Prathyangira Devi temple - ritual with hot dry chillies!! - Tamil Nadu

Can you imagine that  hot dry chilies added in huge quantities in the Homa Agni (holy fire) by the Pundits ( temple priests), do not give out any pungent odor whatsoever, as one will experience in other places? It is a riddle, beyond one's comprehension and isun explainable.  The intriguing fact about the midnight temple ritual here is, active participation by ardent devotees, who  have unshakable trust in the presiding goddess of this  famous temple.

Ayyavadi Mahapratiyankara Devi TempleePuja

The Indian temples are really fascinating not only in terms of their architectural beauty, sculptural splendor in stone and challenging workmanship, but also their style or tradition of conducting temple rituals, etc. Some temples, be they small or big, follow strange sometimes weird customs that may stagger our inquisitive mind. Why such customs have been in practice for centuries? What are the reasons? Sometime, the answer seems to be logical, sometimes, it is otherwise. Trust in God plays a major role in such temple rituals or traditions. If such rituals or temples are  absent,  thousands of devotees, who throng the places of worship for  positive results,will end up lying on the Psychiatrists' couch - it means further losing their mind and their shirt by way of paying heavy fees,besides aggravating their poor mental health.  Near Kumbakonam  there is a temple, which may not be grand and eye-catching; though simple,  it follows a strange, unheard of ritual. I don't think there is any other temple in  Tamil Nadu or  in other states where this unique pooja ritual is followed with devotion and dedication.

Ayyervadi Amman temple Homam,Kumbakonam, Tamil
Ayyavadi Mahapratiyankara Devi.YouTube

Kumbakonam city in Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu, S.India is a holy place and  is frequently referred to as  temple city owing to the presence of a vast number of Hindu temples, not only  within the city limits but also in the neighborhood. Almost all Navagraha (nine planets) temples are located within a radius of 30 to  40 km from this city. Also famous is  the huge Mahamaham temple tank located in the center of the city.  Every 12 years the Hindus celebrate Mahamaham festival here on a scale that is unimaginable. On the Maham day, lakhs of people take a holy dip in the Mahamaham tank and the next festival is fast approaching - it will be in the month February of 2016.
Entrance.Prathyangira-devi-temple,Kumbakonam. Tamil Nadu.

Slightly far off from the city limits near Uppiliappan Kovil (famous for Vishnu temple), there is an interesting temple at Ayyavadi known as  ''Pratyangira Devi Temple''. The presiding deity is  Prathyangira Amman in Ugra Avatar and she is the incarnation of Mother Goddess Parashakti and the small temple has been in existence for a long time.
Here  Lord Shiva is worshiped as Agastheeswarar and Mother Goddess is also worshiped as Dharma Samvardini. Sarabeswara, a manifestation of Shiva is worshiped here. The legend has that when Vishnu took Narasimha avatar to slay  notorious king Hiranyakasipu, who is the father of Prahalada.  Lord's aggression never came down and  Sarabeswara appeared to control/pacify his aggression. Prathyangira Devi is believed to have appeared from the forehead of Sarabeswara.

Here Devi's murti (idol) is  dark in color; she wears crescent moon on the head and  holds a trident, pasa, damaru (drum) and is accompanied by Goddess Lakshmi and Saraswathi.

The most important  and fascinating ritual, at this  temple is "Nikumbala Yajna" performed on 'new moon'(Ammavasai) days. Legend has it that during the battle between Lord Rama and the ruler of Lanka (now Sri Lanka), the Lord himself performed this Yajna to overcome mighty Ravana and his son Inderjit who also did the same Yajna. The Goddess sided with Lord Rama because his cause was just.

The following are the important facts unique to this temple:

01. The prayer and Yajna  on an elaborate scale is conducted  on every Ammavasai day - It is called "Nikumbala Yajgna". Pooja time: 8 AM till 2 PM.

02. The Pandits conduct Homam in a specially prepared Agni Gundam - a raised platform around a  big pit.  A huge fire is prepared and the Pandits, amid chanting of mantras, make offerings in the fire, besides ghee, twigs from some trees. 108 items are used including fruits,  hot dry chilies, vegetables, nuts, silk saris etc.

03. The purpose of this elaborate Yajgna dedicated to the goddess  is to get Her blessings. It will help the devotees  get jobs, win long-pending court cases, defeat enemies, succeed in business, early marriage, etc. The list goes on. This Yajgna is believed to subdue the effects of Sani (Saturn) on people who face a dead-lock in every move they make.

04. It is a matter of great interest that, unlike many Homams or Yajgnas,  here the Pandits offer innumerable  bags of dry hot chilies  in the  flame - agni (holy fire). Surprisingly there is no pungent  odor in the smoke   emanating from the Homa Gundam.

05.The dry chilies in bags used in the Homa  Pooja are brought by the devotees as part of their prayer. That there is no pungent  smell emanating from the fire pit - Agni Gundam is a mystery  that can not be explained. The moot question is what suppresses the pungent odor from  dried chillies in the fire pit - Agni Gundam. It does not make the innumerable devotees uncomfortable sitting around the fire. No eye irritation, no bouts of sneezing and no runny nose. It baffles the imaginations of the first comers to this temple.
06. Yet another strange fact about this temple that can not escape your attention is its weird location. This place of veneration is surrounded on all eight sides by cremation grounds - burning ghats meant for cremating the dead bodies as per Hindu rites.  As per Agama rules, with some exceptions, Hindu temples are never located or built near ''Mayanam'' or cremation grounds. Here at Ayyerkudi there are eight cremation grounds/ghats at eight different  directions.

07. There is no daily pooja protocol between Ammavasyas. However, the temple is open on regular days during certain hours as per temple  rule. No Naivaidhyam and no Deepa Aradhanai.

08. Every Ammavasai (new moon day) several thousands people visit this temple to relieve themselves of all problems through  prayer and meditation. Some times the crowd will reach 30,000 to 40,000. Many of them say that a sincere prayer at this temple definitely light up their lives and the positive results help them gain their joy, confidence and happiness back.

In every body's life,  faith plays a vital role. A temple or church or mosque or synagogue or any place of veneration provides people an opportunity to cultivate that faith through prayer and trust.

This place is about 6 miles from Kumbakanam and is very close to Uppiliappan Kovil. Kumbakonam is well connected by trains and buses - both private and state-run..


               (re modified November 26. 2015)