaughtering it to give it to Devi as an offering.he is said to have started this practice of sacrificing holy and pure animals to Devi because someone advised him that if he killed pure and holy animals like cow and offered it to Devi he would become all the more strong.one night he was returing home with the two stolen cows for scarficig them before Devi.he saw a calf and tied that too in his cowshed.Next morning Kannappan's dear daughter saw it and started petting it.One day when he failed to get a cow,he prepared to slaughter the calf so dear to his daughter.But when he untied it,it ran away.he ran after it in vain.But when his daughter called out to "kochukarambi"(the name of the calf) in loving tones the calf came back to her running.She gave it water to drink.The calf looked at her with loving eyes.While she was petting it,Kannappan retured and caught hold of it.His daughter pleaded with her father not kill it Kannappan was afarid of stopping the usual sacrifice.His daughter then asked him as to what he gained so far from the killing of helpless animals.People got 'punyam' by giving dharma and not by doing violence.She asked him to give the calf as a dharmam to her or kill her first before killing the helpless animal.
Her sensible pleas put some sense into the senseless Kannappan and helped open his eyes to real dharma and love.After that,he never killed cows.
According to another version, Kannappan used to slaughter one cow a day to please the Devi.One day a pretty calf came to his dwelling place and his daughter became very fond of it.He loved his daughter very much beacuse her mother was also no more.As he did not get a cow on a particular day,he decided to offer the calf to Devi his dear daughter became depressed and sorrowful she cried and told hiim that God or Devi could not be pleased by killing and violence.He got the great message and stopped his cruel habit of sacrificing any animal.His daughter passed away and this aggravated his grief.A year after the death of his daughter goddess Bhagavathi appeared in his dream and revealed to him that it was she who had come to him in the form of a calf.
The calf has grown up and his thought always centered round the cow and his cowshed.One night he had a dream in which he saw a divine person standing near his cow.Many a siant and saniyasin were standing around and were worshipping them.he jumped up and had a look inside the cowshed.There was nothing there and cow was sleeping peacefully.
But when he went in the morning to the cowshed,the sight he saw made him dumbfounded.He was an enormous perforated stone at the site where originally the cow was sleeping.A dark and relatively small krishana sila was seen where the divine masculine form had stood.This aweinspiring sight nearly maddened him and him brust out crying showing surprise and grief.Hearing the cry of their strong leader,the neighbours rushed to his residence.
At this critical juncture,an old sage materialised all of a sudden.The saintly figure consoled all with the following statement.
"Oh Kannappan,do not feel distressed.The omnipotent Lord Vishnu and Godness Lekshmi are pleased with you and have showered their blessings on you.The care and love with which you looked after the cow have washed away your sins.
"Lakshmi assumed the form of cow.The perforated stone,the rudraksha sila is the spontaneous being Swayambhoov of the Goddess Mahalakshmi.The stone seen nearby is Lord Narayan Moorthy.You and the people here must stay worshipping this Lakshami Narayana Moorthy.Please chant the following Nama "Amme Narayana,Lekshmi Narayana! Bhadre Narayana,Devi Narayana!"
In Kaliyuga this will become the refuge of innumerable piligrims and devotees and a temple will be built in the place of your cottage and the cowshed.You will have one more life hereafter.You will be reborn as the greatest devotee of Lord Mahavishnu.You will be reborn as the greatest devotee of life hereafter.You willbe reborn as the greatest devotee of Lord Mahavishnu.You will visit this place once again.The spiritual glory of this place wil be greatly heightened by spiritual glory of this place wil be greatly heightened by your visit and you will reach the divine domain of Lord Vishnu your visits and you eill reach the divine domain of Lord Vishnu.This place would remain deserted and barren untouched by human feet for years together."Legendary belief has it that the saint who appeared and made these prophetic declartion was that Kannappan had his rebirth as Viilwamangalam Swamiyar,the omniscient sage.
From that day onwards Kannappan kept that place and surroundings clean and tidy and workshipped the idols.
After that day onwards Kannappan,the wandering tribals left the place in search of new pastures and the place once again became a thick forest.The Lakshmi Narayana vigraha was left there without the knowledge of others and without being workshipped."It is after their departure that Sri Bhogendracharya constructed an Ashram there and started doing Brahmopasana.He did Tapas for a long time".(Quoted from Khethradarsanam,Cochin Devaswom Board Publications,February 2008).
The existing sanctum sanctorum of the temple of Chottanikara is supposed to have been the venue of Kannapan's cottage and the present Pavizhamallithara (Sreemoolasthanam) his original cowshed.
The story of the harijan girl and the rediscovery of the ancient vigraha of Lekshmi Narayana Moorthy with the help of Edattu Namboodiri and Kalikulath Kaniyar.
Aftter the death of Kannappan this nomadic tribal group was reported to have migrated to Kakkanad.Parasurama had rehabilitated 64 villages.The village was then occupied by harijans like parayas and pulayas who were dependents on local landlords.
In the village of Chottanikkara there were some famous Nair families.Among them the families of Kuzhuppilly,Eledam and Meledam were more prosperous and powerful.On the eastern ridge of the hillock stood the house of the astrologer Kalikulath Kaniyar.There were nine Namboodiri families around this locality.They belonged to Perumpilly and Muriamangalam villages.Pallipuram,Chamkroth and Peringat were some of the famous among the nine Namboodiri families.
The forest dwellers had to eke out their livelihood by rearing cattle and bringing firewood from the forest.To rear cattle they have to bring grass from the wooded valleys and hillocks.There was a one-foot hilly track running between the villages of Perumpilly and Muriamangalam.Once a Harijan girl went into the forest area,where Kannappan had his hut in ancient days,in search of grass.For cutting the grass he had to sharpen the sickle on the top of a stone.She noticed a raised stone and went near and started sharpening the sickle on the top of it.But she was terrified to find blood oozing out of it.She shuddered at this bewildering sight and cried out in horror.hearing her cries some locals rushed to the spot in turn was horrified to see the same.The girl also behaved as if possessed by some spirit.
Edatt Namboodiri,who was on his way to Muriamangalam chanced to reach there.He could perceive a divine luster enveloping the whole jungle area around the bleeding stone.He quickly remembered about the traditional system of workship when some divinity makes itself felt.He rushed to pick up some materials for ritualistic workship and returned to the serene site.He got services of a goldsmith to carry a bronze lamp and reached the spot quickly as possible.The Namboodiri prostrated before the Divine stone which was still found bleeding.He picked up a coconut shell to contain the fried paddy (malar)he had collected to make the first offering to the Deity.
It is believed that with the opening ceremonial offering of Malar Nivedya and identifying and workshipping the divine presence of Adiparasakhi (Mother Goddess),blood ceased to ooze out of the perforated idol.In memory of this unique incident the first offering made even today at 4 am.is the fried paddy in a coconut shell.During festivals certain certain beneficiary rights and privileges were granted in the past to the descendents of the harijan girl’s family and that of the goldsmith who accompanied the Edat Namboodiri with a bronze lamp to officiate as the assistant in the first workship.
The Temple and its Assets: Devi’s Leela shows her liking for the value of absence of egoism and absence of attachment.It is possible that Kannappan with his deep devotion might had made a temple-like structure for the purpose of worshipping the deities defined by saga Parasara.Hoeever there was no trace of a shrine there except these stones.
Temples are reservoirs of spiritual power exerting a direct influence on man helping him in his evolutionary struggle and at improvement.It has been amply proved by the power in the famous shrine of divine of mother at Chottanikara temple.there are several instances of the manifestation of divine energy spontaneously acting upon people suffering from mental illness who came here with faith in the Devi.It is dealt with in Section 8.They will prove beyond doubt the existence of such divine power.
Devi’s Leela –faith and belief –dislike for egoism and attachment : After performing the preliminary poojas Edat Namboodiri returned home.After visiting the site of the miraculous discovery of the stone idol,eight other Namboodiris,including Chamkroth Namboothiri with a little egoism and selfish attachment visited the place.To them seeing is believing.They appeared to have not attached much importance to faith as they,like prominent modern scientists,possibly wanted to have evidence to believe what had happened.But in the case of real devotees and simple common people it may be their interest and aroused curiosity that generally play a part to go and see an interesting phenomenon.)They called Edat Namboodiri to learn about the details of bleeding stone.It is possible that the curiosity of the Namboodiris prompted them to probe further from a faithful devotee like Edat Namboodiri.
In the discussions that ensued Edat said that Mother Goddess had reveled herself spontaneously in the perforated idol in the village owing to sincere and consistent prayers of all the villagers (his words reflected absence of egoism).And as such the place of worship was the common property of all the villagers.Chamkroth Namboodiri did not subscribe to this views.He wanted to monopolise the rights and privileges on the ground that the site was a part and parcel of his family property.After prolonged discussions he agreed with others that the matter should be settled after consulting an eminent astrologer.
Accordingly the famous Kaikulath Kaniyar was commissioned to identify the exact form or forms of the Parasakthi(There is a version that he appeared or reached the place unexpectedly or dropped in as if sent by God to settle the issues without delay)
First Leela of Devi
Here one may recall that Devi like Lord Krishna in Sreemad Bhagavatham,started playing her Leelas which ordinary people like us say miracles,wonders etc.The first Leela or play was the oozing out of blood in a steady stream from a stone at the touch of a sickle;the second one is the creation of a controversy and the third one is disappearance and reappearance of the idol at a new place.(The present place).
The astrological assessments revealed that the divine presence was powerful in myriad forms of Parasakthi;it has the aspects of Saraswathy,Lakshmi and Durga.It is said that the white garments in the morning show the aspect of Saraswathy,the red clothes in the noon show Lakshmi,and bluish black in the evening show Durga.The one-foot high blackstone or Krishna sila joining the perforated stone idol of the Goddness was that of Mahavishnu Sri Narayana Moorthy,the preserver of life.It was suggested that both the devotional and reverential chanting of Amme Narayana,Devi Narayana,Lakshmi Narayana Bhadre Narayana would bring forth good fortune,prosperity and peace to the entire village folks.The astrologer who predicted all these was subsequently known as Temple Kaniyar (temple astrologer).Certain privileges were said to have been granted to him in the past for his service in identifying the Deity and its aspects.
After worshipping the goddess in the evening, Edat covered the two idols with a basket, so that none might touch the sacred idols and render them impure.
Devi prefers the Values of Detachment and Absence of Egoism
Now comes the third miracle or Leela of Devi designed to destroy the selfishness,egoism and sense of attachment to material things like property.By this time the news regarding the discovery of Chaitanyam has reached Udayathumgeswaram sabhamadom(Kumbalam).Important leaders of the place like Chakkkanatt Kaimal,Pullanat Kaimal,Chalaveettil Kaimal and Madappilly kaimal,accompanied by a large crowd of people left for the hillock at Chottanikara the following day.It was mentioned that in the Chottanikkara Village itself there were some celebrated Nair families like Kuzhuppilly,Eledam,and Meledam who were the most prosperous and powerful.They followed Edat Namboodiri,going in the company of Chamkroth,Pallipuram,Padivattam,Choozhikunnam,Mullapilly and other prominent Namboodiris.They climbed the hill chanting aloud the following:
“Amme Narayana,Lakshmi Narayana,Devi Narayana Bhadre Narayana”
They reached the top of the hill only to see the third miracle or spellbinding Leela by the loving Mother to teach her inquisitive children a good lesson-the need for pursuing the Values of Absence of Egoism and Absence of Egoism and Absence of Attachment (Detachment).When the Edat Namboodiri slowly raised the covering,he found no vigraham (idol) underneath,to his utter consternation and to the bewilderment of those assembled.When the idols were conspicuous by their absence they looked around for the same.To their surprise they noticed a dazzlingly brilliant light towards the northeastern side nearby.As they went nearer,they ,to their pleasant surprise and great relief,found the Vigraham standing there safe and solid,hallowed in divine luster.This settled for ever the controversy over the ownership rights over the place where the Vigraham was standing.The new place where the idol preferred to place itself undoubtedly belonged to the unselfish Edat Namboodiri,declaring Devi’s preference for Values of Absence of Egoism and Attachment.Edat naturally was happy to allow the land to be treated as a common property of the entire village to conform to the decision of the joint meeting of the Namboodiris that the Village Deity belonged to the whole village and not to any single individual-a plea he had already made
(Why these selfishness and egoism.Everything is your leelas (playful games)only.Whether a scholar or common man,in the end all will have to seek refuge at your feet.)
Naturally Devi’s unselfish devotee Edat was entrusted with the responsibility of daily poojas.The site where the Goddess revealed herself first is still preserved and workshipped as the original abode of the Goddess- as “Sree Moolasthanam”.A nine-piece granite stone navaghand” symbolizing the nine Namboodiries who visited the site first and a stone cut into the shape of a Pavizhamalli tree which bears white lily flowers.These nine Namboodiris are supposed to be the Ooranmas.These nine Namboodiris include those from Chamkroth,Pallipuram,Padivattom,Choozhikunnam,Mullappilly and others in addition to Edat These nine Namboodiri families agreed to set apart a portion of their wealth for the daily routine workship of the deity.Gifts from others can also be utilized for the expenditure connected with the running of the temple.
Edat Namboodiri took upon himself the task of constructing the temple in a small way.The idol was to be ceremoniously consecrated.The daily functions and management to be carried on uninterruptedly by meeting all expenses from the common resources to be raised as the deity belonged to all the people in the village.In pursuance of the above decisions the temple was constructed on a small scale.The Namboodiri chiefs of Vendanad complied with the above and worshipped thr Goddess with great devotion,dedication,faith and belief as even the atheists have to believe the happenings because for them “only seeing is believing”
The Nine Ooranmas of The Temple
There were nine Namboothiri families around the locality of Chottanikkara Village. They belonged to the Perumpilly Village and they enjoyed great reputation. Pallipuram, Chamkroth Edat and Ainikatt were said to be the most illustrious among them. Others were Mangott, Eledath, Padivattom, Choozhikkunnam and Mullappilli illam
The book is available for sale at the cochin devaswam stalls on the temple permises or interested persons may directly call upon the author.
B. Balakrishna Pillai B.S.C, L.L.B
6-D, Oakwood Apartment
Skyline City Park, Jawahar Nagar, Kadavanthara P.O, Kochi - 682018. Ph: 0484 2369447 ]