Popular Chottanikkara Bhagavathy Amman temple

Chottanikkara Bhagavathi Temple. kerala  keralatourwithseasonzindiaholidays.wordpress.com
In India there are lots of  Hindu temples dedicated to the Goddess who is often referred to as Kali, Bhavani, Durga, Bathrakali, Mahamayee (popular in Tamil Nadu), etc. In reality, all of them are  the forms of Aadi Parasakthi. Each Amman temple is unique in its own way, for example,  the Kali temple of Kolkata, Kanaga Durga temple of Vijayawada, A.P., Kollur Mookambikai temple, Karnataka,  Samaya Puram  Mariamman temple, near Tiruchy, Patteswaram Sri Durga temple, near  Kumbakonam, Kanchi Kamakshi Amman temple, Kanchipuram, TN., etc. Distinctive among the Devi temples of India is the  Mahadevi temple in Chottanikara, about 4 miles from Tirupunithura, Kerala.
Chottanikkara Bhagavathy
It is a popular temple of great antiquity and the temple pooja protocol is slightly different from other temples. Yet another attraction is the amazing wooden architecture of this temple - the style and artistic works in the temple bear testimony to  the workmanship of ancient  vishwakarma sthapathis  (temple designers).  
Chottanikkara Bhagavathy Temple   www.mapsofindia.com
Chottanikkara Devi, also called Mahadevi,  is worshiped, in three different forms: as Saraswati in the morning, draped in white; as Lakshmi at noon, draped in crimson; and as Durga in the evening, dressed in blue.  None of the other Amman temples in other states has this kind  odd worship. Lord Shiva  yet another major deity here. People suffering from mental illnesses commonly visit the temple, as Bhagawati is thought to cure her devotees. One should not miss the 'Guruthi Pooja' in the 'Keezhkkaavu' temple here.

 One legend has it it was Adi Sankara who was instrumental in establishing a temple dedicated to Saraswati in Kerala. He, upon meditation, persuaded the Devi in the Chamundi Hills in Karnataka to come to Kerala for the benefit of the people. The Devi agreed with him on condition that, while she was following him, he should not turn back at any cost.  Accordingly, Adi Sankara leading the way  covered pretty  long distance and when he was passing through the Kodachadri hills  for a while he did not hear the sound of anklets worn by the deity. His curiosity  forced him to turn back. Devi, stopped right there, as Adi Sankara broke the promise. Devi refused to follow him to Kerala and after long persuasion, she agreed that  in the morning hours she would come to Chottanikara temple and at afternoon she would return to the present spot which later became the popular Mookambikai temple. Hence, Devi is worshiped as  Saraswati in the morning  in Chottanikara and the doors of Srikovil are opened in the  very early morning.

Chottanikkara-Temple-Chuttambalam. vidhyastemplevisit.wordpress.com
For the protection and welfare of the people Bhargava Rama, a great religious person consecrated  Mahadevi temples at different parts of India, one being in the village of Chottankara, near Ernakulam, Kerala. It has become a major pilgrim center  and thousands of devotees visit this famous place of worship, seeking solace for their various afflictions from the deity who is an embodiment of compassion . The presiding deity here is known by different names - Gowri, Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga. Connected with this Devi temple are many enigmatic anecdotes.
Here the Devi is Vana Duraga and one will find two deities springing out of a  pedestal; one is narayna Murthy made of granite  and the other being that of Devi, made of Laterite stone.

The place where the temple is present was a thick wooded area in the by-gone era. An untouchable woman used to collect grass, etc in the near-by forest and one day when she was hardly sharpening her  scythe on rock, when, to her bewilderment, blood oozed out of the stone.  Caught unawares and frightened, she shrieked aloud and people nearby area immediately came to the spot and the poor woman told them what had happened. After deliberations, the villagers concluded the presence of divinity there and wanted to have a temple built there. After the temple was built, one Edattu Namboothri became the priest and he conducted the Nivedhya in a coconut shell as he could not get the bronze vessel.

Chottanikkara Temple  www.junglekey.in
The pretty old temple belonged to 7 1/2 gramams (villages) and the trustees gave the responsibility of conducting and maintaining the temple to one Ayinikad Namboothri.  The Eswara Seva is conducted in the month of Dhanu (Dec. 15 to Jan.14). The voice of an Asiriri (voice from above) came as a revelation and it expressed satisfaction with the devotion of Ayinkad Namboothri who was subsequently made  a trustee of the temple, apart from taking care of the management. It is an irony an ordinary devotee thus became almost the owner of the temple. In  1860 AD the Cochin government took over the management  in 1887 as Ayinikad became insane. Later a golden flagstaff (dwajasthambam) was installed.

According to one legend a gang of thieves broke into the temple to steal the valuable jewels owned by the temple. The moment they entered the inner temple, to their dismay, they saw a herd of caparisoned elephants and a big gathering of people as if an important festival was on. The thieves, having realized their folly and foolishness, presented their jewels to the temples and fled the place.

Another legend tells: A  Namboothri (Brahmin priest of Kerala) of  Kandarath Tekkekara Mana of Chengamanad left for Thirparayar for the poorum festival. After doing the regular evening  religious duties on the river bank, he resumed his journey and near the paddy field he ran into a beautiful woman with a child and she requested him to take her to his place. Upon further inquiry, the Namboothri found out she had been abandoned by her husband. Little did he realize the beautiful damsel accompanying him was actually a Yakshi - a treacherous, horrible-looking demi goddess. With her child in his hand, at last they reached the temple at Thirparayar where the poorum festival  was on with fanfare, caparisoned elephants, etc. It so happened one Kallor Namboothri, a well known Trantrik, accidentally saw Kadarath Namboothri with a kid and a good-looking woman by his side. Realizing the awaiting calamity that might befall on the Namboothri, he approached him and asked him to touch his arm. Namboothri Kandarath did accordingly and  could not believe his eyes. Seconds later the woman grew in size with fierce eyes, long teeth and dishevelled hair. It was a terrifying  sight and the poor Brahmin fainted on the ground. Kallor Tantrik sprinkled water on him while chanting mantra and advised him to get into the Chottanikara temple. He gave him some pebbles and asked him to throw them backward without turning  back till he reached the temple. Upon reaching the temple, the temple priest who was bathing in the pond gave him the wet cloth and asked him to go near the main shrine and throw the wet cloth behind. Kadarath Namboothri did exactly what had been instructed. Before he could reach the main shrine, the Yakshi caught his leg firmly. He fell down and yelled at the Devi to save him from the devil. The God, a picture of compassion, rushed with her sword and cut the head of the Yakshi and saved the Namboothri from death. Since then till his final days Kadarath Namboothri had lived there, enjoyed serving the deity.

People suffering from mental illnesses commonly visit the temple, as Bhagawati has mystic powers  to cure her devotees.  Lots of possessed women come here for Bhajan and prayer to relieve  them from their agony. Guruthi offering is famous here. It is nothing but a mix of turmeric and lime water and the resultant solution looks very much similar to blood. The belief has been that such a solution is an antidote to ward off evil-eyes, ghost attack, etc. It is part of exorcising the evil spirits that possess people.  One should not miss the 'Guruthi Pooja' in the 'Keezhkkaavu'temple at Chottanikara. It is done in the evening to invoke the goddess to cure the devotees from various afflictions, including mental illness.

The famous nine day festival comes in the month of Kumbham (Feb. 15 to March 15). On all nine days what is called Arattu ceremony is conducted by the chief Pundit.  It is a process of ablution of the deity. Numerous devotees who come to the temple with intense devotion, without their knowledge, it is said, experience the ecstasy - a  unique blissful experience  and go into a hypnotic state of mind.

Lots of people told me about this temple and its magical power and the presiding deity is known to save her devotees from horrible calamities that had befallen them. The Chottanikara Amman is always compassionate and if you surrender before her without ego arrogance and all the dark side of the human mind, she will, like a child, rush to you and give you solace and, if need be, save you from  problems that strangle your neck.